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I struck out in New Mexico

Calif. Hunter

Active member
Dec 13, 2000
Apple Valley, CA, USA
I left work on Wednesday, Nov 6 at about 4:30 and drove to Apple Valley to spend the night at a friend's house before the drive to Datil, New Mexico on Thursday. Our 5-day mature bull season opened on the 9th and ran through the 13th. Jorge, Moe and Axel were already there, hunting deer. They had seen a herd of about ten deer the first day, but couldn't see any horns and had no luck geting a close look. After that, they had not even seen a doe so they advised me not to waste the money on a deer tag on my way into town. They had been hunting a different unit, but had seen lots of elk. (That seemed to be everyone's experience there this year - lots of elk, but no deer at all.)

After a long, ten hour drive through the desert of California and Arizona, through the mountians of Flagstaff and then through the pinyon pines of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, I arrived at the motel in Datil around 3 PM and rousted the guys up from a nap. We went out to the area we were going to be hunting to do a little scouting. Axel had grown up in the area we were hunting, so we had an advantage in that he knew where the waterholes were. We checked them out, and found one with a lot of elk sign. Only Jorge, Axel and I were elk hunting - Moe didn't want to spend the money on a out of state tag. To make things fair, we drew numbered tags from a hat for shooting order, in case we saw something while all together. I drew the "You're screwed!" slip. :( And I even drew first... :mad: We were hunting with muzzleloaders, by the way.

We got up the next morning, and the wind was howling something fierce. It was cold, too! Since I didn't really think three mature bulls were going to waltz into the one waterhole at the same time, I went on my own to still hunt the forest. Jorge and Axel went to the waterhole we had located the previous day. I didn't see squat as far as animals go, walked several miles but I did see tracks at least. I got back to the truck about 9:30 AM and there was cel phone message for me. Jorge had shot a bull!

The story was, two bulls came in at about 6:00 AM or a little after. Jorge had won first shot rights, but he is Axel's uncle, and since Axel had never shot a bull, Jorge was going to let him shoot first. The first bull in was a BIG one - Jorge swears it was a 350 - 360 class bull. He kept whispering to Axel, "Shoot! Shoot!" while keeping his bull in his scope. Axel wouldn't shoot! Finally Jorge's bull looked right at him and Jorge could tell he was going to bolt, so he shot him right in the shoulder. A few sconds later, Axel shot and missed. Jorge's bull ran about 25 yards and dropped, while Axel's bull ran about 100 yards and stopped. Axel even had time to reload and miss again. ( So if I had been there I could have (?) dropped him.)

Jorge's bull was a nice 5x5. We quartered him up and hauled him a couple of miles to the road. That worked out well - four of us to haul a quarter each!

The next several days were all the same - up at 3:30, hike in, and see nothing. One day, we were frustrated and driving back to town about 10:30 AM, and I saw a herd of 20 or more elk on the private land we had paid to hunt on last year. Since I had gotten the only bull last year, we had decided not to pay the landowner this year, and to hunt the state lands and National Forest. There were two large, heavy 5x5s, a huge 6x7 and another large bull that we never got an accurate count on. They were just feeding along, taking their time, like they did not have a care in the world... :rolleyes: We did see the landowner later, and he said that he had over 100 elk on his place at that time. :rolleyes:

On the second to last day, we ran into Axel's father's best friend, who told us that he was seeing two big bulls (a 6x7 and a good 5x5) every morning on his place, and he told us to go ahead and make a move on them.

Last morning: up at 3:00 AM. We drove to the state lands adjoining Ben's land and walked in. Sure enough, there were THREE bulls in the field, eating and heading up into the hills. Now there we were, with a 150 yard shot. I was just not sure about taking that long a shot with my muzzleloader ( I know, I know!!!! :eek: :mad: Don't think I haven't replayed this in my mind 10,000 times!!!) The one bull is a 7x3 - everything from the brow tine to the last two on his left side have been broken off! The second largest is a perfectly symetrical 6x6, a little heavier and wider than my bull from last year. The other bull is an okay 5x5.

So we try to run a move on them - Axel is going to cut down a tree line along a gully and then move behind them in a button hook manuever. One of us should get a shot. Axel is 20 years old and has never shot an elk. He can't bear to be out of sight of the elk. Guess what - if he can see them, they can probably see him! Busted. :( They high tail it off through the pinyon pines and the sage brush, laughing at us all the way, I'm sure.

We had a ball, though. Good times with good friends, and lots of laughes. I'll keep hearing about the bull I could have shot if I had just gone to the waterhole with them the first morning, Axel will always hear about the TWO that got away, and Moe will be get ribbed about being too cheap to buy a tag. And that's the way elk hunting sometimes goes....lots of miles and lots of smiles! I WILL be practicing with that muzzleloader at longer ranges, though... :D
Too bad you didn't get him Cali, but you made a choice and stuck with it and that is great. Congrats to Jorge. Are you thinking about NM next year again?
Sounds like you had a great time and saw some bulls.
With me & my hunting buddies, whoever has a good shot takes it. I once waited for a friend to shoot at a nice buck that he spotted first. I waited oh about two maby two and a half seconds, than bang, I dropped it. !
He still kids me about it, but at least one of is got it.
Hey Rick, check my "Tales from the Flat Tops" thread. DS & me tagged out.

So what did the front stuffer do to a big bull ? What kinda bullet did he use ?

I'm glad you had fun, maby next year......
Good story Rick. sounds like a good time was had by all. Sorry you didn't get to pull the trigger on a bull.
Sounds like it was a good hunt.

I'll give you the same response I get when talking about my Kaibab hunt this year....
"Well, you'll do better next time!"....

Ha!Ha!Ha!....Hang in there...


Don't feel so bad. I struck out in Colorado and I live here! Matter of fact I drew nada on deer hunting where I grew up! But hey sounds like ya had a great time and at least folks with ya got something.

I got to help my brother pack out his bull and that made it all worthwhile for me.
We were using the 348 gr., 50 caliber Powerbelt bullets over 110 grains of Pyrodex pellets. The bullet went through both shoulders of Jorge's bull, liquifying the heart and most of the lungs. It was a good choice.

Congrats to DS and Dan for their success. We will probably go back there again next year. It's a draw for the tags, but it's about 50-50 odds of getting the tag.
It sounds pretty good. Maybe you should draw straws everyday? That way, its a new day, everyday, on who has first, second, etc. choice. I guess everybody wanted the same kind of elk.
That's tough Cali!!!
better luck this next season, at least you did more than some on this board and got to get into elk country...Congrats to your bud!!! :D
Bummer CH,It sounds like you really enjoyed yourself anyways. Get em next time.
Leupold BX-4 Rangefinding Binoculars

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