January 18, 2010
Hasn’t been much happening around here for the past
couple of weeks. The Hondo Ranch archery mule deer hunt had Kevin Beatty and
Roswell Schnur of Tennessee in town for the week. They saw lots of deer and
got to fling lots of arrows. When all the dust settled, Kevin had a
150-class buck on the ground. Roswell got some shots but failed to connect.
I’m still waiting on photos.
I’ve been updating on the main website and getting ready
for the 2010 season. It is looking like 2010 will be another good horn year
as we have had more snow than in many years. And there is another set of big
storms heading our way this week. It’s early, but the initial forecasts are
calling for snow measured in feet, not inches. Snow translates to good
spring moisture and growth.
One of our hunters from the first rifle hunt, Dave Desko
of Union Dale, PA, wrote a story about his hunt with us. I thought you would
enjoy it so I have included it. His version is a "little" more detailed than
my "secondhand" version of the story. Enjoy.
RUNNIN’ THE GOAT
By David R. Desko
It was a quarter to five, a.m., in the southernmost range
of the New Mexico Rockies. My hunting companion, Carl Barsigian, and I were
on the first morning adventure of our hunt of a life time. This was our
first ever elk hunt which we had been dreaming of, planning for, and
conditioning ourselves to endure, for nearly 18 months. Carl and I were the
perfectly compatible pair, as hunting partners go. His dream was to come
home with a trophy head mount, sporting a 6 by 6, scoring no less then 320
inches, and long whale-tails. I wanted young and tender meat. So the plan
was clear, whenever our guide brought us into range of a potential bull,
Carl got first dibs. If in his judgment the bull was not up to his specs and
he passed, I got to take the first crack.
Guide, Jerry Corliss, picked us up at our cabin, and
drove us through the frosty pre-dawn dark, to the trailhead. Jerry was one
of the best of the best; serving with the most aptly named "Elite"
Outfitters. On the previous evening, Jerry had given us a description of the
hunting area as "a long but light walk, for the most part, and a little more
difficult, near the end, but it’s easy…anybody can do it." Now we were
there, with headlamps blazing, as we started up the trail-head that leads to
a God-forsaken part of the White Mountain Wilderness, simply called Goat
Canyon. We were soon to learn why this place was so named.
Before first light broke above, we saw movement just
yards ahead on the trail. The unmistakable form of an elk swept across the
trail through a small clearing and silently slipped into a stand of pinion
and scrub oak, out of sight. This was exactly the phrase that crossed my
ancient sixties-hippie mind and lips at that moment, "out of sight!" I knew
we were in God’s country … with still yet to learn why it was also
God-forsaken. After a sufficient time of quiet and motionless waiting, we
Just as full light finally turned the landscape to a full
hew of color, the guide stopped us in our tracks and whispered, "a bull,
about 190 yards ahead." Jerry had already laser ranged it before we knew it
was there. After a quick look, Carl said, "No way…not for me, Dave." I put
my rifle on the sticks and put my cross hairs on my first ever elk bull. He
was a young, 3 by 5 that looked good enough to eat, and standing broadside.
I told Jerry so, but he was confident in assuring me, I could still do much
We had five days to hunt and we were only one hour into
the first day, and Jerry insisted I should not take the "rag-horn" I was
zeroed in on. Well, I knew I have to listen to my guide, but I grudgingly
reminded him, "If this was the last afternoon of our 5 day hunt, coming out
of the woods, I would definitely take him." With that, he still said, "No
way," and I obeyed, but very reluctantly.
later, as we crested a clear bald spot on the top of a ridge, we could see
several cows in the distance below us, with a bull that seemed to believe
they belonged to him. The cows started mewing, the bull bugled, and
instantaneously coyotes started howling in the distance, as the sun finally
came up behind us across the horizon. It was a glorious morning and I was in
awe. After spending a good deal of time watching the cows and bull wandering
through private lands on which we could not trespass, we finally moved on to
another ridge, and another, and another. Each time we spotted bulls and
cows, but at long distances and out of range to call.
