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January 2020
Story by Tyler Cunningham Mott
State: Arizona
Species: Elk - Rocky Mtn

As I get older, that “Christmas morning” feeling has more to do with the day draw results come out than it does presents. Thankfully, that feeling comes early in the year, around mid-March for us elk freaks. Luckily for me, that day came with the result that I had drawn an early archery bull tag in Arizona. I had beaten the odds and drawn the famous unit 9 bull tag in the random pool. Obviously, I wasn’t complaining, but at that point, my head began to run rampant with what this season had in store me. I’ve worked for A3 Trophy Hunts since 2016, and this would be the first year I wouldn’t be guiding this hunt but I would be the one to fling some arrows. It’s an entirely different feeling being the one in the hot seat. I was nervous but incredibly excited.

September 13th was coming up fast, and by the time I knew it, we were less than two weeks away. Thanks to Bull Basin Archery in Flagstaff, I was going into this hunt with a new bow shooting 327 fps and topped off with a Garmin sight. I was shooting everyday leading up to the hunt and was very confident out to 100 yards, even though my bow could perform further. About a week prior to opening day, I had my fifth wheel loaded up and was on my way to unit 9. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it 300 yards from my house before a cow elk decided she was going to delay my plans by caving in my front grill and headlight. After some repairs, I was back on the road, determined to make it there without any more complications.

By the time opening day got here, we had narrowed it down to a select few bulls we would be hunting, but there was one specific bull I was fixed on. At 4 a.m., David Lauzon and I were deep in some nasty, thick country trying to dig up the giant. We passed a handful of solid bulls, but the giant we were looking for was absent. The full moon and lack of rain seemed to be working against every hunter in the unit. As evening arrived, we cut through some prime bedding area, and to our amazement, we walked right into the bull we were after. He had no cows and was picking his way through the trees into the wind. Due to lack of light, we let him walk back into the country he had come from. We had no idea that would be the last time we would see the bull.

An early morning call informed us that our “Plan A” had been shot and was now MIA. Thanks to the great growth we had experienced this year, I had no shortage of bulls to choose from. Over the next several days, I passed on plenty of bulls that most people dream of killing. They just didn’t have the special look I was after. The moon and temperature had caused most bulls to be silent with zero rut activity.

Day 11 came, and at this point, the other guides in camp had all their clients’ tags filled and were now available to help me. I had the “A Team” at my disposal, and this is where things got serious. Right off the bat, Hunter Weems glassed up a giant 390" clean 6-point and we made our move. James Vine moved in from a different angle to make sure the bull and his four cows couldn’t slip out the back. David and I spent the next two hours sneaking in while constantly playing the wind. Once we made it inside 200 yards, we bugled at him. Angry, the bull got out of his bed only to destroy the nearest cedar. With his head buried in the tree, I made it inside 57 yards before that lone, old, haggard-looking cow caught me settling in for a shot. With one chirp, that bull and his cows exited my life for good. Beyond upset with myself, I sat there in disbelief as I had just blown it on the bull of my dreams.?

As we all watched the bull and his cows hightail it out of the country, we noticed an object moving in the distance. A bull we had not seen was running full speed and screaming right at the big bull I had just stalked. He closed the distance only to take the big 6’s cows and run them back to his original herd. Hunter watched as the bull moved his cows into an open pocket off in the distance and assured me this would be my redemption. Unfortunately, the pocket in which the bull had held up in was wide open with small patches of cliff rose that offered little cover for my 6'6" self. We spent the next four hours moving in and backing out, trying to get the right angle to get into bow range. No matter what we did, the bull wouldn’t leave his cows and we were stuck scratching our heads. With the rainstorm closing in, the three of us crawled inside 150 yards and started raking a tree. The bull responded, and David turned around to say, “He’s coming. Get ready!”

I had no idea the extent of the bull that was headed my way, and that was probably for the best as I was already nervous. We sat there silent until he broke 90 yards and stopped. James said, “This is your chance!” Sadly, the wind had picked up and I didn’t feel comfortable shooting at that distance. By this time, the bull had had enough. He turned around and began to walk back to his cows. We concluded that my only option was to run at him and close the distance. There was one small tree about 50 yards from me, and I took off at a full sprint. With an arrow nocked, I ran as fast as I could, trailing behind the bull. As I ducked behind the small cedar, David let out a cow call in hopes of stopping the bull for a final shot. The bull did stop, but he was facing directly away, looking back over his shoulder. The only shot I had was to thread the arrow behind his last rib and up into his chest cavity. With that in mind, I stepped out and ranged, and it said 96 yards. I knew this was my last chance, so I took a deep breath, settled in, and sent it downrange. All hell broke loose as the bull scrambled to get his feet under him, and just like that, he was gone.

The guys walked up and told me they had heard the hit, yet I was still worried.

Hunter called us and said, “Only 11 cows came out the other side of the draw.”

James looked back at me and said, “I’ve got blood!”

We began to follow the small drops around the corner only to see the giant bull piled up in the wide-open 60 yards away. Instantly, my knees were weak and the weight had been lifted off my shoulders as I realized all our hard work had paid off. I walked up on a bull that exceeded every expectation I could have dreamed of. With the help of some amazing friends, I had harvested my dream bull that carried 62" of mass and a final score of 373".