As everyone knows, drawing an Arizona elk permit can be cumbersome. In many cases, it’s just frustrating. Every year, I wait for the Huntin’ Fool magazines to come so I can review the latest information and apply for the states I want to hunt. One of the best aspects of the magazine is the listing of odds to draw tags.
As I rounded the corner to 70 years old, I wondered if I would ever get a chance to hunt elk in Arizona. I had been applying for deer and elk tags in Arizona for several years. I knew the routine – watch for a credit card charge to my account to tell if I had been drawn. In March, I saw the charge for a “limited opportunity low density elk tag.” I called JP Vicente of Big Chino Guide Service, and he had me covered. I had hunted with Big Chino Guide Service in the past with great results.
After a few phone calls and discussions of what limited opportunity elk meant, I knew I better ensure that my bases were covered. Fortunately, JP and the Big Chino crew have a hunting lease that allows access on 50,000 acres of private land. In discussion with JP, he told me the ranch had become a corridor for elk as they searched for new habitat due to hunting pressure. With elk taking up residency on the ranch, the herd has flourished.
We glassed 25-30 bulls a day on this limited opportunity elk hunt. I have some friends who have drawn other areas in Arizona who did not see as many elk. I was able to hunt on a second chance at 70 years old.
Opening day started in early November, and the hunt ran for a month. I eagerly awaited my hunt date. I would hunt the beginning of the season one week before my 70th birthday. I traveled from my home in California to Arizona for the opener. Somewhere along the way, I got food poisoning.
I arrived in elk camp sick as a dog. During the first day of hunting, it became apparent that I was in no condition to walk the mountains. We concluded that I needed to return home and get well. I returned home, got medical assistance, and recovered from my illness. I celebrated a low-key 70th birthday with my family. My thoughts were of the giant elk of northern Arizona. I hoped to get well and regain my strength to hunt them. I arrived in elk camp the last week of the season feeling much better than the month before. The first day, we spotted several nice bulls but did not connect. JP liked me and said tomorrow we had to grind it out. The bulls were two to three miles deep in the ranch. As is typical with big bulls, they were not close to roads.
That day, Junior, JP’s son, climbed to the top of the highest peak, a 1,500 foot elevation change, and became our eyes in the sky. Junior saw a large bull bedded near a distinct rimrock. We stalked this bull over several rough canyons. When we slowly peeked over the last ridge, the bull was still bedded down. I placed the crosshairs on his shoulder and squeezed the trigger on the .300 Winchester Magnum. He never gave any indication that anything had happened. He died in his bed with scarcely a move. My years of patience and waiting for a big Arizona elk had come to pass.
I would like to thank my family, JP, and the Big Chino crew for their patience and allowing this 70-year-old to fulfill his dream of a big Arizona elk.