Our New Mexico Hunt

Calif. Hunter

Active member
Dec 13, 2000
Apple Valley, CA, USA
Wednesday, Oct. 6

Moe must have been as anxious as I was to hit the road, as he showed up at my house at 4 AM – an hour early. Having been up until midnight worrying about what I was forgetting, I’m glad the alarm went off at 3:45. :rolleyes: We transferred Moe’s gear into the back of my truck and were ready to roll to Mike’s house in Apple Valley (former home of the Roy Rogers Museum.)

We missed most of the workday traffic and only had a slight delay on the I-15, where they were working on the highway and had it shut down to one lane. We managed to get to Mike’s house at about 6:30 AM. Mike’s step-daughter and son-in-law are living with him now, so the whole family had to come out and visit for a while before we could get Mike’s stuff packed up. :( We left Mike’s house at about 8 AM, later than planned. I had really been hoping to drive through the seemingly endless drive through the desert between Barstow and Needles on Highway 40 while it was dark.

The breakfast choices in Needles are many – Jack in the Box, McDonald’s or Dennys. Dennys won out. We ate fast and headed out for the seemingly endless drive from Needles, CA to Williams, AZ. We stopped for gas somewhere and there was a WalMart there - I ran in and bought another waterproof camo jacket – they don’t stock those at the Wally Worlds in So Cal. The forecast was calling for thunderstorms over the next week and I wanted to ready. Mike found some camo pants in his size he liked so he bought a pair.

We make it to Winslow, and stop to get more gas. Mike sees a Walmart, and decides he likes his new camo pants so much he has to have more. :rolleyes: We also decide, since we are already there, to stock up on the food stuffs we‘ll need – vital stuff like poptarts, fruit and granola bars, slim jims and jerky. Soda and beer, of course….to complete all necessary food groups. ;) We are listening to the instruction CD that came with my Estrus Whine cow call and Moe has decided that he needs to learn this vital skill and goes back into Walmart to buy a call… he almost buys the same one I have and I suggest he try a different one so we sound like different cows. He buys another Charlton cow call and off we go, chirping our way down the highway.

After this little detour, we hit the road and make it to Springerville, AZ. I like this little town and may even decide to retire there. We eat lunch/dinner at Booga Red’s Mexican Cantina and hit the road, finally arriving at around 10 PM…several hours later than we should have gotten to Datil, NM.

When we hunt the Datil area, we often stay in the little motel there – it’s a combo motel, gas station, general store and café. Our hunting areas are only a few miles outside of town, and the hassle of getting up at 3 or 4 AM and not getting back until 9 PM is a warm bed and a hot shower. Believe me, this motel is not much – a single story, cinder block building divided into 8 rooms, two beds each with earth-tones (brown, orange, tan) shag carpet that even is applied to the bathroom cabinets. But each room has a tub/shower combo and even hot water. Mike and I are sharing a room and Moe is by himself until Nathan arrives.

We go to bed soon, as we are beat from all the driving and shopping…

Thursday, Oct. 7

We sleep in until about 7 AM, as the season doesn’t start until Saturday and this day will be spent looking for sign. (I have already reviewed the forestry and topo maps to mark possible saddles, springs and waterholes. JB Florida had hunted the area in the bow season in August and had some tips for me, as well as giving the website to order the maps from. Thanks, John!!!

We find quite a bit of sign in one area, but not much in others. By now it is mid-day, so we head into Datil for lunch. For just the first occurrence of what became a daily ritual, Mike complains that my snoring kept him awake and opts to stay in Datil and take a nap while Moe and I scout some more. (See, Mike taking a nap is a mistake, as you must be extremely tired to sleep in the same room with me – by napping, he was too refreshed to sleep in spite of my roars. So you how I shift the blame and it all becomes his fault?)

Moe and I check out some other possible hunting areas and find nothing. Sawmill Spring is beginning to look pretty good…. We spend a whole lot of time trying to get ourselves lost in the Cibola National Forest but manage to make it back to Datil in time for dinner.

Friday, Oct. 8

Moe and I get up and leave to get to Sawmill before sun up. Mike, saying he hasn’t slept well, decides to stay in the motel. (See a pattern yet?) our other frieed, Nathan, is due to show up this morning and this way Mike will be there when he shows up.

