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The Bull Elk That Taught Mark Hanson the Most

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. 

Mark Hanson elk

This bull I was hunting I knew would score well over 400 inches. I’ve only seen two or three bulls 400 inches or more, and this bull had to be one of the biggest. I really wasn’t hunting this bull; I was hunting a 7x7 that would’ve scored in the 350-inch range. But I saw the 400-inch bull three of four different times that morning but never with a cow. I never understood why a bull of this size didn’t have a harem of cows, especially during the rut. 

That day, I’d also seen other bulls that were much smaller than the 7x7 I was hunting, and they all had cows. Every morning that I hunted the 7x7 something weird would happen before I could get him close enough to take a shot. For example, one morning other hunters came in and spooked this bull. The area where he was hanging out was a little meadow about 60 yards wide. Below the meadow was a small ravine with a wallow in it. So, I decided to put a tree stand close to the wallow, because I thought that the 7x7 in this region would come to the wallow at some point of the day. While in my tree stand, I looked up in the meadow and watched six cow elk come out at the head of the meadow - about 200 yards up from my tree stand. A few minutes later, a little 4x4 bull moved out into the meadow. I couldn’t understand why even that 4x4 had a harem of cows, but the 7x7 bull didn’t have any cows. That just didn’t make any sense to me. After I’d been watching the elk for about 20 minutes, the 4x4 bull and the cows looked back into the woods, turned and walked toward me.  

Finally, I saw a monster bull that would score well over 400 inches with a wide back and really long lines coming off his main beams. He had everything an elk hunter could imagine for a dream bull. The big bull came out further in the meadow, as the little bull coming to me got about 60 yards out before turning and going into the woods as the big bull circled the cows and herded them back into the trees. After I saw that big bull, the 7x7 I’d been hunting became a dim memory. All my efforts that season went to finding the 400+ bull. Sadly, I never saw him again. Knowing there was a bull that size in the same area as the 7x7, I totally understood why the 7x7 didn’t have any cows with him. I decided the 7x7 wouldn’t try and steal any of the lady friends from a bull with a massive rack.  

What I learned on this hunt:

  • The biggest bull in an area herds-up the most cows, and his presence causes the other bulls to stay away from him and his girlfriends. 
  • You’re destined to be enamored by any monster bull. I was deadset on taking that 400+ bull. I passed up several other really nice bulls, because I decided I was going to take that monster bull and put my tag on his rack. I spent the entire season trying to find that bull. That’s one of the only elk tags I had to eat. 
  • I decided after this hunt that any 6x6 bull I saw when I was hunting elk I would shoot with my bow. Occasionally, I’ll buy a leftover cow tag in Colorado and harvest a cow with my rifle for the freezer. Several buddies of mine will go to Colorado at the end of the season if we need meat for our freezers and enjoy hunts for cow elk and each other’s company.

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