Well the time arrived and I made the journey from Australia to New Mexico to hunt with Bow and Arrow Adventures on the Black Mountain Outfitters private ranch in unit 12, this is a free range hunt with a guide on a landowners tag for elk and an over the counter Mule deer tag.
I’m going to do my best to post an update each night as the hunt unfolds. Thus far I have already travelled and photographed some amazing country from the beautiful Albuquerque to the Outfitters base camp near Pie Town NM.
To a foreigner like myself some of the simplest things are appealing such as an elk cow skull on the side of the road, the ragged foot hills and even an elk sign.
I reached the camp and met with the owner Tom, camp staff and guides before checking my bow. By the looks of the Retina Lock on the Sure-loc sight it had been banged about by luggage handlers (nothing new there). So I adjusted the sight aligning the retina lock and shot the bow 10-70 meters with bullseyes at all distances, very confident with that.
Back pack is packed, scope and binoculars ready, even laid my camo out with underwear, socks and all. So ready for the morning it’s not funny.
The morning might not come quick enough and I think I’ll be awake all night due to excitement. Well here is a few photos to kick start the post, hopefully some antlered ones to follow
You're not alone in your fascination with the beauty of that part of our great nation. I've been hunting NM since 1991 and I'm still in love and always homesick. Will be a bit south and west of where you are in a couple weeks. The waiting sucks.
Can't wait to see you in the pic with a pig of a bull! Kill a good one!
I love New Mexico
After little sleep, I awoke to a starry dark morning packed and ready to roll. After a quick breakfast, Reno, my guide and I headed off down the road to the ranch. Our first attack was to trek up high to a vantage point and glass as first light hit. Well light soon broke and lit a beautiful valley towered by big mesas on either side, meadows covered in flowers and grass, due to the wet weather over the last month. This place is amazing and the wildlife must think so too.
Coyotes called out in the first light as we glassed every nook and cranny we could see into. It wasn’t long and I had the spotting scope on my first ever look at a mule deer and it was a nice buck. Another 2 bucks were soon seen, they look awesome in velvet. The buck was very tempting, but we didn’t want to lose our vantage point just yet so kept glassing for Elk.
I also put my glass over a mob of pronghorn with a great buck running them, so cool, my first sighted pronghorn too.
Some 6 -7 miles off in the distance I could just make out 3 bulls, two of which were fighting and truly going at it. We decided to head over towards the bulls and try and size them up. Before we could reach the bulls, we glassed 3 Mule bucks out feeding in the open and soaking up the sun. One of the bucks really caught my eye, somewhat bigger than the one I was tempted by earlier in the morning.
The Buck had a super high rack, 5x5 with great brows. We watched the muley bucks feed towards some timber and attempted to cut them off, trekking a few miles to get into position. The bucks laid down in the shade as I made my stalk. It was going well and I neared a good shot position, but the bucks walked off back out into the open before catching my scent.
We kept on towards where I glassed the Bulls and we soon located them laying in the shade. My heart raced as I spotted the bulls some 70 meters out and very relaxed. The first bull we glassed was a young 6x6, maybe a 250 class. The second bull, which took some locating, had a bit more age on him, also a 6X6, but getting up around 330-340, with very heavy beams and a beautiful bull, especially if he gets a few more years on him.
We knew there were three but thus far could only locate two. I sat off them for 2 hours before the third bull showed up. This bull looked a fair bit better and grabbed our attention, 7x7 and was certainly the boss of these bachelors. After a bit of viewing and umming and arrring we picked him for a 340-350, but still young and thus we passed on the bull. First day is always a good day to pass, well so I keep telling myself anyways. We backed out from the bulls and left them undisturbed.
We moved off to some more high vantage points and watched as a thunderstorm moved through. The afternoon cooled off from the 85 degrees and a few animals started moving about, but nothing on my hit list. A few does, and a bachelor of young bulls were glassed as the day came to an end.
And not pissing in your pocket, but if and when the scent you and do the Harry holt, change locations... They won't be back mate!
The morning was hard yakka busting ourselves up some steep vantage points to glass for bulls a number of times, but no bulls were seen or heard despite the cooler conditions.
We ended up putting the binoculars over two lots of mule deer bucks though and one group had a shooter buck which we planned on watching and possibly stalking if the spot was good for it. But the bucks moved into some thick Juniper and Pinon so we let them be rather than spook them out, maybe another day.
We trekked around through till the afternoon until we found a herd of cows. We made our way to a high Mesa to overlook the herd and spent the last 4 hours of daylight glassing the herd and its surrounds.
The temperature dropped lower during the afternoon as small storms rolled over the country side. Bugles sounded out as the afternoon rolled on, the first I have heard which got the heart racing. Hours of glassing paid off, as we located a short 6x6 with the cows and two young spikers. More rain spread throughout the valley we glassed and the place came alive, two nice 6x6 bulls fed below us and put on a great show, as they filled the spotting scope lens. I could watch these animals for the rest of my life.
