After you dropped off the maps and other info at my camp I drove several of the roads in the unit to get familiar with access and topography. I checked some of the areas you suggested and all revealed fresh sign and hunting possibilities. I bought a deer tag but only had a couple of days of season left and that was just not enough time.
I think I mentioned that I had some health problems last August and my weight, strength and energy were all low. That did have an impact on my hunt but your scouting help and the easy terrain alleviated much of that problem.
There were so many hunters and the area very open with roads everywhere I was definitely overwhelmed by it all for the first few days. Iíve never hunted elk in such easy terrain with so many roads; most of my elk hunting has been back country hike in. I was very disappointed to see twice as many roads as were on the maps. In my opinion the hunting would have been much more fun without so many roads. However it was still a lot of fun even with all these distractions.
For two nights before the opener I heard elk bugling but once the crowds arrived they quieted down, around my camp anyway. Some guy was near G tank and bugled every 15 minutes from daylight to dark for 3 days I think. A lot of road traffic too, it was much like a circus to me. Unlike anything I had ever experienced on an elk hunt. But I remembered your advice to try not to let that bother me and just hunt, the elk would be there.
The first day I hunted to the East between E and R tanks. Heard no bugles and saw no other hunters in the woods. Day two I parked my ATV near E and hunted NW to M Mt. Much of this time I was getting familiar with the habitat and terrain in more detail, scouting while hunting I guess.
As I sat on a log and had a sandwich I watched three guys about 60-80 yards apart walking through the woods like they were hunting rabbits or pheasants. I donít see how they would get a bow shot at an elk hunting like that. I think this was the last time I saw anyone in the woods with the exception of some FS workers I ran into a few days later on W Ridge.
I hunted the next few days around M Mt. I had bulls bugling but could not get them to come in. I need to say here that I do not consider myself a good caller; I have called in quite a few bulls but I am not an accomplished caller. I think hunting pressure was a factor in the shyness of the bulls. But I was having fun, seeing fresh sign, hearing bugles and seeing no other hunters in the woods. Hard to complain about that. One morning I sat a trail in a saddle and had 4 little bulls feeding within 15 yards of me for at least 20 minutes. I have a folding seat I made that hangs on a tree. I was sitting at ground level in a juniper with a ghillie suit. One bull was facing me and stared at me several times from about 15 yards but he never caught on. I had one at about 10 feet, he walked up from behind me and stopped beside me at that distance and stood there for a minute. Eventually they just walked away.
I spent a couple of days around W Ridge. There was quite a bit of sign but I only saw one elk. He was traveling and bugling and was the biggest bull I saw during the hunt, over 350 Iím sure. Unfortunately we were in open Ponderosa at the time. The FS guys I talked to said they were seeing and hearing bulls everywhere on W Ridge last week (before the season opened). I liked the area but elk were scarce where I was, in hind sight I think I should have hunted the east side of W Ridge in the rougher country.
The second weekend of the hunt was rainy and it rained real hard a few times. I hunted up R draw on Saturday morning, didnít see or hear much and got soaked. By then I was getting tired and needed a day off so Sunday I cleaned the trailer, cooked a good Sunday dinner and baked cookies, sharpened broadheads and studied maps. It poured much of Sunday and I had to dig some channels for runoff so my trailer pads wouldnít wash away.
The second week started out cool and damp. It seemed like most of the hunters were gone. The heavy rain washed out all the old sign and made a real mess out of some roads. There was a truck parked near my spot on M Mt. so I turned on the road to G Tank and S Hill. The rain freshened everything it was, much like fresh snow on the ground. I rode the ATV until I saw fresh tracks and went after them. I got a bull bugling near G Tank and worked him for quite a while but could not get a shot. He would bugle but kept moving away. I looped around and did get in fairly close but he was not aggressive and there were too many cows around to allow a closer stalk. Eventually the cows moved away and he followed and I lost them.
I spent the next few days around M Mt, E & G tanks and S Hill. I saw and was into elk every day. I followed one herd for most of a day spending at least a couple of hours within 50-100 yards but could not get a bull within range. There were bulls of all sizes in this group and they all bugled some but none were aggressive toward me or each other. As the day faded they started to move toward a tank and had to travel through some rock outcroppings. There were 6 different trails so I picked one and waited for them to come by. They chose to use the next trail over and what would have been an easy 15 yard shot never materialized. This was a fun day and I think quite successful. To spend that much time that close to a herd of elk without being detected is success I think.
During the second week I had 6 different bulls over 300 within 40-60 yards but just could not get in range. 30 yards is my absolute maximum range on elk and I donít like to shoot over 20 with 12-15 yards my choice of shots. A couple of times a bull was coming in perfect, just a few more steps, and a cow or another bull would distract him and he would change course. Lots of fun but I was running out of time. With only a couple of days left I decided to sit trails. On my way in to one of those spots I stopped to take a leak and leaned my bow against a tree, unzipped and started to relieve myself when I looked up a saw a bull walking in my direction. He was only about 60 yards away and looking the other way. His route would bring him within less than 30 yards. Still unzipped, I picked up my bow pulled an arrow from my quiver, nocked it and put tension on the string all in one motion. As he came broadside I picked a spot low and behind the shoulder. Just as I reached full draw he turned his head in my direction and flared away. It was a good hit but farther back than perfect. I tracked him a short distance to the top of a little ridge and decided to wait a while before continuing. While having a sandwich I heard another bull bugle below me. He was headed in my direction and kept bugling every few minutes. Eventually he worked his way to me and passed me at less than 40 yards as he followed a couple of cows. This bull was much bigger than the one I shot, I got a real laugh out of that. I likely could have got within my range of this bull. After I got the meat to the truck I headed for home.
Most hunters think the only reason to hunt elk in Arizona is to get a big bull. While I was aware it was likely my best chance to kill a big bull it was not the only reason I wanted to hunt elk in Arizona. The country is beautiful and unique with spectacular scenery. The habitat is open and very easy to get around in and elk are plentiful with a bull to cow ratio of about 50/50 from my experience. I did see some great bulls and that added tremendously to my enjoyment but Iím quite happy with bull I got. I would be happy to return to AZ just to hunt raghorn bulls because the hunting is enjoyable in so many different ways.
In conclusion I would say your Scout 4 U program was very helpful and a positive factor in my hunt. Because I was unable to scout ahead of time I believe it was a good decision on my part and allowed me to learn the country in less time. The information you provided was accurate and to the point. From camping spots to hunter concentrations to elk movements and hunting methods specific to that unit everything was right on the money. At 60 years old my odds of another AZ elk permit are limited but I will be in the draw and hope to have another opportunity to hunt AZ again. Thanks for the help.