As morning was definitely upon us, we came to the crest
of another ridge and there below us in the mouth of Goat Canyon, was another
herd of cows, and a massively antlered bull, browsing and moving across the
private lands towards the boundary where they could cross into the public
land of the White Mountain Wilderness. Jerry started calling with cow mews,
and the bull with the herd immediately bugled back, trotting forward towards
Jerry waited a few minutes and mewed again, and just as
the bull responded, another bugle, louder and much nearer, came from the
canyon’s north-face wall, above us and definitely within just a few hundred
yards. "We got to move out, now!" said Jerry, as he started making a beeline
back to the trail that led us down into and across the mouth of Goat Canyon.
We started a quick paced trek several hundred yards up
into the canyon, and running parallel with the north face wall where we knew
somewhere was lurking a bull elk, on the move. Before long, we were in a
patchy area with good breaks in coverage that gave us a panoramic view of
the north face. Almost immediately, Jerry declares in an excited whisper,
"There he is, and he’s a 5 by 5!" Once again, Carl quickly assessed and
declared, "Not for me, Dave," and I tried to sight him in. The morning sun
was now starting to rise from behind the north face and glaring up my scope
lens. "I can’t see him," I muttered, and Jerry said, "Neither can we, now.
He’s moved to the left, on up the canyon."
Off again, and this time running, we trudged through the
underbrush along the canyon trail hoping to get into another position where
we could set up ahead of the bull’s passing. Once we got to a likely place,
Jerry mewed, and we could hear the bugle and see the 5 by 5 coming into
view, several hundred yards directly across from us. But, just as I was
setting up on the sticks, we heard another bull bugling from somewhere back
behind the one we were hunting.
"Just wait a minute," said Jerry. "We got to see what
this other one is." No sooner said, and out appeared the rack of another
mature bull. Glassing him over, Jerry said he’s a nice 6 by 6, and probably
well over 300 inches. Carl glassed him over and said, "Not much length on
the whalers, I don’t want him." I set up on the sticks, as Jerry laser
ranged him. "325 yards", he reported. Again, with the sun glaring into my
scope, I started having trouble seeing him and maintaining the eye-relief at
the same time. Jerry put his hat over a low hanging branch directly in the
sunlight path and shaded the front of my scope. "Carl, he is a beautiful,
bull," I said. "You should really take him." Carl just slightly shook his
head at me and said, "Naw, he’s yours if you want him."
Now mind you Jerry has probably
seen all kinds of hunters in his years of guiding, but he finally just burst
out at us, "I can’t believe you two, you’re saying he’s too big, and you are
saying he’s too small! One of you better take the shot, or give me the
*&%*-ing rifle and
I will shoot the *&%*%-ing
Enough said, I thought to myself and took control of my
shortened breath, tried to calm my adrenalin riddled upper body, and
squeezed off the best shot I could give. Jerry reported, "Way high, but
right over him…reload and shoot again…aim lower…hurry!" I immediately did as
told, and after my second shot was off, "still too high," said Jerry, "and
he’s moving out again, to the left!
By the time I got another round chambered and sighted in
on the moving bull, he was already going behind a large pinion tree, and
then stopped. He just stood there, not moving. All I could see was his
back-side just still clear of the pinion. After what seemed an eternity, he
moved again. And then he stopped again, this time, fully hidden from view,
except for his antlers and the top of his head, just starting to emerge from
the left side of the pinion. Jerry reminded me, "Put a couple more rounds in
your magazine, while you got a chance," and I did.
Now a real eternity did pass. For at least a full twenty
minutes I stood with my rifle on the sticks staring through the scope at the
bull’s heavily antlered head, and praying for him to just take a couple
steps more to the left. Shakiness in my upper limbs rose and fell several
times. Cramps from holding one uncomfortable position for far too long
started to set in. Still the bull would not move. Then Jerry pronounced, "He
ain’t gonna move on his own, so we got to get a different position on him,
or get him to move for us…Dave follow me, now!" I started after him, leaving
Carl on the spot.
