I think every father has a special place in his heart for those moments when he can spend time with a son or daughter in the outdoors. I can remember my dad carrying me on his back through the marshes and mud to a muskrat mound so we could spend a day together hunting ducks on Mud Lake. I am hoping to pass this tradition on to my son, Chase. We have spent many a day out on the lake and in the woods, experiencing the blessings of the beautiful outdoors. Chase is now older, married with three children, and busy with his own profession. We have hunted together many times but have never been drawn together for the same hunt.
As it came time to complete our Arizona applications, we had a difficult decision to make. Chase had 16 bonus points and wanted to put in for an Arizona Strip hunt. I had 12 bonus points, and if we applied on the same application, Chase would drop out of the max point pool. We decided it would be best if we applied on separate applications.
As it got close for Arizona Game and Fish to post the drawing results, we noticed that both of our credit cards got hit. Now it was a waiting game to see for what units. Chase found out first that he had drawn the coveted 13B tag. When I discovered that I had hit the jackpot, there was much celebration.
Chase had drawn a 23 North elk tag the previous year and had hired A3 Trophy Hunts. He was very pleased with what they provided, so we decided to request their services again for this hunt.
Our anticipation was great as we departed Gilbert, Arizona the Wednesday before opening day. We stayed in St. George, Utah that night and then got up early and headed for the Strip. We arrived at camp and met our guides. I was paired up with Dean Dunaway, and Chase was with Hunter Weems. Dean was a good match for me. He was about my age and had a lot of experience hunting the Strip.
The first two days were spent glassing and stalking. The two attempts to sneak in on some 200"+ bucks failed. On the third morning, we started again at the same glassing spot. Dean and Asher Johnson glassed the area where the previous bucks were spotted, and they directed me to a nearby location to glass another clearing. About an hour in, I spotted two bucks feeding on acorns. When Asher and Dean came to validate the size of the see that one of the bucks had tripods on each side and would easily score over 200". Dean and I hopped into the truck and made our way over to where we could make a stalk while Asher kept his eyes on the bucks. We got there, and I took a shot at a long distance and missed. We decided it would be best to back off and regroup in hopes that we wouldn’t push the deer out of the area.
Dean knew of a water tank close by, but he didn’t think the two bucks would be on camera because he had checked the camera on opening day and there was no activity. To everybody’s surprise, the camera verified that the two bucks had watered the previous evening just before dark. Dean asked if I was ready to sit a water tank, and we went back to camp for a pop-up blind.
That afternoon, we set up the blind about 25 yards from the tank. My line of sight was the shooting lane through an upside down triangle 18" on top narrowing down to a 6" base. That evening, a doe came to water. It was a good sign that a deer had come to water, and hopefully tomorrow would be the day.
We left a half hour earlier the next morning to make sure I got in the blind before daylight. Dean and Asher glassed a huge typical 4-point close to the tank that morning and were hopeful he would come to water. Just before dark, two does and two fawns came to water but nothing with horns.
That night when I spoke with Chase, he was getting discouraged. We were wondering if we would be having tag soup in two more days. If anybody went home with an empty tag, I hoped it would be me. Chase had waited so long to get a chance at a good deer hunt.
It was day five, and I was back in the blind. During the afternoon, a thunderstorm rolled in. I was holding on to the blind for a couple of hours so it wouldn’t blow away. Just before dark, I thought I heard a deer jump the fence behind me. I prepared myself but nothing happened. I was thinking that this had been an unproductive day when some movement to my right caught my eye. When I saw the deer had antlers above the ears, I concentrated on shot placement. When the buck lowered his head below the rim of the metal tank, I let it fly. I couldn’t follow the arrow, but I heard it hit the deer and saw him kick up his hind legs and run towards the gate. I used the radio to contact Dean and Asher and excitedly screamed, “I got a buck!”
After what seemed like an eternity, I saw their headlights. I jumped out of the blind, went to the point of contact, and found blood. Asher was already waiting for me at the gate and said it looked like a good hit. He lifted up his flashlight in the direction of the blood trail, and we could see the gleaming eyes of a dead deer about 50 yards ahead. After the hugging and celebrating, I looked at the buck more closely. It was a 6x5, not counting the eyeguards, with a 30" outside spread and scored 225". It was a beautiful buck, the biggest and the first velvet buck I had harvested. My thoughts turned to Chase on the way back to camp, hoping he was able to fill his tag. The only thing I regret is that Chase wasn’t present when I shot this beautiful buck-of-a-lifetime.
We arrived in camp at about midnight, and Chase had gone to bed. I learned that he hadn’t tagged yet and was happy that I was lucky enough to harvest such a nice buck. One good thing was that I might be there when he bagged his deer. Chase had diligently put forth the effort, and with the encouragement of A3, I knew his time would come.
On the last day, Chase and Hunter were on the top of a hill with many helpers, glassing for bucks. Hunter glassed up a giant 3-point that had been with a herd of bucks they had been hunting. Hunter and Chase took off down the hill and started their stalk. They came to the last point where they had seen the buck and heard some movement on the other side of the hill. As Chase snuck over the hill, it ended up being a doe. Chase returned to where Hunter was, and as they were discussing their next step, unexpectedly, the giant 3-point got up and started walking along the bench below. They got a distance, and Chase set his pins and drew. He released and heard a “whack!” It was a great shot. They found Chase’s arrow and waited for the crew to recover the buck. Then the celebration began! The best part was that I was on the hilltop and watched as Chase harvested his 200" 3-point.
After the archery deer hunt, I went to the White Mountains near Show Low, Arizona to chase bulls. Elk camp included Chase, his wife, Carrie, his son, Raleigh, my son-in-law, Tyler, his son, Hunter, my wife, and my good friend, Andrew. I had teamed up with A3 Outfitters again.
On opening morning, Arthur Powers and I were following bugles in the dark, hoping to get on some bulls at first light. It was the deep-toned, gnarly bugle that got our attention. We shifted into stealth mode and soon caught sight of him in a thick grove of junipers about 60 yards out. We got set up in hopes that a good shot would present itself, and he came into the clearing at 50 yards. The bull stood broadside as I watched the flight of the arrow hit its mark and penetrate to the depth of the fletchings. Arthur confirmed that it was a good shot. The Strip deer hunt was an extra inning ballgame, while the elk hunt was a leadoff homerun.
Thanks to my beautiful wife, Keri, who took care of our little business while I was gone and has been supportive of all my hunting adventures. Thanks to A3 and especially Dean Dunaway. The A3 crew was tremendous from beginning to end. Thanks to my son for being such a good friend to his old dad. I think every father wishes and hopes that their children will succeed in life and be a better person than he is. I believe my son is along with my two daughters. Thank you, family; your dad loves you.
Arizona Mule Deer Hunting