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Looking like a lucky year for me in 2010! NM & WY elk, NM antelope, NM & TX deer.

 
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npaden
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Jun-12-10, 
04:30 PM (MST)
"Looking like a lucky year for me in 2010! NM & WY elk, NM antelope, NM & TX deer."

LAST EDITED ON Jun-12-10 AT 09:40 PM (MST) by Founder (admin)

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When I applied for elk, antelope and deer tags in New Mexico this year, I made sure that I applied for some pretty hard to draw areas since I already had a Wyoming general elk tag in my pocket and I spend plenty of time hunting my own property here in Texas. I figured that way if I drew one of them it would be worth it. I never imagined that I would draw all 3 tags though!

I drew my 3rd choice Elk, 3rd choice Deer and 2nd choice Antelope. All are rifle tags for mature bucks/bulls.

The Elk tag is for Unit 36 which is about a 10% draw odds and the rifle Antelope tag is closer to 5% draw odds so drawing both of them in the same year is crazy.

The deer tag had pretty good odds at around 70%, and that was really the only one I was expecting to draw. It is for the same unit that I connected on a 180" nontypical mule deer last year on private land. Having the public land tag will allow me to hunt some state land that borders the private property that I was hunting.

I put it all on the calendar and it looks like it will actually all work out, although I'm going to have to put in some overtime at work getting ready for it all.

I've never hunted Unit 36 for elk before so I've gone through the archives in the New Mexico forum reading everything I could find on it. I've got the high resolution unit map downloaded off of the NMGF site and overlayed onto google earth and have been scouting as much as I can with that.

I'll be going to Ruidoso next week for work and will try to get in a little scouting while I'm over there, and I need to start getting into shape with quite a bit of the better looking spots at 9,000 feet elevation and higher in Unit 36.

It would be an unbelievable year for me if I could tag out. That would mean 2 bull elk, a mule deer, an antelope and a whitetail. I might end up having to buy another freezer!

I'll be trying to share my preparations here. My workouts aren't going to have pretty pictures like Founder's thread does, I'll be spending most of mine on the elliptical, not many nice places to hike where I'm at.

Hope you enjoy the ride, I know I will!

Nathan

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  Table of Contents  

 Subject   Author   Message Date   ID 
 RE: Looking li...  npaden      Jun-17-10   1 
  RE: Looking li...  npaden      Jun-23-10   2 
 An Introduction  npaden      Jun-29-10   3 
  RE: Back to Pl...  npaden      Jul-05-10   4 
   RE: Back to Pl...  npaden      Jul-08-10   5 
    RE: Back to Pl...  npaden      Aug-16-10   6 
     More bad luck!  npaden      Aug-26-10   7 
      RE: First Offi...  npaden      Aug-29-10   8 
       RE: First Offi...  npaden      Aug-31-10   9 
        First Hunt Sta...  npaden      Sep-09-10   10 
         Strike One. :-(  npaden      Sep-16-10   11 
          Wyoming Elk Hu...  npaden      Sep-27-10   12 
           RE: Wyoming El...  npaden      Sep-27-10   13 
            Wyoming Elk Hu...  npaden      Sep-29-10   14 
             Back to the gr...  npaden      Oct-01-10   15 
              RE: Back to th...  npaden      Oct-12-10   16 
               2 MORE WEEKS!  npaden      Oct-16-10   17 
                Mmmm... Pork!  npaden      Oct-18-10   18 
                 RE: Mmmm... Po...  npaden      Oct-26-10   19 
                  Leaving tomorr...  npaden      Oct-28-10   20 
                   Nothing so far  npaden      Oct-30-10   21 
                    A bull is on t...  npaden      Nov-01-10   22 
                     Here's the nov...  npaden      Nov-03-10   23 
                      Mule deer hunt...  npaden      Nov-06-10   24 
                       Mule deer hunt...  npaden      Nov-07-10   25 
                        Mule deer hunt...  npaden      Nov-08-10   26 
                         Only in New Me...  npaden      Nov-10-10   27 
                          Back in Texas  npaden      Nov-13-10   28 
                           RE: Back in Te...  npaden      Nov-19-10   29 
                            Not looking ve...  npaden      Nov-26-10   30 
                             I really was l...  npaden      Nov-29-10   31 
                              It's pretty mu...  npaden      Dec-28-10   32 
                              Oh yeah, one m...  npaden      Dec-28-10   33 

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npaden
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Jun-17-10, 
10:23 PM (MST)
1. "RE: Looking like a lucky year for me in 2010! NM & WY elk, NM antelope, NM & TX deer."

Well, I have now officially stepped foot in the unit where I will be elk hunting in New Mexico this year. I had a business meeting in Ruidoso and managed to do a tiny bit of scouting while I was there.

Not the kind of scouting that I would have preferred, but I spent some time on the golf course at the Inn of the Mountain Gods. That's Sierra Blanca in the background.

I've actually seen elk on the course before in years past but didn't see any this year. This is one of the holes I enjoy the most, it's a 216 yard par 3 downhill that I hit a 7 or 8 iron on depending on which way the wind is blowing.

As far as actually preparing for my hunts, I found out I am assigned to a pretty small ranch outside of Kenna, New Mexico for my antelope hunt. 4,640 acres might sound like a lot, but not when it comes to hunting antelope with the hopes of shooting a decent buck. Maybe I'll get lucky though.

The rifle antelope hunts in New Mexico run for a whopping 2 days and if it ends up that there aren't any antelope on the ranch I'm assigned to, I can request to be moved to another ranch on the second day of the hunt. I need to find out what happens if there are antelope but just not one that I want to shoot. I really don't want to have to settle for a 70" goat when there are 80" goats running around on some of the other ranches in the area just because that is the only one on the ranch I'm assigned to.

The entire process seems strange to me. I was thinking that I would draw a public land antelope tag and be able to hunt any public land in the unit I was assigned to but that's not the way it works in New Mexico for antelope.

I really need to get going on getting in better shape. I stepped on the scale this morning at 242lbs. I'd like to be around 225 or less by the time I'm hunting elk solo at 9,000'+ in late October.

That's it for now. Nathan

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npaden
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Jun-23-10, 
08:15 AM (MST)
2. "RE: Looking like a lucky year for me in 2010! NM & WY elk, NM antelope, NM & TX deer."

LAST EDITED ON Jun-23-10 AT 09:15 AM (MST)

Well, I'm still working on my long distance scouting. Got in my maps that I ordered from www.publiclands.org and have been looking over them and Google Earth and trying to glean everything I can out of them.

The best map that I got was the White Mountain Wilderness one. I also got a Lincoln National Forest Map that is probably too large of scale to do much real scouting.

Since we are supposed to include photos I went ahead and took a picture of the map!

Here's a screen shot of what I'm working with in Google Earth right now.

I've overlayed several public land maps that I was able to get in pdf format onto Google Earth. You can change the transparency of the overlay from 0% to 100% and it zooms in and out with you, so you can get as close as you want and be able to tell whether you are on national forest, wilderness, private land, etc. Still not a substitute for a good old map though, pretty hard to haul around your notebook computer on the trail with you.

If you are interested in knowing how to do an overlay in Google Earth just let me know via PM or email. New Mexico BLM has all of their 100:1 maps available online as pdf's and the NMDGF has all their big game unit maps available online as pdf's as well.

I also finally got started on getting in shape with a run to the mailbox and back last night. Doesn't sound like much of a workout, but that's a 2 mile roundtrip for me. I'm starting on the elliptical tonight.

My current hunting boots are some Rocky's that are nearing the end of their useful life so I've been researching boots and asking questions here on monstermuley.com. Here's the link if you have any input - http://www.monstermuleys.info/dcforum/DCForumID25/1220.html. I'm not much closer to making a decision than when I posted (maybe even farther from a decision since I was given several new options) but I think when it comes down to it, any of them should be a big step up from any boots I've had in the past.

That's my update for this week. Nathan

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npaden
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Jun-29-10, 
01:36 PM (MST)
3. "An Introduction"

Well, after reading through some of the other posts, I doubt I have much of a chance at winning any prizes, but Iíll keep plugging along with my thread.

One thing I realized that was missing from my thread was just a general description of who I am. I grew up in Montana and my family was strictly meat hunters. In some years each person was allowed to shoot 1 buck and 4 does and we loaded up the freezer with deer. We primarily hunted mule deer, but occasionally we would get whitetail doe tags when they were offered. We attempted elk hunting, but werenít very successful at it. We also did some antelope hunting and did okay at that. When I graduated from High School and moved away to college in Texas I had probably shot 15 or 20 deer, but the largest one was a 3x4 that I scored a few years ago at around 120Ē. I didnít even know how to score a deer back then and really didnít even know you could score a deer. They were a 3x4 with a spread of 20Ē. Thatís as detailed as it got.

I tried to make it back and hunt during college and did make it a few times, but couldnít afford a buck tag so I would just buy a doe tag and put some meat in the freezer for the parents. My dad continued to hunt and periodically over the years I would go back home and help him out. We connected on a cow elk on one of the trips and a few deer here and there, but the focus was always on filling the freezer.

A few years back my Dad got cancer and died. He was 82 and lived a full life, but I still miss him a lot. As I think back on the time we spent together, most often I come back to the time that we spent together hunting. I remember the hunts during high school, but those hunts that we made over the last few years really were special, just the 2 of us out in Godís country.

When my son was born 3 years ago, just over a year after my Dad passed away, I thought of the memories of my Dad and what kind of memories my son would have of our time together. In Texas you have to own or lease property to hunt as 99.9% of the hunting in Texas is on private property so the first thing I did after he was born was buy some land. Not much, just 160 acres, but that should be plenty of room for us to start out hunting whitetail and wild pigs. I also started realizing how much I missed hunting and really started getting excited about it.

So, in 2007 at the ripe old age of 39, I planned my first ever ďtrophyĒ hunt. My Mom is still around and still lives in Montana so I planned it around a visit home. I was lucky to be drawn for both a combo deer/elk tag and an antelope tag so I decided to do a deer/antelope combo hunt. I remembered the area pretty well and I was into antelope right off the bat. I had planned pretty well for the trip and was in shape and after some decent shoe leather time, I had a nice representative antelope on the ground DIY on public land on the 2nd day of the hunt. It was late in the season for antelope so there werenít any monsters left around, but I had a nice buck and was happy with it.

This is still one of my favorite hunting pictures.

After connecting on the antelope, my focus went to Mule deer, and I visited several of our old hunting spots. Since antlers were the priority this time and not meat, I passed up over two dozen small bucks over the next few days before finding a decent 4x4 and pulling the trigger on him on the 3rd day of deer hunting.

He wasnít a monster but scored out right at 145Ē and I was happy with him. He was the biggest buck I had ever shot by far.

Sorry for the head shot, but I was solo a little over a mile from the truck all downhill and it was warm so I felt like it was more important to get the deer quartered up than it was for me to hike to the truck and back to get the camera. I learned a lesson with that and now I always carry as small digital camera with me in my pack.

Since that foray back into hunting in 2007, Iíve shot 3 decent whitetail bucks on my place in Texas (one was aged at 8.5 years old although it only scored 112Ē), shot my first bull elk in Wyoming (245Ē 5x5), and last year I shot a 180Ē Mule deer in New Mexico. I keep my butchering skills in shape with wild pigs, I have killed close to two dozen wild pigs since I bought the land just over 3 years ago. Not much compared to most of the folks on MonsterMuleys, but hopefully it is just a start! Most of my friends and family think that I am totally obsessed with hunting, but comparing myself with many of the folks who are regular posters here, Iím not that bad at all!

Well, I guess thatís my official introduction. Iíll be posting more information on my preparations later.

Thanks for reading. Nathan

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npaden
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Jul-05-10, 
10:55 PM (MST)
4. "RE: Back to Planning"

Okay, the introduction is out of the way and now I'm back to getting things ready for my hunts this fall.

I mentioned earlier about buying some new boots and I decided on a pair this weekend. I ordered some Lowa Rangers over the internet and liked them and they are great quality and I got a good price on them, but I tried on some Meindl Denalis at Cabelas this weekend and they just felt better on my feet.

Well, the Lowas are going back and I'm keeping the Meindls that I tried on at Cabelas yesterday. I wanted to keep the Lowas and they do appear to be better quality (ringlets, thicker leather, etc.), but the Meindls just fit me better.

The other problem was the Ranger with the 6 1/2" height just wasn't going to work for me. The 8" height on the Meindl Denali just feels better and the boot overall seemed to fit better. The shocker for me was that they didn't have a regular in size 13 so I tried on a 13 wide and it felt great. Not sure if the Meindl's run narrow or what, but I'm usually not a wide.

Here are the boots side by side.

Here's the Lowa Ranger by itself:

And the Meindl Denali by itself:

When you add in sales tax and everything the Meindl Denali is actually $75 more than the Lowa Ranger and I really wanted to like the Ranger, but I decided to go with the boot that felt the best.

The Lowa would probably have broken in fine, but that 6 1/2" height just caught me right in the front of my shin and I didn't like the feel. It was a much stiffer boot that probably means it would last longer, but I'll just have to find out.

If I'm cussing them in a couple years I'll have to try out the Lowas or Hanwags then. Hopefully the Meindl's aren't that bad, I'm probably not near as hard on boots as most of you guys are. I'm thinking I'll be putting between 150 and 200 miles on them before the end of the year though. First test will be on vacation in Montana coming up in early August.

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npaden
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Jul-08-10, 
04:49 PM (MST)
5. "RE: Back to Planning"

Well, I'm still working with Google Earth and looking at maps on my New Mexico Elk hunting unit. Google Earth really is amazing when it comes right down to it. I've been using the 3D style a bit more than usual and really feel like I'm getting somewhat of a feel for the unit even though I'm 300 miles away.

This is the climb I'll be looking at from one of the potential campsites.

The trailhead starts right at 7,000' elevation and climbs nearly 3,000' to just under 10,000' in 6 miles of trail. If you leave the trail it climbs even faster and hits some really steep cliffs.

Looking at that helps me realize I really need to focus on working out this year! I've been getting in 10 to 12 miles of jogging or elliptical time per week and am starting to lose a tiny bit of weight. I was down to 238lbs a week ago, but then I started justifying eating more since I was working out and gained a couple pounds back so I need to start being a little better about my diet.

I've also found out some more information on my antelope unit and it doesn't sound tremendously promising. I found someone who hunted the ranch that I was assigned to and they didn't have a very positive experience on their hunt. It was several years ago so I'm hoping that things have improved since then, but I'm still a little concerned about how small the place it for antelope hunting.

Here is a map of my assigned ranch:

I need to call the ranch owner and try to get a feel for things from their perspective and also I need to get in touch with the local game warden so if it does turn out to be a bust I can get them to switch me to a different ranch on the 2nd day. Still seems to be a crazy system but I guess I'll find out for sure in a few months!

