We just returned from my daughters' cow elk hunt a couple of days ago. This was another year where none of us drew out for big game, but I was able to grab a couple of youth encouragement tags in Unit 15 for cow elk with muzzleloader. This was the same hunt we did last year.
This year was a bit more challenging because of the weather. Last year we were spoiled by sunny days and cold nights with no moisture...not so this year. It was muddy when we showed up on the day before Thanksgiving, and it kept coming with rain/snow/wind/etc. for the first couple of days. This kept us out of some of the really remote areas we like but provided some nice scenery.
We never had to chain up and there was a little respite from the wet for a couple of days which helped. It came back towards the end of the hunt and I had to stay a couple of extra days to wait for a hard freeze so I could get the camper out. Last year the girls were both able to take their elk on day 3 of the 5-day hunt. This year proved to be a bit more challenging with the elk being more scarce and quite a bit more skittish. We had more time to work at it, and both of them kept their spirits up. Sure, there was a little frustration, but they never considered quitting and both redoubled their efforts. This was especially nice to see with my 15-year-old as she was sick the entire hunt, and even required a rush trip to Springerville to the ER on Thanksgiving night. All turned out well though she missed the opening morning but soldiered through.
It wasn't until the final hour of the 5th day that both girls were able to get it done. My 13-year-old struck first at about 4:30 while hunting with my Dad. Once again it was a one-shot proposition but at 142 yards this year:
My 15 year old finally had an opportunity within the last 15 minutes of legal hunting hours. I didn't have time to range the shot, but estimate it was around 120 yards. After a quick reload and hustling across a brush filled clearing and up a steep hill, we found her elk. Only one shot was required, but the exertion left her absolutely spent. You can see it all over her face in the pic:
This left us doing both elk in one night after dark. Everyone chipped in and we knocked it out pretty quickly. I'm extremely proud of both of them and was pleased to watch them work through the struggles. Both girls did exactly what they needed to do when the time came. Now it's on to butchering and planning for next year. Both have made it clear they expect to draw for Bull Elk next year....