We park the truck and hike in to the spring. Asget about 200 yards from it, we hear cows calling in the dark! This is followed by a bugle! Talk about a rush!!! I whisper to Moe – “Give a couple little cow calls,” and he does as we scurry into the brush and trees about 75 yards from the spring. The bull bugles, but everything else goes quiet… a minute or two that seem like eternity go by, and then the lead cow appears out of nowhere in the mist and half-light before dawn. She looks around and stares right at us, like she has x-ray vision and can see through the tree trunks. She must have given the okay, because the rest of the elk appear beside her. The cows and calves go to the spring and drink deeply. Another bugle rings out, and we see a bull with a lot of horn appear. He walks out like he is just looking for a fight, aggressive and dominant. We start counting points (we still disagree – Moe says 7 and I say 6) and then notice that his left antler has been broken off just below the #3 tine. He had/had a lot of mass, but now he is a 6/7 x 2.

This was still a rush and we are all fired up now! We head back to town to see if Nathan has shown up yet and for lunch.

Nathan is the son of John Wasson, or Gila Monster as he is known on here. Several of us have hunted with John down in Texas, where he shot a nice ram with his .45 Colt revolver. Nathan is a true cowboy – he earns his living working cattle. He had been working on the Major Ranch for several years in the Datil area and was extremely familiar with it, including parts of the Cibola National Forest accessible only on foot or horseback. He is also quite a bit (like twice) younger than we are. Natahn was absolutely confident that we would see bulls. Unit 13 is known for few bulls – good ones are there, but they are scattered.

We take off for a couple of Nathan’s hot spots. Don’t bother asking because I am not going to tell you where. We see a lot of sign and hear an occasional bugle that evening. One of the spots is a dirt tank (cattle drinking “pond” for you who don’t know the lingo), and we decide that one of us will stake out this spot opening morning while the other works the ridges and canyons above it. We head back to town for dinner, a couple of beers and bed to get up the next day early – it’s opening day tomorrow!

(I have some backstraps to clean up - I'll be back in a while.)
I'm leaving in an hour, I'll read it when I get back next week. I'd rather see pics ;)

Congrats !!!!!
Stop teasing us Rick, (send me thoses back straps and I'll clean em ) so what happened ?

Good luck Moosie, I hope ya get a trophy spike !
Saturday, October 9 – Opening Day

We get up early, even Mike is in the shower by 4:00 AM. I use all my “Scent-Away” products, just because it might work. I am going to hike into the dirt tank and sit in the blind that Nathan made for his dad – the one the bear tried to climb in with John. As I make the hike in alone, I realize that’s I’ve only been there once before and that was in full daylight. Have I walked a couple miles yet? It seems like more – will it get light before I get there? Was this canyon that long? Have I passed it in the dark?

I finally get to the bottom of the dike at the lowest end of the dirt tank, and pop my head over - SHIT!!!! There is a bull with that classic broadside pose, head turned, looking at my head sticking up over the edge, only about 75 yards away. How big is he? Do I shoot him? My binoculars are still in my day pack, on my back – what a dipshit! I slowly raise the rifle so I can see him through the scope – it’s still dark but I can make out some antlers. The bull turns and begins to trot off – all I can tell is that he had antlers with at least a 30 inch or so spread – maybe bigger.

I settle into the blind for a long, fruitless morning. I did see a couple of coyotes that had no idea I was there, come in and drink and chase birds around the pond.

Moe, meanwhile, has been taken on a long hike by Nathan to check out a couple of canyons and ridges. They hear some cows calling over a saddle and they answer back. A bull bugles at them! They bust a herd of elk at about 30 yards!!! The entire herd bursts apart in all different directions, while Moe and Nathan cow call. They hear the bull breaking brush and Moe gets ready for him to pop into view, muzzleloader ready. A bull breaks out, Nathan screams “Shoot the bastard!” Moe says “No.” The big bull, estimated to be a 370-380 bull, had slipped away and a four point raghorn was the bull Moe had in his sights.

Fueled by the adrenaline rush of close contact, Moe and Nathan bust their humps over about 7 miles of ridges and canyon, with never more than about 20 feet of flat at one time. Theyu return to the truck about noon, to find me and Mike about ready to take a nap.

