Contributors to this thread:
Some background: I drew the Gila first hunt for the second year since I returned to NM. This year I was working around other trips and retiring from the AF so no long time off. I was going to get a long weekend for labor day and possibly four more days the second weekend. A friend from the office drew the same tag so I offered to take him along. Anyway, we had to search a bit to find this them year. We camped 3 miles from the truck and the elk were a couple more in. We located some bulls bugling in a canyon on Friday night. Saturday morning I followed them up the canyon. Got a look at one really big bull and heard a couple more, but no shots. Sunday we tried to beat them to the head of the draws they were going up in the morning, but when we got there at 6:30 they were already climbing. I looked at my buddy and said we have to climb that ridge. If we beat them to the top or at least meet them there, then had a chance. We made a quick descent and ascent. As we neared the top, a bull bugled a couple times and it sounded like he was just over the edge. I eased up towards some small pines with my buddy right behind. I spotted a cow a couple seconds before she saw something she didn't like and we ended up in a standoff. After 5 minutes or so she got bored and resumed feeding. Meanwhile, the bull started to come into view at about 45 yards. He was a nice, mature herd bull. Definitely a shooter. He was facing us and slightly behind a small pine, so no shot, but he stood there and looked over his cows and bugled half a dozen times while we watched. It was awesome. Finally he stepped forward a couple steps and I got ready. I had already ranged the little pine at 42 yards. The cows had actually fed behind him and were out of sight behind the ridgetop. It was perfect. He took a couple more steps and was broadside facing left. I drew back as his head went behind a little bush and put the 40 pin tight behind his shoulder halfway up. I let it go and watched the arrow track perfectly. Then it started dropping and dropping and dropping until I was thinking "oh crap". It finally hit hard, but was low and forward. The bull lunged out of sight and disappeared immediately. I looked back at my bud and said it looked okay, but was low. I know the range was good, so I probably dropped my arm at the shot. Probably just a case of thinking I had a slam dunk. We waited a couple hours then started to look. Couldn't find the arrow and no blood at all on the hillside. We had some dug in hoof prints heading downhill to start so we followed as long as we could and started sweeping the hill. Most of it was pretty open, but there were some young pines and brushy bottoms we had to look in harder. We searched until about 3 in the afternoon. We were both spent. Add to that, we really needed to make a run to the trucks since we had run out of food and almost out of water (have to pack water into this area). We headed in reluctantly. By the time we got to the truck, we were both beat and it was only a couple hours to dark. We slept at our trucks that night. I had to be at work the next day, but my friend stayed and searched for another day without any luck. I knew I was coming back the next weekend and would have to resume then.
I knew the crows and buzzards would help me find him if he was dead. Got in there about 8:30 in the morning the next Saturday. Heard a couple bugles, but not much going on. That afternoon, I made it over to the ridgetop that overlooked all that country. Figured I would just see what was going on, plus I could hear any bugling from the basin.
After about half an hour, I noticed quite a few buzzards sitting in the top of a couple pine trees in one of the draws. Then I heard a couple crows cackling. I figured, dang it, there he is. I headed over there. Walked past the hillside we had searched so hard. Walked past 2 more draws that went up the drainage. Saw a couple crows fly out of the third and as soon as I headed into it, I saw him. Laying on the right side of the bottom at the base of a trail heading up the mountain.
GPS said he made it almost 400 yards. We had walked the main bottom a couple times, but hadn't walked all the little headers. I feel good about our search, but I know we walked within a hundred yards of him. As you can see, no meat left. Not even any hide left other than the neck and head. Antlers were fine other than bird crap.
The back 8 inches or so of the arrows was laying on the ground about 6 feet from the carcass. Something had torn off 2 fletchings, but they were scattered there too. I tried to figure out where I had hit, but it was tough. The leg was broken at that first heavy joint. I might have done that, not sure. One rib right behind the should was broken a couple inches above the sternum too. Maybe. Best guess is I got a lot of shoulder and just enough penetration into the lower ribcage to kill him on a delayed fuse.
Man, that sucks ! Glad you found him to put some closure to it, but losing all that meat is a bum deal.
Endured the smell long enough to get the antlers off and cleaned them up best I could. He was a dandy bull and very heavy.
One more view just for size. He green scored 360 4/8.
