John’s Note: Cindi Richardson has been hunting almost 30 years and is considered one of the most-outstanding women hunters of our day. The Arizona Department of Conservation has a record that’s known as the Big 10, consisting of the 10 Arizona big game species. Cindi was the first person to accomplish taking Arizona’s Big 10, which now has become the Big 11, due to the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep expanding its range into Arizona and having a viable population there.
The Big 10 consists of the Coues deer, mule deer, antelope, black bear, mountain lion, elk, desert sheep, bison (buffalo), javelina and wild turkey. Cindi took all these animals with PSE bows, particularly the PSE Fire Flight, Mach 6 and Vendetta XS ( http://pse-archery.com/).
Cindi helps her husband, Corky Richardson, also a well-known Western hunter, guide for elk, buffalo and mule deer. At one time, they guided as many as 12 elk hunters a season, but now they’re taking fewer hunters than in the past, and they mainly concentrate on bison and elk.Usually, Cindi does the logistics of the hunt, including cooking and picking up and dropping off hunters at the airport.
On her own, Cindi has taken 14 elk with her bow, she holds the Arizona wild turkey record with a bow, and she has taken over 75 animals as a bowhunter, with 40 of those classified as trophy animals.
Kevin guessed the big bull would score about 380 points on Pope and Young.
Kevin Passmore, my guide on this 2013 Arizona elk hunt where we heard elk bugling, had a plan to back out with the truck and get to the back side of the mountain. He wanted to be along the trail that the elk were taking to reach the top of the mountain and their bedding spot. So, we drove around the mountain in the truck, got to the back side of the mountain and climbed up near the top.
However, when we got to the spot where Kevin felt confident we’d see the elk, we didn’t hear nearly as many elk bugling as we had heard on the other side of the mountain. Then we heard an elk bugle. I walked about 150 yards in front of Kevin and set-up, and Kevin started calling to the elk.
When the elk came in, he was a little raghorn bull – way too small to take, although he was at 35 yards.
Kevin and I sat quietly on the mountain for awhile. Then, a large herd of javelina walked within 25 yards of us. They didn’t smell us, and I enjoyed watching them walk away. Some of the javelinas came within 4 feet of us, but they never saw, heard or smelled us.
We slipped in right on the edge of the opening and hid behind a big cedar tree.
We just about had decided to wrap up our hunt for the morning when Kevin said, “I see a bull with some cows about three ridges away. Let’s go one more ridge closer to them. I want to get a better look at the bull.” I answered, “That’s fine. Let’s go.” Just as we came over the second ridge, we spotted the cows but didn’t see the bull. Finally, I spotted the bull and asked, “Kevin is that the same bull we saw from the ridge behind us?”
Kevin said, “Oh my gosh, that’s the big bull that everyone who has hunted here has wanted to take.” So, we moved one ridge closer and stayed on the back side of the ridge to keep the elk from seeing us. However, the cows came over the ridge and bedded down near us. There was no way we could move without the cows seeing us. They were about 140 yards across a valley on the next ridge.
Then we spotted a small bull with broken antlers that had about six cows with him. The big bull came in, and he wanted the little bull’s cows. We watched as both bulls fought. Kevin guessed the big bull would score about 380 points on Pope and Young. I thought so too.
I consider myself a pretty good judge of elk’s antlers in the field, since I’ve won three of the last elk rack-scoring contests I’ve entered.
Well, we were stuck in this one spot. We couldn’t move to go to the bathroom, get something to eat or stretch our legs. Kevin had an apple and a granola bar. Carefully, we divided up that food, because that’s all we had to eat. The cows were bedded and looking right at us. We had to be very cautious even as we tried to eat our snacks. Occasionally, the big bull would bugle, come over, fight with the younger bull and return to the cows. We watched these two bulls and six cows from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. Finally, around 4:40 pm, they got up to feed, and we were able to move to opposite sides of a big bush and go to the bathroom.
Kevin said, “Oh my gosh, that’s the big bull that everyone who has hunted here has wanted to take.”
When the elk moved, they went out of sight, so we decided to follow the bugling elk. Kevin suggested we’d better hurry and get down in the bottom between the two mountains. Once we got there, we started up the side of the mountain where the cows had been bedded and had gone about 200-yards up when we spotted a little opening down in the valley between the two mountains.
