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Indian Bull November 2000
Davin Hooker  

As an Arizona native, I had been getting pretty disgruntled about applying for a bull elk tag. But I was determined to get a rifle Bull elk tag and nothing less. Each year I put in, thinking this had to be the year. Well after 15 or 16 years, with the maximum number of points (13 I think), I received a tag for my second choice, unit 23 North. It was permit number one, and I was thrilled to say the least.

Before I knew the results of the draw, my optimism had convinced me to purchase a new rifle for the blessed event, a Weatherby Stainless in .30-378 Wby. Mag with a Burris 3-12x50mm Black Diamond scope. Besides, I figured I could use it for long range deer.

I gathered all the information I could through my hunting buddies, HSC, the internet, and the wildlife manager D. Carrothers. Based on all their input I decided to focus my scouting on the Canyon Creek area, near the OW ranch. Working every other weekend, I was able to scout about 15 days. I could not believe the amount of game that I saw. Turkey on every trip, some deer, beaver, lots of elk, and I was privileged to see a mountain lion chase down a calf elk in the pre dawn light. It was one of the most awesome scenes that I’ll never forget.

In the area south east of the ranch, I patterned a herd of about 80 elk. They were bedding up near or on the Indian reservation to the east and coming down and west to Canyon Creek. The stream apparently runs year round and seemed to provide the perfect elk habitat. There was an impressive bull with good mass, but he was a 7x . . . . nothing. The rancher had later told me that this was about the third year he was lacking an antler. A lot of smaller bulls were present but I set my sights on a pair of twin 6x7 bulls that I guessed at 300 plus. The wildlife manager had speculated that a trophy bull would be tough to come by this year with the previous droughts. But I didn’t mind too much because they looked pretty good to me.

As the hunt drew near, I was getting more excited as the rut was beginning and they kept me awake at night with their bugles. I had been able to stalk into archery range of several bulls and experience their screaming bugles.

I was stoked. I had found some decent elk and I had a new toy that was grouping ½ inch at 200 yards with a point blank range of about 450 yards.

With vacation time to burn, I left 4 days early for a 6-day hunt. I wanted to be the first one to set up camp at lower Canyon Creek. This would give me time to scout Valentine Canyon and maybe some other areas. I didn’t want to pressure the two 6x7’s.

The first day in the canyon I found a perfect 6x6 at over 325 yards. I watched him herd his harem and push away his competition as they headed towards bed and the reservation. There was bugling every where and I had a perfect setup planned.

The next couple of days I watched at least 5 of the other 19 permit holders drive past my camp and down to my plan A. This bummed me a little but I had the nicer 6x6, if I was willing to work a little harder.

Two days before opening day the bugling seemed to all but stop and my right knee began to swell from hiking down that mountain. So much for all that getting in shape stuff I did. Day four was resting while waiting for my buddy David to arrive.

Opening morning using the GPS to guide us in the dark, we made the perfect setup to bag that 6x6. But there were only a few distant bugles and only a rag horn showed himself. My confidence sank.

We spent the day chasing those distant bugles to no avail. Late in the afternoon while nursing my knee, I told my partner, "Lets go get an Indian bull." On day two I had found a well-worn trail that led to, and crossed the reservation boundary. I was sure that the extra pressure had pushed the elk to be more nocturnal and to stay on the reservation longer before watering.

We took the scenic route, exploring as we went. By 5:00 pm the GPS was indicating we were near the trail crossing when we heard a bugle on the reservation side. We picked up the pace and at about 50 yards from the trail we see this 6x6 walking purposefully about 25 yards on our side of the fence! I ask David, "He looks pretty good huh?" "Hell yes!" "Plug your ears." I carried that big ass rifle all day and a 30-30 would have done just fine. It was a perfect double lunger and he piled up about 30 yards down the trail. I was happy, my knee couldn’t have gone another 5 days.

It was 5:15 now and it took until 12:30 to bone him out. We were only 1 mile as the crow flies from camp but we had to go down the mountain and out that small canyon. David had retrieved the pack frame and meat cart. We were only a ¼ mile down the mountain by 2:30 and were exhausted. We made a campfire on the trail and slept on the ground. David didn’t have a jacket so he put on a poncho and I wrapped him in a space blanket while I stoked the fire. We could hear the coyotes having a party. The next morning we wised up and made two trips out. After noon we were breaking camp and leaving with an experience for a lifetime. He measured out to approx. 312 inches with only 5 inches in deductions. Not a trophy bull for rifle, but I will proudly display him on the wall as my trophy.

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