The story of how my first elk hunt came to be still blows me away! I had entered a contest called “The Hunters Choice Giveaway” online thanks to a joint effort of Avid Hunting and Outdoors, and Rebel Ranch Outfitters. Knowing that the odds were pretty slim of actually winning, I didn’t expect much. That all changed with a phone call! Justin, one of the owners of AVID, called to tell me that I had beat the odds and actually won the random drawing! I was going elk hunting in New Mexico…During the rut!! Looking back, I still can’t believe this actually happened!
My good friend Joey and I rolled into Pie Town and met Mark Crump, the owner of Rebel Ranch Outfitters. We didn’t waste much time before hitting the range to make sure my rifle and I were shooting well. From there we drove to our home away from home, a cozy, rustic cabin right in the middle of New Mexico elk country. I couldn’t wait to get this hunt started!
On opening morning we hiked in for about an hour and a half before reaching the area Mark wanted to be. The New Mexico wind is unreliable to say the least and we were fighting to keep it in our favor all day. Unfortunately, the only herd we would see on the first day winded us and bolted into the thick cedars before we could get a good look at the bull. Still pretty amped we had seen some elk, we would hike back to the truck wondering what the next day had in store for us.
The next four days played out in a similar fashion although we were having the time of our lives! The good times and beautiful country were only complimented by the amazing celestial views at night! The stars were everywhere, and so bright! I have never seen nights as dark with such amazing views, truly something you would have to experience for yourself.
We woke up on the last day of my hunt with as much enthusiasm as we had for the opener. Our plan was to hunt the south west corner of the unit in hopes the rut was a little more intense there. We had hiked about three miles and called intermittently in the process without getting an answer. About 8:30 we set up and Mark let out a series of cow calls, and was promptly answered by a bull on the other side of a meadow. Mark told me to get ready because the bull is coming!
Sitting there under a cedar tree, waiting for that bull to come in, was one of the most intense times of my life! My heart was absolutely pounding as I heard the bugles get closer. When the bull was at about 400 yards, I finally saw him. There were a lot of big bushes in the meadow which prevented a clean shot, but he just kept coming. He stopped behind a bush at 130 yards while intently surveying the area for the cow that he heard. As he stood there, I had to take some deep breaths to calm my nerves…I was in awe of the situation and that I was watching this beautiful 6x6 bull in his environment. He just needed to take a step in either direction and I would have a clear shot.
The wind changed and the bull got nervous and began to leave. I was going nuts mentally but saw an opportunity through the bushes and took the shot. I hit him high and back, I shot again and missed as he disappeared into the thick trees. We regrouped and under Marks instruction, waited about half an hour before looking for the blood trail. We initially found some decent blood although it started to get pretty sparse as we continued pursuit before we lost it completely. I was a wreck.
We decided to spread out and continued in the general direction he was traveling. We walked slow and glassed ahead, looking for any sign that he was in the area. I thought my mind was playing tricks on me when I saw him through a “V” in the base of a tree. He was standing there looking at me, and I could see blood running down his side. I took the frontal shot and he was down! I was so elated and relieved!
This hunt would not have been possible without AVID, Rebel Ranch Outfitters and the Hunters Choice Giveaway contest. I would also like to thank Sneekee for all the gear they gave me for this hunt of a lifetime! Most of all, I would like to thank Mark Crump, the owner of Rebel Ranch Outfitters for showing us a great time, telling amazing stories, and for being an awesome cook! I came to New Mexico as a guy that had never hunted elk and left as an elk hunter with a new friend!