The summer is flying by. I need to find a spot to do some long range shooting. I really would like to get comfortable out to 400 yards with the antelope and rifle elk hunts coming up.

Oh well, just a quick update for now.

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npaden
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Aug-16-10, 
01:53 PM (MST)
6. "RE: Back to Planning"

Well, my luck is slowing down!

I ended up either cracking a rib or pulling a muscle while water skiing on vacation and that put me back a few weeks on getting in shape for the hunting season, and then I ended up getting sick while I was on vacation in Montana so I didn't get to do hardly any hiking to break in my new boots and backpack.

The summer has FLOWN by and my first hunt is my New Mexico antelope hunt and it is less than a month away! I really need to get out and spend some time at the rifle range to be ready for a long range shot if it comes down to that.

I'm also busy getting my habitat work in on my own property and got a trail camera picture of a really nice whitetail that I'll be going after this fall in between all my other hunts!

Just thought I would update my languishing thread. I'm feeling better and plan on getting back on the elliptical tonight!

Nathan

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npaden
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Aug-26-10, 
10:48 AM (MST)
7. "More bad luck!"

Well, I've been working on getting my hunting property lined up for this fall and part of that was trying to get it signed up for the general CRP enrollment that expires tomorrow. I got it signed up, but the score is so low that I don't think anyone in the entire county my property is in will actually get accepted.

While I was down there I went to check on things and was greeted with the fact that the large hunting blind that I had built up on top of one of the hills on my property wasn't on top of the hill any longer, it was at the bottom of the hill in pieces!

I could actually pinpoint the day that it blew off the hill from some of my trail camera pictures, but according to the National Weather Service the peak wind at the nearest official reporting station was only a 24mph gust. Based on my trail camera pictures the wind was really whipping around on my place and I guess a micro burst or something caught it and that was the end of it.

The roof came off in one piece and is still up near the top of the hill, so I think my labor day weekend plans will involve rebuilding my blind.

Here's the roof laying upside down near the top of the hill.

The problem with that is the roof is made out of 3/4" plywood and I even put shingles on it so it is going to be a bear to get back on top of the blind in one piece. Hopefully I'll be able to round up enough guys to get it done though because I really don't want to have to take it apart.

I'm going on my first real scouting trip this weekend, so hopefully I will have an exciting post next time with pictures of Elk and Antelope and hopefully my luck is about to change back to the better!

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npaden
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Aug-29-10, 
08:41 PM (MST)
8. "RE: First Official Scouting trip!"

Okay, I finally made my first official scouting trip!

I hit the road after lunch on Friday afternoon headed for Ruidoso! After a quick 4 Ĺ hour drive I ended up north of Ruidoso Friday night checking out a spot that a fellow MonsterMuley member had told me about. It doesnít look that impressive on a map or on Google Earth, but I thought I would check it out anyway based on his tip. I was out of my vehicle at about 5:00 and by 6:00 I was already into elk. About 10 cows and calves and 2 spikes. I had brought my nice Nikon DSLR with a 300mm zoom lens since I wasnít packing a rifle, but sure enough, the memory card that has been threatening to give out for a year or so now finally gave out completely and I was left with my little Canon Powershot SD1100 IS.

Hereís the first group of elk I came across. They were about 300 yards away and never did seem to indicate that they knew I was around. I watched them graze for about 10 minutes and then continued on.

The very next draw I saw another group of about 6 cows and calves and I circled around and over them. Some young bulls were bugling a little and I assumed that it was the spikes that were with that first group. I made a few cow calls and got some answers which I thought was neat. Where I hunt in Wyoming Iíve never actually heard a cow talking, I assume due to the heavy wolf predation. On the way back to the car in the dark I heard what sounded like a larger bull bugle a few times and I bugled back. He ended up starting to circle downwind of me and I decided to quit calling since it wasnít going to do me any good and might make a more cautious bull for others.

I spent the night in my trailblazer and moved about 2 miles up the canyon to continue scouting the next morning. I found plenty of sign that elk were in the area and plenty of sign that elk had died in the area as well. Here was a skeleton of a cow that looked like it had been quartered out. Within 50 yards was another skeleton in the same draw.


Some really pretty country and I really enjoyed getting out and putting some miles on my boots, although I did end up with blisters again and am going to have to change something up or maybe even return the boots if I canít figure something out. They are nice boots and seem to fit well, but when I climb I end up on my toes and the boot is so stiff that it doesn't bend and so my heel rides up and down a little bit and that's where I'm getting the blisters.

I moved to the other side of the unit on Saturday around lunchtime and hit the trail about 2pm. (actually my only time on a trail either day was walking back to the car in the dark) I had thought the other area I was scouting was pretty steep, but this area was STEEP with a capital S T E E P! I climbed over 1,500í in elevation before I got a mile from the trailhead! I was seeing lots of elk sign but most of it was pretty old. When I got to the top I got really discouraged when I started to see horse poop. I had planned and selected where I was going to hunt based on the steepest roughest spots where I didnít think I would have to worry about any competition from an outfitter on horses. I decided they must have a trail someplace up higher and be coming down the ridges or something. I was pretty dejected.

2 hours into my hike I decided that either I was not in near as good of shape as I thought I was or the terrain was way steeper than I expected and I decided that it was both. I was sweating profusely and having to stop and catch my breath every few minutes. I found a neat saddle between two ridges and ended up climbing up to a really nice overlook. I took this picture of it when I was on my way up.

I was so dejected about the horses and the lack of current elk sign that I figured I was at least getting my exercise.

Hereís a picture from across the canyon. The area I was climbing wasnít quite as steep, but it was pretty close!

I got to the top of that particular ridge, I was a little over 8,100í and there was still plenty of room to keep climbing. There was a nice overlook and I sat down to rest and was surprised to hear a bull bugle. I got situated and started glassing and didnít see anything for a while then spotted a cow, then another then a spike, then a raghorn, and finally ended up seeing about 20 head of elk on the ridge over from me. They were about 600 yards away and they were on the reservation. First I only saw some raghorns and couldnít figure out which one was bugling. Finally I found the bull who was bugling, and he was still laying down in his bed. After watching them about 30 minutes to an hour they were pretty much all up and moving across the ridgeline. A few of the smaller bulls and some cows headed toward the wilderness area but the bigger bulls headed farther onto the reservation. While watching them I also saw at least 30 elk grazing on Sierra Blanca which is well onto the reservation (probably about 2 miles from where I was).

Hereís the biggest bull of the bunch, nothing spectacular, but a good solid 5x6. I figure somewhere around 280 Ė 290Ē. Would be hard for me to pass him up if I saw him in shooting range on opening day off the reservation, but I think I would.

As I mentioned before, I had brought my Nikon DSLR with a 300mm telephoto lens specifically to take pictures of elk if I saw any. With the memory card on the fritz I ended up having to improvise with my Canon Powershot free handing through the spotting scope. Of course I forgot the piece that goes with my tripod to hook up the spotting scope to the tripod so I was holding the spotting scope on my backpack and taking the pictures through it with the Canon Powershot. I thought they actually turned out decent considering everything.

Needless to say, my spirits were lifted considerably since I was actually into elk and legal bulls at that. Of course I wasnít happy that they were on the reservation, but I figure that in the next two months their patterns will change and there is a good chance they will be moving around quite a bit. At least I saw some elk.

I decided to try to go down a different way and follow a ridgeline to the trail and didnít want to be covering new ground in the dark so I picked up and headed down the mountain. It turned out to be a really good decision since I ended up hitting cliffs a couple times and having to re-route around them. As I started down I saw the answer to the horse poop I had been seeing. Wild horses!

Actually at first I thought they might be someoneís stock that was turned loose, but I talked with the guy at the campsite and he said there were quite a few wild horse in the area. That made me feel a little better that my plans were not going to be completely shot by some outfitters riding down the ridgeline that I was working so hard to climb up.

I made it to the trail just as it was getting dark and made it back to the campsite in the dark. My wife wasnít feeling well back at home and my feet were hurting and Iíd managed to wear a few blisters so I made an impromptu decision to go ahead and drive back home that night and skip the next morning scouting time. It took right at five hours to drive home and I was back home at 3:00am this morning.

Overall I felt like it was a pretty successful trip. I didnít see a monster bull, but for spending just a couple days I felt like my time in person was matching up with the information I had received from others and what I was seeing on Google Earth and on my topographical maps. I wasnít prepared for how steep it was, but it was very good to experience it to know that I will have to alter my plans a little to match up with realistic expectations of what I can accomplish. I had told myself that if I end up going without seeing any elk that I would break down and hire an outfitter so it looks like Iím still DIY for now on this one.

Thatís it for now. Just two weeks until my season officially starts with my New Mexico antelope hunt. Iíll update on the status of that in another post.

Nathan

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npaden
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Aug-31-10, 
10:14 PM (MST)
9. "RE: First Official Scouting trip!"

Okay, it just so happens that the ranch that I've been assigned to is just a little bit out of the way to Ruidoso so I decided to try to make a dual purpose trip. Scouting for my antelope and my Elk.

I called up the landowner of the ranch I've been assigned to just to touch base, although I planned on staying on county roads because I figured I would be able to see most of their property from the road. Anyway, it isn't looking very promising.

First, the landowner didn't know the rules and told me that I could not hunt on their private land, that I had to stay on the public land. I told them that wasn't correct and they needed to contact someone with the NMGF to verify. Not a great way to start the conversation.

Then, they said that they have only seen antelope on their place once all summer so that wasn't very promising either.

Lastly I drove by the property and sure enough, I didn't see a single antelope anywhere on the property or even in the vicinity.

I just called NMGF to verify my options and if I could switch ranches and they said I still needed to hunt my assigned ranch that first day and that I could call around 4 or 5 that afternoon if I hadn't seen anything and they would reassign me to a ranch that should have some antelope.

My guess is that the best bucks will have already been shot off whatever ranch I get reassigned to that first morning so it is not looking very good for me on shooting a nice buck.

Seems that my luck ended when I drew the tag, I didn't realize that the ranch assignment was more important than drawing the tag.

I posted in the New Mexico forum and a couple guys reassured me that I might still get a shot at a decent buck before it is all said and done, but I'm still not super optimistic.

Sorry no pictures on this post, but there really wasn't anything to take pictures of!

That's it for now. Nathan

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npaden
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Sep-09-10, 
10:48 AM (MST)
10. "First Hunt Starts Saturday!"

Well, my New Mexico antelope hunt starts Saturday!

I'd like to say that I have everything all prepped and ready to go, but I feel about as unprepared for this hunt as any that I've ever been on.

It's been very difficult talking with the landowner and even figuring out where their property lines are. The map that the New Mexico Game and Fish gave me doesn't line up with fence lines and it's been interesting to say the least.

On top of all of that they are still telling me there aren't any antelope out there anyway. The one bright spot is that they didn't sell their landowner tag so at least I won't be competing with anyone for the zero antelope that are out there.

I did call the game warden and gave him a heads up that I will more than likely be needing to swap ranches so hopefully if I do strike out on this ranch then he will be able to put me on a good one.

I did go down to my hunting land over the labor day weekend and got my blind put back together and back on top of the hill. It was a lot of work but the kind that makes you feel like you accomplished something in the end. The amazing thing was that we were able to get the roof put back on top of the blind intact with only 2 guys and the roof weighs around 400lbs. (We did have a woman helping too, there were a couple times that we couldn't have done it without her help!) I anchored it down really good this time too! I think it would take a tornado to knock it off now.

Here's a few pictures of it going back together.

Quite the condo compared to most hunting blinds. It really ended up going back together amazingly well considering that it ended up in a pile at the bottom of the hill. Some of the window flaps ended up in pretty bad shape, but I think I'm going to switch the windows out to plexiglass versions soon, so that shouldn't be an issue for long. My hopes are that in a couple years my son will be able to spend some quality time in there with me without spooking the wildlife too badly. He's 3 now.

Checking trail camera pictures was pretty promising. When it was all said and done I counted 15 different bucks at my protein feeder in just over a weeks time. If my aging skills are any good, the amazing thing is that there are 3 bucks that are 3 years old and 6 that are 4 years old or older. Not bad for 160 acres in a county that is supposed to have a deer density of only 15 deer per square mile.

I've nicknamed this guy "Mr. Big".

I'm pretty sure that this is a buck that I've seen around for 3 years now and I passed on him a dozen times as a 2 year old and a couple times last year as a pretty nice 3 year old. If I see him this year he won't get a pass!

This guy is "Tilt". He's number 2 on the hit list.

That's it for this update. Hopefully next update will be posting on a successful New Mexico antelope hunt!!

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npaden
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Sep-16-10, 
07:33 PM (MST)
11. "Strike One. :-("

Well, I'll avoid the suspense on this post and just let you know up front that I struck out Antelope hunting in New Mexico.

After a few hiccups getting over there (busted water line on the travel trailer, driving into a headwind, leaving the trailer keys at Walmart, etc.) we got the trailer dropped off and drove over to the ranch that I had been assigned to. We got there a couple hours before sunset and started driving around the ranch a little to get our bearings on everything and low and behold we actually saw some antelope! Even better was the fact that they were actually on the ranch I was assigned too! There were about 6 or 7 does and 2 bucks, one was pretty small, but one was pretty decent. They ended up going by us at about 125 yards while we sat in the truck and I got a few pictures of the bucks.

The nicer buck stopped and shook his head around for a little bit a couple times while we were watching. Not sure exactly what he was doing, but the rut was starting up a little so I figured it was something related to that.

Here's the nicer buck in the front and the smaller on behind him.

Not the best picture, but you can get a decent feel for the length and width of the horns from this blurry picture. He wasn't a monster, but I would have been proud to have him on my wall if I had gotten the chance.

We watched them move off to the south and decided we should probably just leave so they aren't spooked and made out plans for the morning. Had a few more hiccups as the battery on the trailer was dead and it was out of propane, but we were optimistic that it wouldn't matter much anyway as we would hopefully be tagged out in the morning and headed home.

The first morning of the hunt arrived and everything was looking good. Nice cool morning, and right off the bat we spotted the antelope. It looked like they were going to do the exact opposite of what they had done the night before so we moved over to intercept them on their way. After about 30 minutes of waiting, we started to wonder where they were and went over to where we had last seen them. They had disappeared! How 8 or 9 antelope can just up and disappear is a mystery, but it can happen. We drove around the rest of the ranch and saw some other hunters standing on the fence line looking onto the ranch we were assigned to and asked them if they had seen anything and they said that they hadn't. Seemed like they were looking at something, but we drove around and didn't ever see what they were looking at.

