"Just keep sitting, just keep sitting, just keep sitting” becomes your mantra when hunting bison in northern Arizona. I had a cow bison archery tag for the unit on the northern Kaibab Plateau, hunting one of the few free-range bison herds in North America. These bison spend most of their time in the Grand Canyon National Park where they cannot be hunted. The hunters spend their days waiting in ground blinds near the edge of the park hoping the bison will wander out to the water or salt.
I was hunting with Russ Jacoby Guide Service with Jacob (also known as the bison whisperer) as my guide. Jacoby Guide Service has maintained the blinds, salt, and roads in the area for years. It is a unique hunt in that the more all the hunters cooperate with each other the higher the success. Jacoby Guide Service assists all hunters who have a tag.
This hunt turned out to be much more mental than physical. I spent 18 days in a blind from sunup to sundown staring out a small window. The day after day grind looking at the same trees, the same bushes, and the same rocks wears on you as much as hiking mountains and canyons. I read eight books, played many games on my phone and iPad, and made a good friend in the form of a chipmunk.
You see some game, with deer almost every day, a few turkeys, and hopefully bison. My hunt started out very promising with a couple of yearling bulls and a mature bull in the first few days. I then went into a 10-day stretch with no bison at all. I had scheduled a weekend away from the hunt and needed the break. I also called a hunting partner and good friend, Frank Sayne, to help me with the last four days of the hunt. Frank has a positive attitude and is willing to do whatever it takes to make the hunt go well. He maintained camp, scouted for bison, and is always willing to help me with the pack out. I’m extremely thankful for his assistance and friendship.
It was the second day after returning to the north Kaibab that things started looking up. Jacob had found some fresh bison sign at a different blind, so I moved locations. Sure enough, about 15 bison came to the water at about 1 p.m. It was a mixture of bulls, cows, yearlings, and calves. It is very hard to pick an adult cow out of the herd. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has a class and provides videos and a handout on identifying the age and sex of a bison before the hunt. I made my choice as the bison were drinking from the waterhole. I picked out the cow and waited for a broadside shot. She turned broadside at 30 yards. I drew the bow back and released my arrow. It flew perfectly, striking the bison just behind the shoulder. It took a couple of steps and the rest of the bison hardly moved. The herd continued to water, and a bull even sniffed the arrow in my cow. The cow was now facing away from me, and I elected to wait and let the broadhead do its job. After a few minutes, the herd moved off, leaving my cow standing alone. I decided that if she turned broadside I would shoot again. She did, and after the second arrow, she went down.
I was elated! After 18 days, it finally happened. I called Frank and Jacob, and they came and helped cape, quarter, and pack the bison out. It was a large chore on its own as we were not able to get a vehicle very close to the bison.
I would like to thank Jacoby Guide Service. I would recommend them on this hunt, and your chance of success will be much higher using them as a paying client. Also, thanks to Frank who took the time to help with the hunt. And of course, thanks to my wife, Lisa, who put up with me being gone for 18 days and who always supports my passion for bowhunting.