Monday, December 8, 2008

Arizona Elk Hunt

I went on an Arizona elk hunt this past weekend. I had a cow tag for Unit 9, which is the National Forest along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We hunted the "wintering grounds" along Forest Road 307 just west of Highway 64 near the Desert View - East Entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. I met my friend Andy Jones, who worked at Window Rock High with me last year. The unit is a mix of Juniper, Pinon, and Ponderosa pine with huge open meadows threaded throughout. Unfortunately, the elk had moved out of the area to find water due to a dry winter and no snow fall yet. However, it was beautiful country and we hiked and drove miles and miles of 2-wheel tracks and forest for 3 days. The only elk we saw were the first night. We had put all our gear away and 2 elk ran through the fringe of our headlights as we cruised along FR 307 back to our camp. The sun had just set and it was tough to see. I jumped out and the elk stopped about 100 yards away. I could see them clearly through my scope, so I took a rushed standing shot. They just stood there. I tried to get a rest for the second shot but they started running away. I stood and fired twice more. We searched for blood that night and the next day but couldn't find any. I had my 15 second window and rushed it. I should have knelt down and rested my elbow on my knee that first shot. It was a perfect situation and the only chance we got in 3 days. There was fresh sign and tracks everywhere, but it was like an elk ghost town. Beautiful, beautiful country, though. We were mountain men for 3 days with no cell phones, no showers, and doing all of our cooking over a campfire each day. Good times! Me, Andy, and Tatonka.
We camped at the base of the Coconino Rim and hunted all the country north of it.

This area was a huge cattle ranch back in the day with several homesteads. There are 2-wheel tracks and old cattle corrals scattered throughout.

The Coconino Rim in the background and Tatonka resting from his morning hunt.

Sage and trees and grass. We found antelope herds and a lot of mule deer, but only 2 elk.

The hunter's truck with essentials: Gun and a Mountain Dew.

Elk Camp, just after we broke it down. Andy slept in his tent in an Afghanistanny head wrap, and I slept in the back of my truck on a rock (I took my memory foam pillow which, I found out, turns into stone when the temperature drops below freezing.) The days were in the 50s and the nights were in the 20s or below. We would get back to camp each night around 6pm, get a roaring fire going and sit around eating and chatting until about 10pm under a sky thick with stars. The coyotes would howl around us for about 20 minutes each night. The second night, one was only 100 yards or so away and I began howling back at him. We exchanged howls for a while.

The last morning, I was watching the meadows at sunrise, and I was facing west. I looked over at my mirror and caught the sunrise behind me.

Andy, with his Afghanistanny head wrap pulled down around his neck. His woolen trousers are out of the picture, which is a good thing, because his fly was often open.

An Arizona sunrise over the Coconino Rim.

Tatonka on the last afternoon. Andy went home at noon, and I spent the next 6 hours cruising and hiking. Just as the sun set on this last evening, the clouds covered the skies, and snow began to fall.


mikeylikesit said...

Would you believe that I've never been hunting? Even more crazy is the fact that I've never shot a gun. Cap guns don't count do they?
I would love to go out with you some time. Too bad you live so freakin' far away.

Mother of Eight said...

Welcome back to the blogs! Looks like you had a great time.

johnsun said...

Joe.....yeah my favorite blogger. Cool post. I even found it interesting and I'm not into that stuff. By the way, your christmas card is on the way. I know you are excited and waiting. SUNNI

Dave Heywood said...

Cool beans. Looked like fun. Wish I could have been there. And just what is Andy doing with his arm around you? That shoulder is reserved for me...tear*
Mike - never shot a gun. You haven't lived until you have experienced the thump of a 12 gauge shotgun, 7mm rifle, .22 rifle, Glock 27 .40 cal, Glock 22 .40 cal, or even a taser. All of which are in my home. So don't show up to my house in the middle of the night unless I know you are coming. Next time you visit Utah, we will have to take you shooting! That is a promise.

Dave Heywood said...

Oh yeah, I forgot about my .308 M-14 rifle. Wow, maybe I should invest in a gun safe, ey!

The Real Jim Heywood said...

It's always nice to come home with game meat (and elk is the very best!), but with or without, the hunting experience must be tasted first hand in order to be fathomed. It truly is a most wonderful way to get out into God's amazing creations. Great photos - they brought back lots of memories - and pulled me back to reality from the never-ending-bathroom-renovation thing that has consumed my life as of late.

joeheywood said...

Dave - tazers don't "thump."

They shoot hellfire through your bones and flesh and into your soul.

Bryan & Bobbie said...

cool pics! I definitely need to get out on a real hunt. After seeing this post and all the many others and hearing the stories, I need to hunt! That day will come. I love hearing hunting stories. good times, good times.