By Troy Grogan
I was hunting in the Gila National Forest on September 18, 2011. It was the last morning of my hunt. This was the first year I had hunted the Gila, and a friend of mine told me where to set up our camp. We had elk bugling every day around our camp. But toward the end of the hunt, the elk weren’t bugling as much as they were at the first of the hunt.
I had decided to hunt behind the camp where we had heard bugling in the past. As I started walking away from camp, I heard an elk bugle. So, I went down the mountain we were camped on, walked across the canyon and started following the bugling bull. As I got closer, I saw a herd of cow elk. Although at one point I was within 40 yards of the herd bull, he was gone before I could shoot. He went over the top of the ridge, and I followed him. I noticed that he was staying above the cows. Later, I discovered that he wasn’t the herd bull. He was a satellite bull. I stayed with him from just before first light until about 9 a.m. The bull stopped and turned back to go over the ridge from where he had just come. I was as still as I could be, and the bull walked past me at 18 yards. Once the bull elk walked behind some brush, and I knew he couldn’t see me, I came to full draw. When he walked out from behind the brush, he looked straight at me and I released the arrow. My arrow flew true, and my broadhead cut the top of the bull’s heart. The bull only ran about 70 yards before he went down.
I knew I had made a good bow shot on the bull elk. I sat down and called my friend Dean Sanchez, who was hunting with me. I waited for Dean to show up before I went to recover my bull. It took Dean about an hour to reach me. The bull had left a great blood trail, and he was easy to trail. That bull scored 349 inches. That’s the biggest bull elk I've ever taken, even though I've seen bigger.
After Dean and I got to the bull, I started cow calling and the herd bull bugled. The bull started coming up the ridge we were on, and I sat down on my elk. The bull came within 40 yards of Dean, but the woods were so thick that Dean couldn’t get off a shot. Dean said that the bull would score 370 or more. He was huge. The fourth point on each antler, often called the sabers, was really, really long. My brother Calvin wasn’t with us on this hunt. So, Dean and I to had to debone my elk and carry it out. We had to make two trips each to get the cape, the horns and the deboned meat out.
To get John and Denise Phillips’ free cookbook, “Miz Denise’s Outdoor Cooking: More Than 35 Recipes for Elk and Mule Deer,” go to http://johninthewild.com/free-books.
Part 2: Gila National Forest Bull Elk Hunt
Part 4: Troy Grogan’s Long Shot Bull Elk