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New Mexico cow elk hunt

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I want to start by giving a huge thank you to Scoot and NoWiser for sharing their time and stories with me and the rest of the forums. They created an interest in me to learn about elk hunting. Both of them have answered questions for me and NoWiser has gone above and beyond in sharing his experience and gear with me. And as always, thanks to Rick for creating these forums that allow us to share our love of the outdoors.

Last year I started a new job and in the process, one of my trainers was a fellow hunter. As we talked about hunting he mentioned a landowner tag elk hunt that he and some other coworkers did every winter. Being a new person, I tried to learn as much as possible without pushing the envelope. Well, fall came and as conversations turned to hunting season, I made a comment regarding their elk hunt and trying to tag along. My coworker asked if I was serious and offered to float the idea to the rest of the group. I assured him I wanted to go.

After passing a vetting process with some of the older members, I was offered a spot in their New Mexico cow hunt. I did not have a rifle that was up to the task of elk hunting so that was the first step. I settled on a Weatherby Vanguard in .308, topped it with a Vortex scope and after lotsof shooting, I settled on Nosler Accubond 165gr ammo.

I was told to plan for temps below zero and deep snow. I'm from MN so that did not concern me in the least. When Jan. 10 came around we hit the road for New Mexico. We were hunting 10,000 acres of private property using landowner cow tags. We arrived in town and settled in for the week. A quick orientation for me showed that the "town herd" was in the area. WHAT A SHOCK for me to see 300-500 elk hanging out on a hillside in the afternoon. The temps were in the 30's and there was no snow except on north slopes.

Well, thats as close as we would come to cows on this hunt. The cow herd did not cross on to our property during the entire week. We had threats of snow for 3 days and only picked up an inch. Temps reached the 40's most days and the elk remained in the timber on the snowy hillsides.

I did have some excitement and I saw elk within shooting range every day. Unfortunately they were all bulls! I know that its hard to complain about seeing so many bulls, but they weren't the goal for this trip. On day 2, I was glassing a hillside covered in oak brush when I pulled away from my bino's to see a 5x5 bull standing 80yds from me. I think I was more startled than he was. I had never been so close to an elk! He turned on his heels and ran across the creek and up the hillside I had been glassing. There had been 3 bulls in the group, the 5x5, a raghorn and a fawn bull that appeared to be a "button bull", if there is such a thing. I could plainly see pedicles, but no antler. It was a legal antlerless elk, but I wasn't sure and I wasn't sure if the landowner had a rule about bulls, so I passed.

We spent the next 2 days chasing that button bull because it was the only antlerless animal we found on the property. It never came together. One morning I spotted 7 bulls in a huge meadow. They were more than a mile away so we created a plan to hunt them in the evening and the following morning. That night we set up right by the wood edge where the elk had gone in. Just before sunset, 7 bulls exited the woods and entered the meadow. The first one out was a majestic 7x6!. He was certainly the stud bull of the group and made no question about it. He as followed by a equally impressive 6x6. After that 4 more bulls came out, fighting in pairs the whole way. Not only did I see 7 bulls that were healthy 4x4's or bigger, but the last 4 were sparring in front of us for 5-10 minutes, all within 200yds.

Its hard to say we had bad luck. We had the wrong kind of luck. I wouldn't mind having bull luck for a while, just not when I'm holding a cow tag. By the end of the week, the cows had moved to within 300yds of our property line, but they never did cross over.

I can honestly say I was not disappointed with my trip. I really wish I would've brought some meat home, but it was an awesome trip with amazing scenery and I was in elk every day. The fire has been lit and I cant wait to do it again!

I was hoping to share a story of success, but we all know that you can't win them all. I hope you all remember a similar story and reflect on it fondly. I'm sorry I don't have many pictures, I was spending too much time trying to hunt to take lots of photos. The gun will have to wait until next year to log its first kill.


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It sounds like a fun time to me! To be that close to elk in the wild is a wonderful thing! They really are amazing animals and so much fun to be around. The country they call home is pretty great too!

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Thanks for posting your report! I'm glad you had a fun trip, even if you didn't bring home any meat. I have a feeling it won't be too long and you'll have a freezer full of elk. It looks like you may be showing the first signs of "elk fever." There is no cure! Just wait until you hear a bugle!

Congrats on the fun trip!

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