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More on Mark Hanson’s Biggest Bull Bow Elk Ever

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 Friday night, my son Paul, arrived and we decided to hunt the bull I’d seen on Friday because the other bull I had missed, I knew I’d have to hunt him in the afternoon. Friday, I had hiked up the trail near the top of the ridge. But we decided if we got up early enough on Saturday instead of hiking up to the ridge, we’d drive my truck up an old logging road that would put us closer to the top of the ridge well before daylight, and we did. I left my truck, which was near the meadow that the herd moved back and forth from to their bedding area to feed. As soon as we got out of the truck, I heard the bull bugling up on top of the ridge about 1/4-mile away from us. We ran about 100 yards up the ridge to get ahead of the herd. We found a spot about 20 yards off the trail, where we could set up in some brush and see the trail. However, the elk couldn’t see or smell us. We decided to wait for the bull to bugle again to know where he was. 

elk herd

We heard the cows coming down the trail. When the lead cow got even with us, she looked straight at us. We almost held our breath. But the other cows coming behind her pushed her with their heads, forcing her to continue down the trail. That’s when I knew that our Mossy Oak Bottomland camo truly could make us invisible. As soon as the cows had passed us, we spotted the bull about 15 yards on the other side of the trail the cows had come down. He was pushing one of the last cows that had gotten off the trail to try to get her back on the trail. I knew I needed to stop him, so I gave him a soft cow call. 

The bull elk stopped broadside to me in his tracks looking for the cow he just had heard. I was at full draw, and then I released the arrow. I watched the arrow in flight and saw it hit just a bit high of the spot where I was aiming. When he took the arrow, the bull started running in the same direction that the cows had been walking. After a 40-yard sprint, the bull turned and veered off to the right and ran about 60 yards out of sight. Next I heard him stop. About two minutes passed, and finally I heard the bull fall. 

My son and I waited about 1/2-hour. We went to the spot where I’d shot the bull and found my arrow. I’d gotten a clean pass-through. I picked up the arrow, followed the blood trail and located my elk. I sent my son to the truck to drive back to camp to pick up our frame packs, knives and saw, so we could start butchering the elk and cutting up the meat. 

While Paul was in camp, he met the older couple who’d been cutting firewood near us and told them about the hunt. They wanted to ride back with him to see my elk. When they arrived at the place where we’d left the truck that morning, my son got the frame packs and my butchering equipment out. The older gentleman and his wife were still sitting in the cab and said, “Why don’t you just drive the truck closer to where your dad shot the elk?” “Oh, okay” my son said because he knew that elk had fallen only about 60 yards from the old logging road. I was so accustomed to packing elk out that I didn’t even think about the road only being about 60 yards from where the elk had gone down. I caped the elk out to mount him. Then we carried the quarters, the backstraps and the tenderloins to the truck. That bull grossed 368 inches, but his seventh point had been broken off, since the time I’d seen him a week earlier. This is the bull I call the 99 Bull, because I killed him in 1999, and he was the biggest bull I’d ever taken with my bow.

What I learned from this hunt was: 

  • The bull had stayed in the same area where I’d spotted him a week before because he had a big herd of cows with him. 
  • The bull wouldn’t come to a call, so I had to hunt him on the trail he was using and not call to him, until I wanted him to stop.
  • You should try to get your vehicle close to where you’ve downed the elk and then, you don’t have to pack that meat out.
  • My son being with me meant we could share the memories of this hunt together, and I could get my elk out of the woods more quickly with my son helping.

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