Marla, Dad, and I got
drawn from NM's unit 16B (Gila & Aldo Leopold Wilderness) 2nd season, Oct 18-22.
Dad drove out on the 16th to set up camp and scout around, but Marla & I
couldn't get out there until early morning on the 18th, leaving Camp Wood at
4:30 on the 17th and spending the night in Las Cruces, NM.
Marla & I had scouted some areas Labor Day weekend, but since it had rained the entire time we were out save for about 3 hours one afternoon, we really hadn't found much sign. We also spent a lot of time on the topo maps and google earth. We had some advice to hunt ponds that were as far off the beaten path as possible, which we followed days 2-4.
Dad had found one good pond the day before the season opened, so when we got there, we went looking for others:
Found 1 pond close to the road that obviously saw lots of hunter traffic, and another down in canyon that looked promising. The third pond we hiked to (where the photo above was taken) was dry.
That evening, Marla & I went ahead and sat on some old burned over ridges hoping to spot elk in the distance with no sighings
That evening, Dad had a chance at a 5x5 bull, but he was in with a bunch of cows, came in to Dad at a bad angle, and by the time he could get on him, he was either behind trees or cows every time he stopped. Eventually, Dad was busted by swirling winds and the herd spooked off.
The next morning, we actually overslept by a bit, and I still-hunted back in search of another pond that I'd spotted on the map. Had I a cow tag, the hunt would have been over, as I stalked in on a cow & calf, as well as a mule deer.
Found my pond, had decent amount of elk sign so I went back that evening (dropped Marla off at the pond in the canyon along the way).
She saw turkey, while I had a 3x3 mule deer buck at 10 yards come to water and a bull elk of some description come into a puddle of water behind the dam of the pond that I hadn't seen when I found the pond earlier - about 20 yards west of the dam of the pond
I never got a good look at this bull through the screen of brush.
The next morning, I tried sitting on the dam of the pond so that I could see both the pond and the puddle, but wind was a problem, as it was coming out the west in such a way that anything coming to the main pond would scent me.
Had 3 cows and a calf come in to water, this shot taken after they'd winded me and before they ran off
That afternoon, I tried the same pond - on the way in, jumped a nice Mule deer buck and doe. I decided to sit where anything coming into the main pond couldn't wind me - only problem I couldn't really see the puddle on the other side of the dam. Wouldn't you know that about 30 minutes before sunset, I ook up and there's NICE 6x6 bull standing at the puddle on the other side of the dam. I crawled as close as I dared and tried to shoot over the dam into his vitals - I aimed to just slip the bullet over the berm, thinking "Its either going to be a clean shot to the shoulder, or I'll hit the dam" . . . well, I hit the top of the dam. I told Marla (who saw more turkey LOL) that it was a good news, bad news, good news situation:
"Good news, I saw a big bull"
"Bad news, I missed"
"Good news, we don't have to pack him out 2 miles on our backs"
Next and last day of the hunt, I saw the same cows at the pond that morning, along with 3 NICE mulie bucks (but could only see their antlers over the top of the dam - they were at the puddle). In the evening, I sat where I could see the puddle, and put Marla where she could watch the pond
(actually, we got out there really early - around 2 pm).
This time, I saw the turkey, and she saw a raghorn bull.
We had a great time, first time out elk hunting, and had opportunities that we couldn't capitalize on, but that's hunting. If I ever hunt this pond again, I'm bringing a hang-on tree stand so I can sit where I can overlook both the puddle and the main pond (assuming the puddle has water in it, of course). I know that tree stands aren't "traditional" for elk hunting, but I was wishing I had one at this particular spot.
On the way out of the mountains, had some nice shots of Cottonwoods along the Mimbres River.