I soon had eyes on a much bigger bull, a 320 6x6 with great shape. This bull was also sitting off the cows a wee ways, just as the two young double sixes were. Reno whispered to me “more bulls” as he set up the scope. Two 280 model bulls and one 320 with awesome thirds, still not quite what I was after this early in the hunt.
Despite a slow morning we had glassed 10 bulls and two herds of cows for the day, we also now knew the whereabouts of yet another good Mule Buck.
I believe there will be more bugling action tomorrow as the rut kicks in more and more. Time to get some Zzzzzzs as I haven’t had the best of sleeps lately.
I know right where your first two pictures of from. I love that picture of the Sawtooth Range.
Best of luck on your hunt!
The morning started under the pitch black of an overcast night. We headed south again to look over some bulls that we saw yesterday off in the distance, so far away we couldn't tell if they were spikers or trophy bulls.
We climb up onto a Mesa and waited for good glassing light. Soon enough we caught sight of the first bull in four. A young animal well before his prime, followed by another three elk of similar size, maybe 230 class.
We stayed put and kept glassing the meadows below and the Jupiter bedding areas. A good bull was seen moving back to his bed but yet again a “run of the mill” bull 310 320 at best. He was also accompanied by two other bulls similar in size.
Once the clouds broke we went looking for bucks but only spotted Pronghorn.
We decided to move north to a high vantage point for the afternoon. It just keeps taking my breath away this beautiful country. Anyone who has hunted it would agree it’s very unique and beautiful.
Storms rolled in over the horizon for the evening and the ground started crawling with elk yet again.
We glassed a herd of 44 cows, yearlings, spikers and a big old bull. The heart raced as he was clearly a step above anything we had seen as yet. Long, wide and large points spaced along the tail, finally something to really concentrate on. But the spotting scope revealed something the binoculars couldn't at such a long distance. The bull had already busted his 5th and 6th and half of its 4th on one antler. As hard as it was I took my focus of the bull and kept glassing. Hope he gets to see another hunter next year as if not broken he’d be 360 class.
Just before dark half a dozen other bulls were glassed but no monsters.
Using a canon 5D MK3 and a canon 60D also my iphone for quick snaps
Great pictures and adventure you are posting here. Thanks for taking us along on your hunt.
Best of Luck, Jeff (Bowsite Sponsor)
Shooter bull found
I had to lay off him as he moved into a hard spot and the wind wouldn't play our game, but will be back in the morning to try and put him on the ground.
Good luck tomorrow morning! I can't wait to hear/see more. I'll be heading out on Tuesday to hunt a bit south of where you are. Hope I can find action like yours.
I love this post because it's rare you get somoene who hasn't hunted a species they are familiar with. Getting their perspective on size and country is fun.
Love the pics...keep them coming cause this is the stuff we live for.
Can't wait to get out west again, but thats going to be a few years from now.
...glassed ten bulls.....and it is a "Slow morning"!!!!
Like he said, new to this game. :)
However, in that country, glassing ten bulls from long distance is pretty easy on most days. Lots of open country so you can cover lots of it with your eyes and glass pretty quickly.
Great thread, great pics. Thanks for takin' us along. Good luck!
And if I read one more time about passing 350 bulls I'm gonna have to go kick the dog....
I hope to have the opportunity run an arrow through something over 300" one day.
It was a hard but very enjoyable day on the bulls. I spot and stalked to 21 meters of the largest bull we have been able to find as yet, guessed him around 350 from a distance but after sitting off him for half an hour as he chewed his cud under the shade of some brush he was a lot younger and a bit smaller then we had previously guessed.
A great bull but not his time or mine on this trip.
Strewth almighty, what a morning. Its day 6 so we are at halftime and a halftime goal was kicked big time.
After glassing a few young elk bulls in the first light of morning, we moved our binoculars onto the meadows and spotted a little Muley. Further glassing revealed a great buck, high antlered, thick and just plain old cool looking. The buck looked of great age, so without hesitation I made my move to get in front of the bucks that were moving out across and open field maybe 3/4 mile away.
I ran to the next mesa to get a view over the bucks, which I had lost while moving across the low meadow. They were no where to be seen. I kept heading around the mesa edge and since not finding the bucks, glassed out wider. Another 3/4 mile away I put eyes back on to the bucks, which by this time had made some big ground to get to a shady tree out in the meadow.
I kept moving and stalked the bucks out in the open. A very cool spot and stalk for my first Mule Buck. The wind was playing havoc so I had to move in quickly. I got into my shooting distance as the buck lifted it’s head as the wind swirled.