While watching the opening, the small bull that was the herd bull that had the cows that the big bull wanted to take away from him, came out in the opening and bugled. When the little bull looked away from us, we hurried down to the bottom to get closer to the opening where the little bull was bugling. We saw the big bull come out into the opening about 150-yards away.
We slipped in right on the edge of the opening and hid behind a big cedar tree. As we watched, I heard Kevin whisper, “Small bull, small bull, small bull.” This meant he was seeing the small bull. Then he said, “Big bull, big bull, big bull,” indicating that he had seen the big bull.
We felt certain the two bulls would fight again. Once I could get a clear shot at the small bull, I ranged him with my range finder at 54 yards. Then, the little bull turned, and the big bull stepped out into the opening. The two bulls fought again, but I couldn’t see the small bull. The big bull had his head behind a bush. I had a broadside shot and knew the range was 54 yards.
I drew my PSE Vendetta XS bow with a Grave Digger broadhead (http://www.lancasterarchery.com) and a PSE arrow shaft and took the shot. I watched the flight of the arrow as it passed over the big bull’s back without touching him. I didn’t realize that when the big bull came out, he was closer to me than the small bull had been. The bulls quit fighting, and the big bull looked at us.
Kevin whispered, “Stay calm. You’ll get another shot.” Next, Kevin whispered, “Nock another arrow, nock another arrow, nock another arrow.” My mind started racing. When the big bull lowered his antlers and started to fight again, I nocked a second arrow, pulled out my range finder and ranged the big bull at 32 yards. I drew my bow.
Just as I released the arrow that was flying at 250 feet per second, the bull turned from broadside to quartering away.
He acted like he was running away. My 26-inch arrow entered from the back of the elk, moved forward through the guts and up toward the lungs. I was confident that I had made a pretty good shot on him. The date was September 18, 2013.
We waited for a few minutes. Then we went to the spot where I had arrowed the bull. We only tracked him for about 20 yards. We didn’t find any blood that afternoon. I wasn’t really surprised, because I knew that if I didn’t punch a hole on both sides of the elk, he usually wouldn’t bleed very much. The light was fading. So, we decided to back out and wait until the next morning to find my elk, since a wounded elk can go for miles and miles, if you push him. If you don’t push him, he’ll lay down fairly quickly. I still felt confident that I had made a lethal hit on the elk.
When we got back to camp that evening, I didn’t sleep any all night. At first light the next morning, Kevin and I returned to where I had arrowed the elk and started trailing him. After we had gone about 80 yards, we found a big pool of blood where the bull had laid down. Although we were confident we would find my elk, after tracking the elk for about another 100 yards, we had no sign of blood or the elk. When we weren’t able to find the bull, I started feeling sick. This huge elk was such a gorgeous animal, I hated to think about losing him.
About 10:30 am, my husband Corky, my son Russell and my father-in-law George came to help us look for the bull. Corky was Mr. Negative and told me, “I can’t believe you took that shot. I don’t really think you got a good hit on him.” But Kevin chimed in and said, “No, she got a good hit.” Russell soon said, “Dad, I can smell that elk.” Corky suggested we spread out and walk the area.
Russell had gone to the top of the hill near the truck, and I was just a little ways down the mountain from him. I had only taken two or three steps when Russell screamed out a blood-curdling yell. We all went running to him. Russell had only walked about 80 yards from the spot where we had found the blood from the bull bedding down the night before into a thick creek bottom and had located my elk.
Russell told me that if I found the elk, he’d planned to play a trick on me, and calmly call me over to where he was. “But when I saw the size of this bull, all I could do was scream,” Russell said later. We were all excited, but Kevin was more excited than anyone.
The bull elk officially gross-scored 424 inches. His net score was 390-2/8.
This bull was the biggest elk ever killed on this ranch, and Kevin was the youngest guide on the ranch. The bull hadn’t traveled more than 200-yards from the spot where he had taken the arrow. When we field-dressed the bull, we saw the arrow had gone through the guts, hit the liver and gone through the lower lobe of his lung – just missing the heart. We were able to drive the truck right to him and load him up.
To get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks, “Bowhunting Deer: The Secrets of the PSE Pros,” “The Most Dangerous Game with a Bow: Secrets of the PSE Pros,” “Bowhunting the Dangerous Bears of Alaska,” “PhD Elk,” “Secrets for Hunting Elk”, and “How to Find Your Elk and Get Him in Close,” click here.
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About the Author
John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.