Heads Up Decoy

Heads Up Decoy
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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

It's A Numbers Game

For myself, hunting elk and calling elk into bow range is a numbers game. The more times you set up and call...eventually one is going to commit to bow range. With experience and repetition, your efficiency of calling an elk to bow range will improve. Let's be honest, pretty much every place in the elk woods looks ideal. It's whether or not they are there. With that said, it's best that the numbers of encounters stack up in a year and not over multiple seasons. For me, it's been the later. Hunting elk is much easier than finding elk. It's just my opinion.

Over the years, we've been so unbelievably close to killing some GREAT bulls in Colorado with the decoy, but it's just simply not materialize mostly due to tight shooting windows. By drawing another AZ bull elk tag, I was hoping to change our fortune and have it all come together.

The summer of 2016 was an interesting one for Heads Up Decoy. Personal preparation for the fall hunts was limited from previous years. No scouting and not a ton of shooting. I purchase a Hoyt Carbon Spyder in the late winter and barely got myself acquainted with it before I left for the Grand Canyon State. I was going to rely on my 30 years of shooting a bow to carry me through.

We arrived Wednesday which was a couple days before the season opener. Doing so gave us a day to sleep in, get organized, shoot, and to get acquainted with our surrounding. My brother also had a tag for the same unit. Being a resident, he had the opportunity to do some scouting. Plus, he had friends that knew the unit pretty well and had some success in years past.

One particular friend of my brothers was in the unit the previous year and stumbled onto a unique calling pattern that would get the bulls really stirred up. Mulitple encounters with the decoy and his "crazy cow call" was the recipe. It proved successful for him and his brother.

I was confident throughout the summer...irregardless of scouting...that we would have some opportunities once the season rolled around. It's Arizona and calling elk is a numbers game. Eventually we'll find one...maybe two...that wanted to die.

Our camp was comfortable except at night. Sleeping proved to be difficult due to the amount of bugling elk keeping us up...some not more than 100 yards from camp. I thought that was very inconsiderate. So we set out to shoot one of them.

Our first morning of crazy cow calling resulted in a loud response of bulls in close proximity, but due to some technical difficulties, we let them off the hook. Never setting eyes on them. The remainder of the morning was uneventful, so we relocated.

Most units in AZ have good...too good...road access. This unit was no expection. It's a popular camping destination and couple that with opening day being on a Friday...it was busy. The evening found us roving a new area only to stumble onto roads and traffic. With the sun dropping quickly, a swift move to a new location needed to be made.

When we stepped out of the truck and began our trek into the woods, we were very disheartened by the mess a previous camper left behind from the previous Labor Day Weekend. Bags of human waste lying in the forest. It was sad to see.

Once distanced from the messy campsite, my brother let out a series of "crazy cow calls" and was immediately hit with an excited bugle! He was CLOSE! We scramble to close some distance and to set up. The cow calling intesified as did the bulls excitement. The bull emerged on the ridge 100 yards ahead. We had no choice but to hold our position and get ready.

My brother hadn't quite mastered the physical call so the cow sounds were not perfectly hit, but the decoy help dispell any doubt in the bull's mind as he approached quickly. I admit that I carry and seldom use my rangefinder, but predicting the bull's path ahead of time, I took the time to range a pine only to verify that my 35 yard estimate was spot on.

My brother settled directly behind me and the bull started to approach head on. I was preparing for a frontal shot inside of 20 yards, but the bull began to leak off to my downwind side and inside the pine I had previously ranged. He stopped quartering too and let out a bugle. KICK ASS. That's all I had to say at that moment. But I was frustrated with determining where and when my shot was going to take place.

As the bull began to drift a few more steps to my left, he flattened out allowing me a more comfortable broadside shot if one materialized. I shifted my weight as the bull came to a stop. A small pine branch or tree somewhere between me and the bull covered his vitals. I decide to draw. Once anchored, I rose off my heels moving the top of the pine to the bull's mid-line. Seeing it was clear, I settled my 30 yard pin on the top of the pine and watched my arrow fly gracefully over the branch and sink deep into the bull's chest.

Even though the blood trail was great, there were a few anxious moments leading up to finding the bull. Given the shot placement and the damage the broadhead made, I was surprised the bull made it out of sight.

It goes to show the importance of finding a bull that wants to die. Even though it is usually a function of numbers and repitition, this bull's number was up right out of the gate. Finding success so early took a lot of pressure off us for the remainder of the season.