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
Editor’s Note: Phillip Dalrymple of Tucson, Arizona, and his family had a history with Jennings bows. For Dalrymple to break from the tradition of shooting Jennings bows and start shooting PSE bows back in 1983 was almost a major family problem. But since the switch, he’s never looked back – and today is one of the nation’s top bowhunters.
Arizona is one of the few states with a true wild herd of American bison (buffalo). These bison move in and out of a wilderness area on the Kaibab Plateau on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. These bison also go into the Grand Canyon National Park to get away from people who are trying to hunt them. The Grand Canyon National Park is home-free for the bison, because you can’t hunt there. The Kaibab Plateau has a big reputation in Arizona for producing monster-sized mule deer. The buffalo at the Kaibab Plateau are considered wild, and you can have a fair-chase hunt there. Since that hunt, I’ve learned that this hunt is an all fair-chase, because the buffalo have a better chance of getting away from you than you have of getting close enough to take a shot.
I originally started hunting the Kaibab Plateau with Corky Richardson in 2002 when Corky had drawn a tag to hunt there. We hunted for four or five days in the snow to try to find his buffalo. I crossed over to the east side of the Kaibab Plateau where the House Rock Wildlife Area is. I finally located a couple of bulls over there after 6 days of hard hunting and not seeing a bison. When I found the bull, I told Corky where they were. Corky was able to catch up to this bull and take him with a PSE Quantum bow. That bison still is the current world’s record and was originally scored by Boone & Crockett at 132, but after the drying period, the bull scored 129-6/8. That was a major hunt for me personally too, because that’s where I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. Bison hunting and the Kaibab Plateau always have been special for me, as is the connection that I have with George, Corky and Cindy Richardson, and their family.
The Kaibab Plateau is a huge wilderness area, and there’s not a lot of buffalo there. So, at different times on that hunt, we’d have six or eight people in camp all trying to find a bison for Corky to hunt. Each hunter would go a different direction every day looking at various places, trying to find the bison. Usually when someone draws a bison tag, several of his buddies will help him, because this hunt is a big deal. Most of the time when anyone we know draws a bison tag, the whole community of bowhunters work to try to help him fill that tag. If you draw a buffalo tag, you don’t want to be the only person standing over that dead bull with only a pocket knife in your hand to skin him out, cape him, quarter him and carry-out all that meat. You need your friends there. On the day that Corky went up to this water tank to look for the buffalo I’d found for him, I had left camp and had driven about 150-miles toward home when I got a call on my cell phone. Corky said, “Get back to camp. We’ve got to take pictures.” I knew what had happened when I heard the message. I turned my vehicle around, headed back to camp and helped cut up the big bison and get it out of the woods.
Two years later in 2004, I got one of the Governor’s tags to take a buffalo. I spent the first day walking and hunting, and I didn’t see any buffaloes until the end of the day. I made several stalks, but spooked the buffaloes. The place we were hunting was made up of sage brush flats and deep canyons that led into the Grand Canyon. So, sometimes you’d see the buffalo, but you couldn’t make a stalk, since they’d see or hear you.
Finally, we found a group of buffalo I wanted to go after, but they were on a little peninsula where I couldn’t approach them. The weather was so hot. I lay there in the sun and baked all day long. Although the hunt started the first of September, the temperature was at 95 degrees. The herd I was watching had about 150 buffaloes in it, which made my getting close to any one animal extremely difficult. The buffalo finally started moving, I started moving too, and the herd either saw or smelled me and took off. They kept going and going and going. I started running and walking as fast as I could, wishing that the buffalo would go to a water tank about 2-miles away. When I finally got to a place just above the water tank, I saw the bull that I eventually took at the tank. The wind was really whipping around, but finally the bull came toward us and presented a shot at 25 yards. When I released the arrow from my PSE Mach 6 bow, it pushed the arrow into the buffalo just in front of his right hip. The arrow exited about 20-inches behind the front-left shoulder. After the buffalo took the arrow, he started walking off with the other buffalo. However, he slowed down, and the other buffalo walked away from him. He stopped, lay down and tipped over. He only traveled 400 yards after taking my arrow.
I couldn’t believe I’d taken my bison on the second day of my buffalo hunt in this remote area. There’s one house owned by the Game & Fish Department with a game manager who manages the House Rock Wildlife Management Area. From that house, you have to travel 21-miles down a dirt road to reach a paved road, then you have to drive 15 miles on that highway before you come to another house. To get diesel fuel, you have to drive 100 miles. I’d created a huge camp that would support about 6 people – all folks who would help me find a bull. I had brought my two daughters and my wife on this hunt. That was the only hunt where my wife had gone on with me and stayed during the entire hunt. There were four others besides my family on the hunt with me when I took my buffalo.
You never know how a hunt will go. Sometimes the very best chance you get to take the animal that you’ve come to hunt will be on day one. That happened to me on a sheep hunt when I didn’t connect. I was so focused on hunting and being prepared for a big backpack hunt in Alaska in rough terrain that I wasn’t ready for the hunt when the shot presented itself. I didn’t draw when I should have drawn. The reason I didn’t take the shot was because I wasn’t really prepared mentally to take a shot that early in the morning. I’d spent so much time preparing for the physical demands of the hunt that I didn’t get mentally prepared to take the shot the first day of the hunt. The reason it’s called a hunt is because you never know when you’re going to have an opportunity to take the game you’ve come after. Sometimes that opportunity happens on the first day of the hunt, sometimes in the middle of the hunt and other times at the end of the hunt. You have to be prepared every day you leave camp to draw and shoot. So, I was really surprised that I was ready to take this buffalo on the second day of the hunt. The bull scored 115-6/8, and at the time I took him, he scored No. 7 in the world. Luck was with me on this hunt. When the bull tipped over, he was right on the edge of a road, so I could drive my truck right to him. We really were lucky to be able to skin and quarter that buffalo and load him into the truck without having to carry him a long way. The year that I took my buffalo, there were two Governor’s tags, about six other bull tags and probably 15 or 20 cow and yearling tags. Now there are about 14 any-buffalo tags, and in the fall the state conducts some hunts for cows and yearlings.
Tomorrow: PSE’s Phillip Dalrymple’s 52-Inch Caribou
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