This is where it all became surreal to me. Jerry led me
straight up a ridge that had no footing, no trails, covered in cactus,
pinion, and other horrible underbrush that would make it impassible, even
without a 20lb pack on my back and a rifle in my hands. And, did I say
straight up? No gentle switch backs, no level side steps, just straight up
in already thin mountain air to higher terrain, and still thinner air. It
was excruciating as I continued trudging, gradually falling further behind,
as Jerry led the way.
Finally, I had no more oxygen and my legs could no longer
support my body. My racing heart was pounding so loud in my ears, I could
hear nothing else. I strained to take a full breath as I fell to my knees.
This is why it is called Goat Canyon, I thought to myself. Nobody but goats
should ever have to come up here…ever.
Jerry emerged, above, back tracking down towards me.
"Come on, he moved and he is just ahead." I started to say "I can’t just
yet, I need a minute to catch my wind and regain my footing here." But, all
I could get out was, "I can’t," when Jerry got into my face and yelled (if
you can imagine yelling in a barely audible whisper) "What do you mean you
can’t? Are you going to quit on me now after I brought you all the way up
here to this terrific bull? It’s just 15 more yards, this way. Come on now.
It’s easy…anybody can do it! Let’s go!"
With that last biting remark still ringing in my ears
("anybody can do it"), he took off in a lateral direction (thankfully, not
up hill again!), and somehow, my legs started moving again and I followed.
Jerry suddenly stopped and set up his sticks behind a pinion tree and said,
"Look, right through the boughs of this pinion, up the canyon wall…200
yards." I set up the rifle, found the eye relief, and stared into my scope
searching the landscape. Then, there he was. Majestic, bold, high on the
edge of a shelf, quartered towards me, and looking right at me as if to say
"What are you doing on my mountain." I replied with a squeeze of the
trigger. "He went down," Jerry" told me, as I automatically reloaded and
re-aimed to find the sight picture. Jerry said, "He’s up but still standing
in the same place!" I saw him, again, put the cross hairs on his front
shoulder, and squeezed again. This time with the report of the rifle I heard
that sweet muffle "thlump" of the bullet hitting solid flesh. "I know I got
him good that time," I said to Jerry. Immediately we heard the crunching
falling slide of elk body, crashing horns, and loose rocks tumbling, and we
knew he was down for the count.
"Oh, my God," said Jerry, watching through his
binoculars, "His rack is all totally busting up, and he is still falling!" I
said "Oh no!" and he said "Psych…just kidding!" Jerry lifted his hand up to
high five me, and as my hand connected with his, he said "Congratulations,
Dave, you just got your first bull elk, and he is a beaut!" I just looked at
him and said, "Jerry that was not funny."
that, I collapsed into a partly fallen, partly sitting, position on the
steep of the canyon and took it all in. From thousands of feet above the
desert floor below, I looked out the mouth of Goat Canyon and across the
White Sands desert to the mountainous landscape on the far horizon. This was
truly a once in a life time moment, and the fulfillment of a hunter’s dream.
I was just taking it all in. It was about 10:00 in the morning on that
Saturday, October 17th,
While sitting there, I gradually grew warmly fond of
Jerry for not letting me take the first "rag-horn" I saw, and especially for
doing what it took to motivate me to get the shot opportunity and harvest of
a beautiful Rocky Mountain Elk. If ever I take another guided elk hunt, it
will have to be with Jerry and Elite Outfitters. When Carl finally caught up
with me, he was ecstatic for me…a true friend, who could share in that
moment of joy with me.
thought I, "I know why the place was called Goat Canyon," or so I thought.
Following Jerry and making the final approach to the harvested animal, I
discovered the real reason. We were on a side of a ridge that when looking
down you could not see more than three steps ahead as the curve of the ridge
descended to the bottom, completely out of sight. Vertigo began to swarm me.
