The 2013 Arizona Early Rifle and Archery Elk hunts were anything but ordinary. Arizona had record setting late summer rainfall that provided feed for the elk everywhere and plentiful water sources. This relocated a lot of resident elk and had them very scattered out.
Morley Smith hired us to assist him with his Arizona early rifle guided elk hunt. The Arizona early rifle elk hunt is one of the most sought after trophy elk hunts in the western states. Prior to Morely’s Arizona rifle elk hunt we had spent weeks scouting for bulls with good trophy potential. We had found a big old age class 7 x 6 bull that we estimated to be in the mid 370 to 380 class. He was in some rough nasty thick country that had been getting lots of hunt pressure from archery hunters. We had another big bull located we estimated to be in the mid 370 to 380 class. He was in more accessible country so we decided to go after him first.
Shortly after dawn, on the first morning Craig was glassing from a vantage point and he located the big bull we were after. There were several mature bulls and groups of cows in the area so we had to move carefully to keep from blowing elk out. We moved into position and were able to get a quick look at our target bull as he came through a clearing bugling back and forth with another bull, but he was just out of range. The big bull went into a thick jungle of junipers with some other bulls and cows to bed for the day.
We decided it was best to setup in an ambush position and wait until the elk got up in the afternoon to move. The rut was in full swing and about 3:30 we started hearing the bulls bugle back and forth and it quickly got heated. We started seeing flashes of the bulls thru the trees as they prepared to fight over the group of cows nearby. The herd of elk stayed just inside the tree line and the bull we were after just never offered the right shot opportunity before dusk.
On the second day, we started out in the same area to look for the big bull and right off we spotted a super massive bull moving out on the edge of a large clearing. As we neared shooting range we could tell this new bull wasn’t going to score as well as the bull we set out for originally but he was a heavy massive tank of a bull! There were several other bulls screaming and chasing cows around and they were all moving like a hornets nest into the trees. We kept edging closer and we got good close look within 250 yards. I told Morley, “watch him and think it over, but we have plenty of days left in the hunt”. It didn’t take Morley long to decide he wanted to shoot this bull.
We had to follow the screaming rut fest into the trees further and kept stalking the bugle the heavy bull was making. We kept seeing glimpses of him and we were having to pick our way through other bugling bulls and groups of elk as we followed the big mass of rutting elk into the bedding area. After a patient and careful stalk, we topped over a little round topped ridge where the trees were starting to thin out some, we could hear the bull bugling. As we started to ease over the top I caught sight of a cow walking through an opening moving from right to left about 120 yards away. Morley just had a split second to get a rifle rest for the shot as a bull started to walk into the opening. I whispered, “that’s him” as the heavy horned old warrior walked out of the cover of the junipers for the last time.