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New Mexico Elk 2019

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  • New Mexico Elk 2019

    First off, I'm lucky to have a wife who supports my addiction. I am still coming down from the adrenaline high. This by far, was the toughest hunt, physically and mentally. To back up a little, I have been putting in for this tag for a while. It is one of the best Elk zones New Mexico has to offer. It is a Primitive hunt zone, meaning, archery or muzzleloader only.
    7 weeks prior, my daughter and I were t-boned (while making a controlled left turn) in Los Angeles as we started a dad/daughter weekend prior to her leaving for college. 2 hours into the trip, a guy ran a red light and hit us. Thankfully, he hit behind her door instead of head-on or directly on her door. We had the good fortune of getting a brand new rental car with several airbags that did their job. We were banged up; spent 6 hours in the hospital getting her scanned and checked out primarily. I had some neck and shoulder pain. She had no broken bones and later found no soft tissue tears, just bruised and battered. I however, finally got an MRI and have 3 tears in rotator, labrum and a partially detached bicep anchor. Great.
    I found this out 2 weeks prior to hunt. I decided to turn the draw weight down and try anyway.
    And so, the hunt trip: 17-18 hours from house, through AZ to NM. Being this was my first time into this area, I hired a guide to help with terrain and info. Besides, I’m getting a little old to be booney crashing into the unknown backcountry alone anymore. I spent the night in Bellemont, Arizona to acclimate to elevation.

    A few hours difference between these shots.

    Base elevation in hunt area was 7500'. In the end, I ended up at 56 miles on the boots, thousands of feet of elevation change and gallons of water drank. Typical day was up at 3am, in the truck by 4, hiking by 4:30 in the dark and hiking back out around 8:00pm back to truck and in bed around 10:30 pm.

    The landscape is unbelievable! One minute it looks like Lake Tahoe, the next...Afghanistan, next...Arizona...cactus randomly at 9500' elevation.

    The tank I set up on for the fourth day. Ultimately this is where I shot him. He was directly across the tank at 41yds. He was very cagey and nervous. When I shot, he jumped the string and ducked down. This caused my arrow to strike farther back the spine than I wanted. He jumped directly into the pond, swam across almost right at me. I nocked another arrow and when he crested the bluff, I let it rip. Shot was perfectly aligned with heart....however, in the heat of the moment I used my 40yd pin. He was 18yds. Sht grazed the hair on his shoulder blade and sailed over him. I found it later, 200yds from that point, due to the high angle of the shot.

