Elk Season 2010: Freezers are FULL! (Filled 5 of 7 tags)

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Apr 6, 2008
Flagstaff AZ
Elk season FINALLY got here, we wait all year for elk season as a family. We fill our freezers every year with elk, with at least 3 of us putting in (sometimes more) somebody always gets a tag. This year we had 7 tags in camp between 2 hunts. My sister (Gail), my sister-in-law (Melissa), and my brother-in-law(James) had late rifle bull tags in 5B. My brother (Tate), my old man and his hunting buddy Greg and I all drew late antler-less tags in the same unit; bull hunt first, cow second. I was able to take 14 days off of work to help guide my bro-in-law onto a bull and help butcher (we do our own). So Thanksgiving day we ate a quick meal and hit the woods to fill the freezers for a year. Here's a picture of camp (this picture was actually taken about 10 days into the hunt):

Bull Hunt:

Day 1:
James and I hit or usual spot that always has elk in it. We saw 35-40 elk the first day, 6 were spikes. This was his first elk hunt and bull tags are hard to come by so he was holding out for a decent bull until about day 4 or so. This is only because we have a good spot where the elk are numerous and usually it is not a problem to get a shot at a small bull any old day of the hunt. We got back to camp and everybody had seen a bunch of elk, my sister got on a herd with like 8 bulls in it but couldn't make it happen. We heard a lot of shooting and were seeing elk, so we weren't scared. No worries...

Day 2:
James and I saw like 7 elk, no bulls. Still a lot of fresh sign and lots of shooting going on, we were just unlucky. I believe the rest of the party didn't see much that day either.

Day 3:
We awoke on Sunday to a windy, cold, snowstorm. James and I had a cow and calf walk right to us, at around 15 yards. Pretty neat, but that's all we saw all day. Still a lot of shooting and a lot of sign. The elk were there, we were just getting unlucky.

Day 4:
We didn't see a darned elk all day. We cut some tracks and were seeing more bull sign than ever, but no elk in them. We cut a blood trail on the way back to camp with familiar footprints following it...got back and this was hanging in camp:
This is my sister's second elk and first bull. Certainly not a big 6x6, but no broken tines and a heck of a first bull. Congrats Gail!

Day 5:
Well at the end of day 4 I was set to go somewhere completely different but since my sister had shot that bull and seen like 7 other bulls that day right in the same area we'd been hunting and seeing sign, we thought we'd give it another go. Didn't see beans all morning, hit a slightly different spot in the afternoon and glimpsed 2 elk. Not looking good, and the fresh sign was dissipating.

Day 6:
We hit another close but different spot in the morning, again no elk. Some fresh sign. Another spot in the afternoon and not a single elk again. Panick setting in!

My sister-in-law saw jumped a BIG bull this day but couldn't get on it. She and my bro were having similar luck by this point.

Day 7:
Last day of the hunt. We headed way further out and tried another spot. We found a gutpile from the day before, and a dead 3x4 bull from a few days earlier. We were a day late to that spot I guess. That was the story of the whole bull hunt. We were in the right spot for 4 days, just had bad luck. Then when I got the notion the elk were moving out, my sister came up huge in that exact spot and we stayed a day and a half too late. We heard a LOT of shooting and saw a LOT of sign for 4 days... and adapted too late due to circumstances. So after hunting every day of the bull hunt, James and Melissa didn't fill their tags and we went 1 of 3 for bulls. I still can't believe our only chance at bulls came the first day and they were all spikes. Everybody else was getting into them including my sister, right in the same area. James had a big case of bad luck and that's all it is. I's still a little miffed thinking about it, but we can't take it back now.

Cow Hunt:

Well now it was up to us to put some serious meat away for the year, but with the elk gone I had a sinking feeling. I hadn't my wife and daughter in 7 days and I didn't know where the elk were.

Day 1:
My old man and Greg decided to hit the old hot-spot again despite my warning that the elk were gone. My bro and I decided to hit a hi point a few miles to the east. You can see a long ways over a lot of country and with more hunters in the woods to stir things up, we figured something would catch our eye. We ended up seeing like 7 elk, I think we pulled a stalk and came up short. My old man saw jumped a cow and calf in the old spot but with no new sign, they were ready to try a new spot as well.

Day 2:
We saw elk right off the bat from the same hill, and ended up seeing around 30 elk. I was guiding Tate in on a small herd when a cow was shot right out from under him. There was a small bull with the herd, and all Tate could see was the darn bull. Before he could get closer to the cows somebody else got there and we saw them drive out to the cow. After that we pulled sneak on a cow/calf pair and she BARELY got away. Then late I blew a sneak on a herd of cows. Right before dusk Tate saw a herd of 20 elk or so right before dark in a park at least a mile from the hill. At least we knew where to go for day 3.

