Trip Report: New Mexico Elk Hunt Logistics and Lodging
My first experience on a guided hunt, but the standard was set very high after this one. I would change nothing! The food was amazing everyone was very professional and a pleasure to be around. If I had the funds it would be a yearly trip, it was that enjoyable. I was impressed when outfitter called me a few days before the hunt to answer any last minute questions and to let me know to call him if we were going to be arriving around lunch time so he could make sure the cook had food waiting for us. The food was amazing and there was not a single meal that I would not like to have again.
Trip Report: New Mexico Elk Hunt Guaranteed Tags Trip Details
We started scouting the evening before the hunt and watched a big bear feeding and saw a cow elk. The next morning found us in the same area. When it was just barely light enough to differentiate between an elk and a tree, I spotted some elk a ways off with one that appeared to be a large bull. When it was light enough, we saw it was a large 6×6 and it had a smaller 5×5 with a few cows. My wife went after the 6×6 and her guide called it into 27 yards. But being inexperienced, she didn’t end up drawing on it. My guide called in the small 5×5 to 60 yards and I passed on it because it was the first day.
Trip Report: New Mexico Elk – Evening Hunt
The evening hunt I went with a guide to check out an area that was an 1.5hr drive away. We hiked into a canyon and he spotted a couple elk on some private land about a mile away. He let out a bugle and instantly got a response from a bull we couldn’t see. He kept bugling and cow calling while we were hearing multiple bugles back from various bulls along the ridge below us. The three of us were glassing and calling out bulls that we were seeing. We ended up with 7 different bulls we had been watching in the canyon with 2 of them being very nice 6×6’s. One of them was working his way towards us. The other one was a really nice big bull 1.5 miles away with about 12 cows that wasn’t interested. We watched the bull work his way towards us for about 40 minutes. The guide knew which way he was going to head so he could get us setup for the shot.
While we were getting into position, the bull found 2 cows and was less interested in us so we worked to get closer. One of the cows was working her way to where we had started cow calling. We came to the top of a ridge as she was just cresting and we quickly got down on the ground. She walked to about 7 yards of us before winding us and changed directions and went around us but never spooked. The bull we were after lost interest and worked his way to a group of 3 smaller bulls; however, we kept working closer while cow calling and bugling trying to get him interested. He would bugle back but not come towards us.
Elk Moving and Bugling
After another 40 minutes of following him we noticed some cows cresting a ridge heading towards us near the bull we were trying to get. I thought it was over for sure as there were about 10 cows and we wouldn’t be able to call him in now for sure. He started working his way to the cows when a big bull crested the hill from behind the cows and chased the bull we were after. They started fighting about 150 yards in front of us. The other bull went back to his cows after chasing the bull we had been after off and started herding them in our direction. The cows bedded down about 100 yards from us between us and the bull and he was not interested in getting closer as we bugled back and forth with him.
It was amazing to have 2 big bulls bugling and screaming at us from 100-150 yards away. At this point I decided I didn’t care if I got one because it was just amazing to watch these bulls scream, fight, and chase each other around in front of us. Then the bull we had been after originally went back to the other bull and they started fighting again. This got the cows up and they started moving our direction again about 60 yards below us. The bull chased off the original bull we wanted and started following the cows out of the area.
Trip Report: New Mexico Elk Hunt – Stalking and Waiting
We worked our way down about 40 yards to an area we thought he would come up. We waited for him as he disappeared from our sight due to the slope. He kept bugling below us so we could tell if he was coming closer. Eventually we could tell he was following the cows and not coming to the guides bugles. We quickly worked our way down the hill some more until we got in front of the cows and the bull. The cows were 60 yards below us with the bull working his way behind them still bugling every few minutes. He finally came out behind some trees at 80ish yards and stopped. While raking a tree he would stop to bugle and then back to raking the tree.
We watched him for a few minutes and he wasn’t going to come in any closer. The cows had kept moving so we were worried that he was going to follow them soon. Which meant we would miss our chance. We were behind a large bush that concealed the guide and myself with a perfect shooting lane on either side of it. The guide told me to watch the bull so he could try raking a small bush behind us to see if that would get the bull to come. And to let him know what he does. As soon as the guide started to rake the tree the bull looked up, let out a bugle and started working his way to us. The guide said to get ready because the bull would probably come from behind a large tree 30 yards away. I would have a perfect 40 yard broadside shot but I would need to draw when he went behind the tree. And when he came out he would cow call to stop him and I could take the shot.
I set my pin to 40 yards and waited for the bull to step behind the tree and drew back. I watched the biggest elk I had ever seen in person come from behind the tree. With my bow ready and I thought to myself how amazing this was. Then I heard the guide whisper he was at 30 yards not 40. I had practiced shooting with my pin set at different distances so I would know what the correction would be for this exact scenario. I aimed 6″ low and held forward on his shoulder so he would walk right into the arrow in the time it would take to get there putting it right behind the shoulder. However in my excitement forgot the guide was going to cow call to stop him.
About the time I released the arrow the guide cow called and stopped the bull. I watched my arrow sink into the bulls shoulder up to the fletchings and the bull turned 180 snapping the arrow off and took off running. The guide told me I hit forward, but looked like it had good penetration. We stepped out from behind the tree to watch him run off. He ran about 40 yards before he started slowing down to a walk and started coughing out blood. The guide said “you got him he is going down”. We watched him stumble and regain himself while still coughing up blood. As he started to walk behind a tree, all we could see was his butt and hear him coughing. He stumbled again and staggered backwards and then he tipped over, kicked his feet a couple times and stopped moving.
Trip Report: New Mexico Elk Hunt – Afterwards
When we walked up to the bull, I was just in shock about the whole evening and what had just happened. I am standing over a big bull with 4 other bulls in the area, one of them being the original big 6×6 we had watched for more than an hour. I was in a bit of shock that my first archery kill was on a bull this size.
The next few days I spent hunting with my wife. Every morning and evening hunt we had elk coming in and experienced them bugling. Unfortunately they were only coming in at 60+ yards so she wasn’t able to make it happen. However the experience of having bulls bugling and fighting near us and coming into the calls was a great experience. It was worth every penny.
I would recommend Top End Adventures because they have actually hunted the areas. Having experience with each outfitter helps to answer any questions. They know about the food, lodging, guides, and the hunt itself. From looking for guided hunts previously on my own; whereas, it is nice to have all the information at one place with someone that has actually hunted there. Otherwise you are going on what the outfitter has posted on their website. Some outfitters have older dated looking photos which makes me feel like the hunting must not be that great. It is nice to have more recent photos.