12-year-old Slade Van Vleet has amazing big game hunting success
A sportsman in Arizona often waits for many years before he or she is fortunate enough to take a big mule deer buck or a big bull elk.
But 12-year-old Kingman resident Slade Van Vleet has accomplished this feat and more in just a couple of years of hunting big game.
The young man’s parents, Clint and Ashley Van Vleet, both enjoy hunting so it was only natural that Slade would also be involved in the great outdoors. Slade is in seventh grade at White Cliffs Elementary School, where he is enrolled in the prestigious Cambridge program.
His short hunting “career” has been a good one. After completing Arizona Hunter Education he has drawn a couple of deer tags, a junior’s javelina tag and this year, a muzzleloader elk tag in Unit 16A, the Hualapai Mountains.
When Slade was just 10 years old, he drew a general multi-unit muzzleloader tag and took his first buck, a nice 3x3. In 2018 Slade drew a Unit 18B junior’s deer tag and bagged a phenomenal buck while accompanied by his father. The buck was a wide 4x4, a buck that probably 95% of Arizona deer hunters would take in a heart-beat. It is a buck of a lifetime.
In February of this year Slade participated in a junior’s only javelina hunt in Unit 16A and bagged his first javelina, a big boar.
When the draw results came out this year for elk, the Van Vleets were surprised to learn that Slade had drawn one of only three muzzleloader elk tags issued for Unit 16A. It is interesting to note it was the young sportsman’s second choice on his elk application and he had drawn it with only three bonus points.
When asked why they had applied for the muzzleloader tag, Clint said that a friend of his, Steve Roth, had suggested that they apply for the tag for Slade. Roth has been very successful on previous archery hunts in Unit 16A.
So with tag in hand it was time to get set up with a muzzleloader. Clint said they used a Remington Ultimate muzzleloader in 50 caliber. The rifle was topped with a Nightforce 5x25 scope.
Clint said that he knew that there weren’t a lot of bulls in the unit, and they had decided that they would not pass on any bull that they saw. “If we got into range of a spike, Slade was going to try and take it,” Clint said.
During the pre-season scouting the best bull they had seen was a 6x6. They didn’t hear any bugles either, and felt that the rut was going to be late in the Hualapais this year because of the hot, dry weather.
But Lady Luck had a different plan for the young hunter.
On opening morning of the hunt, the weather had cooled down. The hunter and his father climbed up into some of the highest peaks in the mountain range.
When Clint started making cow elk calls, he heard the distinct sound of a bull bugling. But it was over a couple of ridges, a long ways off.
Clint continued to call and he could hear the bull getting closer and closer. “He came in on a rope, all by himself!” Clint said.
As the bull came in closer Slade got set up for a shot. When the bull was 80 yards away he fired and the bull whirled and ran off. But he didn’t go far. The young hunter’s shot had been true and in less than 100 yards, the bull went down.
When the hunter and his dad walked up to the bull they couldn’t believe what they had got!
It was a very old 6x6, with exceptional front points on the impressive rack. The spread was an amazing 46 inches wide. Examination revealed that the bull was regressing. “He was missing some teeth,” Clint said.
A quick tape of the rack showed the bull scored approximately 328 points. It was a great bull for anyone, much less a 12-year-old hunter.
The Van Vleets had a European mount done on the rack, but Clint said he kept the cape in case they decided to have it mounted.
Clint noted that the pack out of the bull wasn’t long, but it was tough, “It was loose and straight up and down,” he said. “It wasn’t easy.”
As if drawing the javelina and premium elk tag this year wasn’t enough, Slade has drawn yet another Unit 18B junior’s deer tag for the hunt that starts later this fall.