A Wealth of Information

By James Knief

James KniefJames Knief
New Mexico, 2005
Public Land, DIY


The year started off just like many previous. I started applying for premium big game tags in every state imaginable. When it was all said and done, I had applied for 34 hunts in the western United States. As I waited patiently, two great things happened. My wife, Erin, gave birth to our daughter, Hailey. A week after she was born, my wife went down to the archery shop and bought me a new Mathews Switchback for my birthday. Wow, what a great wife!

Finally, the draw results started to post. Unbelievably, I had finally drawn a quality tag for rifle antelope in Nevada. I was fired up. Little did I know, the best was yet to come? When I caught wind that New Mexico had posted their draw results, I raced to a computer to see if I had drawn anything. I almost fell over when I saw that we drew an archery elk tag in New Mexico. The hunt was on.

My antelope hunt was first. I hunted three days and shot a decent buck. Now it was time for the elk hunt. I finally made it down to New Mexico on September 1st and was able to get into the elk, but nothing panned out.

The bulls were bugling but they were not real responsive to the calls. The next few days were uneventful. Heading into town to do a little laundry and clean up at Apache Creek RV Park, I met a couple of local guys, Phil and Tony. They had cow tags for the unit next to mine but had been videotaping some bulls in my unit. In fact, they said the bulls were going crazy. Phil and Tony were very generous with the information they offered. If it weren't for them, I simply would not have had the opportunity to hunt my bull. To say they were a wealth of information would be an understatement.

Based on the new information, I was fired up. My hunting partners and I raced back to the woods and located the spot Phil and Tony described and immediately started hiking up the mountain with about one hour of daylight left. Wow, Phil and Tony were right. There must have been five bulls bugling in this area. They were all going crazy. On the way out in the dark, I had to take a detour because of a bugling bull.

I hunted the area for a couple of days with little success. On the third evening, I finally caught a break. I worked into an area where the cows fed the night before and my buddy fired off a bugle and immediately got a response. We set up where we thought the bull would come off the mountain.

I could hear elk walking down the mountain before I'd seen anything. Finally, I saw the first cow. She was at 85 yards. The second cow came out in the clearing. Then I heard the bull "glunking" but I could not see him. A third cow came out immediately followed by the fourth elk, which was the bull I wanted. As he came out into the opening, I almost fell over. He was huge! Of course, once he was in the clearing, he let out a nasty bugle. This made it worse. I was shaking so bad it wasn't even funny. I thought to myself, "There is no way I'll get this bull."

The cows started feeding down a little finger and the bull followed the cows closely. At this point, all I could do was parallel the small herd. As the bull tried to cut one of the cows out of the herd, she wouldn't go along with the program. The bull stopped and proceeded to take out his frustration on a Pinion-Juniper tree. This was my opportunity to gain some ground on the elk.

I was able to watch the cows continue to feed down the finger as the bull raked the tree. As I got about 40 yards from him, I noticed he was facing away from me. And then it happened, I could actually smell him, the wind was perfect. This was the first time I thought I actually had a chance at this bull. I looked for the cows and they were about 40 yards away from me. I figured the bull would continue down the finger to his cows once he finished raking the tree.

I was able to sneak between the bull and his cows. The top of the finger was 20 yards from me and I had good cover. The bull finally stopped raking the tree, looked around, and walked towards his cows. Just before he came out in the opening, I drew my bow. Once he was out in the clearing, I put my 20-yard pin on him and released.

Upon impact, the bull jumped and then paused for a moment. This allowed me enough time to see the broadhead star and blood coming from the wound. The bull ran down the finger and out of sight. As he was running, I tried to cow call. I am quite certain I sounded like an injured rabbit versus an elk.

I was shaking so bad it was ridiculous. All I could do was pace back and forth and wait with my hunting partners, Dave and Tony. I went to retrieve my arrow and much to my relief, it was solid red! I waited for a little while and began tracking the bull. Reaching the top of the finger, I could see antlers on the ground. My bull had only gone about 60 yards before expiring.

Running to my fallen trophy, I could not believe what I was looking at. He was absolutely huge! Wow, as I write this account, two months after the hunt, I am still speechless. I had never imagined I would shoot an elk this big. He's a heavy 8x9 non-typical that grosses 395 Pope & Young and nets 381 P&Y.

None of this would have been possible if it wasn't for my wife, Erin. She tolerates my addiction 365 days a year. My good ol' Dad was the camp cook and I can say, I never would have made it 12 days without him. The elk tenderloins were the best as well as the practical jokes! Dave and Tony, my hunting buddies, thank you for being there with me. This hunt would not have been as memorable without you guys.