I drew and settled on the buck clipping the shot off. I shot him like a fallow deer back home, aiming low for the heart guessing the alert buck would drop on the shot. The arrow and buck met perfectly as the Victory VAP shaft and VPA two blade 150gr broadhead slipped through with ease. Immediately the buck’s nose was at the ground as he ran. 30 meters and he was out cold.
Pictures tell it better than me.
Again, great pics.
After yesterday afternoon glassing young bulls we moved further south this morning and as all mornings we climbed up high in the dark of morning to glass over miles of great country.
Our first bugle rang out but went unanswered, our second bugle though got a reply and a nice bull walked out onto a clear opening in the brush country some 200 meters away. A great looking bull and keen as mustard to come to the call, but he was still truly a young animal and I decided not to pursue him.
Thanks for the great hunt-along. The views must be magnificent.
Busted my butt this afternoon trying to get a look in on some bulls. They were practising being ninjas up high on the ridge, karate chopping innocent pine trees. It was great to watch and more so a big old bull was spotted on the ridge but way off in the distance. We also viewed a young 6x6 wallowing at close quarters which was really cool. The bull was already totally filthy with dry mud head to Hoof when he dipped the bottom half of it he’s body into the fresh mud giving him a two tone look like a sports car, but much, much prettier if you ask me. I’m so grateful to experience all these natural habits of the Elk, hunting aside just watching these magnificent beast is great, I’ve even seen four lots of sparring and fights between bulls. I case you can’t tell already I’m in love with Elk Hunting.
Also found three snakes today, I think they are grass snakes? caught and released.
The plan in the morning is to get in closer to the big old bulls position and try and work out his moves. I’m hoping he does 1% wrong and I do 100% right so I can put this big bull on the ground.
B N A A guy's Link
Best regards, Scott Alberda
Bow and Arrow Adventures - Bowsite sponsor
After glassing the big old bull late yesterday evening, we headed out into the area he was early this morning.
At first light the bugling started and some proper bugling at that. 7 bulls could be heard out across the sage flat. Like hunting wolves on empty stomachs, we skirted the high plains glassing down onto the flat. A big 6x6 was viewed in the dim light, but before we could decide if he was of good age, the wind swirled and he was gone. Then on the edge of the sage flat a gutting bugle screamed out. A true giant bull controlled a large herd of cows with 6 satellite bulls in pursuit also.
That was my bull, but with so much space between the brute and I, there wasn't a move I could make in this a.m. So we just watched the herd move up into the timber and plan a way to kill the beast in the afternoon. The herd had come from the direction of a watering hole with good pick around its edges.
We quickly made plans to build two natural ground blinds just off the water. The morning was heating up and looking good as we settled into the blinds for the day. Reno controlled the camera from behind me in his blind and I controlled the Hoyt Carbon Matrix in my blind and hopefully the fate of the big bull.
We hoped for a stinking hot day for a change to bring the bull to water, but low and behold storms rolled in and bucketed down with rain and hail. I sat in that rain, legs crossed, arms crossed and my face would have looked crossed (pissed off) also. But besides the mud that I now sat in, maybe it was a blessing. The rain stopped and the big bull could be heard bugling. There was no need for the elk to water now, so we made plans to move up to the timbers edge where the bull was heard.
After a bit of searching we found the herd and lay off them trying to work out their grazing path for the afternoon. The big bull led them out onto the flats, my best plan was to stalk them and it worked perfectly as I bobbed and weaved my way out to the herd avoiding twenty or more sets of eyes.
At eighty meters out the bull screamed right at my direction. He then screamed again sending me into a state similar to that of a shaking leaf. The bull then started glunking, the sound as loud and clear as if it was standing right beside me. The big old beast put on a great show and started thrashing a tree. I moved in closer avoiding the ever watching cows. This was it the moment of truth.
I got into position with a clearing in front of me that the cows were heading through. The bull would surely follow.
I ranged a few trees but was stopped short as I could see a glimpse of the bull coming through the brush. I put the rangefinder down and drew back while I could without being seen and the bull stepped out broadside, no where near any of the trees I had ranged. He was close though, maybe 45 meters I thought. I settled the pin on him and released. The arrow went straight under the bull and he shot off. I was shattered, felt like crying. I ranged the tree he was next too, 67 meters, damn he looked so close.
So so close.
:) mega smile right now
Best of Luck, Jeff (Bowsite Sponsor)
Scott Alberda - Bowsite sponsor
Bow and Arrow Adventures
They were really bugling their tits off this morning, three bulls were stressing out over a herd of sixty cows. We only got eyes on one bull, a shooter. We set up for calling in a prime position with good cover, but the bulls that had moved into heavy woods and wouldn't pay us any attention.
My mind was still on the big bull I missed yesterday, a hard pill to swallow that one. I've relived that opportunity 1000 times, wishing I could turn back time. I kept saying move on to myself, but the hunter inside me keeps on looking for that bull, and guess what, I found him, some miles away but come the afternoon those miles will hopefully be meters.
