Editor’s Note: Mark Hanson lives in Mesa, Arizona, and has been a Mossy Oak ProStaffer for 7 years. His favorite Mossy Oak camo pattern is Treestand. “I like Treestand because I hunt in a lot of dark timber, high in the mountains, and on land that has been burned. Mossy Oak Treestand fits in every type terrain that I hunt.”
As I've mentioned, I took my first big bull that netted 360 points in Unit 27. I didn’t draw Unit 27 again until 2008. Because I had hunted Unit 27 before, I had developed some places that were my go-to places. I'd either taken bulls there before, or I’d seen bulls at these places in past years. I like to call a lot and locate as many elk as I can when I'm hunting.
On this particular hunt, my son Gonzales, my friend Tom Smith, and I had only walked about 200 yards from the truck. I started cow calling, and we had two bulls answer me down in the bottom of this canyon below the ridge where we were walking. We continued on down the ridge. As the bulls kept bugling, we could tell they were coming up the ridge. I dropped about 25 yards off the side of the ridge on the same side that the bulls were walking up. Gonzales and Tom decided to sit down on the top of the ridge above me. As I continued to cow call to the two bulls, they bugled almost instantly after every cow call I made. I could tell that they were coming to my calling. But as they closed the distance, I also could tell they were going to go around me to get to the top of the ridge. I had called in two bulls from the place I was calling from three different times. Previously, I had seen some really big bulls in this area. What was amazing is that neither one of these two bulls was the herd bull. When I could see the bull, I assumed he was at 27 yards but he was actually at 25, so I shot a little high. Luckily, I knew exactly where Gonzales and Tom were sitting. The bull was only 8 yards from Gonzales and Tom, but I knew I had a clean shot at the bull’s vitals. I took the shot. Later my son said, “I heard the arrow pass by me.” Tom said,“I saw the arrow fly by me when you shot.” When the bull took the arrow, he trotted off about 30 yards and stopped. He didn’t know what had happened. After I shot, I bugled. I think hearing that bugle is what stopped the bull. I couldn’t see him but Tom could, and he watched him go down.
We were only about 1/2-mile from our vehicle, and the bull died on top of the ridge. I went back to camp to get the pack frames to start carrying the meat out. Two other campers also had camped in the spot where we were. When I returned to camp, they were in camp and asked me what had happened. While I was getting the frame packs, I told them about the hunt. They offered to go back with me, take their frame packs and help us get the meat out. With 5 people helping to pack out the bull, we only had to make one trip.
Every year I'm always asked, “What’s the secret to taking a good bull in Arizona on public land?” The biggest secret is there is no secret. You...
- can’t take a big bull in a unit that doesn’t have a reputation for producing big bulls. Right now, some of the most-popular units are on the south side of the Grand Canyon - Units 7, 8, 9 and 10. These units aren’t quite as high in elevations as some of the other units and home some fairly open country to hunt. You can hunt up to about 6,000 or 7,000 feet, and you’ll be in juniper and ponderosa pine forests. On the east side of the state, Unit 3A, Unit 3C, Unit 27, and Unit 1 are also popular for hunting elk. In central Arizona, Unit 5B south is fairly popular.
- must be willing to go a little farther, climb a little higher and hunt in places where most hunters won’t hunt.These places are where elk can live long enough to grow heavier antlers.
- must scout a week or two before you hunt.
- can increase your odds by having a guide or a friend hunt with you. Your friend can call, and you can take the shot. Then, if you're successful, you can call, and your friend can take the shot.
- must hunt the charcoal toothpicks. This section of the U.S. is subject to a lot of wildfires. When a wildfire burns through elk country, for the next few years, the land that the fire has touched is really, really ugly. However, these areas are other places where most hunters won’t hunt, but you still can take elk. A few years ago a big wildfire burned 500,000 acres close to where I usually camp to go elk hunting. I've learned you can be successful hunting through those charcoal toothpicks - trees that have burned so badly that they’re black and standing up like black toothpicks 10, 20 and 30 feet tall.
To learn more about hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ new eBook and print book, “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows.” You also can download a free Kindle app that enables you to read the book on your iPad, computer or Smartphone.
For information on making jerky from your deer and elk to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book from http://johninthewild.com/free-books.