After 3 years of trying to draw a tag, I finally drew a Unit 52 bull elk tag during the Muzzleloader season, Oct 7 - 11. Unit 52 includes the Cruces Basin Wilderness area and boarders Colorado to the North. This would be my first time in NM......what a gorgeous unit, filled with tremendous elk habitat. To increase my odds, I entered the outfitter pool w/ the minimal guide service, where I am paired with a guide for 2 full days (hunt the remaining 3 days on my own if needed). I was paired with a seasoned 52 veteran who actually has a cabin in Unit 52, so I was in good hands. Because of the full moon, the afternoon hunts were very uneventful, so I will skip these details. I was in bulls on each morning however.....usually multiple. On day 1 - we got up at 4:30am and took the nastiest road imaginable to our hunting spot.....after trekking for over a mile, we got on a ridge line and started to See and hear Elk. After another hour of walking further down the ridge line, my guide got to an open meadow and decided to send out a cow call. It didn't take long to get a response and after a few calling sessions, the bull was making progress to our location. But shortly into our calling effort, a shot rang out on the next ridge line over and our bullet went silent on us. At around the same time, we were moving to a clearing to get set-up......and surprise surprise, the bull came charging out of the tree line below us and as quickly as we saw him, he saw us......he froze at around 170 yrds, looking straight at us.....a really nice/tall 5x5 pushing 300". I then rushed to get set-up, and although I got a shot off, it wasn't an ideal situation and I sailed my 275 gr Berry Bullet slightly over him (wind on downslope carried the bullet high). Ah well, good learning experience. Saw another few bulls later in the morning, but they remained out of reach. Day 2 - hunted the same area as Day 1, but were in Elk too quickly on this morning, with another mistake made......we had to walk through a large meadow to get to our ridgeline and while doing so, I immediately heard a soft bugle, which I relayed to my guide. Instead of calling back, we discounted it and pushed on as the sun was just creeping up. Well, big mistake, because we ended up spooking a small herd of 3 bulls and 5 cows......not the smartest of elk b/c the chose to cross the meadow running, instead of just peal back into the dark timber......another good bull was present, but he was the smart one, and peeled off from the pack into the trees. I ran up to a pond dam to cut them off and get set up, and sure enough, the two smaller bulls (both 4x4s) and 5 cows trotted 150 broadside directly in front of me......waited for the bigger of items the two to come into my sights, but when he did, I decided to pass. Would have really liked to get a shot at the herd bull, which appeared to be another 300" bull. Hunted the rest of the morning but no shots fired. Disclaimer - got word on Day 2 that my brother’s party shot and killed a nice 6x6 in Unit 45 (evening of Day 1) in the Pecos Wilderness. Day 3 - was by myself on this day, as my guide was only contracted for day 1 and 2, but he showed me a few good areas to check out......on this day, I would hunt near the Lauganitas area up north off 87......guide told me I needed to hike in around 2-miles into a particular canyon and at that point, should be in the elk. I got up early and hiked 1.5 miles in the dark to where I noticed a dramatic change in the habitat. I came to a small tank in aspen and it was full of water (so were the 6 other tanks a came upon later in the day). As the sun was coming up, I dropped in my reed and let out a couple cow calls. It was immediately returned with a relatively close buggle.......i immediately got set up, because this bull was close and wanting to see what I had to offer. Unfortunately the wind swirled to my detriment, and I saw the rack of another nice bull prance off before I could introduce him to my smoke pole. So I moved on too.....caught a ridgeline and slowly took it parallel to a nice pond and spring/creek down in the bottom of a gorgeous canyon littered with aspens and dark timber. I first saw a few cows and as I slowly worked the ridgeline, I jumped 2 bulls from their bed....instead of staying in the timber, both decided to run out onto the ridgeline. I sprinted 50 yrds (luckily I'm in great shape) to a dead tree to get set-up where I thought I could get a shot. The plan worked because they came out 150 yrds on a side canyon out in front of me.....I blew a few cow calls to stop them, set my cross hairs on the bigger of the two 5x5s, then rang out a shot. The bull turned just enough to expose its shoulder.....my bullet clipped a single lung and although he rolled 3 full revolutions down the hillside, he popped up, shook it off, and trotted down the hill like nothing had happened. The other bull just stayed by his side too, not knowing what had happened or what to do. At first roll, I was like "yes", at second roll, I was like "ok", and after the third roll down the hill, I was like "dang, I should reload". By the time I reloaded, they were just cresting a hill and moving out of site. I tried running to the next hill to see their track but lost them. I then looked for blood, but saw ZERO, but I was 100% confident I had shot him. Next, I cut his tracks.....being wounded, his tracks were deeper than usual and although I lost his tracks at one point, after about an hour, I caught them down in the bottom of the canyon near the creek, indicating he had crossed into the dark timber on the other side, probably to bed down. After zig zagging the hillside through the dark timber, I finally spot what appears to be a spike bedded down. Then my wits came back and said "if it were a spike, it would have ran off by now". A quick confirmation in my binos revealed my 5x5, 30 yrds down the hill. I then completed the deed with a quick heart shot and got to work utilizing the gutless method.....not an easy task solo, but got all quarters in game bags, then hung them up in a tree near the spring, while enjoying a slight dusting of snow. I packed the backstraps out, then left the quarters overnight. That night, I drove into Taos (2 hr drive) to get cleaned up and to call my brother to come help with the packout in the morning. My elk was 2.5 miles down a nasty canyon and even the prospect of using a game cart did not sound fun. After placing 50 calls in Taos the next morning, I finally stumbled upon Miguel Gonzalez (freelance ram/deer/Elk guide with horses/mules). I just so happened to catch him on a free day, and convinced him to pack me out at a very fair price. He and I hit it off and I will be hunting with him soon. All in all, a great experience. I greatly appreciate the info shared by a few members via PM. Here are a few pics of my bull.