For local sportsman and big game guide John Beauchamp, 2015 will probably be a year he fondly looks back on.
His luck started out on a trip to Oregon to visit his in-laws. That's when he learned that he had drawn an archery elk tag in Unit 7 West, a late season mule deer tag in Unit 12B West, and a desert bighorn sheep tag for Unit 15D North, which is regarded as the top sheep unit in Northwest Arizona.
But in addition to drawing all of those tags, he also would have the opportunity to assist a niece and a good friend on their antlerless elk hunts in Unit 7 West.
Beauchamp, who has been guiding for about nine years, knew that time was going to be precious in order to get all of those hunts in considering that he did have a "real" job.
His first hunt this fall started in mid-September, when he and good friend Chris Favour went out on their archery elk hunts. Also accompanying Beauchamp on the archery hunt was friend Densel Strang.
Lady Luck smiled on Beauchamp when he arrowed a bull that was estimated to score between 350-360 inches, making it eligible for the Pope and Young record book. He took the bull at 60 yards.
He next assisted a family friend, Kingman resident Debra Herr, on her very first Arizona big game hunt. She had drawn an antlerless elk tag in Unit 7 West for an October hunt after Beauchamp suggested that she apply for a tag there.
Beauchamp worked with the new hunter; going out to the range and helping her learn to shoot a high powered rifle. Herr would be using a 30-06 for her hunt.
The practice paid off and Beauchamp's knowledge of the unit resulted in Herr getting a cow elk at 194 yards on the third day of her hunt.
It was during one of the several trips to the 7 Mile Hill Range that he met local sportsman John J. Steele. Beauchamp and Steele started talking about hunting and rifles, and before long Beauchamp asked Steele if he was interested in assisting him on his December sheep hunt.
Steele quickly accepted the invitation and advised Beauchamp that he would even take vacation to go on the hunt with him. It was the beginning of a good friendship and before the sheep hunt, Steele and Beauchamp spent some time in the unit scouting and finding some good rams.
Steele is also an avid long range rifle shooter, and assisted Beauchamp in setting up Beauchamp's own long range rifle that he calls "The Reaper." Beauchamp's rifle is a Savage Long Range Hunter that was manufactured exclusively for Cabela's. It is in 7mm Magnum caliber, and is topped with a long range Huskemaw scope. According to Beauchamp, the rifle/scope combination is deadly out to 1,000 yards!
Beauchamp next headed for Unit 12B West and the late trophy deer hunt.
Beauchamp had to pass on some guiding opportunities for his boss, Dwayne Adams, but Adams suggested that he take two of their past clients with him to help glass on the 10-day hunt.
Beauchamp had not hunted in this unit before and accepted the offer for extra eyes, which is very important on big game hunts.
On opening day Beauchamp located and passed on a 170 class buck, and for the next week he looked at a number of bucks that he also passed on.
He also glassed up a big mountain lion only to realize that he didn't have a lion tag.
It was tough to pass up the big cat, but he did. The next day Beauchamp went back to the same area after purchasing a lion tag in nearby Fredonia.
Beauchamp figured that the lion must have had a kill in the area, as he did see the big cat again. Unfortunately though, he didn't get a shot.
Then on Day 8 of the 10-day hunt, he spotted a big buck in the bottom of a canyon chasing a hot doe.
Setting up at 464 yards, Beauchamp dropped the 185 inch 4x4 buck.
Next on his fall hunting agenda was his sheep hunt. Beauchamp was going to get just 2-½ days to hunt, and he would be accompanied by Steele and Julie McCoy. Golden Valley resident Fred Ashurst also would assist early in the hunt.
They spotted a number of rams during the time they were in the field, but nothing that Beauchamp was interested in taking. Remember, this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime hunt and Beauchamp had drawn tag number seven out of the eight offered with maximum bonus points.
He was in no hurry to take a ram.
Now it was time to assist his niece on her antlerless elk hunt.
Early on the opening morning of the hunt in Unit 7 West, Beauchamp headed to the unit and met with his niece, Kingman resident Dominie Greene and her husband Brent. She had drawn a late 7 West antlerless elk tag, and this hunt started in early December.
For Beauchamp, it was a no brainer to help out. "I told her to put in for that hunt, and when we learned that she had drawn it, there was no question that I was going to be there," Beauchamp said. That meant he would be giving up a few days on his month-long sheep hunt but he didn't care. This was family.
Greene was a new hunter, and that was going to pose some difficulties before the hunt would end. It's just a normal fact of life.
The season was a week long, and Beauchamp was committed to stay the entire time, if needed.
On opening day of the hunt, despite some serious glassing, they didn't spot any elk.
On Day 2 they found elk and Greene got two shots at 340 yards at a cow on the side of a mountain, but missed. Beauchamp decided that Greene would use "The Reaper" for the remainder of her hunt.
The next few days the hunters saw a number of antlerless elk, but shooting opportunities were few and far between.
It was not until Day 6 of the hunt when Dominie spotted some elk on a far-away mountain.
The elk were about a mile away, but the lady hunter said she up to the stalk.
The hunters made a long stalk and got to about 300 yards when she settled in for the shot.
When Greene fired, they heard the bullet hit home. The cow walked a few feet and fell over. It had been a perfect shot.
Dominie's husband Brent is a former Marine, and Beauchamp said that he carried out a lot of the boned out meat. "Brent was a huge help that day." Beauchamp said.
Now it was time to get back to Beauchamp's sheep hunt.
Six out of the eight tag holders had already taken a ram, so there would be just two hunters in the field.
Assisting Beauchamp now would be Steele and McCoy. Ashurst was feeling under the weather and would stay back at his home.
The first day back the trio found sheep, and near dark located a ram that Beauchamp thought was a possible shooter.
The next day they went back out to the same area, while local sheep aficionado Ryan Chan had offered to go out and glass for them in the south part of the unit.
Beauchamp said that he decided to separate from Steele and McCoy, and after he hiked to a good glassing spot, he located the ram from the night before.
"I looked him over, but decided that I wasn't going to take him," Beauchamp said. "I thought his horns, while heavy, were just too short."
Turned out to be a good decision. It wasn't long before he found a much better ram.
He called for his friends to come over, and when Steele saw it through the scope he told Beauchamp, "You better shoot this ram!"
Beauchamp was able to take some live photos of the ram through his spotting scope before he settled in for the shot.
The ram was 520 yards and uncharacteristically for that time of the year, it was dead calm, a perfect long range shooting situation.
At the shot, the ram acted hit, but turned and started to walk away. At 540 yards, Beauchamp sent a second 168 Berger VLD bullet out of the 7mm magnum rifle towards the ram.
The sound of a bullet hitting home echoed off the canyon walls and the ram just walked over and lay down, seemingly oblivious to the shots. But it was over. Both shots had been fatal hits.
The ram had long, wide flaring horns, a perfect example of the Nelsoni subspecies of desert sheep that call the rugged Black Mountains in Mohave County home.
Even though ill, when Ashurst heard that the ram was down, he came out to help. Chan, who was at the other end of the mountain range, drove a long ways to help out on the transport out of the magnificent trophy.
When the ram was checked out later at the Region 3 office, it was aged and scored by Game Specialist Erin Butler.
Butler aged the ram at 9 years, and with horns that were 36-2/8 inches and 35 inches long. The bases were 14-4/8 and 14-6/8 inches, and the ram, according to Butler, scored 166-2/8 (net).
Beauchamp is having the taxidermy work on his ram done by friend Chris Favour of Mountain View Taxidermy in Flagstaff.