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Worthy of the Pressure

December 2018
Story by Roman Ertelt
Hunters: Steve Letnes
State: Arizona
Species: Elk - Rocky Mtn

Traveling to southern Arizona for firearm safety class in the heat of the summer had Steve Letnes questioning his sanity. With 22 bonus points, he knew he was behind the max and would have tough odds to draw a unit 10 elk license. He left the comforts of Minnesota lake country for the July heat of Arizona to take a class with a room full of kids to gain an extra point. With that point, Steve drew his early rifle elk tag.


As luck would have it, a Wyoming antelope tag was also in his possession for unit 57. Our first hunt on this long road trip was near Rawlins, Wyoming. We met up with Tony and Eli Grimmett and Dave Brown of Pronghorn Guide Service. Eli had been scouting for three weeks prior to the season and reported that high scoring bucks were scarce. Over the two days we hunted, hundreds of antelopes were seen, with two 80" bucks passed. Finally, a great buck was found and Steve harvested a nice 83" inch antelope.


The second leg of this trip took us to Saligman, Arizona on Route 66 for the main event - Arizona elk. At the SCI convention, Steve had spoken to several well-respected outfitters, but he ultimately booked with A3 Outfitters. Very early on opening day, we met Matt Schimberg and two of his spotters, Jeff Archer and Owen McCrae. The elk had been very regular coming off the flats into cover. All we had to do was get into position where all the elk had been funneling through. We had high hopes. This sounded easy, but the elk changed plans and went the opposite direction. Now the hunt was on!


Due to the warm weather, the bugling activity was early and late in the day. Mornings were spent chasing bugles. We looked at and passed on bulls we would shoot in most places. We also did some calling and pulled in some smaller and broken antlered bulls. Even a few of the larger bulls were broken, which was a concern. Trail camera pictures showed a monster 400" bull and one that was about 380" in the area. These were the two we hoped to find.


Now it was day four. The full moon, warm weather, numerous broken bulls, and a 22-year wait for a seven-day hunt were on Steve's mind. It was becoming tougher to hold out and continue searching for the bull of his dreams. In the early light, we saw several nice bulls. Steve passed them, hoping to see one of the big growlers. Then it happened, Jeff spotted one worth looking at way out on the edge of the grassy flat about one mile away. We moved in and got him in sight. Matt and Steve discussed if he should shoot.


Matt said, "If we pass this one, we are rolling the dice."


After a short maneuver, we were out of cover. Using the spotting scope tripod for a rest, Steve made a 500-yard double lung hit. The 180 grain AccuBond passed completely through. We knew this bull was good, but as we looked at him, he seemed to grow. Matt's comment was, "He is better than we thought." A modest 34" inside spread was offset by 58 J4 inch beams, great mass, and long tines. The big 6x7 grossed 386".


This bull was a reward for applying all those years and worthy of the pressure you have with a tag like this in hand. The hunt could not have been better. Thank you to Tony and Eli Grimmett and to Matt Schimberg and his crew at A3 Outfitters!