Dates: September 30 to October 1, 2005
Weapon: Thompson/Center Encore muzzleloader
Hunters: David Blanton
Weather: Temperatures would rise into the mid 80s in the afternoons and drop to the mid 40s at night.
When September 29 arrived, John Tate and I flew out to Phoenix, Arizona. Then we drove up to Prescott where we met up with Brian Bombadieri, a guide for Vaquero Outfitters. Brian drove us another hour and a half to the ORO Ranch, which is a private ranch in north/central Arizona.
We went out the first morning and hunted in typical northern Arizona pinon and juniper country. It was very rocky with some scattered hills and small mountains. The bulls were pretty quiet that morning, but we did hear some scattered bugling in the distance. We walked for another mile, set up and started calling again. Within 30 minutes, we called in three small bulls -- none of them were shooters.
We returned to our tent camp and messed around for a while, then went back out that afternoon. We walked a long way to get to where some of the guides had spotted bulls earlier that morning. A little later that evening, we called in a 340-inch, 6x6 bull with his cows. We had him at 170 yards, but he wasn’t big enough for a first-day bull.
We captured a lot of great footage of the bulls that day even though we elected not to shoot one. After a long walk out that night in the dark, we finally got back to camp. Exhausted, we ate a hot meal and crashed.
We set out early again the next morning to a different part of the ranch. When we got out of the truck, we immediately heard ear-piercing bugling of bulls all around us. They were really active and extremely vocal. First thing that morning, we called a bull to within 30 yards of us, but his horns were broken up badly from fighting, so we decided to pass on him. There are so many bulls on that ranch that by the end of September and the first of October, their antlers are broken up from battling for breeding rights.
We could hear some more bugling bulls approximately two miles away, so we decided to go after them. John Tate was quite the man carrying all of that heavy camera equipment over the ridges. After we walked for a while, we called to the bulls and could hear them getting closer to us. When we stopped walking, we could hear three or four bulls and several cows approximately 200 yards from us, and we heard another bull up to the right of us. We quickly set up in front of a cedar tree and started calling again. The bull to our right started screaming as he walked toward us.
I put a primer in my Encore muzzleloader and got my shooting sticks ready. The bull continued to bugle as he moved in closer and closer to us. He was so loud, that we knew he would show himself at any moment. Suddenly, John whispered, “I see him coming.” He could see the tips of his antlers moving through the brush. A massive bull ended up walking right into the clearing only 30 yards away from us. He looked right at the camera in an effort to find the cow he could hear calling behind us, which was actually Brian working his magic on the cow call.
When he entered the clearing, I didn’t want to shoot him because he was facing straight toward me. John and I whispered back and forth for a while, and John told me to wait. The bull moved to within 22 yards of us, then he turned broadside to me. I put the crosshairs on his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. Black smoke went everywhere. I could tell I had made a good shot. I was so excited. I knew that I had just shot the biggest elk of my life. We were scheduled to hunt for five days, but I harvested a great bull on the second day of the hunt.
We walked over to where the bull lay and looked down at the huge typical 6x6 bull that scored 355 Boone and Crockett inches. He had broken off some tips including a non-typical point. A close inspection of his rack revealed that he had broken at least 13 inches of the left main beam. He was a big, heavy old bull.
Don't Miss: The Hunt for a Kodiak Island Brown Bear
Editor's Note: This was originally published on October 20, 2005.
Are you a big game hunter thirsty for knowledge? Check out our stories, videos and hard-hitting how-to's on big game hunting.