Gradually and ever so gingerly I kept my footing sure as I ascended along
the upward slant of the ridge following Jerry towards my bull.
Eventually the brush broke out into a clearing that
revealed a dry rock gully running down the north face of the canyon wall.
Nearly straight up another 50 yards, and laying in the gully, was my bull.
On hands and knees, we had to climb up the numerous levels of the gully to
reach the bull. Wedged down into the gully and all twisted up, lay the prize
bull I had harvested.
No room to maneuver around with the bull filling the
gulch. No room to set up for pictures. No room in which to perform the
arduous task of removing the precious portions of meat and properly field
dressing the animal. He had to be moved first, down to a spot in the gulch
where it widened out with an almost level ground with room for us to work.
Jerry did a terrific job of getting it all prepared for transport by the
field scored my bull at 315 inches. I was tickled with that finding. The
good Lord was definitely smiling on me that day, which I will never forget.
I will always remember the sight picture of that bull in my crosshairs; and
the indescribable beauty of the wilderness landscape where it all happened.
Nor will I forget the rugged physical demands of the terrain we traversed.
It was truly the adventure of a lifetime. But, next time I will start
conditioning earlier and harder. When we got back to the cabin and were
reliving the day, Jerry grudgingly admitted that even for him, it was one of
the toughest hunts he had guided.
By the way, Carl did hunt the full five days, faithful to
his own objective, and while having a couple shot opportunities at some
trophy bulls, he did not fill his tag. But, he was content that he had a
full adventure with 5 days of hunting in the Rockies, and he was disciplined
enough to wait for his own trophy bull to appear. Good for Carl, and I
admire him for that. But, it is definitely ‘not my cup of tea,’ however. Or,
should I say, ‘Not my plate of meat?’
December 30, 2009
Well, we did the pistol thing. Let’s just put it
this way, for me, it was two pistol hunts in one. First and last.
We have an archery mule deer hunt coming up next
week at the Hondo Ranch and then we have some aoudad sheep hunts at the
Chance Ranch in west Texas in January and February. The Chance aoudad hunts
are the best hunt we do. At least from a hunting perspective. It’s the best
kept secret in hunting. I’m serious. It is.
I’m looking forward to adding some new hunts and
products in the near future. Now that elk season is over I can get around to
some of the these things.
Also, I’m going to implement a repeat-customer
plan for 2010. If you have ever actually done a hunt with us in the past, we
will give you $500 off the contract price, toward any future elk hunt we
offer. Getting hunters back after they have been through the drill before,
is a definite advantage for both of us. I wish I could do more. If you
haven’t hunted with us before, you need to. Then you’ll be a repeat customer
Starting to get a few youth essays in. Don’t
forget about it.
Happy New Year to everyone.
December 24, 2009
Sorry it took so long for me to get back, but
Brad and I did our last Alan Ranch hunt of the year and then immediately
took off for Texas. We whacked some does to make dried sausage, visited with
some good friends, did a little business, and are back ready for one last
elk hunt after Xmas.
The last hunt at the Alan Ranch went out on a
bang. Brad and I welcomed Joe Usher of Knoxville, TN and Don Pierson of
Frankewing, TN to the ranch. It didn’t take long for the festivities to
begin the first morning either. Don and I climbed to the top of a ridge and
were glassing. I left Don on a vantage point to glass and I walked around
the corner to peak into a side canyon. I walked back a few minutes later and
Don said a bull came out of the timber on the ridge above us and walked over
the top. Don said it looked big to him, so I said, "Let’s go see."
started up the ridge and soon spotted some bulls across the canyon from us.
There was one 300-ish 6-point but nothing outstanding. Don says, "The one I
saw was bigger than that." That was enough for me, so we continued up to the
bull Don saw. As we are topping out looking for this bull, I noticed another
bull across the canyon with these others I’d already seen. This one was
nice, but 700 yards across a canyon.
