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Mar/Apr 2011 EBJ (Issue 64) - The month of May dragged by as I anxiously awaited draw results for the upcoming New Mexico 2010 archery elk season. My pulse quickened as I read, “Congratulations, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is notifying you that you were successful in drawing a 2010-2011 license.”
Two years earlier, I drew my first archery tag for New Mexico. I was overjoyed to think I had a chance to hunt these giants. The day before I was to leave, my brother, Dennis, brought me a stack of Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journals. He said, “You might need these.” I told him that I wouldn’t likely have time for any reading, but I decided to take them anyway. It was a good thing I did, because it rained for five days straight. I sat in my tent, read the journals, and drank lots of coffee.
The weather finally broke and even though I hadn’t done much scouting, I was sick of the place, and just didn’t have a good feeling about elk prospects. I moved to another area, but after a day of scouting I still hadn’t seen much sign. On the second day, I came across a camp and met two hunters from the area. One had taken a nice 370-class bull - a far cry from the bulls I have taken in Colorado. My spirits instantly lifted. As we talked, I discovered they had taken several bulls throughout the years and a lot of them scored over 350. They gave me a few pointers and I was off to elk country.
The next few days were filled with several opportunities. I passed a couple of small bulls with the anticipation of crossing paths with one of the “giants” I was in search of. The last evening of the hunt was windy, making it difficult to hear, and I began to wonder if I had screwed up by not trying to take one of the smaller bulls. Up until this point, I had used mostly a cow call, mainly because I didn’t want to entice other hunters into my area. Feeling a little defeated, but not willing to quit, I let go with another high-pitched call, and instantly I heard a faint bugle 200 yards away. I moved in and made another call; he answered again.
I waited, but nothing happened, so I placed the bugle over my right shoulder and called again. This time the answer was in a scream and I could hear limbs breaking. I looked around and there he was - bigger than anything I had ever seen in my 25 years of elk hunting! His antlers towered over him and I watched as he made his way through the thick brush, breaking small limbs with his rack as he came forward.
He came up to 24 yards and stopped. With nothing to shoot at except his belly, I let down my bow and quickly looked for another opening. I found one at 30 yards and gave another cow call. It stopped him, but the wind was all wrong and my chances were fading.
I assumed he would smell me, so I rushed a shot through a small opening. The arrow hit a limb at 15 yards and went straight toward the sky. The bull spun and crashed through the brush and I knew the hunt was over. My heart sank as I kneeled, shaking my head in disbelief. The 1200-mile trip home was going to be a long one. Little did I know that two years later I would have the same chance at a similar bull in the same area.
I had a good feeling going into this year. I bought a new bow and was shooting better than I ever. I exercised, was walking daily, and was in good shape.
My brother, Dennis, decided to go with me for companionship and to enjoy the country. He has taken deer and elk with a bow, but due to health problems, couldn’t hunt or go along to some of the rougher places. I was glad he was going - we’ve hunted together though the years and I seem to have good luck with him along.
After the 24-hour trip, we finally arrived. The weather was a little warm, and the rain-soaked terrain was starting to dry out. We set up camp and got ready for the next ten days. I had a day to scout, so I checked some old wallows, but they didn’t show much sign of use. I followed some old trails and did find encouraging signs of fresh tracks and a few rubs.
The first three days brought a few bugles at daylight, but that was it. It was a slow start to the hunt, but regardless, I knew it would only be a matter of time before things would open up.
For a full account of Bob's adventure, go to page 40 in the March/April 2011 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.