Yeti

Creating my own Novice Guide To Hunting The NM Gila Wilderness

BrokenArrow

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Mar 23, 2017
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Nice work and happy 4th. Glad you got to go scout. I bet it was an awesome trip. Best 16b thread I’ve seen.
I have an early archery and have basically have mirrored your research. E scouting is about the best I can do. Hence me looking around my favorite chat room for info on a holiday. Lol.
I’m a single dad with 2 jobs and working to make a 10 day go of it aug 30-sept 8th.
I have a private 2 day weekend pronghorn hunt (aug 15) near T or C. Trying to scout eastern 16b beforehand. Might not make it, but…I’ll try.
I have tried a few packers and outfitters, but haven’t been able to secure one. If you end up with a good lead and have one already booked yourself, please let me know. Drop camp or pack out please.

local authorities taking over the fire is a great thing.
 
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lbaldrid

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Jan 16, 2018
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South Dakota
OP, thanks for the thread and the detailed information. I will be doing all e-scouting this year as I am 15 hours away. Have an archery tag that a buddy and I are going in DIY and planning on packing in and out (hopefully with an elk). Looks like the Johnson fire is finally under control with a lot of the recent rains. Hopefully that will continue through the next few months. Will be following this thread as it progresses!
 

Jeronimo 56

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May 7, 2021
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I've been working on a home remodel project recently, trying to get it knocked out of the way so I can do more prep for this hunt. Not sure if any of you have had the pleasure of working with the state of New Mexico when it comes to building permits and inspections but it can be a challenge for sure...

Meanwhile I've picked up a few more pieces of info on NM Unit 16B that I think are worth mentioning. I've been in touch with several outfitters and packers and they are all giving me a story that aligns pretty well with what I was told by the game warden back in June when I scouted down there. The further north you go and the further you get from the road the better the elk hunting gets... nothing surprising about that. At the same time, every local I talk with said that the elk can be spread across the entire unit with many good areas and those prime areas tend to have a lot of hunters in them. So it seems like the question is "do you want to hunt more elk with more hunters or less elk with less hunters"?

I talked with several locals who told me that I should expect a camp at every spot all along that north border because the camping areas are shared with 16B and the other two units along that main road. Spike camps are generally recommended to give yourself a little buffer from the hunters that are hiking in from a roadside camp. I'm not committed to hunting the north side yet but I think either way we are going to go with the spike camp a couple miles in and arrange for a packer to get our elk out if we can fill a tag.

Another thing I've picked up from the locals is that if the weather turns foul then it can be real tricky to get around. Apparently the lesser maintained roads can turn to pure slime once they get wet and you won't be able to drive anywhere until things dry out a bit. I did experience this at one point later in my scouting trip when I was trying to get to a stock tank down in the lower half of the unit after the rains started. I gave up before I got there then slid all over the place as I struggled to make it back to the main road. The next day that same road was no problem.

Recently I talked with a guy down there that we are planning to employ and he told me something kinda interesting. The gist of it is that he is seeing the elk behavior change in the the wilderness areas because of the wolves. He said that in years past he had seen the elk settle into some areas and just sorta take up residence there for a while. Now what he is seeing is that the wolves are keeping the elk moving and they don't lock into an area for very long at a time. His thought was that the hunters might see that some of the prime spots of the past may not be as productive if the wolves have moved the elk out before the hunt.

It's been raining here in New Mexico a bit more than usual lately, although we are still officially in a drought status. Apparently there is plenty of water in the major creeks and rivers but the stock tanks and small waterholes still need water. I suspect the grass has greened up now with the recent rains and we're supposed to get a bunch of moisture again this week so maybe things are changing for the better? I'm not sure if the food was available to support good antler growth this year or not... hopefully I'll get another scouting report on that before too long.
 

Jeronimo 56

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In the event you choose to come in from the south side, you'll want to make sure your gas tank is full before you head up north into the wilderness. Coming in from Interstate 25 you'll get a great look at the Black Range in unit 21A. After you cross the mountain you'll come into the Mimbres Valley. I was surprised at how many homes there were and how big that valley actually is. There is a little town called Lorenzo on the east end of the valley and then residential and business area of Mimbres as you head west. I was looking for the usual Dollar Store and Speedy Gas stations that are typical for every small town in New Mexico... but they were not to be found. I finally stopped at the local post office and asked where the nearest gas station was. The lady said there was a gas station back down the road in the direction I just came from or I could go all the way up to the Gila Cliffs area and get gas at Becky Campbell's general store.

I had seen this little store in Mimbres when I went past but from the look of things I had convinced myself it wasn't open. As it turns out, this is your last chance to get gas or something to eat. I was pleasantly surprised that the cost of fuel wasn't especially high considering that the only other choice was to head back toward Silver city. Also, it's important to know that they open at 9:00 A.M. and close at 4:00 P.M. every day of the week.

My first glance at that gas pump had me thinking I was outa luck... but turns out it all worked and they were nice folks that ran the place.
 