Yet, I know we’re yards away from the bull Don
saw. Which one do we pursue? That answer was made for us, as I looked 200
yards up the ridge and there Don’s bull stands looking right at us. He
looked good from the front, but I really wanted him to turn his head so I
could see the tops. The bull starts heading down the slope through the brush
and trees and I’d seen enough. "Shoot him" I said. Don shoots the bull, who
is moving in a slow trot, in our only opening, offhanded, through the
shoulder, in one shot. I couldn’t believe it! Don is a minister and it
seemed like he had devine intervention. I was just happy to see the bull go
down. Especially before it plummeted into the bottom of Price Canyon, where
we would have to carry it back out. An hour into the hunt we were done.
The bull was a good, dark-horned 6×6 with nice
tops. It was Don’s first bull and he was the one who had spotted it to begin
with. It was fate.
Joe and Brad saw a bunch of bulls on the first
morning, but most were small and the two good ones they did see busted them
from a half mile away. Brad is still irritated about that.
The action resumed on the second morning when
Brad, Joe and Don went one way and I went another with a radio. Neither of
us saw anything immediately and I was back in the truck, driving to a
different spot to start glassing, when I looked up and saw a pile of bulls
up on a slope where I had never seen an elk on that ranch before. I squealed
at Brad on the radio and he turns and immediately sees them. Six bulls, two
monsters! We lost sight of them, but Brad and I knew where they were headed,
so he took off with Joe and Don to head the bulls off.
I drove on to the spot where I was intending to
glass and immediately spotted a beautiful 6×6. I yelled at Brad on the radio
and he tells me he is on the six bulls. He says one is huge and he doesn’t
want to leave. I can’t say I blame him, so I just sit and watch this bull in
the spotting scope from 3/4 mile away for almost two hours. He alternated
between eating mountain mahogany and snow the entire time.
Meanwhile, Brad felt the six bulls had bedded in
the thick trees he saw them disappear into. He planned a controlled drive
with Don slipping around and pushing the bulls to them. It almost worked.
They set up on shooting sticks and waited. When the bulls came, it looked as
if they were going above Brad and Joe. So they took off uphill leaving the
shooting sticks stuck in the ground. Sure enough, the bulls cut downhill and
ran OVER those shooting sticks! Brad is still crying about it. He said it
was one of the biggest bulls he’s ever seen.
By the time they call me and tell me their fate,
I have lost the bull I was watching as he moved over a ridge on me. Seeing
we were now looking for a bull again, I went around the mountain and began
trying to locate where that bull had gone to bed. It took me two hours, but
I finally found him and felt I knew where he would come out in the
We all climbed up to a prominent point 1/2 mile
from where I saw the bull. We waited patiently and then sure as taxes,
there he is. Brad and Joe start slipping around the ridge to get within
range when Don and I have two elk, which we only heard, come running by us.
The bull we were after saw all this commotion, and began easing up the
slope. Brad had not seen or heard those elk he jumped and continued down to
get a shot. By the time they got in position, the bull he was after,
disappeared over the ridge on us. We’re fully aware of the situation and
hope was disappearing by the minute.
and Joe were walking back when Brad sees the tracks of the two elk we heard
him jump. He starts telling me on the radio that one is a huge track. So
Brad walks over to the edge of the ridge where the elk ran into the canyon
and there they are, standing on the other side, 400 yards away. A 5×5 and a
big 6×6. It took some finagling trying to get set up for a shot in the oak
brush, but Joe hammered the bull and he didn’t go 30 yards.
Just when it looked like things couldn’t get
blacker, it was bright again. We never did see the bull I watched all day,
again. But the bull Joe got was maybe even better and extremely unique. It
had 23-inch thirds and extraordinary mass. The pictures really don’t do this
bull justice. We don’t see thirds on bulls like this one very often. He
looked huge standing there looking at us. Joe got the full treatment too, as
Brad and I were both barking at him to shoot. Stefan (Rose Man) Kneffel can
relate. He got "a double treatment" back in October. He kept mumbling
something about pressure. But there are two bulls on the ground to show for
It was a great ending to a great year at the Alan
Ranch. Thanks to everyone who hunted with us this year at Alan’s. We had as
much fun as you did chasing all those bulls.
