Rink Gordon was excited when he learned that he had drawn one of the 250 elk tags for a limited opportunity general elk hunt last year. It had been four years since Gordon had drawn an elk tag and he was ready to go hunting.
Gordon would be able to hunt in any of nine game management units in northern Arizona, and the tag would allow him to take either a cow or a bull during the almost two-month-long season.
What he didn't know was that this hunt would turn out to be the most grueling outdoor experience he has ever gone on.
Gordon's hunt didn't start out on a good note. A thief stole two of his expensive trail cameras he had put out on waterholes while doing pre-season scouting.
The rough terrain would take a toll on his equipment, and before the hunt was over, he would replace a pair of leaf springs on his truck.
On opening weekend, Gordon was in the field with his friend, Gene Keller, who had also drawn the same tag, and Matt Wolsey.
Despite a lot of hiking and glassing, just one bull of undetermined size was seen, and it was more than a mile away.
The second weekend of the hunt was also the start of the general deer hunt, and with a lot more hunters in the field, no elk were seen, though Gordon did manage to bag a decent 3-by-3 mule deer.
Gordon had hoped to bag a bull on the hunt, but with no elk being seen and his confidence waning, he decided that he would take the next elk that he saw.
Gordon, who is a firefighter, sought out the advice of fellow firefighter and sportsman, Craig Steele, who is very knowledgeable about elk in these areas.
Gordon said Steele had told him that to be successful in these units requires that hunters use their eyes more than their feet, and that patience is a must. Good optics was the key, Steele said.
Gordon admitted he isn't a very patient person, but he took Steele's advice. However, more intense glassing didn't produce any elk sightings.
Gordon had now hunted for 15 days and had seen just one elk. Needless to say, his confidence in bagging an elk was just about gone.
With the end of the hunt just a few days away, Gordon got lucky when Steele and Mike Collins agreed to go out with him for a few days.
The first day out was very windy and cold.
The hunters set up and started glassing a series of hillsides when Steele announced that he had located a big bull.
Collins also found another, smaller bull with the big bull, and a stalk was planned.
The stalk would cover more than two miles, and due to the rough terrain, it took the hunters almost two hours to reach the spot they thought the bulls were at.
Though they knew the elk were close by, the thick canopy of trees initially prevented them from seeing the now bedded animals.
Gordon was tired and cold and he was starting to feel that these elk would escape before they would find them again.
Then Steele spotted the old monarch bedded under a large tree.
He motioned to Gordon and he was able to get within 60 yards of the bedded bull.
One shot from his 7mm-magnum rifle and the hunt was over.
When they got to the bull, they were surprised at just how large he was.
Though the bull's rack had about 16 inches of broken points, the 6-by-7 bull still scored at 372 B&C points.
With the bull down, the work began. It would take the hunters more than 16 hours to get the meat and head packed out and back in Kingman.
Gordon is having Mountain Arts Taxidermy do the taxidermy work on his trophy.
Gordon noted that his hunt was ultimately successful due to the combined efforts of a lot of people, including his wife, Brandee, and friends, Craig and Bob Steele, Mike Collins, Bubba Hembree, Chris Chavez, Matt Wolsey, Mike Stapleton and Bob Casson.
"I knew that the limited opportunity hunt was going to be tough, but I didn't realize just how tough it would be," Gordon said.
"I saw just three elk in 16 days of hunting, plus all the pre-season scouting I did.
"This is a hunt we all will remember."