We headed back to the spot that we had started out that morning and after a while we did see the small buck by himself headed our way looking lost. The rut was just starting and the night before we had watched the larger buck chasing the smaller buck off on a regular basis. The small buck was trailing the group, but evidently they had even lost him when they disappeared. I put a stalk on him and got about 150 yards away, but I just couldn't bring myself to pull the trigger on such a young animal. I ended up walking back to the truck and the small buck moved off to the north.

The ranch that I was assigned to was 4,640 acres, but most of it was sand hill country that didn't seem like the antelope would be very likely to go. After a few more hours of not seeing anything we decided to check out the sand hill country anyway. We did end up seeing a buck and 4 does but they were north of the ranch we were assigned to and moving away from us. After a couple hours of that, we went back to the area where we had started out that morning.

If it seems like there is a recurring theme here, believe me, it seemed like it in person too. There just wasn't much area for us to hunt and we could see nearly the entire place sitting in one spot, so we would park there and glass the ranch and periodically drive to the few spots we couldn't see and then return to the high spot where we could see most of the ranch and then repeat, repeat. I'm not very fond of road hunting, but it seemed pointless to walk the property when you could sit in one spot in the truck and see most of it and then you could drive to another spot and see the rest of it.

The way the state of New Mexico does it's ranch assignments, the ranches are classified as "Ranch Only", or "Unit-Wide". For the most part the larger ranches are "Ranch Only" and the smaller ranches are "Unit-Wide". The one benefit to being on a small ranch that is Unit Wide is that if you aren't seeing antelope on the first day, you can call the local game warden and he can reassign you to a ranch where there are antelope. At least that's the theory. After not seeing anything else, I called the game warden around 2:00 and asked him if I could be reassigned to a ranch that had antelope on it. He said he needed to do some checking around and he would get back with me. We decided to go ahead and stick around just in case that original group of antelope ever decided to appear again.

Probably not even 15 minutes later, I look out and they are crossing the road about 600 or 700 yards in front of us! I hesitated and wasn't sure if I should try to drive up to them or if I should get out of the truck and try to walk up on them, but they were moving pretty good and so I started the truck and started toward them. I was pretty indecisive and drove too slowly and by the time I got there they were about 300 yards away. It all happened too fast and I didn't even have my range finder out to know how far away they were for sure. The wind was blowing pretty hard and they were milling around pretty good and I never felt like I had a great shot so I decided to hold off. They didn't seem too spooked and hopefully they would just move off a little way and I could walk them down.

They ended up moving off and I started after them. The biggest concern was that they were only 1/2 mile from the ranch boundary and I was hoping they wouldn't move too fast. I got to where I could see them again and sure enough, they had crossed the fence and then stopped about 50 yards onto the neighboring ranch. I watched them for a while and then they moved off farther.

It turned out that was going to be my only real opportunity for the weekend. In retrospect it is easy to see that I should have just driven right to them as soon as they crossed the road, but I hesitated for 15 or 20 seconds that would have probably made the difference. I second guess myself less on the shot. It was blowing pretty hard and I never felt confident in the shot and I don't want to just be throwing lead at an animal and hoping that I can hit it. I want to have confidence when I pull the trigger that the animal is going to go down and stay down.

Anyway, after a while we drove the ranch again, glassed some more and then decided to go back the the trailer to grab some drinks and snacks. On the way there we spot the same group of antelope from the county road. They are about 1/2 mile north of the ranch I was assigned to. We pull up to a gate and park to see what they are going to do. They were 375 yards off and after watching us for a while, they end up moving toward us to a windmill to get a drink. We watched them for probably 15 minutes and then another hunter that was assigned to that ranch showed up and the antelope took off, but they went north instead of south back to the ranch that I was assigned to.

That the last time we saw a buck. We hunted hard from before sunrise to sunset (I was surprised to learn from the guy I was hunting with that New Mexico legal hunting only goes to sunset instead of 30 minutes after sunset like most places do) and only saw 2 does the last day that were not even on the ranch I was assigned to. I ended up putting a few miles on my boots the last day doing anything I could think of to try to scrape up an antelope sighting but it didn't happen.

Overall it was pretty depressing that I was assigned to a ranch with very few antelope and those were mainly just passing through. Generally if that is the case you can just move to a different area, but that wasn't an option so we just stuck it out. I doubt that I will be applying for another public land antelope license in New Mexico in the future. The luck seems to be more related to which ranch you get assigned instead of just drawing the tag. I'm really curious to see what the final success rate ends up.

That's it for now. Nathan

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Sep-27-10, 
01:19 PM (MST)
12. "Wyoming Elk Hunt - Part 1"

Okay, I'm back from my Wyoming elk hunt with a little bit more confidence in my hunting ability.

We had a great time and the weather was almost perfect for both us and the elk.

Here is the truck and our travel trailer loaded up and ready to go. I actually took this picture on the way home, but you get the general idea. That's the Grand Tetons in the background.

Here's camp for the week.

We stayed in a different spot than we normally do because some other hunters beat us to the spot we normally camp but I'll fill that in on another post. My wife and our 3 1/2 year old son came with me and they seemed to have a pretty good time. The solar panels came from Harbor Freight on a nice discount and really helped out on the battery useage on the trailer. We only charged the batteries one time for less than an hour and probably could have made it the entire time without charging if we had to.

The 4 wheeler was strictly for keeping the wife and kid happy during the week, the area we were hunting was wilderness area so the 4 wheeler wasn't used for hunting at all. They had a good time with it though.

I'm still trying to get caught up at work, but I'll post the details on the hunt soon.

We had a great time. Nathan

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Sep-27-10, 
02:55 PM (MST)
13. "RE: Wyoming Elk Hunt - Part 2"

Okay, I guess work can wait while I get this posted. I'm not concentrating very well anyway so I might as well work up a post on what I'm thinking about.

If my New Mexico Antelope hunt was strike one, then my Wyoming elk hunt would have to be a solid single.

Things didn't start off looking too promising as when we arrived at the normal spot where we camp we found a group of 6 other hunters and the site was loaded up with about a dozen horses and pack animals along with 3 fancy horse trailers, full blown wall tents, cook tents, electric fencing, etc. Finding another place to camp wasn't too difficult, but knowing that there were a bunch of new hunters so close to where we did most of our hunting wasn't to encouraging.

We got camp setup and it was probably a nicer spot to camp with a creek running right by it and some nice shade trees and a pretty flat spot to park the trailers. The only drawback was that it was farther away from our normal hunting spot.

We decided that we would start out on opening day as planned regardless of whether there were extra hunters around or not. Normally there are 2 outfitters who hunt the same area pretty hard each year so we are fairly used to some competition. We also decided that we were not going to be picky, we were going to shoot the first legal bull we saw, even it it was a spike.

Opening morning started with a wake up alarm at 4:00 and in the truck headed to the place we wanted to park by 4:30. Losing our normal camping spot added about 15 minutes to the drive and we were parked and headed off into the dark looking at our GPS at 5:00. A little under an hour of wading through waist high brush and crawling over deadfall in the dark brought us to the spot we wanted to be at a little early at around 6:00. We heard some wolves going off to the northwest of us a mile or so and that quickly brought our spirits down even farther. Typically when the wolves are talking the elk aren't so whatever we did was going to have to be without relying on calling. Thankfully our plans for opening morning mostly involved sitting and waiting for someone else to push the elk our way.

A little before 6:30 we adjusted our positions a little to get the best view possible. We were on the edge of one of the few clearings in the area and could actually see about 300 yards in some areas. Based on previous experienced we expected one of the outfitters to come through on horseback and hopefully push some elk into the clearing for us to possibly get a shot at them. They were a little early though and we could hear them coming toward us about 15 minutes before shooting light. We could still see with the bright moon and binoculars, but we didn't see anything come through the clearing.

Shooting light finally rolled in around 6:40 and we sat in our spot as the outfitter worked his way around the clearing. A bull moose came up behind us and blew a few times trying to scent us, then worked down through the clearing to the south of us. He was a pretty decent bull and seeing him gave us a little hope for the future as the moose population in that area has been in a steady decline over the last several years.

The outfitter worked his way all around the clearing and then off to the west with nothing happening. The guide bugled a couple sick sounding bugles but nothing responded. They worked their way off and we stayed put, hoping something would still come our way.

We'd been sitting for about an hour and my friend Mike decided he needed to take a potty break. He wandered off about 50 yards and I heard him make a cow call a couple minutes later. I decided to make a few cow calls myself and then a few minutes later he cow calls again so I cow called again too. He started walking back my way and I kept looking through the clearing and into the timber surrounding it and as I'm scanning back to the east I see an elk coming our way! It was a bull and that's all that mattered. I didn't bother to use the range finder because he seemed pretty close to me. He was trotting and turned broadside for a second and I didn't think to cow call to stop him, I just took the shot while he was still moving.

I took the shot and he turned and pretty much started heading straight at us. I thought I had hit him with the first shot, but with an elk I've always been told that you keep shooting them until they are on the ground so I shot a 2nd time as he was severely quartering to me. After that shot he came to a stop, teetered for a second and then went down hard in a cloud of dust.

After giving him a few minutes we walked over and he was down for the count. After the fact I ranged the shot at 127 yards. Upon close inspection I was surprised to find that I must have had a complete miss on the first shot. The 2nd shot was exactly where I was aimed and did a great job on him though. I've recreated the shot a dozen times and can't believe that I missed. The only thing I can think of that would explain it would be either a very poor shot on my part or the fact that there was a small pine tree in front of the area where I was setup and took the shot. Possibly I could have nicked a limb on it and sent that first shot errant. I'm sure glad I followed up with that 2nd shot!

It wasn't until after he was down that I even began to think about how large he was. We had discussed the fact that we would shoot the first legal bull that we saw and I knew he wasn't a monster, but it all went down so fast that I didn't know if he was a raghorn or a decent bull. Turns out he was closer to a raghorn than a decent bull, but I'm still happy with him.

Here's my friend Mike with me.

Everyone who has been elk hunting and had a successful hunt knows that the work begins when the animal goes down. Even a small bull elk is a very big animal and takes some work to get out. I had some game bags in my backpack and we decided to go ahead and quarter him up and skin and debone him to make the pack out as light as possible.

Here he is quartered up and ready to pack out. I used my space blanket out of my first aid kit as a tarp to keep the quarters clean while we got them deboned and bagged up.

This year I bought a new backpack that is called the "Just One" pack. I mainly bought it for the rifle scabbard that it has that allows you to carry your rifle in the pack on those fun hikes in and out in the dark, but it also expands to allow you to haul out on your first trip back to the truck. Their slogan is to "go in light and come out heavy" and it lived up to it's reputation. On my first load back to the truck I hauled everything that I started with in the pack, plus one front shoulder and the head. I would have liked to weigh it, but I think pretty conservatively I can say that all told it weighed at least 100lbs.

Here's me starting the pack out.

One very nice thing about the spot we were hunting was that it was close to where be park the truck. On the way in we skirt around the clearing so we don't spook anything out and it is close to a mile in, but on the way out we took a direct line and according to the GPS we just had .57 miles back to the truck!

It was a good thing too! The pack handled that heavy load easily, but I was more than ready to get it off my back when we got to the truck.

We made it back to camp in time for lunch and then went back to get the last load. On the last load I hauled out a boned out hindquarter and a front shoulder in one trip. I figure that load weighed in close to 120lbs with my rifle, hydration bladder and the weight of the pack itself figured in. Here's the pack expanded out and loaded up for the trip back out.

That makes the 2nd time in the last 3 years that I've had an elk down on opening morning. This one wasn't as big as the one I shot 2 years ago, but I'm still very happy with him.

I spent the rest of the week hunting with Mike to see if we could get an elk for him and I'll post more on that later.

That's it for now. Nathan

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Sep-29-10, 
09:17 AM (MST)
14. "Wyoming Elk Hunt - Part 3"

Continuing with the baseball theme, it turned out that the Wyoming elk hunting trip turned out to be a solid double. My friend Mike was able to connect on a nice bull a few days after I got mine.

We continued to hunt hard after I shot my bull, but things weren't looking too good. Mike had a black bear tag, so the next day we decided to stop by the carcass of my elk and see if anything was coming into it. Sure enough, a bear had been on it overnight, we just weren't sure what kind of bear. The area that we hunt has as many if not more grizzly bears than black bears so it is pretty hit or miss on what kind of bear is on a kill site. We decided to hang around a while and after a bit, we see a very dark colored bear coming in to the kill. At first glance it looked like a large black bear and then all the sudden it spooked and took off.

A few minutes later it showed back up and came in to the kill site pretty fast. It grabbed a large piece of meat from the carcass (I'm guessing the liver) and turned around and took off on a dead run. It ran at least 100 yards until it went out of sight down the canyon. Now, this wasn't a huge grizzly bear, but it wasn't a small one either. It was about the size of the carcass so we were thinking somewhere in the neighborhood of a 300 - 400lb bear.

The whole episode really made us scratch our heads. Generally in the area that we hunt, once a grizzly bear finds a kill site, it stays on it until it wants to leave. Even if a hunter shows up, most of the time a grizzly will be very reluctant to leave a kill site, that's why you always move the good meat a good 100 yards away from the carcass before you haul the first load out. The only reasons we could come up with for why this bear was so skittish was that there was another VERY large bear in the area, or this bear had been shot at or harassed in some way at a kill site before. The idea of a bear large enough to have this one acting so skittish seemed the most likely explanation, however that didn't give us a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that we'd been stumbling around in the dark and would probably be doing it again for the next few days.

Okay, back to the elk hunting. We did hear one bull bugle on Tuesday morning, and tracked him a bit, but he was moving away and not talking much. We weren't seeing near as much sign as usual and for sure weren't hearing or seeing anything.

Wednesday we went into a spot where we've always seen lots of sign. We were within a few hundred yards of where I shot my first bull elk a couple years earlier waiting for shooting light to get there. As opposed to a couple years ago, we didn't see or hear anything once shooting light got there. We investigated a few wallows we had marked on the GPS and although there was plenty of water and the spots looked good, nothing had been using them to wallow in. We continued to look around and although the habitat looked great, we just didn't see much sign that the elk were hanging out there at all. We headed back to camp early feeling pretty dejected.

Thursday morning we decided to go ahead and go back into a canyon that we always dread going in and out of, but where there generally are some elk to be found. We had been sleeping in the last few mornings until 4:30 and leaving camp at 5:00 and we did the same on Thursday.

We parked in the same spot we had on Monday and Tuesday and headed up the hill in the dark watching the GPS to take us where we wanted to go. We were headed for the least steep part of the canyon where you drop about 600' of elevation in less than 1/4 mile. Usually it's not a big issue going down, (it is always an issue coming back up, especially if you shoot an elk down there) but we were a little early and we decided to at least wait for shooting light before heading down. We were just about to sit down to wait for shooting light when we heard something blow about 100 yards away and start crashing through the brush. We cow called to try to convince whatever it was that we were an elk and not a couple of hunters bumbling around and to our surprise whatever it was stopped to listen. Of course then I started thinking of the fact that I had killed my elk less than 1/2 mile from where we were now and the grizzly we had seen coming into the kill site was coming from the direction that we were now. That and the fact that it was still nearly 1/2 an hour before shooting light and I was about to convince myself that the animal crashing through the brush 100 yards away was a bear and with us cow calling we were ringing the dinner bell for it when to our relief we heard a very weak bugle.