Out of 17 rifle hunters on the Alan Ranch in
17 harvested a 5-point or better bull.
15 harvested a 6-point or better bull.
We’ve got a PISTOL hunter coming this week to
Hondo. First time for that. Stay tuned…………..!
December 11, 2009
It was a tough morning around here. Ozzy, our
beloved German Shepherd, passed away. He was almost 12 years old and his
body finally went out on him, but his heart persevered until the end. His
will to live was as strong as anything I have ever seen. We truly lost a
member of our family, in every sense of the word.
If you have pets, who are truly members of your
family, give them a hug for Ozzy and tell them you love them. Those
chances disappear much too quickly.
December 10, 2009
Brad LaBounty and I welcomed Jon Prather of
Manvel, TX and Philip Roberts of Bangs, TX to the Alan Ranch this week. Jon
and Philip are good friends with another client of ours, Michael Mertz of
Eldorado, TX. I have known Michael since the 7th grade. I grew up in
Junction, TX which was in the same district with Eldorado in those days. We
met through athletics. Most of the time, players with rival teams were
viewed as the enemy. The guys we met from Eldorado, Michael, Charley
Bradley, Mickey Nixon and Randy Morrison, to name a few, were
different. They were always class acts. We competed against each other
through our senior years and we all earned each other’s respect through that
time. I got back in touch with Michael a few years ago and he has done a
couple of elk hunts with us since.
Jon and Philip came to us through Michael and we
welcomed them into the Elite family with a great week at the Alan Ranch.
Although they showed up during one of our worst wind storms in a while,
it didn’t deter the hunt much.
the first afternoon of the hunt, Brad and Jon were out glassing for bulls
when I managed to spot a bull a couple miles away from where I was, but
close to where Brad and Jon were. About the time they spotted the bull I had
seen, Jon says, "There’s a bull." Brad looks and it’s a good one and much
closer to them than the bull I had seen. In a split second, they were off to
close the distance.
They got to within 480 yards and that was going
to be the only place to get a shot. Jon proceeded to pump three bullets into
the bull and down he went. The bull was unique in that he had a seventh
point that came off the right main beam between the G2 and G3.
Unfortunately, he had broken most of it off. Another even more unique
feature to the bulls rack was a third antler that came off just below the
base of the right main beam. The point was only an inch long but it had it’s
own pedestal and everything. It doesn’t show well in the picture, but it is
only the second bull I have seen with a third antler. You can just see part
of it in the picture.
The next morning, Phillip and I, along with Brad
and Jon, went back into the area from the night before looking for the bull
I had previously spotted. The wind was howling 40 to 50 mph even in the
canyons. Wind gusts on top were in excess of 70 mph! Even though it was an
ugly weather day, we soon spotted a herd of cows with a small bull, but
nothing we wanted. Soon thereafter, we spotted a couple of bulls within 300
yards of where Jon’s bull hit the dirt! One was a small 5×5 and the other
was a really big 5×5 and we immediately decided to go after the bigger bull.
started the stalk and had to go in the general direction where the cows had
disappeared into the trees. We got to within 300 yards of the bull we were
after when we peaked through the trees to see him looking intently our way.
Brad is squealing, "Gigs up! He’s onto us." What actually happened was we
had run smack dab into those cows and they were sprinting from us toward the
bull we were after. In the wind, we couldn’t even hear them running and
finally saw them as they headed up toward the big bull. As everything was
fixing to fall apart, Philip fell down onto the shooting sticks and drilled
the bull just as he was turning to run. Phillip chambered another round and
shot again as fast as I’ve ever seen. The second shot was through thick
brush and it didn’t hit the bull, but it wasn’t needed. The first shot had
hit the mark and the bull tumbled down the slope.