We covered some great country on foot letting out a few random calls trying to get a reply, but nothing.
Had we mistaken a smaller bull, from such a long distance, as my dream bull? Where was he? "Keep looking," I said to myself, keep looking.
The last hour of light was nearing when I got a glimpse of a bull walking through the brush. I signalled the Reno to call and we got into position. I had only seen the back end of the bull and hoped it was my bull. The call got the bull excited and he let out a great bugle, followed by another.
I held steady as colour came through the brush, the bull would walk broadside past me at 15 meters. He let out another roar and it sounded great, but you can’t judge em all by their bugle, as the bull stepped out at 15 meters, a young bull. I quickly swapped my bow for the camera and got some pictures. Not my bull but great to witness and see.
I sort of figured it wasn’t my bull as my bulls bugle is more like a bull elephant on steroids roar.
We were sitting on a high peak wondering if I had mistaken a bull in the herd for my big bull when viewing that morning. I was sure it was him, but from so far away maybe I was wrong.
Minutes later a bugle was heard but it was of a younger bull or so it sounded, yep a young bull out on the flat. Then the sweetest sound this Bull Crazy hunter could have heard, a bugling elephant.
I looked back to Reno, “That’s my bull, lets go.”
The bugle was a long way off moving out to the open prairie flat. We made ground fast and called to the bull but he wouldn’t come. Running out of light, I made the decision to stalk the bull. He was moving out to the flat with a big cow and four others, a tough stalk with nothing between myself and the herd but granite rocks and small grass, but I went for it anyway, moving steady towards the beautiful big bull that I was looking for redemption on.
I was going in steady despite some mighty gurgling bugles that sent shivers through my body. I was looking for the 30 meter mark and closing fast while the cows were eating with the bull bugling and thrashing trees.
The bull laid down and bugled again. My legs were shaking worse and worse with every trumpeting bugle. I was getting to within my shooting zone and creeping closer. The bull jumped up and screamed again then chased the old cow straight towards me, which saw her lock on the breaks and stare straight at me.
I was in the worst position, hunched over stalking with only one foot flat on the ground. She stared and stared. My lower back was killing me, my legs and hands going numb. After 10 minutes, she barked at me for another five minutes. I nearly gave up, but convinced myself this might be it.
With pure determination,I held out and the bull, who had been looking alert at the cows reaction, lost interest and started calling again. He walked broadside and I eased back to full draw settling the pin on the bull, rock steady, clip.
The Victory VAP shaft tipped with a deadly sharp VPA 175 2 blade slammed into the bull tight behind the shoulder in the centre of the magic triangle. The bull buckled up and bolted, but quickly slowed until it was at a full stop and fell to the ground stone dead. My emotion put me on the ground happy as a pig in mud, but sad and respectful for such a magnificent animal at the same time.
I glassed the bull to ensure it wasn’t breathing and then walked out to where he lay. My gracious he is a great bull, a great hunt I will never forget. Something important to me as most would have gathered is also the age of the animal, not just the size, and this was an old bull along with a great antler rack.
Congratulations on making the most of an epic trip, and thanks for posting it that others might get to go along.
I leave for NM on Friday. You haven't made the wait any easier.
I'm leave very early Saturday for a two-day drive west to this same unit...I'm not sleeping well and hard to concentrate at work. Thank you very much, you have just made it even harder!
We skun the hide and caped out the face, the bull will hang until the morning before we quarter and process the meat which will be donated.
I have days of hunting up my sleeve so a few coyotes and Jackrabbits are in my sights, plus I want to photograph some more of this great country.
Fantastic job on the story and pics, and on your smoker buck and bull! Congratulations all around!
I hope to hunt with you on my next trip down, except not for hogs>> :-)
PS Another good reason to hunt with VPAs...
Thanx for the story and pics!
Again, outstanding photos.
Thank you for following my adventure, it has been an amazing experience in this marvellous country.
Very special thanks to all the staff at Black Mountain Outfitter.
Massive thank you to Scott Alberda, Bow & Arrow Adventures, very professional and excellent to deal with, you truly organized a hunt of a life time for me.
Now I'm starting my 6 day road trip from New Mex up to Utah photographing anything of interest and also to visit the Hoyt Factory.
Again thank you for following and all the best for your hunting.
Quite magical shots of the arrow head and lithoglyphs
Truly enjoyed your hunt report. Great write up and fantastic photography. Thanks for sharing.
All images are raw images or HDR, then processed in LR4 if required. I also have the 60D with a small lens which weighs quarter of the 5d for long hikes, but carried the 5d as my pack was very lite this trip.
This should have been a featured hunt...
Congrats on an outstanding bull, and a sincere thank you for sharing your trip.