We talked it over and now the challenge was going to be keeping the elk interested without bringing it in before shooting light. We also discussed that it sounded pretty small and we both agreed that even a spike up on top sounded like a better deal than a mediocre bull down in the canyon. Of course being the positive thinker that I am, I figured on the worst case scenario would be to shoot a spike at the top of the canyon and have it end up running down into the canyon and we would still have to end up packing it out of the bottom.

We tried to lay off the cow calls but we could hear him moving away from us and periodically we would cow call. About the 3rd time he bugled for us, he added a pretty impressive growl at the end and we decided he might not be that bad of a bull, but we still didn't want to get him too excited before shooting light. A few calls back and forth later and shooting light arrived. We started to cow call in earnest and even threw in a weak bugle a couple times and it quickly became obvious that the bull was not going to come to us. He had moved off a couple hundred yards and was actually starting to move away farther. A few of his bugles had a really nice growl at the end of them that really started to get us excited.

We decided that we were going to have to get aggressive and go after him. Mike headed out first and I stayed back about 30 to 40 yards and would periodically cow call to see if we could get a response to help us locate him. We started this at around 6:45 and kept after it slow and steady. About every 5 or 6 minutes I would cow call or if the bull bugled I would answer him. I bought a mouth diaphragm call this summer and had been practicing with it and I guess I'm getting decent with it. The bull wouldn't respond to any other calls, but would bugle for my mouth call.

We went about 200 yards and through a clearing and could hear the bull in the dark timber behind it. At one point it sounded like he was just barely into the dark timber, but we never could see him. He was sounding bigger and bigger, there was no way he was a spike. He would still just let out a soft short bugle and then throw in a big growl at the end with the last of his breath. We got to the edge of the dark timber and Mike kept after him while I hung back and cow called periodically. At one point Mike must have tripped and made some pretty good noise crashing through some deadfall so I cow called and got a bugle in response. I was into the dark timber by this time and it sounded like we were getting pretty close. A few minutes later I cow called again and got an immediate response. Maybe a minute later I hear a shot! I didn't hear the traditional thump of the bullet hitting and Mike started to cow call so I threw in some cow calls as well. I heard some crashing in the brush and Mike shot again and I kept cow calling. I figured he either missed or made a bad shot and the bull was running away.

I started running his way and kept throwing in cow calls and heard a 3rd shot. Again I am just hearing the shots without hearing them hitting anything so I'm guessing misses, but as I get closer there is Mike standing over a nice bull!

We debriefed quickly and it turns out that there were at least 2 bulls the entire time. Mike had seen a raghorn and was about to pull the trigger on him when I cow called and the larger bull responded and he decided to pass on the raghorn to see if he could connect on the larger one. The larger bull evidently decided to move the raghorn off, because he immediately moved toward where the raghorn was and gave Mike a shot opportunity. The first shot was a hit but he was so close that explained why I had only heard the shot and not the hit. Doing the post mortem, be determined that the first shot hit him in the neck and he went down immediately. The crashing through the brush that I heard was actually the bull thrashing after he went down. The bull tried to get back up and that was when Mike shot again and based on the post mortem it looked like that shot was a miss. The 3rd shot was a finishing shot that Mike actually made with his lead based bear spray (a 44 mag).

Mike went back to the spot where he had made his first shot and I ranged it at a whopping 37 yards! Even at that short of a distance he was only able to see glimpses of the bull it was so thick.

Okay, after the novel, here are some pictures.

Here's both of us with the bull.

Although I didn't pull the trigger, I really felt like I really contributed to getting this bull on the ground.

My pessimistic thoughts on shooting a spike and having it run down into the canyon didn't turn out either. The entire time we were shadowing the bull it was actually moving closer to the truck! When it was all said and done he went down a whopping .37 miles from the truck.

A couple hours of cutting and we were headed down the hill toward the truck.

So Thursday around lunchtime and we are both tagged out and back at camp! It was a beautiful day and we took the opportunity to take some pictures.

We ended up going back over to where we normally camp and asked how they were doing. We figured that with horses they were able to cover a lot of ground that we weren't able to cover on foot and were curious what they were seeing. None of the 6 hunters had seen an elk in the 4 days they had been there! We had shot both of our elk less than 3 miles from where they were camped and they still hadn't even seen one. I would like to think it was our mad skills as hunters, but I know that a whole lot of it was just luck and being in the right place at the right time. I think that was a big key as both elk were on the ground by 8:00 in the morning and both times we were back where we wanted to be long before shooting light arrived. I think the 2nd bull did take some skill along with the luck, but I know that luck did play a big part in it.

Anyway, I doubt many people took the time to read through this entire post, but I wanted to get it written so I could remember it for myself if nothing else. We really had a great time in Wyoming and I would have considered it a great trip even if we hadn't connected, but the fact that we both tagged out early was really nice.

The 24 hour drive going and coming home wasn't all that fun but the time spent when we were up there was worth it!

That's it for this one. Nathan

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Oct-01-10, 
11:17 AM (MST)
15. "Back to the grind"

Well, I have some big deadlines coming up at work so I've been swamped ever since I got back. Hopefully things will ease off a little bit soon.

The reason I decided to make this post was that I ended up getting back on the elliptical last night to try to keep in shape. I actually thought that I would be still trying to get in shape because I really didn't feel like we worked all that hard on the Wyoming hunt. The top mileage we put in was only 5 miles one day (based on GPS, not a guess) and although we hauled out 2 elk and I hauled the bulk of them, they were both pretty short pack outs. The brush and deadfall always gives you a workout, but overall it seemed pretty easy.

Anyway, I jumped on the elliptical last night and set it for a 30 minute hillclimb. I normally keep it a little over 2.5 mph on the start of the climb and when I get toward the top I'm working just to keep it above 2 mph. Last night I was zipping along at 3 mph at the start and kept it above 2.5 mph pretty much the entire time. I was able to talk with my wife while working out and don't feel sore this morning. I guess that just goes to show you that there is nothing like actually getting out there and going up and down a mountain to get you in shape. I think part of it was the fact that we spent most of our time at 6,500' - 7,000' elevation and now I'm back at 3,200', and that might explain my cardio, but not the fact that my muscles aren't sore and were able to push faster than ever.

My New Mexico hunt is going to be at an even higher elevation, and the mountains will be steeper, so I'm going to continue with my workouts until then. There won't be as much brush and deadfall to work with, but I want to be prepared to give it everything I have to get a big bull down that week.

Just thought I would update the post for that. I was really surprised that although it felt like we weren't really working that hard, we evidently were because I was in a lot better shape when I got back than I was when I left.

That's it for now. Nathan

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Oct-12-10, 
08:28 AM (MST)
16. "RE: Back to the grind"

Still grinding at work. Friday is my deadline so hopefully things will slow down after that.

I did manage to go down to my hunting property to plant some food plots this past weekend and check some trail camera pictures. I'm late getting my plots in, but thankfully I had some standing rye when I disced three weeks ago and we had a good rain two weeks ago so I had a pretty good stand of volunteer rye coming up on the bulk of my plots. I was able to plant about 2 acres of a rye and oats mix where the volunteer rye wasn't coming up very well so hopefully that will give a good option down the road.

I did have a problem with the neighbors cows getting onto my property and spending a lot of time on my plots and they tore up one of my feeders and may have emptied my protein feeder as well, but the fence is supposed to be fixed now so hopefully they won't be back anytime soon.

While I was down there working with my tractor, I started thinking about how much time and effort I put in down on my hunting property compared to how much time I actually end up hunting it. Over the course of a year I spend 10 to 15 days working on the property and usually about 3 to 5 days actually hunting it for deer. Most people think that if you have your own private land it is just a cake walk to sit around and shoot the deer on your place, but it really isn't that easy. I've been lucky to shoot a decent buck the last 3 years on my place but it doesn't come without work during the off season. Pretty equivalent to spending the time out scouting on public land in my opinion.

Speaking of decent bucks, I didn't get any more pictures of the big one this month, but I did get pictures of the next 3 on the hit list. Even better was that I got several pictures of "Nubs" during the middle of the day.

I also noticed some really nice scrapes and setup a trail camera on one of them so we'll see what I get for pictures on it.

I got a nice sequence of pictures of these young bucks in a threesome!

Here's "Tilt" who is #2 on the hit list.

Here's "Clean 10" who is probably bigger than "Nubs" and maybe even "Tilt", but I'm almost positive that he is only 3 1/2 so he is #4 on the hit list since he has more potential for the future. Hopefully I won't have to make a call on shooting him or not because I'm not sure I would have the discipline to pass on him after passing on a really nice 3 1/2 year old last year that didn't end up making it through the season.

I also got a few pictures of some deer in my backyard this month using a new trail camera I was trying out. This is actually a mule deer and a whitetail that have been hanging out together for at least a month now. Seems pretty odd to me.

No hunting season in the county where my house is though so they are safe for now.

I haven't been working out this week because I've been so busy at work, but I will hopefully get back on track this weekend.

That's it for now. Nathan

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Oct-16-10, 
05:28 AM (MST)
17. "2 MORE WEEKS!"

In less than 2 weeks I'll be in New Mexico elk hunting! I've been really looking forward to this hunt and planning for it more than any of the others and I sure hope it works out. I've got a friend lined up to go with me now so that takes some of the pressure off of it being a completely solo hunt. Of course I'd like to shoot a nice bull, but even if I don't I would like to at least see some decent bulls and have an enjoyable hunt.

I made another trip down to my hunting property to sort out some of the issues that I had with one of my feeders and some of my cameras, and was hoping to put some pork in the freezer, but I struck out on the pig hunting. I did pick off a coyote this morning that came in to a rabbit in distress mouth call. I really like the Rock River Arms Predator Pursuit rifle, one shot and it dropped right there at 125 yards. Nothing special, but it was a quick shot and I can't recall ever missing with this rifle. Still haven't put a piggie down with it yet though.

Here's the coyote from this morning.

I brought my Nikon DSLR camera and took a few pictures of some deer this morning too. This doe was all by herself about 40 yards away and the noise of the shutter on the camera actually disturbed her and although she never figured out what was making the noise she moved off after a few shots.

This buck was about 150 yards off when I took this picture. Not the biggest buck and not the best picture, but I thought I would share it anyway.

I moved one of my trail cameras to an active scrape and had 9 or 10 different bucks visit it within the last week. And a few of them were during the day.

I'm sure going to have a hard time passing on this guy if I see him first! Here's the "Clean 10".

"Nubs" was a pretty regular visitor to the scrape. Here he is showing why it's called a scrape.

Here he is on a different day demonstrating the licking branch.

And thanks to a nice closeup he gave me, you can see why he is nicknamed "Nubs". Check out the base on his left antler.

This guy doesn't have that much in the antler department, but he sure is a hoss. I think he's got a beer gut. I call this buck "Stubby".

I actually wasn't able to get my feeder completely repaired and a couple of my cameras are still having troubles so I'm possibly going to make a very quick run down there tomorrow. I really want to get some pork in the freezer, maybe the piggies will cooperate this time.

That's it for now. Nathan

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Oct-18-10, 
10:54 AM (MST)
18. "Mmmm... Pork!"

Well, after doing some good deeds after church, I ended up finally getting away around 4:45 to head down to the land. It's a 1 1/2 hour drive and the sun is setting around 7:00 right now so it wasn't looking very good for an evening hunt.

I got to the property just after 6:15 and it took about 30 minutes to fix my feeder and swap out cards and batteries on my trail cameras. I decided to just park my pickup at the bottom of the hill that my big blind is on instead of driving back out to the front of the property since it was so late I didn't think I had time to drive back out to the front of the property and walk back to the blind before sunset and that would increase the chances of spooking something away. So I just grabbed my AR-15 and went to the blind.

I figured it was a lost cause since I had just been driving around and my scent was all over at the feeder from fixing it and messing with the camera, but I was down there so I figured I could sit for 45 minutes until it got dark.

It was looking like my hunch was right and then about 5 minutes before the end of shooting light a lone pig came into the feeder. 99% of the time a lone pig is a boar and after waiting a few seconds to see if anything else was going to come in with him I took aim and eased the trigger back on the RRA predator pursuit. Bang! The pig dropped in it's tracks.

It was a pretty decent sized pig and I was a little worried on making a shot behind the shoulder with the .223 because the vitals on a pig are tucked right up behind the shoulder and with it getting dark I really didn't want to mess around on a tracking job. So I aimed right behind his ear where the spine connects to the head. Pigs have such a thick skull that a true heat shot is sometimes iffy, but tucking the shot in behind the ear is deadly.

My wife had our little canon camera with her this weekend so I had the Nikon DSLR and couldn't figure out how to take a timed picture with it so you don't get to see my ugly mug on this one.

Pigs are kind of like bears in the fact that they are pretty hard to judge the size without something else in the picture for a reference. I took this shot with just the rifle and the pig in it and the pig looks pretty small.

Then I took a picture with the cooler behind the pig for a reference. The cooler is a 68 quart cooler and is 30" long and 18" tall.

Gives a little different perspective to me anyway. I've shot almost 2 dozen pigs in the last 3 years and weigh most of them on a scale, but this pig wasn't going to set any records and I didn't feel like messing with it so I didn't weigh this one. I tried to load him up in the back of the truck to move him to the front of the property to carve him up, but I couldn't get him in the back of the truck. Either I was tired or he was heavier than I thought or maybe a little of both. I'm guessing him right around the 200lb mark based on other pigs that I've weighed.

Here's a look at the shot placement.

The amazing thing was that the bullet didn't exit. I should have spent some time figuring out excatly what happened to it, but it was late and I had an 1 1/2 drive left ahead of me so didn't mess with it.

I've got the meat on ice and will be turning him into sausage sometime this week. I'll probably turn the backstraps into Canadian Bacon and smoke them though, the last few I've done that with have turned out really good.

That's it for now. Nathan

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Oct-26-10, 
10:09 AM (MST)
19. "RE: Mmmm... Pork! + Elk hunt is less than a week away!"

Well I took some pictures of me processing the pig on our dining room table, but the camera is at home so I guess you won't get to experience those wonderful shots. Ended up with 40lbs of breakfast sausage and 10lbs of ham out of him.