We had two bulls on the ground within 300 yards
of one another. The rest of the day was spent quartering, caping and packing
elk. It was another good week at the Alan Ranch. I’m not for certain, but I
think the bull Philip got was the one I had seen the evening before.
Thanks again to Michael Mertz for sending Jon and
Philip to us. We had a great time and I have a strong suspicion we’ll see
Jon and Philip again.
December 4, 2009
Well, winter showed up this week. It was 7 below
at my house this morning with around 14 inches of snow on the ground. This
is only the third time in 15 years I have seen it get below zero here. One
of those arctic fronts backed into us from the east. All I know is it’s
Brad LaBounty and I had another good week at the
Alan Ranch. We welcomed Michael Groom and his non-hunting friend, Gustavo
Perez from Los Gatos, CA along with Jeff Scott and his non-hunting friend,
Lucas Conley from Lexington, KY.
We drove into the ranch in a snowstorm which
persisted through the first day of the hunt. Although we only got 6 inches
of snow out of the storm, poor visibility dogged us for the first day of the
hunt. The 2nd day dawned clear and cold and we immediately got into bulls.
Brad spotted the first good bull fairly close to where Jeff, Lucas and I
were hunting. He notified me of his find on the radio and we slipped down to
try and get a shot. Unfortunately, the wind shifted on us and the bull got a
snout full of our aroma and the gig was up. That bull shot out of there as
if he was on fire. We didn’t even see him until he was crossing over a
distant ridge. All we could do was wave goodbye to him.
soon found a herd of bulls above him that had at least 12 bulls in it.
Several were really good. He, Michael and Gustavo slipped within 250 yards
of the herd and Michael soon dispatched a big 5×6. At the shot, Brad said
there were bulls exploding out of the brush everywhere. There were 6 or 7
bulls that came out that they hadn’t even seen yet.
Meanwhile, after getting busted by the first bull
we got on, Jeff, Lucas and I had gotten on a ridge and resumed glassing.
Brad had informed us of his pod of bulls when he saw them and we could see
the back side of the ridge he told us they were on. We soon spotted a couple
of bulls on the back side of that ridge, with one being a dandy 5×6. We were
over 700 yards from the bull, so Jeff and I took off to the top of a closer
ridge to try to get a shot. Lucas stayed behind to keep an eye on the bull.
Well, sure as taxes, the bull got into the thick trees on the ridge and none
of us could find him again. Jeff and I worked our way over to the ridge the
bull was on to see if we could find him on the back side.
Then we hear Michael shoot. Lucas radios to us
that there are bulls streaming down the backside of the ridge we had been
watching. Jeff and I sprinted down the hillside and sure enough, the bull we
had been watching earlier was going up the ridge we had just come from. He
was too quick and we didn’t get a shot. A minute later, the bull is heading
up the next ridge back toward Lucas. We got several 400-yard shots at the
bull going up through the trees but to no avail. The bull passed within 50
yards of Lucas on his way up. He videoed him going by. And to think, we were
sitting there an hour before! We tracked that bull for close to 2 miles in
the snow trying to catch up with him, but he never stopped. We finally lost
him on a south-facing slope where the snow had already melted.
3rd morning of the hunt saw Brad, Jeff, Lucas and I back up in the area
where we saw all the bulls the day before. We soon spotted 4 bulls but
nothing that got us too excited. We worked our way up the ridge a little
ways when Brad spots a whopper. We were 550 yards from him and we slipped
down to within 450 yards. As Jeff was setting up for the shot, Brad and I
were sitting behind him giving each other the "That’s a big bull!" look. We
kept it to ourselves as we didn’t want to shake Jeff up with that
revelation. Jeff drops the bull and we all erupted in jubilation.
