Before I post the pics, I'll provide a brief recap. I started the drive from New Orleans to NM on the 4th of September, arriving in camp on the afternoon of the 5th. My first hunting day would be the 6th, and I had up until the morning of the 14th to make it happen with my schedule.
The first few days provided a few sightings and a few "opportunities." I say opportunities in that we set up on some elk, I had an arrow nocked, but never ultimately got in range of a shot. After the third day, things slowed down and we didn't have much in the way of sightings for 48 hours and nothing that approached an opportunity. The bulls were starting to check-in on the cows, so it was a mix of bachelor groups and small herds with a bull or two at this stage during the rut. The weather was HOT with daytime highs approaching 95 degrees. You basically had a few hours at most in the morning and a few hours at most in the evening when the elk were moving around - beyond that the best play was to get out of the heat and stay fresh.
On the evening of the sixth day (9/11 as a matter of fact), we spotted three bulls bedded below us in a bowl about a 1,000 yards away. It was hard to see just what the best one was, but with the activity levels and the time winding down, I was more than ready to make a play. As someone who was jinxed on my previous elk hunts, he looked plenty big enough to me. We cut the distance to about 150 yards and set up to try and decoy and call them in.
The plan worked perfectly and the bull I was after funneled in between a rock and tree outcrop I was concealed on and one about 30 yards away, giving me a 25 yard shot. He spooked a little when he cleared the tree that was concealing me but stopped, quartering away a bit. Given the angle, I held a bit further back and let the arrow go. The entry was a little further back than I wanted, but I was fairly confident the shot would be fatal.
He ran off 60 more yards before stopping at the guide's continued cow calling. Long story short, I was able to send the remainder of my arrows (six in total) at him at 80-85 yards, hitting him four more times. He never moved the entire time...it was kind of crazy. He went about 5 more yards and laid down, but still took longer than I would have hoped for him to ultimately expire (about 30 minutes in total). Given the entry and exits on the arrows, most of the shots caught intestine, liver, and the off-lung and three of the shots were complete passthroughs.
This was my seventh archery elk hunt and the first elk I've been able to put my hands on - you name the mistake, I've made it. I'd like to think I've had a lot of opportunities to learn, and no doubt without them I wouldn't have been successful on this hunt. Needless to say, I'm still riding fairly high.
With all that said, on to the pics...
Not as easy a hunt as most would like to think and have worn out many pairs of boots just trying to lay eyes on a bull down there.
The horny toad thing has worked more times than most would imagine! Although I began my time in NM as a true skeptic, I became a true believer!
Congratulations on a well earned bull!
But like Treeline said, it can be very difficult as that part of NM has lower elk densities and getting eyes on elk can be tough. There's just enough breakup in terrain to conceal them and the juniper and cedar can hide a whole herd if you don't have a great vantage to glass from. If they aren't bugling (and they weren't talking much last week) it can be like finding a needle in a haystack. It's my second time hunting the unit I hunted and the first time I never nocked an arrow. If I hadn't found that horny toad who knows how this hunt might have ended!
Thanks again everyone for the kind words!
Out of curiosity, what broadheads did you use?
Broadhead-wise, I carry both fixed blades and mechanicals in my quiver (a 7-arrow Tight Spot). The fixed blade were Solid Broadhead Company Legends with the 1/2" bleeder and the mechanicals were Nap Killzones and one Grim Reaper to round things out. All of them in 100 grains.
The original shot passed through at 25 yards (with the SBC) and I got two complete pass-throughs at 80 yards (one with the SBC and one with a Killzone). Two others penetrated to the fletching (one SBC and one Killzone) and one hit him in his off leg as he was standing (the Grim Reaper). The other two went low into the dirt.