Arizona archery preparation at the end of the season
To date, the cards have been hit and dreams have been made or slain in the name of Arizona elk hunting. For those of you who got lucky and drew, heartfelt congratulations are in order. Whether it’s a first shotgun bull tag or a general cow tag, elk hunting is something that will get in your blood and never leave. We are all ready to have fun. Yes, I was one of the lucky ones who drew a label. No, I won’t enjoy September’s soothing but chaotic soundtrack, but I will hunt bull elk with my bow in Arizona. This late archery hunt takes place in November and has really grown over the years as I have followed other tag holders. So for this article, I’m going to explain how I personally plan to prepare for this hunt as well as the tactics I’ve seen work in the past.
As I sit here right now, we are eight months away from the start of the hunt. It may seem like an eternity, but it’ll be here before we know it. Time has a way of flying away in the blink of an eye and that’s an event we don’t want to miss. Preparation is the key to this hunt – and any hunt for that matter – if you want to have any real chance of success. By successful, I just mean having a good track record and getting into the bulls. That’s where your cueing is going to come in. Then, if you’re lucky enough to take one of these bulls to the ground, being physically prepared for that effort will help reduce the suck factor.
Ah, the “S” word. Gotta love that, right? Scouting is going to play a big part in the outcome of your experience and it shouldn’t just be pushed aside, especially not now. From now until shelter season, it’s a great time to get out and check out wintering areas for bulls if you can. Knowing where these bulls overwinter will give you a much better idea of where to start looking in November. It’s also a fantastic way to get to grips with the terrain and get familiar with the area. Seeing how the roads, trails and country lay out is vital and will surely help you with your hunting in season. Knowing all this in advance will increase the pressure a bit during the hunt. It’s less than you have to think about when it’s time to go.
A physical training
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Mentioning these fitness tips can sometimes feel like beating a dead horse. But there’s a reason it’s talked about so much. Being in good shape – especially when hunting elk – is huge. I’m not saying you have to run ultra-marathons and lift 400 pounds, but I’m saying you should care. Whether you’re hitting the trails with a loaded pack or hitting the gym, do something. Although a very glassy intensive hunt in my experience, the country is not easier to navigate. Several stalks a day back and forth from each glass point can weigh you down. Then there’s the hurt we all yearn for, right? When that huge elk is lying at your feet and you doubt your sanity. “What did I do?” It’s a great feeling to have. It doesn’t change the fact that you now have to put that moose down and bring it back to camp. Just cutting a bull in the field is hard work. Be prepared for that stuff by spending some time from here hunting on core and leg strength. Don’t forget to work on your stamina as well. This will help in those climbs.
Now for the how. How should we go about trying to harvest one of these Arizona bulls? We can’t count on them shouting where they are like they do in September. Or for them to be in a crazy state of mind with their biased attention. From what I’ve seen this time of year (mid-November), the bulls are just starting to really pull away from the cows. Some will be grouped together, some will be in single groups and some will be alone. They are tired of the stressful marathon that was the rut and spend their mornings and evenings feeding while lying down most of the day in between. The tactics here will be much more like deer hunting if you ask me.
Spot and track
Spotting and stalking bulls at this time of year will definitely be what I focus on the most. Capturing views and surveying the country through my lens will give the benefit of watching elk be elk. This is the best way, in my opinion, to deliver quality bull games. Whether it’s watching them go to bed or shooing them away as they lazily forage across the land, the action is a pretty consistent hunt like this. As for which worked best, we just took it on a case-by-case basis. If it looked like we could reach the bull in time, we would go right after them. Otherwise, we would wait to see what he did. For the past two years I have helped with this hunt and both years we were going to several rods each day. It reminded me of mule deer hunting, which is something I love deeply. If that sounds like your cup of tea, put on those boots, clean that glass, and grab a butt pad!
The waiting game
As Western hunters, playing the waiting game is somewhat alien to us. Most of our efforts here revolve around hunting or spot and rod calling, especially with elk. This late hunt is the perfect time to focus on the water. Elk love their water and November is no exception. So spending time finding active water sources can pay off big. Use trail cameras to monitor what’s going on when you’re not around. I would try to focus on nearby water sources or in canyon systems, where the bulls will often end up for this hunt. A bull may spend all day lying in a drainage basin, but then go out for a drink once in a while. Try building natural blinds to multiple water sources, so you have options. And, for this hunt, I plan to sit all day. Because it’s not a very hot time of year, elk can be seen wandering around at all hours of the day. The waiting game. Good things come to those who wait.
I know it’s eight months away, but all this elk hunting talk has got me super fired up for this year. Yeah, this might not be the first glamorous hunt, but thank goodness I’m super grateful for the opportunity to hunt bulls with my bow and so should you. And we get to hunt bulls in units that would take a mountain of years to attract an early tag. Chasing howling bulls is fun and all. Do not mistake yourself. If you haven’t experienced it, go for it no matter where it is. The heart-pounding sensation of a bull elk screaming his guts at you is unlike any other. It’s the one bow hunters dream of all year round. This is not the end of the elk hunt. Sneaking up on a bull during the month of November comes with its own set of adrenaline. I say, let the rush begin!
Good luck to everyone lucky enough to enter the Arizona Elk Draw!