View Full Version : 2015 New Mexico elk bowhunt

09-25-2015, 11:59 AM
I lucked out and drew one of only 8 New Mexico nonresident archery elk tags for the second archery season. NM has two archery seasons in this area, the first from 9/1-9/14 and the second from 9/15-9/24. I have hunted this area twice in the past, saw and heard lots of elk, and I got close but wasn't able to arrow one in the past due to various hiccups that occur while bowhunting at close range. Lots can go wrong. ;)

Since I couldn't get any of my friends or relatives to apply with me, I applied alone figuring I'd find someone to hunt with. I posted ads on hunting sites and got a few replies but everyone was already teamed up with someone else. My brother said he'd come with me, but he bailed since he had a lot of stuff to do. :(

My concerns about hunting alone were safety and being able to get a 800+ pound animal packed out by myself. I have hunted alone a lot so I wasn't too worried about that, but I knew there was no cell service in the area. In fact, I rode my ATV 27 miles just to get phone service halfway through my hunt to check in at home. My wife was worried about me hunting alone due to rattlesnakes, steep rimrock cliffs, mountain lions, bears, flash-flooding and lots of other hazards. I have packed out several elk before, but only half of one since I typically had a hunting partner. My brother and I packed out an elk in Montana that was 4 miles from camp....16 miles each to get him out. Each load is about 75+ pounds and it takes about 5 loads to get one out including the head and antlers which can weigh around 100 pounds. Even quartering that big of an animal by yourself is a chore. You get around 300+ pounds of meat from a big bull.

I left Colorado alone early on the morning of 9/14 pulling my travel trailer and with my ATV loaded into my truck. I didn't arrive at my camping spot until midnight, after missing two turns in the dark. I ended up driving down a long road to a ranch house and having to turn around in their yard....luckily nobody got upset. I then missed another turn and had to find a place to turn around again. The trailer can really be a liability when you're trying to get around.

I had no idea where I was except that I was somewhere in the area I wanted to be in so I parked the truck and climbed into the trailer for some sleep. In the morning I got camp set up for an undetermined length of time. That evening I went out to hunt and got into elk immediately. For the next several days I had elk bugling a couple hundred yards from my trailer all night, sometimes waking me up with all the ruckus. There were dozens of bulls around, and I thought this would be a fairly "easy" hunt...as easy as shooting one with a bow can be.

I soon learned that the typical method of calling the elk to you wasn't going to work. Every time I tried calling the elk would leave instead of coming to me. I could get them to answer my calls with bugles, but they wouldn't come to investigate despite the fact that the rut was on. This was probably due to being called constantly for the prior archery season before mine. The wind was unpredictable and swirly at times, and I got busted by changing wind direction several times. I talked to guys at a couple of camps a few miles away and they were having the same issues, so I knew it wasn't just my calling that was the problem. There were a couple of guys from Houston camped 5 miles from me who didn't draw a tag, but they bought landowner tags from a local rancher for $5500 each.

As the days went by I hunted mornings and evenings typically putting on 10-15 miles a day trying to get close to the elk. My strategy turned to stalking them while they were bugling, or sitting on water holes all day waiting for them to come. The problem is there were lots of water holes and no telling which on they would come to any given day. The other problem is the bulls would bugle all night, then an hour before daylight they would start their march up into the canyons to hide. By daylight they were back up into the thick trees and by 8 AM or so they just quit bugling. In the evenings they would start bugling an hour or so before dark, so you had to hurry up and try to stalk them as they were coming down to the valleys.

I had a some close encounters while stalking, but couldn't get a shot due to the dense pinions and junipers. One evening I heard a bull coming down a ridge and went after him. I got to about 60 yards and he was tearing up a tree and bugling repeatedly...he was pissed. I snuck up to him and saw a cow elk in the area, so I had to be careful not to spook her too. I used a couple of trees as cover, and just as I was ready to drop below those trees the bull came walking toward me. He got to 30 yards and I had no shot because of the trees in front of me. I needed to step in front of them but he was staring right in my direction for some time. When he looked away I shifted my weight to get comfortable and he must have sensed the movement and took off. That's how the whole hunt went until the end.

On the 9th evening I decided to sit a waterhole I found a few miles from camp on a really rough 4x4 trail. I checked it out earlier in the hunt and found that a prior hunter had made a brush blind under a cedar tree. I knew I only had two evenings and one morning left of my hunt, but I was pretty worn out waking up at 5AM and all the hiking so sitting water would be a nice break. I was talking to the Houston guys that afternoon to see if they had any luck and where they planned to hunt, and they were heading in a different direction than I planned.

At around 3PM I was all cleaned up and dressed in camo ready to go. I got all my stuff together and rode my ATV to within 1/2 mile of the waterhole hiking in the rest of the way on foot. Here's a couple pictures of the blind...behind the horizontal log in the cedars.