Smoked his ribs over the weekend and they turned out really good. Smoked them with my electric smoker for about 8 hours at 225 and they ended up falling off the bone tender. 2 tips that really help out are to remove the membrane from the inside of the ribs (it's pretty easy to do) and covering them completely with foil for a few hours in the middle of the smoke. This pig had the perfect ribs to try this on as he was a fairly young pig and had plenty of fat on him, but I think I'll take more of an effort to take the ribs off pigs in the future especially if they are head shot like this one was.

I'm sitting here in my office basically on pins and needles for my hunt coming up this weekend. Going through all my packing supplies one last time and making sure I have everything I should need. Working on the menu for food for the week and getting everything ready with the travel trailer and the pickup. I guess this will be my first elk hunt where I will officially be the "in charge" guy. I'm responsible to make sure we have everything we are going to need for the week.

I've been going over the maps and google earth a few more times and have neglected working out. I've shot my rifle a few times and plan on shooting one more time before we leave. Checking the weather forecast and it looks like it will be pretty decent weather. Highs are forecast to be around 60 and lows right around 40 each day with no precipitation in the forecast right now. Hopefully the bulls will be focused on getting plenty to eat after the rut and moving up and down to the good forage during the night and then back up to bed in the thick stuff during the day.

My only concern is that I've focused so much on where I want to be on opening morning, that I'm going to be thrown for a loop if someone else decides that's where they want to be opening morning as well. Also I haven't really decided what I'm going to do if the opener ends up being a complete dud and the elk aren't anywhere around where I'm expecting them to be. I've got a few alternate spots, but I never did get a chance to scout one of them and I don't have any defined plans on when I'll switch if nothing is happening where I'm at. Lots of pressure on a 5 day hunt to be in the right spot on the first day.

Not sure if I'll get another post in before I leave or not. If I don't, hopefully I'll be posting some success pictures next time this thread is updated!

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Oct-28-10, 
03:03 PM (MST)
20. "Leaving tomorrow morning!"

Well I guess that wasn't my last post before I left.

I forgot about posting from my phone, and when I was out scouting last time I had pretty good cell coverage, so I may even be able to make a post or two while I'm out there.

Not sure if I will be able to post any pictures, but I will if I can figure it out.

Current plan is to leave the house no later than 7 am, and that will be sleeping in compared to when I'll be getting up during the hunt!

Did some quick searching and so far I'm at a dead end on uploading pictures straight from my iPhone, but I'll do some more searching.

Wish me luck, I'm sure I need it!

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Oct-30-10, 
07:16 PM (MST)
21. "Nothing so far"

Scouted the area I wanted to be on opening morning and saw a BEAUTIFUL 340+ bull come out of his bed to feed right before sunset. Was back in the same spot an hour before sunrise this morning but wasn't able to find him so far.

Passed on a 4 point at 65 yards this morning and elected not to go after a 260ish 6 x 5 that was about 600 yards off. Saw a few other 5 x 5 or smaller bulls as well.

Some bugling last night but the 2 largest bulls I've seen so far didn't even look up from feeding when the other bulls were talking.

I know there are some big boys around, now I just need to close the deal on one of them before someone else does.

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Nov-01-10, 
02:10 PM (MST)
22. "A bull is on the ground!"

Well the short story from my phone is that I have a bull on the ground and I'm happy with him!

He's quite a way back in there so I went ahead and pulled the easy way out and quartered him up and hung him in a tree overnight and hired some guys to pack him out, and they are in there packing him out with horses right now.

Not a monster by any standard but a nice respectable 6x6 and by far the biggest elk I've shot so I'm very happy with him! I'll post the full details and pictures either tonight, or probably tomorrow. I'm one tired and happy guy right now.

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Nov-03-10, 
00:21 AM (MST)
23. "Here's the novel!"

Well, Iím been thinking about how Iím going to post this for a few days now and still really havenít figured it out. Lots of stories to tell and not sure if I should put it all in one huge post or try to break it up into several different ones. I guess once I got it written it ended up mainly as one huge post. Believe it or not I still have a few stories to add to this, but Iíll do that later.

The area we were hunting is a limited entry area like all of New Mexico for elk. Only a certain number of tags are drawn each year and I was lucky enough to draw one of those tags this year. The first thing that you notice in the area we were hunting was that there were elk everywhere. I think the fewest elk we counted on any day that we were out hunting or scouting was 30. On the day that I shot my bull we saw 6 other bulls that were 5x5 or better. Amazing how many elk were in the area.

The other noticeable feature about the area we were hunting was that it was ROUGH. The day I shot my bull we were a little over 4 miles back and that might not sound like much, but trust me, it was! The terrain was very steep, but it was also loose and you were constantly slipping and trying not to fall down. There was also cactus of every type imaginable up there and you were getting poked by some cactus somewhere on your body about every 3rd step it seemed. My shins, hands and forearms look like I tangled up with a wild cat there are so many cuts, scratches and bruises on them. Even with my fancy new boots I struggled with blisters and ended up with blisters the size of silver dollars on the balls of both of my feet. Both heels had visible white hot spots about the size of a silver dollar that never ended up turning all the way into blisters and one of my big toes had a blister on it as well when it was all said and done. I sure hope I can get these boots figured out and that they will last a long time once I do get them figured out.

Iíve mentioned several times that I was very nervous and apprehensive about this hunt, mainly because of the tremendous numbers of unknowns involved. The first step that we had to deal with was finding a good camping spot. I had found a nice forest service campground right where I wanted to be, but most of the sites were setup for tent camping and not a travel trailer. There are something like 18 total campsites, but only 4 or 5 of them are big enough to park even our small travel trailer in. I left the house at 6:30 AM Friday morning and picked up my friend Ben who had actually volunteered to go with me. I was hoping to get to the campsite early enough to get a decent spot and when we pulled it at just after noon, we were happy to find out that there was still a few nice spots left and the one we were assigned to was actually the one that I would have chosen if all the other spots in the campsite were available. The first step on the journey was a success.

We ate lunch and the plan was to go up to where I was planning on being on opening morning and getting some waypoints set on my GPS so we would be able to get back where I wanted to be in the dark the next morning. Up the mountain we went and although I was in a little better shape than the last time I went up that particular slope in August, it still kicked my butt. We didnít see any really fresh sign, but when we got to where I wanted, we saw our first elk of the trip. 5 different spikes and a raghorn were bedded on the north facing slope right where they were supposed to be, the problem is that none of their dads or older brothers had read the books and had decided they should be somewhere else. We got our spot marked on the GPS and went on up the mountain a bit and looked over on the reservation and saw the dads and older brothers. I didnít keep a count of elk that we saw on the reservation side of the boundary, but it was a lot. Dozens. Saw one really nice bull and he was intent on one thing and one thing only, feeding. I bugled and cow called a few times and got immediate responses from bulls on the reservation each time. Either I got them riled up or they got themselves riled up, because even after I quit bugling, they kept on going. Except the big bull. He never looked up from feeding when I bugled or when one of the bulls over on the reservation with him bugled. He had more important things on his mind, like feeding.

After watching and listening to the elk on the reservation for a while and realizing that they were not going to even think about coming our way, we decided we should head back to camp. It had gotten a little bit later than we thought and we were going to have to hoof it to get back before dark. We started down the mountain and were marking a few more spots on the GPS on the way down and after seeing a few elk that turned into rocks after looking at them with binoculars I spotted a really nice bull about 700 yards on the other side of finger ridge we were on. We setup and looked him over pretty good and there was no doubt he was the bull I wanted to shoot if I could. We had plenty of distance between us and the reservation boundary and he was the bull of my dreams, literally. Iím a sucker for the big whale tails and thatís exactly what this guy had. Looking through the spotting scope I couldnít keep my eyes off his 12Ē 5ís and his main beams ran probably 18Ē past his 5ís and downward toward his back. We watched him for 15 or 20 minutes and he was all by himself feeding hard. Light was fading and I tried to get a few pictures of him but didnít get any that turned out very well at all. We hadnít planned on being on the mountain at dark and I didnít bring my headlamp or much else and we decided we better get moving. We didnít beat the dark getting off the mountain and stumbling back into camp after dark ended up becoming a recurring theme for the rest of the hunt.

Hereís the best picture I got of him through the binoculars as light was fading. Not much of a picture, but itís all I have.

We ate a quick supper and went to bed around 9:00 with our alarms set to 3:30 AM and planned to be headed up the mountain in the dark at 4:00. That would get us on a vantage point where we should be able to see the bull and make a move on him as he came back up the mountain to his bed the next morning. Needless to say I couldnít sleep. I was tired for sure after getting up at before 6:00 AM and driving 5 Ĺ hours and then hiking up and down the mountain, but that bull was in my head. His 4ís were really nice as well, but I realized I never even looked at his fronts I was so focused on his backs. I decided that he was for sure a 340Ēer and realistically could be up around 360Ē or maybe even a little bigger. I replayed everything in my head dozens of times trying to decide exactly what the best way to go after him in the morning.

After a sleepless and eventful night (Iíll save that for another post), I might have gotten an hour of sleep before the alarm went off at 3:30. We were headed up the mountain at 4:00 as planned and did pretty well hiking the steep loose slope in the dark. We were at the spot we had decided on the night before a full hour before shooting light. We ditched the spot I had planned on being on opening morning for the last 3 months the second we saw the big bull in a different spot. The next hour crawled by and we ate some breakfast that we had thrown in our packs before we headed up. Shooting light was just around the corner and we repositioned a little to get the best vantage point of the area we had seen the bull the night before and get as close as possible without giving up the wind or our elevation. Shooting light came and went and then sunrise came and went and there was no bull to be found. No elk to be found. We had heard some other hunters on horseback moving up the trail at the bottom of the canyon and originally thought that would work to our advantage and that they might push them up to us, but it didnít appear that was going to happen.

After waiting around a while longer we decided to head up to another spot and see what else was going on. We moved over near the spot I had originally planned on being on opening morning and saw some elk. Saw a small bull and either a cow or a spike way down in the bottom moving up and then saw a group of 6 bulls right on the reservation boundary. They were on our side of the boundary but just barely and it would have been really tricky too keep them on the right side of the boundary once the shooting started. They were about 600 yards off and the best bull of the bunch was a 6x5 that would probably go 270ish. After watching them for a while and trying to figure out where they were going to go we decided to push on.

As we were moving we heard a real low growly bugle maybe a couple hundred yards off on the reservation side of the ridge. We hunkered in and setup and waited to see what was going to happen. A few minutes later a spike comes through a saddle at 65 yards and a minute or so later a raghorn moves through in the same exact spot. After a few minutes I got impatient and make a few cow calls and the bull did the growly bugle again in about the same spot we had heard him originally. 30 minutes later and still no bull and I cow called again and didnít get a response. 15 minutes later I heard some of the wild horses neigh in close to the same spot and they didnít come over the saddle either. I thought we were okay on the wind, but up on the top of the ridge it was swirling around a little and in retrospect they must have been able to catch our scent at some point. After waiting a little while longer I moved around a bit and saw some wild horses a good Ĺ mile off on the reservation side of the boundary. Iím guessing thatís where the growly bull ended up as well. As usual there were at least a dozen elk over on the reservation. I didnít see any huge bulls and didnít see the bull from the night before over there but my gut feel says thatís exactly where he was.

Off we went again, up and up. We had heard a few shots by that time but not as many as I would have thought. Talking with the campground host the day before he said there were 2 other bull tags and 2 cow tags in camp but that was around noon and the campground had filled up quite a bit later that afternoon and evening. Across the canyon to the north we saw about 15 elk with one decent bull in it but they were close to a mile away and the main trail was between us and them so I figured even if we went after them someone else would get there first so we just watched them for a bit and then moved on. I was still thinking there was a chance we might see my bull somewhere.
Did I mention that we were moving up? Did I mention that it was steep and loose? Well it was, and we kept going. We got right up against the reservation boundary for a while and actually had to move off the top of the ridge to stay off the reservation.

Hereís a picture I took of the only sign I saw showing the boundary. Thankfully my GPS showed a clear line where the boundary was so I didnít have to rely on the signs.

What had looked like a good vantage point on the map and on google earth turned out to be a little too thick to see very well, but it turned into a decent place to eat lunch and take a nap. Sleep still eluded me, but Ben got some. I got antsy and moved around some. Saw a small Muley buck and heard some more wild horses but didnít see them. Went back over to where we had eaten lunch and did see a pretty good bull somewhere around 300Ē maybe a little better, but he was Ĺ mile away with a big canyon between us and the way the reservation boundary was where we were at we would have to drop pretty much all the way down and then back up to get to him. He looked like he was heading to a north facing slope to bed, but with the distance that we would have to cover and then the uncertainty of whether we could find him once we got there as well as the fact that the wind was wrong helped us decide not to go after him. Plus I was still thinking about the big bull we had seen on Friday night and wanted to be back there when it got closer to evening.
We decided to head back that way and got to another vantage point where we could see the area the big bull had been on Friday night and settled in. I posted a quick update on my hunt adventure challenge thread from my phone and checked and saw that Texas Tech was getting beat and tried to conjur up that big bull from my dreams. The wind was pretty gusty and one minute it would be blowing up the canyon and then the next minute it would be blowing down the canyon so Iím sure that wasnít helping anything. On the way over to where we were going to sit we found a couple decent sheds from this spring and that was surprising. I found a decent 5 point shed really close to the top of the ridgeline where anyone walking the ridge should have seen it. Ben found a nice 6 point shed a little farther off the ridgeline when he looked around a little thinking he might find the other side of my shed. The crazy thing is that I had walked the same ridge in August and didnít see either of them.

Somehow I got mixed up on the time difference and decided we needed to start heading off the mountain an hour early. We started heading down the ridgeline again and I found 2 more nice sheds. They were laying right beside each other and Iím pretty sure they are a matched set. One of them has a really neat abnormal point that Iíve never seen on an elk before. I realized that Iíd messed up on the time when sunset came and went based on what time I thought it was, and the sun was still up! We decided to hang out on the ridge a little while longer thinking we might see something come out to feed, but we didnít see anything else.

Hereís the sheds packed up and ready to head down the mountain.

At sunset we started heading off the mountain and realized we probably should have started earlier. It was less than Ĺ mile from where we were to the trail back to camp, but it took over an hour to make it down there. This was probably the steepest and loosest slope we were on the entire time we were out there. Mix in some deadfall and packs weighed down with sheds and tired legs and rapidly approaching darkness and we were VERY happy when we got to the trail for the last mile back into camp. It was after dark and that was the first time we had stepped on a trail the entire day. We ended up getting back to camp around 7:30 and ate a quick supper and were in bed by 9:00 again.