Fantastic bull! Glad it all worked out for you sir!
Beautiful bull, bum deal on the meat loss for sure
He's a great bull. Glad you got closure. Its disappointing to lose all that meat but more often than not, what we think will happen while hunting doesn't.
How did you handle the situation legally? Punch your tag?
Damn what a bull !!! congrats
Glad you found him, one hell of a bull!
what do the fronts measure? good gawd they look HUGE in length and mass !!
Gorgeous Trophy, just sad about you losing the meat. You gave it your best for recovery and were able to bring the saga to conclusion. Congrats.
Good to have closure. Congrats and great persistence!
Oh yeah. I did the only thing I could. Punched my tag and cut off the antlers. I don't have the scoresheet in front of me, but seems like the fronts were around 19 inches. First circumferences were both over 10. Like everyone is saying, glad I finally found him, but feel bad about the waste. Rascal went a lot farther and a different direction than we thought he would.
At least you went back and finally found him. Suck to lose the meat, but what else can you do. yeah, you could have hunted more and shot a different bull. To each their own, I respect your decision!
Great bull. Love the mass. Good for you going back to try and put closure to it. What unit in the Gila?
That is crazy Great for you
Good luck, Robb
Glad you found him and even happier you did the right thing by punching your tag.
Sweet looking heavy/thick rack! Very nice bull.
I hunted the wilderness this year and last. As a resident, my drawing odds are in the 60% range in 16B as opposed to the 30% range in any of the surrounding units. I like the limited road access for the way I hunt. Some areas have been hit hard by the wolves, but I found a few that haven't. I only saw a couple guys on horseback and that was right along one of the trails.
Most of us have been in your shoes. I'm sure you were tortured knowing you lost a great bull. I can't imagine the feeling finding that bull after having lost it.
BTW - I have a bull elk cape in my freezer if you want a shoulder mount. If you're interested I can ask my taxidermist to tan it and then send it to your taxidermist. No charge for the cape, just pay for the tanning and shipping. I'll probably end up throwing it out at some point so I'd rather see it go to use.
Congrats again on a hell of a bull!
Great bull. Bummer for you on the meat, but it sure didn't go to waste. Looks like nature used every ounce of it.
Glad you found him, sucks you couldn't salvage the meat but it happens to all of us at one point or another.
Congrats on a toad of a bull! Obviously it sucks to lose the meat, but at least you do have that closure. We always wonder of those lost ones what happened.
Good deal! Smoker of a bull.
Great bull, it happens to anyone who hunts...congrats on finding him!
Great bull! Bummer to lose the meat but so sweet to know what happened and recover the horns. Congrats!!
Pretty great offer, Pat. Very kind
This is the hard part of hunting......when things go from good to "oh-oh" in a heartbeat. A couple years ago I shot a pretty decent west Michigan 8 point buck about 20 minutes before last light on a Saturday evening and knew I hit him a bit back and high. Sure it was a killing shot, but not the textbook double lunger....so I backed out for the evening. A longtime hunting friend had begun dabbling with a tracking dog, so I got in touch with him that evening and he agreed to come out to help track. Well we were all over the place and the dog kept indicating the buck went due east into a large grass field. We walked for hours and finally called it a loss, although I knew deep in my heart the buck was dead. A week later my son-in-law from Florida was up to bowhunt a long weekend with me and reported by text a really bad odor when the wind gusted from the northwest, so when we finished our morning hunt I told him we were going to do a "look about". We literally followed our noses to the dead buck in a dense thicket bordering a nearby corn field not 150 yards from the stand I shot him. He was in about the same condition as your elk and I was really sick about leaving him go that Sunday morning when I believed the instincts of that young tracking dog. Sometimes it simply doesn't work out in your favor......
Glad you found him Jason. What a stud!
Pat, what a great guy .... wonderful offer. This is why I love Bowsite.
Curious , did he travel only downhill to the recovery spot or did he make it up and over some ridges?
Thanks Pat. Since I am active duty military and move around a lot, I don't do any taxidermy. Hard enough to move a pile of antlers. Appreciate the offer though.
He crossed 2 small drainages and was headed up the third when he ran out of steam. Overall downhill, but he was trying.
That's too bad about the loss of meat but good on you for keeping after it and salvaging something. I'm sure you have some great memories as well. Congrats!