Young hunter overcomes adversity and gets his cow elk on the Boquillas Ranch
Sometimes young kids are dealt a rough hand in life. In the case of 14-year-old California resident Robert Coles, he was born with a birth defect called hypo-plastic right heart syndrome. The condition, though serious, would not prevent Robert from doing a lot of things that kids do, but it meant that he has to adjust his activity to a slower pace.
Despite the medical condition, Robert and his father Carl are determined not to let this health issue stop him from doing the things that he enjoys.
Robert enjoys participating in archery competition in the school he attends. He is so good that recently he was ranked nationally in the middle school division, placing ninth in the nation.
Coles is also an excellent student, and is very knowledgeable about the technical side of the computer world. His ambition is to work someday for Google, Apple, Tesla or some other tech company.
And even though he has a lot of interests, he still makes time to go hunting with his father, who is an avid hunter.
After graduating from a Hunter Education class in California, his dad started putting him in for hunts in several states in the West. Robert hunted for deer in Utah in 2018 and got a young buck.
This year the father and son went back to Utah for the youth deer hunt, but Robert would only have one day to hunt.
The reason? Robert had drawn one of the juniors-only antlerless elk tags in Unit 10.
But having just one day to hunt in Utah didn’t stop the young hunter from succeeding. He was able to put his tag on yet another buck right at dark.
Then it was up early the next morning and head off to northern Arizona. Robert had drawn one of the 225 youth elk tags offered by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and would only have one weekend to hunt.
Neither Carl nor Robert had ever hunted in Unit 10 and I was able to set up a hunt for him. It would be the first time the young man had ever hunted elk.
We were going to be hunting on Boquillas Ranch which allows parents and friends to assist on the hunt without paying the normal assistant fees that are charged by the Cholla Land & Cattle Company.
I contacted several of my friends who readily agreed to offer their time and talents to assist the young hunter on his hunt.
In our camp would be Marc Schwartzkopf, Hogan Roberts and Jay Chan. Page McDonald agreed to be the camp operations manager, which meant she would do all of the cooking for our crew.
The Coles traveled all day from southern Utah to where we were going to be camping on the massive 750,000-acre ranch.
Page and I got there first and we had everything all set up. Then we went out to do some last minute pre-season glassing.
Lady Luck smiled on us that afternoon when I spotted a group of elk in a far-off juniper and cliff rose thicket. Things were looking good for opening day of the hunt.
On opening morning well before daylight we were all set up on a glassing location, waiting for daylight.
As it got light, we could see other hunters in the area and on every glassing point.
We watched as one father/son and friends located what appeared to be the same group of elk as I had seen the day before.
Unfortunately, their stalk wasn’t successful and we watched as the elk ran for several miles before stopping to feed in a small canyon.
We had been joined by Kingman resident John Perkins and his 14-year-old son.
Perkins had also seen the elk, and since they were so far away, and I wasn’t sure just what Robert’s hiking limitations were, we decided to let John and Jordan make a stalk on them.
Later in the day we decided to go glassing in another area, but we never saw any more elk.
On Day Two we decided that we would go to a different area. It was Jay who found a herd of about 20 animals several miles away right after daylight.
A plan was made to hike into the last spot we had seen them. Turned out we ended up hiking about three miles, but never located the elk.
After a lunch break, it was back into the field and the guys were getting very serious with their glassing efforts.
In this area, high powered spotting scopes and binoculars are needed to search where we thought the elk might be.
It was about 2:30 p.m. when Hogan announced he had found a group of elk almost two miles away. They were feeding and did not seem to be alarmed.
We decided that Hogan and Marc would keep the eye on the elk, while Robert, Carl, Jay and I would try to make a stalk.
We drove to the closest spot we could and then hiked in toward the elk. We had to stop when I spotted a 6x6 bull standing in the shade of a juniper tree about 350 yards away.
The lovesick bull spotted us and actually started walking almost to where we were hiding. That caused a delay and made things interesting as we learned the elk we were seeking were up and feeding away.
After the bull ran off we quickly moved to a saddle between two mountains and Jay picked up the herd. They were 675 yards away, much too far for Robert to even think about shooting.
We had another issue. Time. Between our hike and the incident with the bull it was getting late.
We were in some rough country and I didn’t think we should try and make a long walk out of the area in the dark.
I asked Jay to stay with Robert and Carl while I hiked back to the truck. I knew of a spot where I could pick them up and save a lot of hiking just in case it was dark when they came out.
Turned out to be a good move.
With Hogan and Marc watching from afar, Jay, who is excellent in planning and executing stalks, started to make a move on the still undisturbed and feeding elk.
Under Jay’s guidance, he was able to get Robert in a shooting position just 164 yards from a mature cow.
Robert fired a shot from his dad’s trusty .270 rifle, and Hogan and Marc watched the cow run just over 100 yards and collapse. Robert had made a perfect shot.
Now time was not our friend. I had heard the shot and a short time later heard Hogan say that the cow was down.
The sun was going down and the almost full moon was already coming up.
Jay determined that it would not be safe to try and get the cow off the mountain, so he quickly took some photos and field dressed the elk.
It was almost 8 p.m. when I spotted headlamps of the three hunters heading down the mountain.
The next morning at dawn we all headed back up the mountain with empty back packs. This was a very large, mature cow and would require all of us to assist in taking all of the meat out to the truck.
The hunt had taken two days, and it had worked out perfectly. To say that Robert was impressed by the size of his elk was an understatement. He had taken two young mule deer and this elk was almost three times the size of those bucks!
It was a fun and exciting hunt with Robert and his father, and we all enjoyed it. Helping this young man and dad see and learn about hunting elk in northern Arizona was rewarding not only to the young hunter, but to my friends and I as well.
Robert had overcome his physical condition that didn’t stop him from going on and bagging one of the largest game animals in Arizona.