On August 1st, after jogging two miles every other day all summer, I suddenly started having mild pains in my chest while jogging, but it stopped when I quit.
I was afraid to go to a doctor because of my upcoming elk hunt in New Mexico. But when the pains got worse, I decided living was more important than going on an elk hunt. On August 15th, my doctor discovered that I had a 98% blockage in one of my arteries.
After installing a stint, my doctor said I’d have to miss the elk hunt, but I told him I was going no matter what. He finally gave in but instructed me not to pick up anything large or ride a horse or four-wheeler. Luckily, I wasn’t going on that kind of hunt, but I did have to walk about three miles every day.
This was my second elk hunt with Folsom Outfitters in northeast New Mexico, so I knew what to expect in terms of elevation and what the terrain was like, but I didn’t know what to expect out of my heart.
The first morning of our hunt was action-packed. We made our way down a gravel road to a ranch with a small stream running through it. There were gradual hills making their way up to the base of mesas to the east and west, with a small meadow at the bottom. We walked several hundred yards from the truck and set up in some willow trees.
Not long after, a small 6×6 bull came running down the middle of the meadow and stopped about 60 yards away. That was about ten yards past my comfortable shooting range. He kept looking back, so I figured there were more elk coming. Sure enough a herd of cows and a big bull came running over the hill. This one was a shooter – it didn’t matter if it was the first morning. The sun was just coming over the ridge to the east and it was hard to see exactly what size he was, but he stayed out of range and followed the cows up the ridge toward the base of the mesa.
We made our way west up the ridges toward the other mesa hoping to find another bull. We planned to come back in the afternoon and try to be there when the others came back down to the water.
Not seeing much else, we decided to head back to the ranch and have lunch. That afternoon we went back to the same area, but didn’t see anything moving so we called it a day.
The next afternoon it was windy so the outfitter decided to drop off the top of the mesa into a canyon full of oak brush and Ponderosa pine. There were tracks and signs everywhere. I just knew this place must have been full of elk. There were trails running everywhere. Unfortunately, a thunderstorm moved in and we had to cut our hunt short.
On the fifth and final day of my hunt, we were back on the ridge looking down into the valley. There wasn’t anything moving that we could see, but we knew there were some down there. It was the last morning and we had to make something happen. When we got to the bottom, I thought I heard one bugle way off in the distance. I hoped I wasn’t trying to make something happen. We started heading that way and he bugled again. It was a bull!
I tried to find a good spot to hide, yet still have room to shoot. There was a nice clearing about one hundred yards across and twice as wide. I just barely got set up when I saw his antlers moving just over the rise about 100 yards away. It looked flat looking down from the mesa top, but it wasn’t at all.
He came over the hill, and I could see he was at least a 6×6. He was coming at a steady walk right to me. I wanted to shoot when he was about thirty yards, but he was coming straight on. Finally, he started walking to my left. I thought he was far enough away to try to draw my bow, but he saw me and bolted about twenty yards and turned broadside to look back. As soon as he stopped, I let my arrow fly hitting him right behind his shoulder. I mean I hit the hair I was aiming at.
We watched him for 20 minutes from about 80 yards before he walked over a ridge and out of sight. The bullet placement looked good, but we couldn’t see his right side to know if it punched through that side or not. After waiting an hour, we began to trail him. After 300 yards, he quit bleeding, and we lost him in an area of thick oak brush. We looked for about three hours until we had to leave to make our trek back to camp.
The outfitter assured me that he would find him by watching for the ravens that would surely come to feed on him. But after two days, he had still had no luck. On the third day, he went out on another hunt and noticed the ravens flying. The outfitter told the hunters he was with the story about my bull, and they happily offered to go take a look. Sure enough, they found him piled up by an oak brush tree. He had died on his feet; he never did bed down. He was an 8X6 that grossed 298 Pope & Young, and he really was a bull with heart.
The bears had begun to feed on him and with the warm temperatures, the meat was no good. The group did carry out the antlers, and as fate would have it, they didn’t live far from me in Illinois and offered to bring my antlers back with them.
Some say my bull was wasted, but if anyone really knows about nature, nothing is wasted in the wild. If anyone has hunted for many years, whether it be with a gun or a bow, they know that sometimes the game is not found soon enough to save the meat. At least I had a great outfitter that kept looking and didn’t give up. The elk will be honored by me for as long as I live.
For more information about my outfitter, visit http://www.folsomoutfitters.com/.