PSE’s John May Hunts Arizona Buffalo After Waiting 20 Years for a Tag
For over 20 years, I had applied to get an Arizona buffalo tag, finally drawing a tag in 2011. I didn’t really know a lot about the area where I’d be hunting, so I relied heavily on the knowledge of Corky Richardson, Tracy Hardy, George Richardson, Phil Dalrymple, Randy Ulmer and his son Jake. They knew the area very well, because they all had taken buffalo there and had helped other people take buffalo in the same region. Without their help, I would have been totally in the dark about where to hunt and how to hunt. The hunt was on House Rock Buffalo Ranch, near the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The buffalo tend to hang out at the higher attitudes, but then they come down to breed on the House Rock Buffalo Ranch. Because these buffalos have had some hunting pressure over the years, they have learned to stay high. We were hunting at about 7,000 or 8,000 feet of elevation when we decided to go high and hunt in the snow, using snowmobiles and quads. We hoped to get up to where we could find buffalo feeding on the south slope, since some snow was melting off the southern facing ridges. We went to set up a wall camp and had to dig 3 feet down in the snow to get the tent set up.
The first two trips we made to camp, we never saw a buffalo. We decided to wait until the end of May to go when the show had melted off most of the roads. Then we could use our four wheel drives to get around in the mountains. I put in a total of 16 hunting days without seeing a buffalo. I’d been sitting on a waterhole that had been known to be a buffalo hangout in past years. The buffalo would come out of the Grand Canyon National Park, and the only time you could take them was when they moved onto state land. Corky Richardson knew about this waterhole. He told me to build a blind close to the water hole and sit there. I followed Corky’s instructions for several days. Every morning when I went to sit over that water hole, I would see fresh tracks, so I knew the buffalo were coming in to water at night. Finally, I was sitting on that water hole at 1:00 pm. one day. I looked across a meadow and down into a bottom that had a nice creek running through it. The sun was shining through the trees when I spotted this big buffalo coming up that creek bottom and then crossing the meadow. I said to myself “Oh, my, gosh. I can’t believe this is going to happen.” I started praying that the wind and the thermals wouldn’t change, so that the buffalo couldn’t pick up my scent. The buffalo kept steadily coming before starting to take a drink of water at 25 yards from me. I got my bow back and took a good shot that resulted in a clean pass through. After the buffalo took the arrow, he ran about 80 yards and then tipped over. I was shooting my PSE Omen at the time. The arrow passed right through the buffalo’s heart and lungs.
At that time, I was in camp by myself. My buddies were out scouting for me. When I got back to camp, I loaded up knives, chain saws and all the gear I thought I would need to butcher the buffalo, as well as food, water and pack frames. There were a few logging roads where my buffalo was, but there were trees across the road that I knew I’d have to cut to get my truck close to the buffalo. I thought this job was going to be an all-night job. But, just as I finished loading everything up for the trip back, Randy Ulmer and his son, Jake, came into camp and helped me load some more gear. By the time we were ready to leave, the other guys had returned to camp. They were willing to go with me to field dress, cape, skin and quarter my buffalo. We left camp about 1:30 pm. and didn’t return until 10:30 pm. The buffalo scored right at 100 on Pope & Young.
Tomorrow: PSE’s John May and His Surprise Coues Deer