provided by John E. Phillips
Mossy Oak Pro Mark Hanson from Mesa, Arizona, has a severe case of elk addiction. Mark took his first bull in 1984 with a bow - a spike with brow tines (a legal bull) - that really hooked him on elk hunting. Since then, he’s taken 10 bulls with his bow and two in Colorado with a rifle. However, he’s called in bulls for many friends and family members - about 100 bulls. When Hanson isn’t hunting bull elk to take for himself, he hunts with friends and relatives every year to help record their hunts, find bulls for them, call bull elk and carry out meat.
On this hunt, I had Tom Smith and my stepson, Ron Gonzalez, who was 40-years old at the time, with me hunting elk. Tom and I had hunted elk off and on for several years. We had driven up on top of a ridge, walked a little way and heard a bull bugle down in the canyon. Neither Ron nor Tom had an elk tag. They had come on the hunt with me just to help me try to get a bull and to help me carry the meat out. All the people I hunt with really enjoy elk hunting. Whether we have tags or not, we all volunteer to go with each other on elk hunts just to be in the hunt and help with the heavy lifting.
Over the years, I’ve learned that the more friends you have, who will hunt with you, or come to where you’ve got an elk down and help you get the bull back to your vehicle, makes the job of butchering and carrying out meat much quicker, and the hunt’s more fun for everyone. Once we heard this bull down in the canyon, I started cow calling to him, and he answered me. I told Tom and Ron to sit down on the side of this mountain, and I planned to go over a little hump and be about 15 yards below them. I thought the bull would come in below us. Ron was sitting about 10 yards away, and Tom was to his right about another 5 yards.
Tom’s hearing isn’t good, and I joke with him about that. I listened to the bull as he was coming up the mountain, and I was cow calling to him. The bull was only about 150 yards from me, closing ground when I felt someone tap my shoulder. I looked back and saw Tom who asked, “Are you hearing anything?” I told Tom, “He’s close, get back to where I’ve left you.
As the bull closed the distance, I could tell he was coming up the ridge just behind Tom. When I saw the bull, he was only about 27 yards from me and maybe only 10 yards from Tom and Ron. Once the bull had cleared Tom and Ron, I shot.
Later, Ron said, “I heard the arrow fly past us,” and Tom said, “I saw the arrow go past me. I couldn’t hear it, but I could sure see it.”
I believe my arrow flew only about 4 feet in front of Tom’s face. I hit the bull right behind the shoulder, and the broadhead stuck in the opposite shoulder. When the bull felt the arrow, he only went about 30 yards, stopped and then dropped dead. Because I was below Tom and Ron, I didn’t see the bull go down, but Tom was able to see him fall. We all stayed where we were for about 20 minutes, before we went to the bull. After we looked at the bull and celebrated, Ron returned to camp to get our packs and butchering equipment, and we skinned the elk. I don’t field dress elk anymore. I just get the four quarters off, take out the two backstraps, go in between the ribs and get both tenderloins. We used a saw on a couple of ribs close to the heart and took the liver out of the elk. After we took off the cape and disconnected the head, we deboned the neck for hamburger meat.
Ron saw two guys we’d met on previous hunts, and they got in the truck with their equipment and came back to where the elk was. So, we had five people to help get the elk out. We only had to make one trip to pack all of the meat and the head out back to the truck. The other good news about this hunt was we had left our truck about 500 yards downhill from where the elk had gone down, so we had a fairly easy hike to carry the meat out. Not only was this a great, big, monstrous bull elk, but it was one of the easiest elk hunts ever.
On this trip I learned:
- You don’t always know which way the elk will come from before he’s within shooting range. I had to turn all the way around to get my shot off.
- A partner with a hearing impairment needs a sound amplifier that doesn’t cost very much, instead of an expensive hearing aid. Tom couldn’t hear very well, and he might’ve spooked the elk if the bull had been closer to me than he was when Tom tapped me on the shoulder.
- The people camped near you often will help you cut-up your meat and get your elk out of the woods, if you ask. We always help anyone carry a bull out.