|The Long Crawl||November 1993|
|Mike Hodge|| |
The last day of the week long archery elk hunt was nearing its end. I was headed toward an area west of Morman Lake that looked like it was being used by every elk in Arizona. I had hunted the area a couple of days prior and several deer had come through, but no elk. Still, this figured to be about the best chance with the limited time left.
Up until this time, we (four of us total) had been hunting east/northeast of Stoneman Lake for several days. All of us prefer still hunting (moving VERY slowly through the timber and looking FAR ahead often) as opposed to stand hunting, and we had been into elk everyday to some degree. Nobody had been able to put it all together to bring one back to camp though.
The weather was on our side, with a good dose of rain early in the week which quieted the woods considerably. Hunters were few and far between. Perfect for still hunting. We had all enjoyed an excellent hunt, even if we didn't have anything to show for our efforts. Brad Birdsell (fellow Honeywell Sportsman Club member and Treasurer) almost changed that on this last day of the hunt.
We stopped in at the town of Morman Lake for some lunch and talked to a couple of other hunters. They had been hunting literally out in the lake for a bull elk without success, but claimed to be getting very close (20 yards) to antlerless elk in the process. Since we all had antlerless permit-tags, we decided to give it a shot. What the heck, last day and all. It took him over an hour, but Brad was able to stalk to within 30 yards of a nice cow elk (Brad is very accurate at that distance). Everything went his way right up until the time he let his arrow fly. The elk "jumped the string" and his arrow missed it's mark!
I gave up on the lake hunt while the other guys continued their efforts. Heading up the lake toward the area I intended to hunt, I noticed a group of about 8 antlerless elk browsing at the edge of the lake. Since it was on dry land, I decided to give it a try, even though there was absolutely no cover for a stalk.
The timber came down to within about 200 yards of the edge of the lake where the elk were browsing, which helped somewhat. Adjacent areas had much more open ground between the lake and the timber. Getting to the edge of the timber was no problem, but beyond that I had my work cut out for me. At the edge of the timber, I got down on my belly and started crawling. It was incredibly slow going. All 8 pairs of eyes had to be looking another direction before I could move, and then only about 6 inches at a time, first pushing my bow out in front of me, then gently sliding forward myself. About 100 yards from the elk, I nocked an arrow, knowing that when I got closer nocking one would likely draw unwanted attention.
When I was about 75 yards out, the elk started to bed down. Sounds good, but of course they laid down facing all different directions to better protect the group. This slowed my progress even more. Soon after however, a nearby flock of waterfowl suddenly took flight, spooking the elk to their feet and causing them to run. Fortunately they only went a few yards and resumed feeding.
I slowly closed the gap to about 50 yards. Two of the elk started quartering toward me as they browsed, closing the gap a few more yards. They then started to quarter away from me with their heads down most of the time, giving me the opportunity I had been waiting for. After taking over 1-1/2 hours to belly crawl about 150 yards, I literally stood straight up and walked right at the two animals closing the gap to 35 yards, then squatted down and froze. The other 6 elk immediately began to 'mew' in alarm, but did not bolt, and also did not get the attention of the two animals I was after. One of the two lone elk looked up right at me then, but did not become alarmed because I was down low and not moving.
When the elk went back to feeding, I stood up to make a shot but did not have the required composure, so I squatted back down and waited a couple of minutes to get my act together. When I got my composure back, and when both animals went back to feeding with their heads down, I stood up again, drew down on the nearest animal at about 35 yards, and let the arrow fly. It found its mark just behind the left shoulder. The elk went about 30 yards, not very fast or alarmed, and laid down.
The 2 year old antlerless bull weighed an estimated 220 lbs on the hoof and my family is now enjoying some very fine table fare. The spirits were very good to me this year!
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