The sheds were a nice bonus, but I was pretty disappointed that we hadnít seen hide or hair of the big bull from Friday. Somewhere in there we had heard a barrage of shots down in the canyon below us that seemed to go on forever, at least 8 or 9 shots over a 5 minute span, and Iím sure that didnít help the big guy stick around if he was still anywhere near. If I had more patience and if I had been in better shape I might have decided to stick it out and keep looking for him in the same area each day, but we decided to try a different spot on Sunday a little farther away from the reservation boundary. It was pretty frustrating seeing elk only to know you couldnít go after them. We also decided that we were going to have a hard time keeping up the same pace for 4 more days and maybe we needed to think about a less strenuous day. Since we were going to an area that we hadnít been and didnít have any GPS coordinates marked there was no point in getting there in the dark so we decided to sleep in and set our alarms for 4:30 AM. After a little bit chores around camp and a light breakfast we were on the trail in the dark at 5:15. Shooting light found us about 2 Ĺ miles down the trail right about where we had hoped to be.

There was a nice ridgeline that looked like the place to be for a good vantage point so we started up. After getting to the first knob, we looked a little and decided we needed to go higher so we started up again. We sat for a minute and ate some more breakfast and I spotted a few cows about 300 yards below us on the south facing slope. We had noticed that the day before that in the mornings the elk were on the south facing slopes feeding into the morning and then moving either down and over the north facing slopes to bed or moving over the top of the south facing slope to bed on the other side of the ridge. I hung around a little bit thinking that the 3 cows might be part of a larger group and a bull might come up after them but something below them got their attention and they moved off.

After waiting a bit the recurring theme started playing out and we headed on up the ridge again. As we were heading up I happened to look behind us and saw the biggest black bear Iíve ever seen in the wild. At first glance I thought it was a grizzly with a shoulder hump and the whole works. It was a dark brown color and fully furred out for winter and about as fat as a bear can get I would think. Iím pretty sure thatís what the elk had seen and I understood their desire to move out seeing him. He was actually following the same path we had taken up the ridge so that kept our attention checking our backs for a while, but he must have decided to go another direction because we never saw him again.

So, on up the ridge we went. We found a nice spot to sit and glass and the mountain was alive with elk. We saw several way down in the bottom but they all appeared to be cows or spikes, then we saw a group of about 15 above us about Ĺ mile and they had one decent bull in with them. Then we saw another bull on our side of the ridge and he looked pretty decent as well. We also spotted another black bear and this was a sow with 2 cubs. After watching a while, there was another bull with the larger group of elk and he was for sure worth a closer look. With a little added spring in our step we started up the ridgeline again. We hit a big rock outcropping and had to decide how to tackle it. There was a fairly established game trail going around it on the same side of the ridge that we had seen all the elk but I was worried they might see us and decide to move out so I started us around the other side of the outcropping.

A few hundred yards of that and it was pretty easy to see why the established game trail went around the other side. Lots of rocks, lots of cactus and brush and not much in the way of an easy way anywhere around on that side of the ridge, but we pushed on. Weíd made some pretty good progress and were getting fairly close to where it was time to start thinking about going back up on the top of the ridgeline when we spotted some more elk on this side of the canyon. First we saw 3 bulls and they all looked pretty decent then we spotted another bull a little closer and he was for sure a decent 6x6. They were about 1,000 yards away, but there wasnít any real cover to help us put a sneak on them. They were very focused on feeding and seemed oblivious to us so we decided to just press on and move as quietly as we could.

We got to the top of the ridgeline and make some pretty quick progress out of sight of the group of bulls and dropped back over thinking we should be getting fairly close. Weíd gotten closer, but we could only find 1 bull now and he was still 600 yards away. The side of the ridge was even rockier, steeper and had more cactus and brush than before, but we decided to just go after him. Originally I thought about leaving Ben there to keep watch on the bull so if he moved off he could tell me where he went as I put a stalk on him, but as we were trying to figure out what we wanted to do the bull started moving and went behind some trees. We decided to both move closer and try to keep an eye on the bull if he moved off.
We ended up dropping into a little trough and then back up on a finger ridge and thought that would put us right where we wanted to be. The wind was still decent, but the forecast was for it to switch from the west and that would be bad if it did so we didnít want to give them the chance to wind us and move out if we could help it. We snuck up on the top of the finger expecting to see our bachelor group of elk waiting for us and were greeted by nothing. As the way it goes with hunting so many times, you work hard on getting where you think you want to be only to find out that the animals had a different plan than you did. Dejected we sat down and started thinking about our next move.

There were still at least 3 bulls on the other side of the big ridgeline from us that were definitely an option. They might have had a chance to bed by then, but 2 of them were with a pretty good group of cows and surely we would be able to find them if we tried. The bad part of that plan was that we had dropped several hundred feet of elevation coming down to the finger ridge thinking we were stalking the bachelor group of bulls and we had that plus several hundred feet more to climb back over the top of the ridge.

I was about to pull some comfort food out of my pack when two 5x5 bulls came out of the trees 300 yards away from us, right where they were supposed to be! We were sitting pretty much out in the open on the finger ridgeline, but they seemed oblivious to us. We looked them over pretty good and they were both decent 5x5ís, but neither were the 300Ē 6x6 minimum that I had set for myself. Even with the minimum I had set for myself I was thinking about shooting one of these bulls. It wasnít like we werenít seeing any elk, we were seeing tons of elk, and it wasnít like we hadnít seen any good bulls, we had seen a great bull and a couple other pretty good ones, but when it came down to it, I was tired and wondering if I could take this for another 3 days. There is also a big difference in seeing a bull 800 yards away and having one right there in shooting range. I also thought that there had been 4 bulls in the area and for sure one of them was a 6x6 so I decided to go ahead and get closer and see if I could see one of the other bulls that we had seen from back on the ridgeline.

I grabbed my shooting sticks and my rifle and headed toward them. Ben stayed put this time where he could see them and pulled the video camera out to see if he could get a good video of them. They had started sparring a little and it was pretty neat just to watch them. I debated bringing my rangefinder, but for some reason left it and started putting on a stalk. With the bulls sparring and some pretty decent cover it wasnít a very hard stalk. I got to about 200 yards away and setup the shooting sticks and got ready to make a decision. I kept my eyes open just in case I might see one of the other bulls and about the time I got setup I saw another bull up the canyon a couple hundred yards! I could see it was a good bull with my naked eye, but through the binoculars it was a definite 6x6, the same one we had seen earlier from up on the ridge. I quickly swung my rifle around and got my shooting sticks setup and got ready. I had just been seriously considering shooting a 270Ēish 5x5 so there was no doubt in my mind that a 6x6 was on the list. I felt pretty steady and amazingly calm and squeezed off the first shot. The bull didnít seem to move a muscle. I cycled the bolt and took aim and squeezed off another shot. The bull lurched forward and then stopped. I cycled the bolt, took aim and squeezed off another shot. The bull went down and he went down hard.

Iíve always been told that on an elk you keep shooting as long as they are standing even if you feel good about the shot, and then you stay ready to shoot again if they try to get back up. It was a good thing that my bull didnít attempt to get back up because I had been foolish enough to leave the rest of my ammo with my pack a hundred yards up the finger ridge. Iím not sure if I was just that confident in my shooting or if I had doubts in the back of my mind on whether I would be willing to shoot one of the 5x5 bulls or what, but I should have never left the rest of my ammo in my pack, plus I should have at least put another cartridge in my magazine after chambering the first round before I started my stalk. Then I would have at least had 1 more shot if I had needed it. Hopefully that will be a lesson learned and I got away with it this time at least.

I started looking around for my casings and for some reason couldnít find a bright silver casing right at my feet. After spending what seemed to be an eternity looking for my empty cases I gave up on finding the 3rd one and started heading up to where Ben and our packs were. I looked back over to where the two 5x5 bulls had been sparring as was surprised to see them standing there looking at me! Iíd shot 3 times just a couple hundred yards away from them and they hadnít run off. I sent a text to Ben that Iíd shot a bull because from where he was sitting he couldnít see down into the canyon where the bull I had shot was and didnít know what I was shooting at. I got back to him and the two 5x5ís were just then deciding that they should probably move out, but even then they didnít run off, but just walked quickly over the next finger ridge. I didnít ever see the 4th bull of the group, but Ben thought he saw it move out right when I first started shooting. We never did get a spotting scope on that 4th bull so Iím not sure exactly what it was, but I know it wasnít a monster so Iím not that worried about whether it might have scored a few inches more or less than the bull I ended up shooting.

After I got back to Ben I told him that I had shot a decent 6x6 and he hadnít read my text yet so was wondering what was going on. With the first shot he had expected one of the 5x5ís weíd been watching to drop and then after the 2nd shot he figured out I was shooting at something else and then after the 3rd shot he was wondering if I was missing or what was going on. I sat and collected my thoughts for a bit and then we gathered up our packs and started over to where he had went down. I had watched him go down and he had rolled down the slope a bit but didnít move afterwards so I didnít think there was much of a point of waiting very long. Maybe 50 yards that direction and we could see him through a gap in the trees and he wasnít moving so we knew everything was good.

Hereís a picture of the side of the finger ridge that he was on. If you know exactly where to look you can actually see him laying there in this picture, just a white spot about 1/3rd of the way from the left and about ľ of the way from the bottom of the picture.

We dropped down into the little draw and climbed back up the other side and things hadnít gotten any flatter just because we had a bull on the ground. If anything things may have gotten even steeper! Just climbing up the 50 or 60 yards out of the bottom to him was a chore, and even though he hadnít moved an inch from where we had seen him last, it still took about 10 minutes to find him.

Here he is the way we found him. He had rolled down the slope about 10 or 15 yards and come to rest on this game trail. The large cut you see just under his right leg is from the fall, not from a bullet. He has a few scrapes on his antlers from the rocks, but it didnít look like anything had broken off.

Anyone who has ever had an elk on the ground knows that is when the work starts. Itís hard to tell in the pictures, but where he ended up wasnít exactly level ground. The game trail was almost like a ledge but we worked on getting him setup on the trail to take some pictures and start butchering him and it wasnít going to work. There was another wider game trail a few yards below the one he ended up on so we ended up sliding/dragging/rolling him down to it. Even then it was still quite a chore just getting him setup to take pictures of and having a reasonably level spot to work on getting him quartered up. Iíve talked to people who have stories of having to tie the elk to a tree to keep it from sliding down the hill while they are quartering it and the only thing that kept us from having to do that was the game trail that we were able to get him on.

Here are the glory shots. You can get a feel for how steep it is by the fact that Iím a couple feet below him and Ben was several feet above us just to get the picture taken. If you look off to the right side of the picture you can see that it is nearly straight down over there.

Here's the front view.

It quickly became evident that I had been deceiving myself when I had originally thought that I could handle this by myself. When I had shot my bull in Wyoming I had practiced moving it around a bit by myself and had done all the quartering and deboning and felt pretty good that I could handle it by myself. On a steep slope with a little larger bull it would have been a nightmare. I think I probably could have gotten him quartered up and deboned, but getting him caped out and keeping the meat clean would have been nearly impossible. Even with both of us it was work getting him moved around and flipping him over after we had the quarters and backstrap off the first side. I did struggle a little with keeping my knife sharp and that didnít help, but I was VERY thankful to have Ben along to help! Even taking good pictures would have been difficult, we had a hard time getting a decent timed picture with both of us in there. This is the best one we were able to get.

Hereís Ben with the elk.

I had tentatively set some guidelines on whether we were going to try to pack the elk out if I got one or if we were going to hire someone to pack it out on horses for us. The guidelines I had set was that if I shot one less than a mile from camp then we were going to for sure pack it out. If I shot one between 1 and 3 miles from camp, it was going to be decided on a case by case scenario (how rough it was, how much the packer was going to charge, etc.), and if it was over 3 miles from camp then I was going to for sure hire it packed out. According to my GPS we were 4.31 miles in so one of the first things I did was start calling numbers I had of people that would pack out animals. My first call was at 10:30 AM about 1 minute after I saw my bull go down. The bad thing was that I kept getting voicemails and not actually getting a hold of anyone.

Regardless of who was going to do the packing out, the first order of business was getting him quartered up and caped out so we set to work. About 3 hours later (did I mention I was having a hard time keeping my knife sharp?) he was quartered up and caped out and pretty much ready to go. The bad thing is that I still hadnít heard back from anyone on the pack out. In retrospect, I should have called beforehand and made arrangements for a potential packout, but I had thought that would be presumptuous of me since the first order of business was actually getting a bull on the ground before lining up someone to pack him out, but after not connected with anyone after over 4 hours I started to get worried. I called a friend and got some more numbers and called all of them and left more voicemails with each number. I still had yet to actually talk with someone.

We needed to get the quarters up in a tree and away from the carcass so Ben moved the quarters down in a cool shaded area about 100 yards from the carcass while I spent the time on the phone trying to find a packer. Ben earned his keep there! A little time spent throwing rocks tied to ropes over tree branches (and then throwing rocks into trees to free up misplaced throws) and we had the quarters hung. They werenít the best but it was as good as we could do with what we had. An item I probably need to add to my pack is a pulley. The rope over the tree limb created a lot of friction so when you tried pulling it up it wouldnít go. I lifted then pushed them over my head while Ben pulled and we could get the quarters about 7 feet off the ground and that was going to have to do. If a bear really wanted them, it would be able to get to them, but we hoped that by moving them away from the carcass and getting them up off the ground that would at least make a bear have to work to get to them and for sure would keep any coyotes off of them.

Hereís a picture of the quarters in the tree.

After still not hearing from anyone the plan became that Ben would pack out the backstraps, tenderloins and neck meat and I would pack out the head and cape that night and if we still hadnít heard from anyone we would come back in the morning and start packing out the rest. The weather wasnít too bad and it was supposed to get in the lower 40ís upper 30ís overnight so the meat would be fine from that perspective. I loaded up the head and cape on my pack and got ready to head out. When we got ready to hang the quarters I had to take my pack back off and to my surprise, the antlers made a pretty good pack stand.

Iím going to have to buy a scale to leave in the trailer to actually weigh some of these loads. The last time I caped out an animal I almost didnít leave enough cape for the taxidermist so this time I wanted to make sure I left plenty and probably went overboard. With the cape and the head and the antlers along with my gun and everything else that was already in my pack I was for sure carrying a HEAVY load. On top of being heavy, it was awkward and wide with the antlers catching on every tree, brush and cactus on the way. The drainage we were in was steep and loose like everywhere we had been and the main goal continued to be to keep from falling down. Hereís a picture of me starting the packout with the head and cape.

Iíd looked at a few other ways that folks had the heads on their packs, and the best way looked like the way I had it, but I needed something to keep the head straight up and the antlers straight down. I didnít want to tie anything around the nose of the elk because I was afraid it would rub so I just left it like this. If it looks awkward, believe me, it was.
I pulled the trigger at 10:30 that morning and by the time we had everything hung and were actually packing out it was a little after 4:00. The going was rough and I was tired. I gave it my best effort and about ľ mile down the drainage in some very rough and steep stuff, I made an executive decision that we were going to have to come back in the morning for the head and figure out how to get the rest out if we couldnít find a packer. It was going to require more than 1 trip in and out if we were going to be packing it out so I decided I would rather carry it out in the morning on fresh legs than continuing on with tired legs and heading down an unknown drainage (we came in on the ridgeline) potentially in the dark at the rate I was going.

