What would you do for what you love???
What is the craziest thing you have done, or would do to secure a hunting opportunity for the upcoming year? Myself and Mike Armstrong set out for an adventure that we thought we knew what to expect, but found out it wasn't even close as far as our outlook. You see, we live in Arizona where 99% of every tag is receive through the dreaded "Draw" process. If anyone doesn't know how this works, you basically fill out a paper "request" for including all the hunt units and animals you would LIKE to hunt, send in a whopper of a check, and sit and WAIT, and WAIT to see if you are lucky enough to get hand or computer selected through a someone unorganized Lottery process. To the lucky ones, year in and year out it works great. But for the mass of us, it seems like organized torture that only seems to pay off with a winning tag every 3-5 years! Well, here in Arizona we have another place we can go and have a opportunity to hunt, this place is called the Indian Reservations. For those that just must hunt every year, you can go through a "First Come First Serve" process of buying over the counter tags for just about every animal that walks here in Arizona. Sometimes the cost is reasonable, sometimes its like kissing your sister. But all in all, it does offer a great opportunity to hunt every year. This year Mike and I decided we wanted to secure a meat hunt for cow elk on the reservation regardless of the outcome of our draw hunt for elk here in Arizona. This could allow us a guaranteed hunt as well as a great chance to put meat in the freezer regardless of other hunts that may or may not go through. We both knew it was a first come first serve process, so we decided that the best course of action was to treat this opportunity like "Black Friday." Which basically means we drive up there the night before and sleep in a chair inline, or sleep in the parking lot waiting for the Conservation office to open. So that what we had planned and that is what we did! The Conservation office was set to open Friday February 1st at 8am. So we decided that we would leave after work on thursday and head right up there and beat the crowds. Well, we left on thursday night around 9pm, after fumbling around for a while and second guessing the need to be "so early" for the morning draw. Upon arrival after the 2 and a half hour drive, we pulled up to a parking lot full of hunters, a bon fire, and a line of chairs that wrapped around the conservation office! At the sight of seeing this, we both silently glanced at each other, and knew deep down we were screwed. We immediately hopped out of the truck and ran our chairs around the building and placed them at the end of the line just in time to cut off two more hunters who took the next two places behind us. As we walked back to the truck to gather things for the long night a head, we both silently counted the chairs one after the next. The issue with all the chairs is there are only 15 cow elk tags that are available and there had to be close to 50 people there already. Even though we knew that tags were being sold for All animals on the reservation, it just seemed to us that we were in a no win situation, unless over 3/4 the people were there for something other that elk! After settling into the bon fire, and chatting it up with several of the others standing around trying to keep warm in the 30 degree Arizona night, we were happily told time after time that most all of these hunters seemed to be here for Coues deer and Whitetail deer, NOT elk!! This gave us a much needed boost of energy and optimism! So for the next 8-9 hours we talked around the fire, shared stories, laughed at others, and just settled into the atmosphere that all of us were here to sacrifice for. It was cold, no bathrooms, no beds, no comforts, just a fire, a parking lot and a dream that 8 am would bring forth a tag that would lead to a hunting adventure and another story to cherish for life. The hours crawled by like work hours on a friday afternoon. The air seemed to pierce every article of clothing regardless of the make. Just when we started to second guess this commitment...the sun started to change the black to gray! Morning was upon us, we survived "Black Friday, hunter's style!" As 6 am turned to 7 and 7 to 7:30, trucks, suv's and cars piled into any little spot they could find to park. All of us that sat through the painful night shared the same look to all those that just arrived, one of personal victory and disappointment in others lack of commitment. But as these new people arrived they seemed to just get out of the vehicles and walk right up to the front door without care for the "chair line" that had been established several hours before our arrival. The group of us just kinda chuckled like they must not understand what happens here, but as more and more people arrived all of a sudden it looked like it was us that didn't seem to know what was happening here. Everyone just jumped out of their freshly heated cars and hopped right in this newly formed line, that was easily up to 20 people now!! Out of shear panic Mike jumped into this line as well as I sat between him and the others around the fire. Seeing that we already had a chairs in the Chair line, I guess Mike figured it couldn't hurt to cover both plans. 7:50am arrives and shear panic and desperation for all that had sat over night set in. People were yelling, arguing, and strategically repositioning themselves in the line, around the line, or just said forget it and walked right to the front of the line and dared someone to say something! It was very intense, and we thought it was going to get way out of control, just as the Senior Wildlife Ranger stepped out and regained control of the crowd and the situation. The Ranger started to hand out numbers to all those that had chairs lined up, and then followed by all others that were in line. It was a tense half hour, but Mike and I were awared numbers 36 and 37. With this, we retreated to wait till it was our turn to attempt to get our desired tags! As we mingled around the property, minutes turned to hours which in-turn, turned into frustration, confusion, and a loss of confidence! What could be taking so long? It had gone from 8am and it was now almost 1pm!!! We asked questions, talked with others, and it was all the same confusion and bewilderment. The office was kept doors shut and the process was like a big secret. The hunters that would go in and out, would happily jump right in there cars and be gone like the wind. We did meet us with several locals and they did ease the tention by explaining that the entire staff was let go and rehired and that this year was a entirly new process that had seemed to get everyone worked up. But again, just as we are at the final breaking point, the number 35 was called. This was it, I was 36 and Mike was 37. 15 hours had passed by awaiting the calling of the next number and me going into the secret office in hopes of getting a tag. The accumulation of all that time and stress seemed to jump directly on my shoulders as I gave one last prayer north to the Big Guy, that he would bless Mike and myself with tags. And then it happened...."number 36!" I swore in private to not disclose what happened behind that beat up old door, but I will tell you that both myself and Mike were granted the Cow elk tags we so desperately wanted and sacrificed for. It had taken about 12 more hours than we had expected, but we had accomplished our goal of securing a hunt for the upcoming 2013 season! Hopefully this will be the first of many tags for us, but I do know we will not work any harder or put up with as much BS as we did to receive a tag as we did that night and morning of February 1St!! [nggallery id=13]