The Peanut Gallery – By Zach Bowhay – Part I

About 5 or 6 years ago I started applying seriously for out of state hunts and one of the top destinations on my list of places I apply in and want to hunt is New Mexico. So in 2009 I started applying for elk and talked several of my buddies and family members into doing the same. Now I know you are thinking I am going to say how I applied and finally drew this great tag. WRONG! Since then, my buddy Fred has drawn twice in 2009 and 2010, and then in 2011 both my brother and my father in law drew tags in 2 of the best elk units in the state. When I talked my father in law in to applying so far away I told him if he drew that I would go along and help on his hunt, so it was time to put my money where my mouth is. So it was set, I would be spending the first 10 days of September not hunting elk in Idaho like I do every year, but instead calling for my father in law Evan.

[divider]

Gear Tip

The New Mexico trip was the first hunt that I had the chance to try out the Zeiss Victory RF 10×45 binoculars. This country was ideal for sitting down and glassing long distances for extended periods of time. These binos proved to be ideal for this task. The wide objective on them and the crystal clear glass was a joy and the built in rangefinder works amazingly well. I wasn’t sure if I would like having my rangefinder and binocular in one, but it didn’t take long and I really liked having them as one solid piece of gear.  Look for a full review of this rangefinding binocular in an upcoming blog.

[divider]

That summer my brother was doing what he does best, which is giving me a hard time. Telling me about his good fortune in drawing a tag and that I probably wouldn’t even shoot an elk because I would be spending all my time in New Mexico with Evan. Never at a loss for words myself, I told him “that’s fine I was going to kill a bigger bull than all of you and I was only going to hunt for a day and a half.” Believe me I didn’t think this was going to be the case and in truth I didn’t want it to be true, I was truthfully really hoping they would both shoot huge bulls in New Mexico, but I was still going to give him a hard time.

Evan practicing
Evan getting some last minute practice in camp before opening day.

All summer Evan and I researched the unit, talking to numerous resources about the unit and got some good intel on places to start our hunt. The summer flew and before we knew it August 26th was upon us and we started our long drive south to New Mexico. The whole way we talked about how great it was going to be and that there were going to be big bulls running everywhere. By the time we reached the little town of Reserve, New Mexico (the hub of a lot of the best elk hunting in the state) we were so excited we could hardly stand it. We got a few last minute supplies and headed to the mountains. At first glance I fell in love with the country; it was so much different than what I am used to in areas I have hunted in Idaho, Colorado, Montana and Utah.

New Mexico elk country
Beautiful elk country almost seems endless in New Mexico.

We set up camp the evening of the 27th and got some sleep. First thing the next morning we were on the mountain glassing a basin we had researched on maps and google earth. Almost Immediately  we started spotting bulls and in total there where 14 bulls in the basin and 2 in the 320-330 that Evan would have been more than happy to shoot an arrow at. For the next few days we kept scouting the  area and found many more bulls, but the best we found were in that basin the first morning.

The first morning
This is the first morning where we found the big bulls.
Unique New Mexico bull
A unique bull I took through my spotting scope.

 

So September, 1st the opening day of the hunt dawned with Evan and I glassing that very basin. We glassed all morning and moved from ridge to ridge spotting several bulls, but none the big bulls from our first day of scouting.  And so went the rest of the hunt, for 10 days we hunted hard and looked over literally hundreds of elk and never saw a bull as big as we did that first day on the mountain. Evan went to New Mexico wanting to shoot a big bull and wasn’t going to shoot one that he wasn’t going to be happy with. He passed on a few bulls at slam dunk range and didn’t even go after the 50+ other bulls we saw over the course of the hunt. Evan just had bad luck in drawing a tag on a year that New Mexico had a severe drought and antler growth was not near what it can be on good years. Along with poor antler growth, it was also extremely hot and the rut was almost non-existent.

Finding elk
Finding elk definitely wasn’t the problem, finding the right bull was.
Elk sheds
We found numerous sheds on the hunt.

 

Evan hunting hard
Evan gave this hunt his all, but it just didnt come together like we planned.

So on September 10th Evan and I headed back to Idaho without a bull. It was a tough pill to swallow after all the excitement leading up to the hunt, but that’s hunting! I left there really hoping I can go back someday with a tag in my pocket, but for now I had to focus on the tag in my pocket at the time, my Idaho over the counter elk tag. And of course I only had a day and a half to kill my bull.

To be Continued…

New Mexico Lizard
The area was very different from what I am used to, not many lizards in the high country of Idaho.
New Mexico Monsoon
I have never seen storms like we had every evening in New Mexico.
Elk sign
Sign was plentiful, but finding the big bull proved to be more than difficult.

Also Read:

Leave a Comment