I found a tree that looked like it would work and we put the head up in the fork of the tree. It was about 6í off the ground and I left my vest on it thinking that it would maybe keep a bear honest with the human scent. We tied it the best we could with the parachute cord I had in my pack and divided up the rest of the meat and headed on back to camp a whole world lighter! Hereís the head in the tree where we left it.

We were making good time then, but between going at a snails pace while I had the head and cape on my pack and finding a tree and getting the head secured in it, it was getting even closer to dark. I wasnít really happy about leaving the head as it for sure had a higher risk of being bear food than the quarters did but I was hoping it would be okay. Probably 30 minutes later I finally get a call back from one of the packers I had left a message with only to find out that he is out of the state and canít help me. He said he would try to find someone else for me, so I felt a little better having actually talked to a person.

Another mistake I made was not having enough water with me. I have a 3 liter hydration bladder and it has always been plenty in the past, but between the difficult terrain and the effort spent quartering up the elk I was completely out by the time we were headed down the mountain toward camp. It wasnít a huge problem because we were just 2 or 3 hours from camp, but I sure was thirsty. As we got into the main part of the drainage we saw the welcome sight of running water. Things also started to flatten out and we even hooked up with a trail that turned out to be decent! About that time I got a call from another guy who said he could come and pack the meat out in the morning! Life was good! A few iodine tablets and 30 minutes later life was really good!

Hereís a picture of the creek bottom. It really was pretty with the sun going down. The bad part was that we were still over 3 miles from camp.

A couple hours later, and lots of whining on my part, we were back at camp a little after 8:00. My body was tired, but my feet were screaming. I guess I still havenít figured out my fancy new boots because I ended up with 2 big blisters on the ball of each foot and on one of my big toes and both heals had visible hot spots the size of a silver dollar that hadnít quite turned into blisters yet. I actually had mole skin on the balls of both feet on the 2nd day and I still ended up with blisters. As soon as we got back to camp I heard back from another one of the packers I had left a message with and they also said they could pack the meat out in the morning, and at quite a bit cheaper price than the first guy that had called back, but since I had already made a deal with the first guy I told them thanks but I already had it taken care of.

We sprung for our best dinner option that we had available which was soft tacos and ended up in bed around 10:00 after sending out messages and calling folks telling them about our success. The only problem was that I was still a little worried about the meat and the head back up on the mountain and hoping that everything would be okay come morning. Another sleepless night was ahead of me, but I think I managed 3 or 4 hours of sleep when it was all said and done.

I met the packers the next morning there at camp and gave them my GPS with the coordinates marked where the head and the quarters were. I had thought there was going to be one guy with 3 horses but it ended up being 2 guys, 2 horses and a small mule. They reassured me that everything would be fine and we made sure we had each otherís phone numbers and they head up the mountain to get the meat around 8:00. With nothing left for us to do, we headed into town to get a hot breakfast and buy some ice to have it ready when they got back.

After a good breakfast we got back to camp and started getting ready to head home. I asked the packers how long it would take them and they said 3 or 4 hours so I wanted to be ready to go when they got back. We got the truck hitched up to the trailer, everything sorted and organized and were pretty much ready to go around noon. Noon stretched into 1:00 then 2:00 and I started to get worried again. The campground host said that he thought that it was a mistake to left it up there overnight and everyone that he had seen do that had ended up with most of it eaten by bears so that didnít help my anxiety any. I tried calling the packer at 2:00 but he didnít answer his cell phone. We decided to go ahead and eat lunch and there wasnít anything else we could do but wait.

Around 3:00 I heard hoof steps and some a cowboy clicking his tongue encouraging his horse to keep moving and I was very happy to see them coming into camp! I ran over to check it out and it looked like everything was fine. Hereís a picture of them coming into camp.

One thing for sure, hiring them to pack it out for me was worth every penny! A job that took them 7 hours on horses would have taken us at least 2 days to get it out. The horses were drenched in sweat and I felt pretty sorry for that little mule. I had thought they would divided the meat up a little and carry some of it out with the horses but that little mule carried all 4 quarters plus the head and cape! Hereís a picture of him as they came into camp.

We were pretty much all packed up and ready to go so we got the meat in the coolers, got the ice on it and we were head out within 10 or 15 minutes. I never did get a good picture of the campsite we were staying, but it really was a nice place. Hereís a picture of the back of the truck as we stopped to check on things on the way home that afternoon.

With the sheds back there and the antlers from my bull sticking way up out of the truck I thought we might get some waves or comments at the gas stations on the way home, but no one seemed to notice or care from I could tell. I was sure one happy hunter on the way home though!

That's it for this post! I've got a few more follow ups to go and actually am headed out on another hunt this weekend!

Nathan

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npaden
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Nov-06-10, 
06:36 PM (MST)
24. "Mule deer hunt - day 1"

Back in New Mexico for my mule deer hunt. Ended up with 9 miles logged on the gps and my feet seem to be holding up pretty good. It is amazing how much difference 4,000 feet of elevation and the lack of loose steep terrain can make. I put in more miles today than any day on my elk hunt and I never felt out of breath or like I needed to stop and rest to keep from having a heart attack!

Saw one nice shooter buck but didn't get the deal closed on him. Saw 30+ does and fawns this morning along with 12 bucks and saw 13 does and fawns and 2 bucks in a different area this evening. A couple of the bucks were tempting in the 150" maybe 160" class that I could have shot, but they were pretty easy to pass on opening day. The buck I wanted to shoot, but couldn't close the deal on was probably pushing 180" as a clean mainframe 5x5 with good deep forks and around 28" wide. Not super tall, but a real nice deer. I'm going to try to be in the same area again tomorrow morning and hopefully end up with a different result!

The daughter of the people who are letting me park my travel trailer on their farm killed a crazy looking buck with a massive spike on one side that measured 9" circumference at the base today. I helped them quarter it up and get it iced down in a cooler. I'm going to use my beetles to clean the skull for her so she can do a European mount on it.

That's about it for now. Hopefully I'll be posting up some more glory shots with a nice mule deer soon!

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npaden
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Nov-07-10, 
11:10 AM (MST)
25. "Mule deer hunt - day 2"

Well I'm back home with a nice mature buck in the back of the truck.

He's not a monster, but he was for sure a mature buck. I'll post up pictures and details tomorrow hopefully. Logged 16+ miles on the gps over the 2 days with 2.5 of that packing him out.

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npaden
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Nov-08-10, 
02:48 PM (MST)
26. "Mule deer hunt - Story and Pictures"

Well Iím back from New Mexico with a nice mature mule deer. This was an interesting hunt because I really wasnít sure what my expectations were on what kind of deer I was willing to shoot. I usually go into a hunt with an idea of what size of animal it is going to take to get me to pull the trigger, but after putting all my focus on my elk hunt this year, I really hadnít had much time to think about my mule deer hunt.

I stayed at my friendís farm like I did last year, but this year since I had a public land tag and they were going to be hunting there place I decided to hunt on the neighborís state land instead of hunting on their place. I logged a lot of miles on my gps and saw lots of deer, but no real monsters. There should be some pretty good hunting for several years to come based on the number of good young bucks that I saw though.

Opening day was Saturday and I spent most of it walking. I hadnít scouted out the area I was going to hunt and based on my interpretation of the hunting regulations Iím not sure I really could scout that area because it is state leased lands, so I slept in until 6:00 AM and started walking just a few minutes before shooting light. I was a little worried about my feet because of the blisters from the elk hunt, but I bought some new inserts for my boots that seem like they are really going to help and I had the bottom of my feet nearly covered in moleskin and they held up really well. It really was amazing how much easier it was to hike at 4,000 feet elevation instead of 8,000 feet and on some nice up and down sand hills instead of loose steep mountains.

On Sunday I decided that I needed to leave out earlier so I could have the sun come up to my back instead of hunting into the sun so I set my alarm for 5:00 AM which was 4:00 AM with the daylight savings change. I was out walking in the dark at about 4:30 and got a little over 2 miles in before it started getting close to shooting light. I got to the top of the nearest sandhill and watched for a while. I saw some bucks about 600 yards off and a couple of them were fighting pretty good, not just your normal sparring match. I decided to move in on them and get a closer look. A few route changes here and there and I was less than 200 yards and watching them. Turned out they were the same 3 bucks that I had seen the day before in almost the same location. One of them was a really nice 5x5 that was tall, but not very wide yet. He will be a really nice buck next year if he makes it. The other two were wider but one was a 3x4 and the other was a 3x3. I watched them for a while and decided to try my luck elsewhere.

Since those bucks were in the same spot as the day before I decided to go back where I had seen the shooter buck the day before. I saw a few does on the way and another nice 5x5 that needed another year. I happened to watch him going into some brush to bed down and even though I saw him go in there it took me a while to find him again once he bedded down. I was around 100 yards away from him and he ended up bedding down with his back to me and his face into the wind which I thought was odd.

I altered my route to go around where he was bedded so I didnít blow him out and spook anything else and instead blew out 5 does that were on the other side of the hill. Some of the does and fawns seem to just stop and stare at you from 50 yards away and then slowly move off, but these didnít like something and one blew pretty hard even though I was downwind from them. They moved off 400 yards or so and stopped then slowly moved off. As I was watching them I saw a nice buck with deep forks. I backed up to the other side of the hill and started moving around it. I had to go closer to the buck that had bedded down, but if I blew him out he would go away from where the nice buck I saw was. He stayed put and I moved around and found that there wasnít just one buck where the does had gone by, but two. Both looked pretty good.

I watched for a while and ranged them and they were 286 yards off. The first one I had seen had nice deep forks and was a very pretty 5x5. A few of his tines almost looked like they were webbed together at the bottom of the forks. He was right at his ears on his inside spread and overall a pretty nice buck. Probably right at 160Ē. The other buck was noticeably bigger and older and looked crazy tall. His fronts werenít much, and I never did get to see him turn his head enough to get an idea of his spread, but I was going to struggle to decide which of these bucks deserved a bullet.

After watching a while I decided that I could back out and get closer to them. I went back around the hill and ended up walking within 30 yards of where the first buck was bedded down. I kept expecting him to bust out of there like a freight train, but he never did. The brush he was bedded in was really thick and I never did actually see him in the brush as I walked by, but I sure never saw him leave and am pretty sure he was in there the entire time.

I ended up on another hill and this time I was right at 200 yards away from the 2 bucks. I probably watched them for 15 minutes this time and still had no clue which one I wanted to shoot. The younger 5x5 was dozing hard and his head would droop down as he dozed off into la la land. One thing I thought was interested was how close together they were bedded. They couldnít have been more than a couple feet apart from each other using the same piece of sagebrush for shade. I debated on blowing a cow call or something to see if I could get them to stand up for a shot and ended up deciding that I was going to try to move in closer. They were bedded down for the duration and werenít going anywhere anytime soon.

I backed out and went around the side of the hill and started moving in on them. When I was up on the hill I made sure I had the spot they were at identified so I would be able to get about 100 yards away and decide what I wanted to do once I was there, but as I moved over toward them, the sandhill ridges started looking all alike. I started to second guess myself and which ridge they should be on when the younger 5x5 stood up about 25 yards away from me. After a split second, he turned and ran straight away and then the older buck stood and ran all in one smooth motion without offering me a shot when he first stood up. Somewhere in there I decided I wanted to shoot the older buck even if he wasnít going to score as well as the younger one.

They were both running almost dead away from me, but then they angled just a little bit to the left and I thought I had an opening to squeeze a shot in. It was about a 100 yard shot and I took the shot offhand. I recovered from the shot and cycled the bolt and looked down a split second for my brass, and when I looked up I didnít see him. The younger buck was still out ahead and I cow called with my diaphragm and he stopped and turned broadside at 150 yards and stared at me. I kept scanning for the older buck, but he had disappeared. After what seemed like a minute the younger buck started off again and I headed after them. I saw a white patch in the sagebrush, but it didnít look like a deer so I was still thinking I must have missed and the older buck must have cleared on out before the younger one somehow. As I got closer, the white spot looked like a deerís nose and sure enough, it was the older buck, piled up in the sagebrush. He was down for the count.

The bullet had entered his left side just in front of his hindquarter. I looked for an exit in his front but couldnít find one. When I caped him out I found my bullet right under the skin in front of his right shoulder. It turned out to be a perfect (lucky) shot and he must have dropped so fast that I never saw it happen. You could see that he had plowed up some sagebrush as he fell, and actually ended up almost on his back with his nose up in the air and his antler caught in one last clump of sage.

I wasnít disappointed when I got to him. He was for sure a mature buck and although he wasnít going to score very well, I was happy with him. His backs go almost straight up and look even taller than they really are. His is missing an eye guard and a fork on his right side, but I can live with that. Iím curious to pull his jawbone and see what it looks like. Iím guessing he is a 5 Ĺ year old or older.

Here are the glory pics. I learned my lesson last year on the self timed pictures and actually made sure the camera was focusing on the deer and not on a clump of grass in front of the camera this time.

Here he is by himself.

And a timed shot using my backpack as a tripod.

I caped him out and am going to give the cape to my taxidermist and do a european mount on him myself. The deer in that area are the fattest game animals Iíve ever seen. This guy had about 2Ē of fat on his back and you basically had to skin the fat off to get to his backstraps to cut them out. They are big bodied animals as well. Iím guessing this guy was pushing 250lbs live weight.

I had right at 1 ľ miles to pack him out and instead of killing myself I went ahead and did it in 2 loads. First load was Ĺ the meat plus my gun and everything I had in my pack (including a spotting scope), and then on the second trip I emptied out my pack and carried out the head and the other Ĺ of the meat. My friend came with me on the 2nd trip and although she didnít help carry anything she was there for moral support and took some pictures of my packing out.

Here's a farther off shot showing some of the terrain.

That country doesnít look like much, but it sure is packed with deer.

Hereís a tailgate shot with the results of the weekend. The buck on the right is the crazy buck that the daughter of my friend shot on the first day. I nicknamed him ďIgorĒ. The one on the left was shot by my friendís brother. Real nice mainframe 5x5 with a kicker coming off his right G3. It scored right at 164Ē. My buck is in the middle and rough scored only 144Ē, but you can see that he looks to be the biggest of the bunch at first glance. Iím happy with him and I guess thatís the important thing.

This morning we took our traditional glory shots at the house with Eli. He thought it was a big one. I canít wait for the days when he can go out with me on these hunts!

I was going to dress him in jeans this morning to take the pictures, but he was adamant that he wanted to be in all camo.

