2023 AZ Youth Antlerless Elk Hunt


May 12, 2020
On the heels of our deer hunt last weekend we got home and put the deer quarters in the fridge. The girls went to stay with their mom and I worked three overnight shifts. Got off at 0630 Thursday morning, took a nap for three hours and then packed the truck back up and picked them up again for an elk hunt. My daughter Jill and my niece Kaylei had antlerless elk tags. The hunts in AZ started a week later this year but the youth cow tags are typically timed with the rut which is a lot of fun. Grandpa was already there and had firewood cut when we got to our old campsite in the heart of elk country and after we got the wall tent set up we had time to lounge and listen for bugles. Elk camp is probably my favorite place on earth. I have so many great memories of being in this spot and learning how to hunt, learning about elk and just sitting by the fire telling stories after long days either successful or disappointing. Anyway, freaking love this spot:


James and Kaylei and Kacey live in Phx and had engagements until 8pm so they didn't get to camp until like 1AM. At around 2pm there was a decent amount of bugling very near camp which was amazing to listen to but by 0530 they had moved on. When they are bugling near camp we just chase bugles in the morning but since there were none to speak of we headed out to the hot spot. Grandpa took Jenna and Kacey to the glassing hill and the rest of us hit the killing field to chase bugles of wait for intel from the hill. As it happened as soon as we cleared the first ridge and split up there were bugles to chase. Jill and I caught up to some elk about ten minutes later. We could hear the herd bull screaming and I caught motion of an elk walking parallel to us. The sun was bad but since we had a rifle and it was fairly thick I though we could move up to the next juniper tree where the shooting lanes would be better. I was wrong. Carelessness on my part. I has seen one elk but there was a whole herd and they busted us, turned and split the other way. None of the cows stopped for a shot. I did get a couple glimpses of the herd bull and he was a dandy. Chasing bugles is just exhilarating. Elk are rad. So we blew that chance but Jill looked at me and said "bugles are so fun! That was so cool!" Man I agree.

Mid day we napped which is important hunting tactics. We sat the travel route after that until about 4pm, no elk traveling, no intel from the hill. Grandpa had seen two herds of elk to the west of us in a known bedding area so I decided we should still hunt towards that until we heard a bugle or got better intel. After about 15 minutes we cleared a big juniper tree and I could see two elk feeding. We froze and I had Jill get on the bipod. I glassed the elk, two spikes. Dang. I kept watching and found another spike. Three spikes, hmm. I did glimpse the body of two other elk at one point that looked like cow bodies and after awhile we heard some cow/calf chirps so we knew there must be some legal elk back in the trees. We waited forever for one to feed out but they were hanging tight. Finally we heard a bugle to the east where we had come from and so I said look, we have maybe an hour of light left. Let's keep moving in on these elk and if we bust them we can go chase the other bugle. So we slowly pushed in keeping the known spike as our center-point. We got close and closer and as we cleared another juniper tree we cut a new elk. We froze and I glassed her, a cow, close. She was behind a big thick juniper tree and we had very small lanes on either side. I got Jill set up and she fed left into the lane. A shot fired to the east where that bugler had been and she froze and looked in that direction quartering hard towards us. I whispered to Jill to clarify where to shoot because she asked me and she settled in on the scope. She fired and the elk took the whole brunt of the shot. She didn't flinch, just reeled and shuddered. I told Jill to hit her again but she turned and walked away. We got a shell chambered and walked up to see about a follow-up shot and she was 60 yards away from where she had been, laid down, head up looking away. As we set up for a follow up her head started to lower and she laid it down so we just left her to it. I back-ranged the shot, 75 yards, quartering hard towards almost frontal. The 7mm-08 with a Barnes 120gr TTSX did the job. As we let her die Jill looked down and found something special right in the place where the elk had been standing when she shot her. Thousands of years ago another hunter had been in this spot:


And here's Jill with her second elk, super proud of her:

I'm still impressed with the 7-08 Barnes combo. At 75 yards speed was still probably over 3000fps but the bullet held together enough to absolutely pulverize the front leg bone, she cut heart on the way to the other side. She's two for two on heart shots this year:

We got her skinned and quartered back in camp and it was a late night but a happy night. Next day I went up on the glassing hill and James and Kaylei still hunted down below. Along towards evening we spotted a couple elk in some super thick junipers and told James to still hunt in there to see if they could get a shot. They did and they made it happen. Never ranged the shot but ~200 yards estimated, 7mm-08 1210gr TTSX factory load, blew through this cow. Definitely an adequate elk combo:

Back at home and we had three animals to butcher. Grandpa came and helped me two full days. Got them all cut and ground and wrapped last night, 3 full days of butchering. Girls helped a bit:


Deer together yielded 50lbs breakfast sausage and12 lbs Italian sausage. Elk yielded 117lbs burger. Didn't weigh steaks and roasts but freezers are pretty full:


All in all I'm super proud of the girls. They made great shots and had great attitudes and they want to keep hunting so I feel pretty lucky. We'll see what next year's draw brings for them... Happy hunting this year all!


Jun 23, 2023
North Carolina
That’s a very good hunt under any circumstances. With grandpa and the kids it’s positively outstanding. Congratulations to all on a great trip.