An Elk Odyssey: Part 2

Part 2 of 7
Exploring New Country

Pulling into central Arizona on September 9, both Peg and I were excited to explore new country. Heading for the forest, we were soon setting up a camp on the outskirts of my hunting area. Under tall pines, a clear stream played a tune nearby while we secured our base camp. From this location, we hoped to spend the next few days exploring my hunting unit — both scouting for elk, and looking for a new camping spot, which would be more centrally located. 

As camp took shape, and evening approached, a gorgeous thunderstorm built up on the nearby mountains. As thunder rolled, two Okies sat around their camp and reveled in the sight of the first rain that either had seen in nearly four months — a very pleasant change of events. With the arrival of darkness, a fire was built and wieners were roasted, with cold soda washing everything down. Could it get any better than this?

Base camp in Arizona — not the author’s “normal” elk camp.

Daylight the next morning found me cruising dirt roads while Peg snoozed at camp. By midmorning, I’d already explored many miles of the road system in the unit, while also finding a couple of potential, future campsites. Having spotted a few groups of elk from the road, I was very excited about the potential of my area — especially since one of the groups held some mature males! 

The habitat was widely varied, consisting primarily of juniper flats and pine and oak-choked canyons, with a few timbered hills thrown in for kicks. It was much different than most of the “traditional” high-country that I’d spent most of my life chasing elk in. I nevertheless knew that some of the largest-antlered bulls in the world resided here! Such being the case, I guessed that I could “lower” myself to accept the fact that I’d be hunting elk in country that wasn’t steep and above 10,000 feet in elevation. Oh well — somebody had to do it — I guess that it might as well be me!

When I returned to camp midday, lunch and good company soon had me ready to go afield again — this time, to hike into some remote areas in search of good hunting spots. Loading up the truck, I headed out as Peg reclined in the shade of a big pine tree reading a book. Soon parked near a roadless area, I grabbed my well-stocked fanny pack and started hiking. Shortly, I found myself at the edge of a deep, wide canyon — in my mind, a place where elk were surely bedded for the day. With evening yet a ways off, I settled down for a short nap.

Some time later, I was awakened by the sound of a raspy bugle originating from deep in the recesses of the aforementioned canyon. Now on full alert, I listened carefully for an additional offering of one of the sweetest sounds nature has to offer — the “whistle” of a male wapiti. Within a few minutes, a chorus of whistles began to ring throughout the canyon — many different bulls were nearby! Excited about my good fortune in finding an excellent spot, I quickly vacated the area in order to make sure that my scent would not reach any of its inhabitants. I planned on being back soon — this dog would hunt!

Practicing at base camp — stay on top of your game!

Arriving back at camp as the sun dipped low in the western sky, Peg could tell instantly that I was very excited about something. Sharing my story with her, we laughed and jabbered like a couple of little kids. I was certain that the canyon that I’d found had some big bulls in it, and because of its remote location, I knew that there probably wouldn’t be much hunting pressure there. Arizona elk hunters tend to be a tad-bit spoiled! 

With such a good start on my elk scouting efforts, we both wondered if I could find a couple more spots that promised such great action. In the next few days I was going to work hard trying to answer that question. If I could accomplish such, I’d be incredibly prepared for opening morning — the excitement was building!

Please read more in Part 3.

For a fine selection of Archery gear, click here.

Eddie Claypool provides tips on bowhunting, with an emphasis on whitetails. Claypool has harvested 63 Pope & Young-class recordbook animals including 35 whitetails (Coues included), 16 elk and eight mule deer. All the animals were taken on do-it-yourself hunts.

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