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Fri, Dec. 13

Asplin family of Kingman passes down outdoors heritage

Hunter Asplin and his father Roger show off the 5x5 bull elk that Hunter harvested this year. (Courtesy photo)

Hunter Asplin and his father Roger show off the 5x5 bull elk that Hunter harvested this year. (Courtesy photo)

Fall is the time of year when many local families share experiences in the great outdoors.

It is a time for bonding and sharing experiences in the outdoors that have been a time-honored tradition in America.

In the next several weeks I’ll be doing stories on more local friends and families who hunt together, and I’ll share their stories with you.

Kingman resident Roger Asplin is part of a family that lives all over Arizona. He has relatives in Flagstaff and Tucson. But most of his immediate family lives in Kingman.

The Asplin family is made up of avid outdoorsmen, and they share their passion with the younger generations in the family.

This year, through a “mistake” during the application process, Roger, his son Ryan and family friend Dr. Saadeh Saadeh, applied for and received three tags out of the 30 issued for an early bull hunt near Flagstaff.

The hunt area was called the Kachina Peaks Area in Unit 7 East, and what the applicants didn’t know initially was just how difficult a hunt it would be.

Thinking that it was an early bull hunt, a time where the bulls should be bugling, they initially thought it was going to be a fairly easy hunt. They would find out later it was anything but easy.

Roger decided that he wanted to share the elk hunting experience with his 11-year-old grandson, appropriately named Hunter, who lives with Roger’s son and daughter-in-law Kelly in Tucson.

So Roger did what a lot of grandparents do now – he signed over his tag to Hunter and the hunt was planned.

Assisting the young sportsman on this hunt would be Roger, Hunter’s father who is called Little Roger, his mother Kelly, Dr. Saadeh Saadeh, Ryan, and cousin and Kingman resident Leroy.

As the group set up camp, it became very obvious that it was going to be a tough hunt. “The bulls were not bugling and the terrain was almost straight up,” Leroy said.

Every day meant a hike up the steep mountain trails as they searched and listened for elk.

Nothing was seen by the hunters until the morning of Day 3 of the hunt when Lady Luck smiled at Hunter.

Little Roger, Leroy and Hunter were sitting watching a small meadow, when Leroy heard the sound of a limb being snapped off. It was about 200 yards below them and the trees and brush in the area were thick.

A few minutes later Leroy saw the tips of antlers just below them. Then the bull, a 5x5, stepped out, just 75 yards away. The only thing that Hunter could see was the head and neck of the bull.

Hunter quickly got into a prone position, took aim with his .243 and fired. The bull dropped.

What happened next is something that often occurs with young sportsmen and their parents. A surge of emotion overcame both father and son. “It was a very emotional few minutes,” Little Roger said. “Both Hunter and I were crying our eyes out.”

The young sportsman had his first big game animal. Then the work began.

“We had to pack out the elk about a mile and a half,” Leroy said. Kelly had to go to Flagstaff to pick up several pack frames and brought them up. Everyone helped and after a lot of work, the meat was back in camp.”

Attesting to the difficulty of the hunt, neither Ryan nor Dr. Saadeh ever saw a bull elk on the hunt and brought home empty tags.

But the fall hunting season wasn’t over for Hunter and his family.

Last Saturday, while hunting in Unit 18A, the young hunter was able to take his first mule deer, a 21-inch 3x3 while hunting with his dad, Little Roger.

Hunter had told his dad that he wanted to take his first deer in the same unit that he had, so they applied for one of the 350 general deer tags in Unit 18A.

The father and son made camp on Thursday evening, and got ready for the opening day. Little Roger felt good about the chances to find a good buck in the area, as he had taken six bucks there that scored between 140 and 170 inches since he was 13 years old.

However, Friday turned out to be very windy, and the pair glassed all day but did not see a deer.

Saturday morning the wind calmed down, and Little Roger glassed up a big buck almost a mile away.

It would be a long hike but they loaded up and headed up toward the unsuspecting mule deer.

And just like the elk hunt, Lady Luck smiled. “We were in the bottom of a wash when we saw a really nice buck by himself on a ridge line above us,” Little Roger said.

Not wanting to take a skyline shot, they watched as the buck moved away. They followed and soon got into position for a shot from 200 yards away.

Hunter fired a shot with the .243 and the buck jumped and ran off. “I knew he had hit him, but we had to find it again,” Little Roger said.

They did find the buck a short time later but this time it was 279 yards away, in the bottom of a canyon.

“We got the tripod set up and he got steady and fired.” The buck went down and Hunter had his first mule deer.

After the embraces and hugs, the work really began. It was going to be over a mile back to the road, so a decision was made to bone out the buck. It was decided that they would get a European mount of the buck, which has three points on each antler.

Hunter and his dad were able to meet family members on a road after the pack out.

The father and son had only seen two deer during the time they were in the field. But they had seen something else that was disturbing to them. “We saw two different sets of mountain lion tracks in washes,” Little Roger said.

Mule deer are the number one prey of mountain lions.

Dayne Asplin was the only other family member who drew an 18A tag this year, and he too bagged a 3x3 buck.

Once again the Asplin family had made memories that none will ever forget.

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