Here's the view from inside of the blind which was pretty comfortable and well-concealed. I had two shooting directions out of it, but one was downwind of me. I was hoping something would come into the waterhole from the left in the pic since the wind was from left to right.


I arrived at about 3:30 and figured I wouldn't have any action for about 3 hours so I laid out all my stuff, nocked an arrow on my bowstring, and hung my bow up on a branch for easy access. I got comfortable and decided to lay down and take a nap. I dozed off and on, woke up several times to bugs crawling on me. My glasses were bothering me so I took them off and laid them in front of me and dozed off again.

I don't know if I was sleeping or not but I looked at my clock at 4:30 and laid down again. Just as I started to doze off again I heard something running and splashing in the water. I got up and to my amazement I saw a bull elk trotting into the water. I frantically looked for my glasses, put them on, and grabbed my bow off the branch. The bull was drinking....I knew I had to act quickly because once he got his fill of water he would take off again.

I had previously ranged a few locations and I knew the bull was about 40 yards away. I adjusted my bowsight to 38 yards because I didn't want to shoot too high, and I thought he might be a bit closer. Drawing my bow back I told myself to concentrate, pick a spot and put my sight on that spot. The bull was slightly quartering away and when my pin settled on the center of his chest I touched off the shot. The arrow hit right where I was aiming, slightly behind his shoulder and halfway up his chest. I immediately saw blood as he took off across the waterhole to the other side.

Reaching the other side of the waterhole, he paused and started walking again. I wasn't too concerned about the lethality of the shot, but didn't know how far he would go and I might have to blood trail him. So I watched as he staggered a little, then climbed up the hillside and faltered, finally falling within sight. You can see him in this pic...the tan spot just to the right of the middle.


I gathered up my stuff and went to check him out. I took a bunch of pictures as good as I could without a tripod or another person to help me. He ended up only 50 yards from the trail I rode in on. After taking pictures and cutting the hind quarters off I hiked down to the ATV and rode it back up. I tied both hind quarters to the ATV, put my bow in the case on the front, and rode back to camp. I unloaded the quarters, grabbed a backpack, some trash bags, and a knife sharpener and headed back up. I finished quartering him out and removed the backstraps and head, and loaded it all on my ATV...what a load. Some of this I had to do in the dark.


I got everything back down to my camp by 8:45 and my hunt was over. I celebrated alone by drinking a couple of beers from the fridge, and reflecting on how lucky I was to be able to drive the ATV right up to him. If I'd shot him in other places I'd hunted it would have taken me a full day or more to pack him out. The risk was spoilage of meat in the hot sun.

As in any hunt, there were lots of ups and downs, and lots of miles of shoe leather worn off. I figure I hiked close to 100 miles on the hunt, and I lost about 5-6 pounds. It was a great experience and something I'll probably try to do again if I'm lucky enough to draw. I don't know if the Houston guys ever filled their tags the last day.


09-25-2015, 02:00 PM
https://scontent-dfw1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpa1/v/t1.0-9/11222230_10153660547998588_7569571433180940214_n.j pg?oh=30d6048ff4586a1123b049096e5d2325&oe=56A49A49

09-25-2015, 04:49 PM
Beautiful Bull, man I wish I had some elk steaks or venison. It's been 35 years since I've hunted my last hunt was a sheep hunt in Montana. There's no good hunting in Ca anyway. Thanks for the story.

09-25-2015, 05:39 PM
Welcome Back ,

What a great story and great Kill , Beautiful Bull .


carls 56 (RIP 11/24/2021)
09-26-2015, 07:08 AM
congrats and thanks for sharing. :cool:

rockytopper R.I.P 5-13-2017
09-26-2015, 07:09 PM
Nice!!!! Congrats.

smooth 56
09-28-2015, 07:06 AM
Congrats chevy that's one good looking elk. You going to put him on the wall or do a horn mount? Our bow season just opened this past weekend didn't get to hunt though.

09-28-2015, 08:59 AM
Smooth, what I'm currently thinking is that I'll do a European mount on this bull, and use his cape to mount a 350" bull I got when I was 16 years old. That was my first elk hunt and I've been dragging that rack around for 45 years. It deserves to be shown.

We just finished processing about 300+ pounds of meat yesterday and took 125 pounds to have sausage, burger, and snack sticks made. ;)

Here's a pic of another Colorado bull I got with a rifle several years ago...the one I got when I was 16 is almost as big.


smooth 56
09-28-2015, 09:17 AM
I like the European mounts don't see them to much. I put one on the wall for a doctor a few year's ago damn couldn't believe how heavy the thing was when I was done with it.