    So, I waited and tried to track him. Due to the terrain and several rocky hard spots, and coupled with the enormous amount of elk sign, it was impossible. No blood. I clearly saw the arrow sunk in to the fletching as he ran by. After a couple hours of tracking many failed trails, I called it off and decided to wait him out for the night. That was a tough night to spend. I absolutely hate knowing I have a wounded animal out there that I should have dispatched quicker. There are wolves and coyotes in the area so I was certain he would be tore up by morning and I would lose the meat. Needless to say I was not a happy camper.
    The next morning we got up a little later than usual and talked about a couple different ways this could play out. After speaking with the outfitter, the general consensus was he would be a shredded pile of mess and to go look for a column of birds and crows, he'd be under it. My young guide and I decided to split up and work a predetermined grid search. Because there were so many elk still in the area, we agreed not to use our elk calls to locate each other, just whistles. In less than on hour, I spotted him, standing behind a couple small pines. He was blocked for any follow up shot and because i had convinced myself he would be a shredded gut pile....I did NOT have an arrow nocked. By the time I stripped my boots and nocked an arrow to workaround him, the winds shifted and he busted me out. 56yds exactly and he ran out of my life, again. I was demoralized and also happy to see that he was on his feet and strong. I doubted I would ever see him again.
    By this time, my guide had heard him crash through the bushes and came to see me, sitting on my butt licking my wounds and pulling spines and stickers out of my feet. We decided to back out and eat lunch and regroup.
    It was getting hot that day. I was pissed at myself for being lazy and not being prepared to finish him. I was pissed at myself for listening to others when I knew what needed to be done. That is, follow up on your animal, hunt him until you see him down. Period.
    I choked down PB&J, apple and half gallon of water. We waited for the afternoon thermals to start and again, working a pre-determined grid, we split up, with radios this time. I thought about what he would do while I had lunch and what I would do if I was hurting and it was hot. So, I followed the temp breaks. The temperature breaks along steep ravines and washes or arroyos. I started to feel the slight temp changes on my face while I slowly worked my way down a steep rock ravine that dropped into a wide sage brush flat. This flat is where 6-7 steep ravines petered out and abruptly ended. During the rainy season it must be spectacular to see how much water converges into it. I started working into each of the small deep cut ravines and working into the thermals coming down. It was close to 5pm and still low 80's but dropping.
    The second to last ravine, I spot him. 80yds away, bedded down, alert and looking up and down the creek to watch for danger. He was on a small shady bench with a cool breeze in his face. I could see the bright green fletching still in deep. He was clearly hurting, but alert. These creatures are so resilient it amazes every time.
    I took a few mental notes of the trees above him and planned a steep climb to get up behind him. After climbing 100 feet or so up, I made my way his direction. Conditions were extremely dry and LOUD. Seemed like it took forever to get in a spot I thought would be above him. There, I pulled my boots, pack and binos off and crept down the steep face towards him. The angle of the bank and bench he was on keep me from seeing him until I was 35yds. Still no shot....too many bushes and branches in the way. He started to stir and I thought for sure the winds had switch and he was going to bolt. I literally ran down directly toward him in my socks until I found a window in the brush and branches that I could slip an arrow through. 18yds. I let it fly and it was done. He let out a loud breath and simply rolled to his side. Then I squatted there and watched for the next 60 seconds as the arrow fletch pulsated back and forth, each time his heart beat. It pulsed one last time, and I sat there and wept like a little girl. This was the toughest hunt I have done in a very long time. The emotional highs and lows. The physical strain of keeping up with a 24 year old guide trying to make an impression. The finality of taking a life. All of it. People ask me how I feel when I take one of these beautiful creatures and I'll tell you. I feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Responsibility to honor the animal with a good death. The responsibility to to represent the hunting community with a sense of integrity and humility. The responsibility of utilizing as much of the resource as I can. And lastly, the responsibility to teach my children and grandchildren strong hunting ethics.
    Here is what i walked up to. Disclaimer: I pulled the first arrow and wanted to see what sign of vital organ I may have struck, before I took this picture. I realized after I was getting ready to take the picture and didn't feel right sticking it back in. That arrow is on the wall, retired.

    The main reason I do this.

    I look and remember every day.

    I look forward to doing this all over again as soon as possible.
    Last edited by grgrmouse; 03-03-2020, 10:36 AM.
    \'79 20 175 \'rude[br]Sacramento, CA (Deep behind enemy lines!!)[br]...something fishy this way comes...[br][br]

  • #2
    That's a great story. I was lucky enough to win a fully guided hunt in Colorado about 10 years ago and it was insane. Them mountains about killed this Florida boy but I know what you mean about the honour of taking one of those magnificent animals. I've killed many deer and hogs but it wasn't the same. Even the mule deer i got on the same trip didn't bring that feeling. Kudos and enjoy the memory bud.
    '90 Tuppens 231 Polk City, FL


    • #3
      Well done Greg... Well done...
      Working for a livin\' is HIGHLY Over-Rated...[][br]


      • #4
        Thanks guys.
        \'79 20 175 \'rude[br]Sacramento, CA (Deep behind enemy lines!!)[br]...something fishy this way comes...[br][br]


        • #5
          Western elk hunts are super tough, when you work super hard to the point of total exhaustion everyday and then you finally get your shot it can be overwhelming. Congrats on the great hunt! How many years did you put in before you got a tag?
          David, New Kent, Va[br]

          [br]Project Thread:[br]


          • #6
            That's a great hunt - congratulations, would love to come to the states someday and go for an Elk and/or Moose hunt. We've all been locked down and my roar hunting trip - has been cancelled, I'm crying. So it's good to see someone elses success.


            • #7
              Wow another great hunting story. One of my favorites! As always, thanks for sharing
              1984 Mako 238 WA [br]2015 Suzuki 250 APX[br]Central PA/OCMD[br][br]