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Jeronimo 56

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I scouted my way up Forest road 150 all the way between the two wilderness areas and then continued on toward Beaverhead, but turned west and over toward Snow Lake when I got to that intersection. That was a rough road and slow going for me. I followed some ruts where it looked like someone had fought their way over to Snow Lake in the mud but it had pretty well dried up by the time I drove over it. I did see a lot of elk along that road although that area is actually outside of unit 16B.

I went out from the Willow Creek campground area and headed toward Reserve. Road Crews were reworking the dirt roads in that area at the time and they were really in pretty decent shape. After several miles of decent dirt road it transitioned from gravel to asphalt... well sorta anyway. It used to be asphalt but it was more like a little asphalt in between all the potholes. That was a miserable long ride and I thought I had made a mistake in how I chose to get to Reserve... Afterward I talked to an outfitter that works the Wilderness area he assured me that was the best way to get in and out on the north side of unit 16B. Apparently Reserve is the nearest gas station if you are accessing the area from the north side and the price of gas was not so friendly, but there were a couple gas stations and several places to eat.
 

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hank4elk

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Most roads down there will be slippery today for sure. Heavy rain last night & today forecast. Tank filler,mud maker,green grass rains.
Rumor has it the road from Reserve is going to be recapped with asphalt all the way to the top from town in the next year or so....seen it before. Road needs major work but capping is what we'll get.
 

Gila

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is there fuel in reserve? namely diesel?i know thats north of there a bit,but im looking for options with my unit 15 late muzz elk hunt in november.
Datil is your best bet for hunting 15 from the South anyway. I am assuming that you will be coming in from the East on 60. Generally filling up the truck and the UTV in Socorro sees me through a week of hunting in that area. When hunting season rolls around I go in set-up camp and don't go very far when hunting.
 

Gila

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Most roads down there will be slippery today for sure. Heavy rain last night & today forecast. Tank filler,mud maker,green grass rains.
Rumor has it the road from Reserve is going to be recapped with asphalt all the way to the top from town in the next year or so....seen it before. Road needs major work but capping is what we'll get.
I wouldn't go in for a couple of days anyway. If a person isn't familiar with the roads there during the monsoon season they will have problems. I have seen pickups floating down the roads on past years. That is when the roads weren't washed away. Mogollon is having some serious issues with flooding right now.
 

hank4elk

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I wouldn't go in for a couple of days anyway. If a person isn't familiar with the roads there during the monsoon season they will have problems. I have seen pickups floating down the roads on past years. That is when the roads weren't washed away. Mogollon is having some serious issues with flooding right now.
I've seen piles of trucks stuck to the frame waiting for help on major roads in there.Wreckers stuck too.

I'm sure some sections washed out last night. Going to get real good after tonight,1-4" expected.More for the next week too.
 

Greenhorn

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I went there once. 4 of us drew archery licenses in 1999 and took horses all the way from MT down there. We went in from the north and killed 4 6X6 bulls in 4 days and came home. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a 6 point bull down there. (thanks Buzz for that description). It was hot and dry, and not very scenic mountain country. Saw a nice big black bear and a few decent mule deer bucks.
 

Jeronimo 56

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...4 of us drew archery licenses in 1999 and took horses all the way from MT down there
That's sounds like a lot of days in the saddle... sorry had to laugh when I read that! I think those were the golden days while the elk were everywhere, tag drawings were friendly, and the wolves were not well established.
 

Jeronimo 56

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Can we change the name of the thread to “A Novice Guide to Decreasing Draw Odds in the Gila Wilderness”?
...16B was our first choice area and we only had a 17% of successfully drawing it so we were quite surprised when we got the draw results. We chose it because we can literally walk from my friends cabin and be hunting in 5 minutes, but sadly not in any of the prime territory.

After looking into things further, we began to better understand what a wilderness hunt means and specifically of hunting unit 16B. It became more clear that while a unit 16B elk tag is quite a prize it can be a very difficult area to hunt. So we determined to make the most of it... learn the area and prep ourselves for a potential once in a lifetime elk hunt in a wilderness area. (It's statistically not once in a lifetime for everybody but when you wait until your hair all turns gray to apply it's not as likely you'll be around to hunt it the next time you draw).

In addition to the other access challenges along the roads in and out on the unit borders, one other unique thing is that the Western and Eastern Borders are mostly roadless and even tougher to access. As I've studied and learned these things, I'm not sure if a person fully recognizes the challenges of hunting unit 16B whether more information will increase the interest in hunting there or not. As I read all these reports that the country is steep and rugged, hard to get to, and is difficult to hunt without the help of a guide or at least a packer -- I am learning that this is all valid info.

The one way I see to offset this can somewhat be solved with spending more money and personal effort. Get in top shape, hire a guide (or at least a professional scouter), hire a packer, buy a satellite phone or texter, etc.. We are doing most of those things and expect to have a great hunt... but will others be tempted to do it the same way?
 

hank4elk

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Tags were never a sure thing in this Gila unit. One of the better odds units in the Gila a few years back too. Never drawn it. Doubt I will apply for it again,just to let someone else.
There, fixed it for ya.
 
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