When my brother-in-law Mark and I received our limited-permit archery elk tags in the mail, the excitement set in. Our goal was to take a couple of exceptional New Mexico bulls home with us.
Rolling into our area a few days before the season opened, camp was quickly set up and scouting forays began. The rut was yet to begin in earnest and warm dry weather wasn’t helping things either — things would be slow for awhile.
The author’s brother-in-law Mark Perkins shows off his 5 x 5 bull, which would later score at 340 Pope and Young inches.
From past experience, I knew that the big bulls would be back in the higher, cooler, more remote country. Our goal was to locate such an area and then hunt it effectively, yet carefully. After careful study of our topographic maps, a remote ridge demanded attention, so out came the backpacks and away we went.
Planning The Stalk
Daylight of our first morning found us slowly working our way up a drainage that terminated at the remote ridge that was the center of our focus. After a short discussion, a plan of attack was agreed upon. We’d set a camp in this drainage and then work our way up a ridge that terminated in the higher country ahead of us.
With camp set, evening was upon us. Leaving camp, a long circuitous hike brought us to the intended ridge. As sunset neared, we had reached the area where the ridge bent around the head of the drainage, forming the dark timbered headwall of the basin. Pulling my bugle call from my Badlands pack, I sent a piercing whistle into the basin.
Immediately, came the hoarse scream of a big bull —close. Diving for cover, Mark and I “assumed the position.” Peering from behind a tree, I watched Mark focusing intently in the direction from whence the horrendous commotion was coming.
Turning away from the action, I let out another bugle. The sound of thrashing was instantly replaced by another hissing scream, and then, the sight of fast approaching ivory-tipped antlers. Passing Mark at a mere 15 yards, I’ll never forget what I saw — the flash of an arrow shaft as itexited the backside of the bull. Instantly, he was over the side of the ridge, gone. The trail was short and easy to follow and at the end of it lay a big surprise. Easily the largest 5 x 5 either of us had ever seen, the bull would later score 340 inches.
Running Out Of Time
With Mark’s tag filled, I settled into some solid hunting of my own.However, with only two days remaining, I was still elk-less. My mind drifted back to a remote drainage that we’d hunted in the first week of the trip. We hadn’t gotten into any action in the drainage, yet the fresh, big tracks, rubs and wallows we’d seen told the tale — there were some big ones around somewhere. Loading up our packs, we headed to the remote valley.
As we neared the remote area, we were greeted by the mewing sounds of a herd of elk — along with intermingled bugles of its harem master. Following the group of elk at safe distance, we waited patiently until the sun slid behind the western mountains. Then, using the cooling, evening thermals, I quickly slipped ahead, positioning myself in front of the wandering herd.
The author positioned himself in front of the herd led by this nice 6 x 6 bull, which, like his brother-in-law’s trophy, would score at 340 inches.
Suddenly, there he was — pushing his harem around the hill toward me. As the cows and a couple of satellite bulls began to pass above me, I prepared for a shot opportunity. Still unsure of the big bull’s antler size, I prayed that he would bepackin’ a lot of bone. Spotting the antlers coming my way, I was at full-draw in an instant. The rest is almost like a dream… Is he big enough?… No…Yes!… “Whack,” the sound of crashing fading away into the distance.
The shot had been perfect, and now, as Mark came up to me, I melted to the ground and soaked up the satisfaction of the moment. After relating the last few moments of the hunt to Mark, we followed a short blood-trail to my fallen bull. The long-tined 6 x 6 would later tally a score almost identical to that of Mark’s big 5 x 5. Not bad for a couple of flatlanders!
I currently use Mathews’ bows, Beman shafts, Bodoodle rests, and Rocky Mountain broadheads.