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New August 2005
Gerhard Schroeder  

Drawing results are out for 2005 Arizona hunts! Did you get what you wanted? Let’s hope you’ve at least got some tag(s). For me, can’t complain, cow elk in unit 3B. I’ve always said that I’ll be a happy hunter as long as they let me chase elk. Even though there was no deer tag for me, something that hasn’t happened for what must be over a decade.

Unit 3B is my personal favorite. All elk action in the last ten plus years has taken place there. I know that country well now, know where I’ll go first on opening morning, where to stir them out of their beds after lunch. Familiarity enhances success, for sure. It also takes something away though, an element of adventure. Lucky you, if your tag is for your 4th choice, possibly a hunt unit you’ve never even been to. That sort of thing mostly happens for deer, of course. But that’s not the point. Whatever critter your tag may be for, be happy for country that is new.

It was the drawing lottery that introduced me to most of Arizona’s vast outdoors. High on the list is my one-and-only buffalo hunt – unsuccessful as it turned out. However, that term only applies to meat in the freezer. I will never forget that hunt! Front seal failure on my ’81 Toyota pickup at the time did in my scouting trip. Plenty of smoke forced a hasty return at the Stoneman Lake exit.

Therefore I arrived at the House Rock Ranch cold turkey two weeks later. Every rise, every hill became an adventure, because all was new. And the Grand Canyon was lurking near by. Should you ever have the desire to drive your rig straight into that awesome hole, I found a dirt road to accommodate such a stunt!

The buffs also have access to ‘wilderness’, a human designation, seemingly randomly selected. The land itself might as well all be wilderness. It does not require some government clerk to highlight something on a map. I found a herd of buffalo, alright. They were safe on the other side of an impossible-to-cross canyon, and no lead flew. David Stimens must have heard the call of the wild as well. He came along on opening weekend, he won’t forget, either. Just ask him about those monster muleys.

Going in order of adventure, of excitement, of inspiration, Unit 32 would be next. Just a few years ago, on one of those early whitetail hunts at the end of October, the rugged mountains were simply calling. I did not resist, and began my climb at dark thirty. As the sun began to climb higher, wild, spacious, rugged beauty awaited everywhere. I kept hiking. Until a buck, for which I had come after all, stopped me by being too cooperative. I may forget exactly what kind of buck it was – being a meat hunter, antler size doesn’t matter to me anyway – but I will never forget the mountains, and that the de-boned deer resided in my pack all the way back to camp.

By the way, I’ve always done fairly well in new hunt units. Maybe it was my desire to see what's over the next horizon, I don’t know. Diana has been smiling on me in new country. I’m never disappointed with the G&F lottery if it sends me to unknown grounds.

It does not require a new hunting unit to seek out adventures. Even if I return time and again to unit 3B, it seems that there is plenty of country left in it that hasn’t felt my boots. By the way, you’ve got to walk! There’s little adventure in driving, and you will miss all the small things along the way. Unless you experience mechanical ‘issues’ at the end of the mostly beaten path, your memory bank will not be impressed for long. And such adventures seldom leave a positive taste.

So, go for ‘new’ on your next hunt. Give your heart a little nudge, leave the familiar trail for some cross-country stomping. Not coming out where you think you ought to is but one ingredient to be wild for a weekend, to be alive. At least choose a new trail or chunk of real estate. That’s how I stumbled onto the elks’ bedrooms, and the way they move around in their kingdom. Want more? If your hunt is during full moon, leave camp hours before sun up. I covered a few miles through man-designated wilderness on that buffalo hunt only by the moon’s light. Sorry, can’t find the right words to describe that hike.

Hope to not see you out there!

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