I think thatís pretty much it for this post. Overall a very successful hunt in my opinion. If I can close the deal on a nice whitetail on my hunting property here in Texas it will be pretty hard to top this yearís hunting season even with striking out on antelope.

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npaden
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Nov-10-10, 
09:40 PM (MST)
27. "Only in New Mexico!"

I posted this in my hunt adventure challenge thread, but it takes a while to update sometimes so I'm going to post the whole thing here as well.

In my post on my New Mexico Elk hunt, I mentioned that something went down on the night before the opening day of the season that I would expand on later. Well, Iím finally getting back to that.

After scouting that afternoon I was tired and we decided on a 3:30 AM wake up call so we tried to go to bed around 9:00 PM that night. Of course my head was filled with thoughts of the 350 class bull we had seen and the key thing for me was that I ďtriedĒ to sleep. I just couldnít get my mind to quit racing so for the most part I was just lying there hoping to maybe get some sleep before the alarm rang.

Somewhere around 10:00 or so I heard some folks in one of the other campsites arguing. I didnít think much of it other than I wished they would be quiet and go to bed so I might be able to get some sleep. A little while later they fire up a generator and I can hear them arguing again, but after a little while they shut the generator off and seemed to quiet down. I didnít look at my clock so my timeline is probably off, but around midnight they started shooting off fireworks! Insanity!

I got out of bed and looked out the window of the trailer and was surprised to see flames about 20 feet in the air over at their campsite! The first thing I thought of was whether or not I needed to get the truck hooked up to the trailer and get it moving out of there, but the wind was fairly calm and actually blowing away from us so it looked like we were pretty safe. Ben got up (I think he had actually been asleep unlike me) and we watched the fire for a while and tried to figure it out. Somewhere in there we heard an explosion and the flames were even higher. A few more small explosions and the fireworks are still going off and I decided that some of the juniper trees must have caught on fire and the popping noise was knots in the wood as it burned. About that time the campground manager got over there with his forest service truck with a tank of water and started spraying it all down. He didnít seem to be very aggressive in getting in close with the hose and we figured out why when we heard even a bigger explosion that had to have been a propane tank. Then we figured out that it was a travel trailer that was on fire, not a juniper tree!

We watched for a while longer, but I was tired and the alarm was less than 4 hours away so I went back to bed. I heard the campground manager make a trip for a second tank of water but it seemed that things were pretty much under control. An hour or so after the fire started a couple fire trucks arrived, but the fire was already out by then thanks to the campground manager and his forest service truck. Somewhere in there I finally did get some sleep, but it sure didnít feel like it when the alarm went off at 3:30 AM.

We left camp in the dark and got back to camp in the dark for the next couple days so we didnít know what had actually happened. I hadnít ever worried about our trailer burning down before, but it got me thinking about the propane heater, propane fridge, propane water heater, stove, oven, etc. and wondered how the fire could have started. I came up with about a dozen different ways the fire could have started but never had a chance to find out.

After I shot my bull and we were waiting around camp for the packers to come back with it, we had a chance to talk to the campground manager and find out the story. It is so unbelievable that I had a hard time believing it, but there is a saying that Iíve used many times that seems to apply here. ďOnly in New Mexico.Ē

The folks at the campsite next to us were two brothers and two of their friends. The campground manager knew them and said they were a pretty rough crowd. Evidently when they got to arguing, he snuck over in the trees around their campsite to see what they were up to and make sure they didnít get too far out of hand. I have no idea how much alcohol they consumed, but Iím guessing it was a lot!

This is the story that the campground manager told us. I have no reason to not believe what he said, there may be a few holes in the story, but that could be as much of my recollection of the story as anything else. Iíve been checking the Ruidoso News website to see if there is a story on this, but the website is a bit out of date and so far nothing similar has been posted.

Evidently the two brothers ended up getting into a heated argument. From what the campground manager said, this wasnít anything new. What was new was that this time the argument escalated out of control. At one point in the argument one of the brothers pulls a gun to shoot his brother. One of the friends sees this and knocks the pistol out of his hand. The brother that pulled the gun then reaches down and pulls a knife and swings out and cuts his brotherís throat! Thankfully the cut wasnít deep enough to cut the jugular, but according to the camp manager it required 28 stitches to close.

So the friends come to the brotherís aide that just had his throat cut and proceed to beat the brother that did the throat cutting senseless. Evidently the brother that had his throat cut was still okay enough to get in some punches and kicks and the brother that did the throat cutting ended up in worse shape than the one that got his throat cut. Missing teeth, etc. After beating him senseless, the friends and the brother with the throat cut jumped in a truck and headed down the mountain and ended up at the hospital to get medical attention for the cut throat.

The brother that was left who did the throat cutting, evidently wasnít down for too long because according to the campground manager he proceeded to get up, grab a 5 gallon can of gasoline, soak the travel trailer with it and light it on fire! Iím not sure exactly what the campground manager was doing here and didnít think to ask him, but Iím assuming that the gun was still around there somewhere and Iím not sure I would want to confront someone who had just pulled a gun on his brother and then cut his throat.

The brother then jumped in his truck and headed down the mountain leaving a travel trailer ablaze behind him.
The rest of the night unfolded as we had seen, the big difference was that the fire was by no means and accident. The fireworks that we had heard was ammo exploding in the fire. It must have been several hundred rounds popping off over the course of the fire.

Talking with a few different folks, we really werenít in that much danger from the ammo exploding as the bullet needs the barrel to really gather enough pressure to go somewhere and do some damage. Without the chamber of the barrel it might hurt you if you are within a few feet of it, but we were probably 50 yards away and not in too much danger. We couldnít find any evidence that the trailer or the pickup were hit by any flying debris.

Still nothing in the news, but talking to the campground manager, even if the brother who got his throat cut and his trailer burned down wonít press charges against his brother they are going to pursue charges against him for reckless endangerment for starting a huge fire in the middle of a national forest service campground were 30 or more people were staying that night. If things had gone differently and the wind had picked up it could have gotten out of hand really quickly and put everyone in the campsite at risk.

We took a couple pictures of the burned up trailer. It was a really nice 5th wheel trailer and I had actually thought about going over and talking with those guys that afternoon before we headed off to get some scouting in. In retrospect Iím pretty happy I kept my distance. Not much left of the trailer.

I think some of the smaller explosions were heard were the tires and maybe the generator. It really is amazing that none of the trees around the campsite caught on fire, the flames were at least 20 feet tall.

Not much that was even identifiable let alone salvageable.

So that was our first night in camp! You canít say that is was uneventful thatís for sure!

Nathan

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npaden
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Nov-13-10, 
12:56 PM (MST)
28. "Back in Texas"

Well I'm back in Texas and deer hunting on my own property for the first time this year. After all the time and effort I've put into it over the year planting food plots, filling feeders, etc., it looks like I'm only going to get a chance to hunt it maybe 4 or 5 times over the course of a 2 month season because of all the other hunts I ended up going on this year.

Last night I sat on a 14' tripod stand over my best foodplot and saw 7 does and 1 young (probably 2 1/2) 8 point. The does were within 50 to 100 yards of me for almost an hour and they smelled me a couple times, but never figured me out enough to bust me. Next summer I need to change up how I have the ladder set so I can get out easier if the deer are still in the field.

I've seen two bucks so far this morning in my big shooting house setup overlooking my feeders and a couple other foodplots that are pretty much a bust so far. One of them was "Stubby" and he is a mature buck and is on my hit list, but for now I'm going to hold out hope for "Mr. Big" even though I don't have many days to hunt. I'm going to let my friend Ben (who went on the elk hunt with me) hunt my place some this year and Stubby would make a good first buck for him.

I'm going to be on stand all day today, but I'm going to switch from the shooting house to the tripod stand over the foodplot sometime after lunch.

Wish me luck!

Nathan.

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Nov-19-10, 
04:48 PM (MST)
29. "RE: Back in Texas"

Well I struck out last weekend on whitetails on my hunting property. I'm in Arizona with work right now and about to get on a plane headed home.

Not sure if I'll get to sneak in a hunt this weekend or not, my wife is starting to think I've already done plenty of hunting this year already. Work is starting to pick up so it makes it much harder to be out of town during the week with work and then trying to get out on the weekend to go hunting. My hunting property is right at 100 miles from the house, so it's hard to make it down there after work or something like that. Normally I take a week off work this time of year to go down there, but with 3 extra hunting trips already logged, taking another week off at work isn't going to happen this year.

I probably should have just pulled the trigger on Stubby last weekend, but hopefully my friend Ben will be able to close the deal on him if he gets a chance to go down there and hunt sometime in the next couple weeks.

Here's a picture of Stubby at a scrape I have a trail camera on.

He has about every characteristic of a "mature" buck. Not the biggest in the antler department, but even there you can see the mass of a mature buck. I would guess him at 6 1/2. Not over the hill yet, but he has some age on him.

Here's a younger buck in the same spot. I think this buck is 3 1/2 but he might only be 2 1/2.

Also thought these pictures turned out nice. This is a buck I call "Nubs" showing how to work a scrape. I'm pretty sure his is 3 1/2.

Here he is later that day (the first pic was early morning) showing how to use the licking branch.

Hopefully I'll be able to get in a couple days of hunting in over the Thanksgiving holidays.

Nathan

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npaden
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Nov-26-10, 
07:00 PM (MST)
30. "Not looking very promising...."

Well, in hindsight I probably should have pulled the trigger on "Stubby" last week. I went out Wednesday and didn't see a thing and only saw a doe on Thursday morning. Plus it's not looking like Ben is going to be able to get down there anytime soon for him to have a chance at him either. On top of everything else I haven't gotten a trail camera picture of "Mr. Big" in over two months.

Not sure if I'm going to be able to get back out again or not. The wife isn't very happy with me right now and work is really starting to pick up. Maybe I will be able to get out one or two more times though. I think they are in lock down with the rut right now, the bucks should start focusing on food in a few more weeks and I could have a chance at them then.

That's it for now. Nathan

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Nov-29-10, 
02:27 PM (MST)
31. "I really was lucky!"

Well, the 2010- 2011 Drawing Odds are posted for New Mexico, so I had a chance to find out exactly how lucky I was drawing all 3 tags that I applied for this year.

The drawing odds for the rifle antelope hunt were 4.32%, the odds on the elk hunt were 5.03% and the odds on the mule deer hunt were 46.67%. Computing those all together the chances of drawing all 3 tags was a whopping .10%! Statistically it will be another 990 years before I draw all three of those tags in the same year, I'm not sure if I'll be able to hump up and down those mountains at the age of ripe old age of 1,032 though!

Went through some trail camera pictures and thought this was a good one of Stubby. He's not much in the antler department but there is no doubt about him being a mature whitetail. Based on seeing him in person he's broken his other browtine off since that picture was taken as well.

I'm really second guessing myself on not pulling the trigger on him now, but I've checked the calendar and I think I'll be able to get out at least one more time before the season ends on January 4th.

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Dec-28-10, 
06:40 AM (MST)
32. "It's pretty much over..."

Well, there is a fraction of a chance that I still might get that last hunt in before the end of the year on my property here in Texas, but I'm still in the doghouse with the wife so I'm not counting on it.

Luck is a funny thing, drawing all those hunts in the same year was great for everything but spending time with family and that part of my life has suffered during this season although from a hunting perspective it was probably my most successful year ever.

Winding down on things to think back on, lessons learned, etc. I think I am going to add a small lightweight pulley to my backpack list. Hoisting elk quarters in the tree overnight we were only able to get them about 8' off the ground in New Mexico and if we had a pulley we could have got them closer to 20' and I would have slept alot better without worrying about a bear getting them. It turned out okay, but in the future I'll have a pulley in my pack.

I'm also going to look into getting the gear to setup a bivy or spike camp for those times where you spend so much time and effort getting back into a spot, only to spend several hours walking back out in the dark then several hours walking back in the dark to get there the next morning. Not something I would want to do on every hunt, but I would like to have it as an option.

One thing that I added to my pack after my Wyoming hunt this year was a seamstress tape. Doesn't weigh hardly anything, and it was nice to be able to get some rough measurements on the animal in the field or back at camp when before I would end up having to wait until I got home to start measuring.

I'm sure I have a few other items and I might think of them before the end of the year, but that's a start anyway.

That's it for now. Nathan

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Dec-28-10, 
06:40 AM (MST)
33. "Oh yeah, one more thing...."

I think I discussed this to some extent in one of my posts, but when I'm wrapping up the hunting season it seems crazy that what most would consider to be the easiest hunts are the two hunts that I'm going to be eating tag soup on.

I will admit that on both of those hunts I did pass on legal animals, but it still makes you think.

The first unsuccessful hunt was my New Mexico Antelope hunt. In previous years the success rates were well over 90% on that hunt, but I went home empty handed. I think the biggest reason for my lack of success was the lack of animals on the ranch that I was hunting. Being required to hunt one location really is a drawback if there aren't animals on it. I sat and looked at antelope on the ranch to the north of the one I was assigned to and there was a nice shooter buck there, but I couldn't go after it because it wasn't my assigned ranch.

The other unsuccessful hunt was my Texas whitetail hunt on my own property. From many people's perspective I have everything going on there that should make it like shooting fish in a bucket. I bait with timed feeders that put corn out right at first light and right before dark. I supplemental feed protein pellets 24/7/365 so the deer should have adequate nutrition to grow antlers to their potential. I plant food plots and manage the limited timber to create bedding cover for the deer so they will want to stay on my property during the daylight. I spent considerably more time working on my property and filling feeders, planting food plots, etc. than I spent scouting for any of my western big game hunts, however I am more than likely going to end up going without shooting a buck on my property this year.

I did have an issue this year in the fact that my wife was tired of me hunting by the time the season here rolled around and I was pretty limited in the time that I was able to hunt, but with all the advantages I had going you would have thought I could have had my pick of several different shooter bucks just lining up to get shot. I actually did spend the same amount of time hunting my property there as I did on my big game hunts when I think about it because I shot my Wyoming elk on opening morning, my New Mexico elk the morning of the 2nd day and my New Mexico mule deer on the morning of the 2nd day.

For both of my successful New Mexico hunts I passed on several legal animals before shooting the one that I ended up with.

The big difference is that with all of my successful hunts this year I was able to cover plenty of ground to get to where the animals were at. That makes a HUGE difference in being successful. We are so blessed to have so much public land that we can hunt in the Western states. Even on an unsuccessful western public land hunt the experience and the beauty around you make every hunt a success even if an animal doesn't end up on the ground.

Just a few thoughts on the subject. I used to think that someone who hunted over a feeder was not hunting at all. I tend to not hunt over the feeder because the mature deer won't go anywhere near it until dark, but I do try to hunt the travel routes to and from the feeders.

I guess the thought process may be to don't knock it til you try it. I've found that hunting my little 160 acre property here in Texas to be plenty challenging.

That's it for now. Nathan

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