Day 3:
We were half way up to our viewpoint when we could see a herd of about 50 elk way out in the park, 1-1.5 miles to the east. They split into two smaller herds and one was heading to our tree line, so we hoofed it the mile over there and started looking for them. We caught up to them (so we thought) and I got onto my shooting sticks. With the angle of the hill all I had was a neck shot kinda thru the grass. I should have not taken this shot but I NEEDED to put a cow down and go see my family. Well I shot and missed. The elk had not seen us and started to circle to us. One cow stopped in front of a tree so I shot her in the neck and down she went. We were expecting a large herd of at least 25 so my brother was waiting (wisely) for one to stop. After 6 or 8 ran by they were gone. It turns out my dad had made his way up to the viewpoint and the large herd was still out there. We had found another, smaller herd. Anyway I didn't get to see how the Barnes TTSX performs on a shoulder, but I was sure glad to get one down. Elbow deep in elk is my favorite way to be!!!

Yours Truly:

Day 4:
I got up early and left with my elk to start butchering. I got a call just as I got back to the pavement. My bro and Dad found a herd from the old viewpoint and double-teamed two cows. Wish I could have been there!


We didn't get one of Dad with his cow directly. Elk hunting to my dad is almost strictly business, and more often than not we get pics after the animals is skinned and hanging in camp. This is a typical picture of our elk hunts, my dad and Greg with the meat:

Another typical hunt picture. I swear my old man is never happier than when he has meat hanging in camp.

Day 5:
Once again, elk were immediately spotted in the morning and by 10am or so Greg had one down. So we did manage to fill the cow tags (as expected), and I had my cow completely butchered by the time they got back on Wednesday. I stayed and helped all day thursday but I had to leave Friday morning and left my dad with 2 elk to butcher. Sorry Dad!

So here it is once more, elk season is over and we have to wait another year to go do it again. I got to spend some good time with my brother-in-law and good friend James, and some more with my little brother Tate who I never see anymore. I tell you what, I was missing my wife and daughter but it is always a sad day when I leave elk camp. There's not a thing I love to do more on this earth than get out into the wild and be at the mercy of the terrain and the weather, in the cold and the snow and the wind. It's always good to see the family and elk season was special this year, like it always is.

It's too bad we didn't get to put many racks on the wall but to us, hunting is more about the experience and the food. We did find a total of 4 dead bulls though, one whopper from the archery season. You can't eat the horns anyway, a trophy hunter I will likely never fully be. It's great to get a big one, but I'm not gonna risk going elk-less for a year just to shoot a big one or to only draw bull tags. We're gonna end up with like 700 pounds of meat (boneless) between 4 elk and 4 families, and brother that's the way we like it!

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Great pictures & Great story. Thanks for taking the time to tell it for us.

Congrats on the hunt - and enjoy all that meat!
Looks like a blast Jake. Wish I could have been there. I think I may have to put in next year. I was sitting around tonight and realized I hadn't talked to you since our deer hunt. I jumped on THR hoping to find a report on your big hunt.

Good write-up and nice pics.

PS: I need to come by and pick up that Weaver.
PS: I need to come by and pick up that Weaver.

Yeah man, we can do burgers!

What is the weather like (temp-wise) during your season there?

The AZ winter weather is variable. The first 4 days of the bull hunt were cold and snowy, with the highs around 30F and the lows around 10F. Then the rest of the hunt warmed up, which was a bummer. The highs were like 55F and the lows around 25F. We like to get the meat good and cold while it hangs, 55 degrees is a little warm for our liking.
Congrats and thanks for sharing. I couldn't be more jealous. I look on AZGFD.com every day to see if the rules and regs for next year elk and antelope hunt has been posted yet. Should be coming soon :)
Oh yeah, my wife and I use the same tent as the lighter colored tent in your first pic. We love it, can't recommend it high enough.
What were they taken with?

All were taken with 30-06. 2 with 150gr hornady interlocks, 1 with 150gr Core-lokt, 1 with 168gr Barnes TTSX, 1 with 165gr core-lokt. And "they" say 150gr bullets are too small for elk...bah!

Yeah it's a lot of fun guys. I am certainly thankful for the opportunity. Wish our deer herd was doing as well as the elk are...
I shoot a 180 gr. in my '06 for elk, always have. Some do like a smaller grain bullet, but for me and my family after 30+ elk over the years, the 180 gr. Partition or Core-loc is about all you need.

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