We head back to town for lunch and to decide what to do for the afternoon. We decide to head north east, towards the Alamo reservation by Magdalena. Nathan and John had both seen a 340 – 370 class bull on a certain ridge there. It is a long haul and we investigate the ridge but decide not to push the elk right now – we’ll come back later if we need to – there looks to be just one big bull there and we don’t want to waste half a day of a five-day season with only one opportunity for success. There are no other bulls around there, so far as we could tell – just one and his harem. (Yeah, yeah, yeah – lots of “could haves, would haves, should haves, and maybes” here…)

That night, we glass some areas and see some bulls – but nothing close enough to work. We note the areas for another day, if needed.

Sunday, October 10

We get up early, of course. By now all the other hunters in the motel are getting up when they hear us leave. They all talk about us – first to leave in the AM, not back until 9 PM, no ATVs, etc. We talk about them – ATVs in the back of their trucks or on their trailers, racing around the same Forest Service roads and never losing sight of those roads.

We head over to some country north of Pie Town, but the ranchers have been moving cattle all over and there is no way to tell if there are any elk around or not. There is no water in most of the springs or stock tanks. We write off the area – we’ve only seen a few tracks despite covering a lot of ground. The country is pretty, though, with some trees bright yellow or gold.


The morning is shot, and we decide on a different program. Over lunch in Pie Town, we decide to check out the country near Sand Tank. Again, not much action there and not really worth spending much time there.

Moe sits in the blind near the dirt tank that evening, while I sit on the mountain top above him with Nathan and glass. Man, it seems like someone flipped a switch on Saturday and just plain turned off the bulls and the cows. Nothing is talking! The rut had happened on schedule for once, during the bow season, and the bulls and cows were not much interested in sex anymore. Once in a while you could get a bull to answer – but not often. Nathan looks at me and says “Where did all the bulls go?” I look at him and say, “Oh, we’re looking for bulls? Then there’s two right there.” Nathan doesn’t believe me until I point them out to him….two shooters about 500-600 yards away. (Remember – we are using muzzleloaders, so we have to get a lot closer than that!) We devise a plan for Nathan to run down to the blind and get Moe (remember that Nathan in 20 years younger than I am!) while I scramble, fall and tumble down the mountainside towards the designated “red tree.” Meanwhile, the sun goes down and all the trees become the same color by the time I reach the other side of the valley.

The elk have moved a lot faster than we had thought. When we watched them earlier, they were just meandering along, grazing. They must have picked up the pace, because Moe and Nathan bust them out and never get a shot. They only get enough of a glimpse to know that they were both “shooters.”

Monday, October 11


Mike sleeps in. Moe and I are both going to sit in the blind by the dirt tank and hope that those two bulls will come in for a drink before heading for bed. We accuse each other of moving around too much, sleeping and snoring or other things that keep animals from coming in. Nathan tells us that a couple of cows and a bear were all he saw in our area. (He was watching from the same mountaintop as the night before.)

Now Moe is really fired up – and it is all my fault that the bear did not come in. Moe tells us how much he really wants a cinnamon bear – just the color Nathan described. I tell Moe that was his snoring that kept the bear away… Note to self – do not sit in a blind with someone else ever again.

For the afternoon hunt, we decide that Moe can have the blind all to himself and I will go hunt the ridges and mountaintops with Nathan. Did I mention that Nathan is 25 years younger than I am?

It becomes obvious that the bulls have split off from the cows for the most part – probably trying to rebuild their bodily reserves after the rut in preparation for the winter. Nathan and I find several individual beds and fresh tracks. (It had rained the day before, so we were finally able to tell the new tracks (without rain spots in them) from the older tracks. We find a huge bull track – it was close to 5 inches long! This is in a deep canyon, and winds up the steepest slopes and over the rocky, shale hillsides. We find steaming, fresh crap = he must be just ahead of us.

CRASH! Bang! Bump, bump. Bump. .. Nathan is hollering “This way!” while I scramble up the hill, trying to get above the trees so I can see the bull running away before he is out of range. Then we see four of the largest mule deer bucks we’ve ever seen running over the next ridge – they never even stopped. The smallest one was 28 inches or so – four inches beyond his ears. They were at least 3 miles from even the nearest dirt road – and no, I am not going to tell you where. We may have been the first humans those deer have ever seen, and one of us may the last human one of them sees, if we get drawn.

Of course, the bull is now long gone. We cover a few more miles, but see no more bulls.

