Last summer I got that notification that many of us are waiting for........ "successful" on your application for a elk tag! This was a tag for unit 21A in southern NM in the Gila.
I have been hunting and helping a friend with guiding for several years on a private ranch down there, but a tag in the National Forest is hard to draw. I was familiar with the area having hunted up to edge on the private ranch, but I had not had the opportunity to hunt the more mountainous terrain in the forest.
I almost did not make the trip as I got bit by a black widow spider and was pretty sick running a fever for 15 days....... the last day I had a fever was the day before we left for the hunt. Needless to say, I was not in the best of shape. Every time someone saw me they would say "you don't look good" or "you sure are pale".
For my rifle I took my 338 Kahn built on a Wby action by Kirby, the load was 300 grain Bergers running at 2875fps. The rifle has a Lilja barrel, Holland QD brake, A5 stock and has a NF NXS 8-32X56 sitting on top.
Two buddies came with me to help with the hunt and I could not have done it without them. As weak as I was from the spider bite it was really great having them along to help out..... they are pretty good company anyway
We camped on a 20 acre block of land I own that sits just inside the National Forest giving us exclusive access to a section of forest that is almost impossible to get to from any other direction. We were hiking about 4 miles from where we had to leave our wheeler to get to the area we were glassing from, and gaining about 2000 to 2500 feet of elevation as well.
This area is known for big bulls..... 350 class and above but we were not finding them. We were seeing quite a few smaller bulls, but the rut was over and the bulls were all solitary back in the thick stuff.
We spotted a bull late one afternoon that looked pretty good although not a huge bull for the area...... When we first spotted him he was about 1100 yards and had just fed over the top of a mountain. I had my dial up chart confirmed out to 1000 so that was the max range I was willing to shoot. We moved a little and closed the range to just a little over 900 yards and I set up for the shot. He kept moving through some scrub brush and I just could not catch him turned right or in the clear and he walked back over the mountain and we lost him.
The next evening we spotted a bull on the same mountain and thought it was probably the same bull. He was 610 yards and I started trying to get set up shoot him but everywhere I set up I had brush in my way, after several moments I got set up and had a clear shot but now he was turned facing me. Then he walked down the mountain into a draw and we lost him. We kept glassing the area and finally one of my buddies spotted him again but we were running out of daylight. I got set up to shoot and one buddy called out the range, the other the dial up. I got the crosshairs on him and took the shot. I managed to get back on him in time to see him stumble and fall out of sight.
We high fived and headed over to him. The Berger had hit him just behind the front shoulder going in and come out just in front of the offside shoulder. From the blood trail, he had run or flopped about 10 yards.
Now it was all over but the fun part......... packing him out!
Thanks to my good buddies Chuck and Kenneth, I could have never done it without them. You really find out who your buddies are when you have an elk down and it is 4 miles of rough terrain back to the wheeler!!