It took 74-year-old Chach Barkley most of her adult years to experience what she called the thrill of a lifetime.
A life-long resident of Gila County, Barkley's big thrill occurred Nov. 30 while elk hunting in Unit 23 with guides Jeff "Cracky" Wantland and her nephew, Bill Barkley.
With a single shot from about 150 yards away, Barkley downed a trophy sized elk that would have scored 384 in the Boone and Crockett record book if it hadn't broken its antler points. Even with the breaks, the bull tallied a 364.
In reliving the adventure, Barkley said the hunt seemed meant to be. She and the two guides set out early the morning of Nov. 30. By 7 a.m., Wantland spotted a bull with his scope about three miles in the distance.
Although Barkley didn't know the size of the animal at the time, she told her guides, "I'll shoot anything you show me."
When the trio neared the area where the bull had been spotted, they came upon a bluff that obstructed a view of the animal.
The guides lifted Barkley over the berm so she could get a clean shot at the bull. Barkley eyed the elk napping in the distance.
After firing her .264 Magnum Winchester, Barkley and the two guides scampered to the downed animal eager to check out his size and antler spread. The animal was quickly cleaned and loaded on the truck for the trip to Barkley's Gisela home.
Upon their arrival, the trio were greeted by an enthusiastic group of about 30 cheering friends and neighbors eager to help.
Although Barkley has hunted all her life, she says the elk was the largest bull she has ever shot.
The Gila County pioneer was born on her grandfather's Wailing Cow Ranch near Flowing Springs. When she was about two months old, her family moved to a homestead in Gisela.
Among the recollections of her childhood are memories of elk hunting with her mother. In those days, she recalls, there were fewer elk to hunt in Arizona.
"Seeing an elk in those days was (almost as rare as) seeing a ghost," she said.