We head over to another part of forest near some private land. In fact, the owners are trying to block people off from state-owned land and even locking the gates. With Nathanworking the ranch next door for three years, he is very familiar with the boundaries. My map confirms the ownership of the land as being the State of New Mexico, so we simply undo the top 2 strands of wire and slip the chain and lock over the post. We drive through the gate and leave the lock and chain around the post, but on the ground.

We go in a ways, park the truck and head up the hills. As I reach the top of the first ridge, I hear a truck coming in. I ignore it to start glassing. It starts raining. A half hour or so later, I look over and a man and a kid in blaze orange are standing about 100 feet away. I wave, and the kid sees me. They come over, and it is apparent from their accents that they are from New York or New Jersey. He owns a 5-acre piece outside of Datil and he asks if we came in through “George’s gate.” I play dumb and say, “Hey, I don’t know anyone around here – I just came in through state land.” We wish each other luck, and head our separate ways.

At the agreed-upon time, I start to head back to the truck. It has been raining off and on, so I had stuck a glove over the end of my barrel. I get to the truck and Moe and Nathan are already there. I notice my lost glove an start back-tracking to find it. Just then, Moe or Nathan (I don’t remember which) see a herd of elk on the opposite saddle. They take off to try to intercept them, and I continue to try to find my glove. Then the New Yorker runs up, having seen the elk, telling me that his son is on the other side of the saddle. Mr. New York radios his kid to tell him to get ready. I decide to head back up where I was – I might be able to either see the action or they might spook the herd in my direction. No such luck.

When we meet back up at the truck, Nathan figures out that the New York gang has paid “George” for access to this “private” part of the Cibola National Forest, and that George may be the one locking the gate. So we decide to drive out through “George’s gate,” which is in his front yard. Sure enough, “George” comes running out and starts yelling about “How did you get in here?” Nathan tells him “Via the state land adjoining the forest.” “George responds, “This is my private road. Why didn’t you leave the way you came in?” Nathan busts him by saying – “Yes, you own this one section, right? There were some hunters from New York back there and we didn’t want to ruin their hunt, so we came out this way. I wonder how they got in across Rufus’ land?” (Nathan knows the ranch manager of the ranch between “George’s gate” and the National Forest.) George just tells us to get off his land and don’t come back.

Back to Datil just before the café closes at 9 PM.

Tuesday, October 12

The days starts out badly. It is freezing cold and Nathan’s truck has flat tire. Nathan has a partial can of “Fix A Flat” so he uses that and we decide to head towards the country north of Magdalena. At 3:30 AM, my mind is not that clear, so we are about a mile down the road before I remember that I have a can of Fix-A-Flat in my truck, along with an air tank holding about 80 PSI. we turn around and head back to my truck.

I open the lid of my camp shell and throw it up. I stick my head inside just as the lid flies back down and smashes my face into my tailgate. I start dancing around, as it feels like I just took a good punch to the upper lip and nose. After a few choice words about my own stupidity, we fix Nathan tire and head off. We run into terrible fog, and it lasts all the way to our destination. We sit in the truck for a while and then decide that we can’t kill an elk from the truck, so we head out in the fog. We are trying to glass through it, when Nathan whispers/yells “Bull!! Nice Bull!!” I see it and the bull is trotting off – it is acting like they do before they turn around for a last look, and I take a rest. He turns around, and it IS his last look. He drops on the spot.

Meanwhile, his companion bull has run off a little ways, and then stops to see what is happening as Nathan is cow calling like crazy. Moe takes an offhand shot and nails this bull in the heart at 150 yards. The bull jumps about 10 feet, like a heart-shot whitetail, runs about 40 yards and drops.

As fast as that, our hunt is over. Then the work bagan. this is the easiest part of the pack out - when I had enough air to remember my camera.

(we did actually wish for an ATV or helicopter at that point...)



[ 10-14-2004, 19:01: Message edited by: Calif. Hunter ]
Those are Moe and his nice 5 x 5. Here is my bull -



Here is what is left of a Powerbelt 348 gr bullet after going through an elks shoulder, heart and liver - lodgin on the opposite side under the skin.

Great story ! Thanks, and thumbs up on another great bull, New Mexico has been good to you.
Welcome back Cali and congrats on what sounded like a great hunt (with a few bumps in the road)...now take some time off and go get that rhinoplasty so your buddies can get some rest LOL!
How did i miss this post??? must be sleepin at the puter. Nice job Cali