By the time we had gotten the bull quartered, the
clouds were dropping and visibility was dropping fast. We caught a break
with the weather and had a good bull to show for it. Brad made another
excellent spot in seeing this bull. Jeff was practically speechless. It was
his first bull elk and it was a dandy. We all commented on the genetic
similarities to the bull Michael had killed the day before.
It was another successful hunt at the Alan Ranch.
One of our early-season rifle hunters, Russ
Peagler, of Monck’s Corner, SC, read about the youth essay contest and
emailed me generously offering to donate $500 to the winner to help cover
their gear and travel expenses. Russ you are a class individual and we
appreciate your support. If there were more people like you in the world, we
would all be better off. Thank you again.
November 30, 2009
Graham, the 12-year-old son of Joseph Graham, drew a youth mule/Coues deer
tag in southwestern New Mexico. Joseph and another one of our guides that
lives in that area, Billy Corliss, took Riker on the hunt. They saw lots of
deer and Riker passed on several Coues and mule deer. (The tag was good for
either species and they are both well represented in this area.) They found
the buck pictured and were waffling about whether to take him or not. The
buck started to go away from them and we all know what that view from behind
can do to a deer. Joseph told Riker, "Shoot that deer!" And Riker did.
Riker is one of the most fortunate young men in
this world when it comes to hunting. His dad Joseph has spent countless
hours preparing Riker and taking him on hunts that most kids never get to
do. Riker has taken bull elk, mule deer, aoudad sheep, oryx, whitetail deer
and I know I’m forgetting other animals. Not bad for an 12-year old! Riker
will be guiding for us one day. That I do know. Congratulations Riker on
another successful hunt. Joseph and Billy, you guys did good!
November 26, 2009
Happy Turkey day!
The late-season rifle hunts on the ranches got
off to a good start this week. Brad LaBounty and I took two new clients,
Earl Shanks of Rosharon, TX and Steve Shepherd of Marshall, AR, out to the
Alan Ranch and were fully prepared to hunt through Turkey day. We packed
turkey and trimmings with us. Good fortune prevailed and we got done early.
Opening morning, I took Steve to one of my
favorite spots on the ranch and I spotted a good 6×6 high up on one of the
ridges. We started up the ridge after him when I looked back across the
canyon and spotted another bull. I put the spotting scope on him and the
bull looked heavy and wide, despite only having 5 points on one side. There
was another bull in the trees that I could only see the tips of his antlers.
I changed plans and went after these bulls instead of the first one spotted.
We dropped back into the canyon bottom and
started up toward the bulls. I had already decided that I was not going to
be able to see the bulls from the bottom, but would be able to if we worked
a little ways up the other side of the canyon. The one bull I could see well
initially was laying down in an opening on a finger ridge extending down
into the main canyon. I was a little ways ahead of Steve when I stopped to
look up on the ridge with my binoculars. I saw the tips of the antlers of
the bull in the trees and as I scanned down to see if I could see the bull
laying down, I got to experience the worst feeling a guide can possibly
feel. The bull was laying there less than 300 yards away looking right at
me! I have been doing this game long enough to know that this gig was almost
up. I motioned for Steve to hurry up and get there, but the bull jumped up
out of his bed and quickly disappeared over the finger ridge. The other bull
in the trees lingered briefly but followed his buddy over the ridge. As I’m
kicking myself for getting in too big of a hurry and getting busted, I tried
in vain to catch them as they went around the mountain. No such luck.
We worked our way back up to a vantage point to
continue glassing. Just as I got back on top, I heard shots in the distance.
Brad LaBounty took Earl to a different spot on the ranch and was into
action. Brad had been seeing some cows and small bulls along the ridge he
was following. He had just seen some cows and a 4-point bull in one of the
valleys and was starting on up the ridge when Earl says I see a cow. Brad
tells him, "I know. I saw them." Earl says," There’s a bull!" Brad answers
back, "It’s a 4-point, I saw him too." Earl replies, "It looks like an awful
big 4-point!" As Brad stops in mid step, he’s thinking he better go back and
check this out. He walks back to where Earl was standing and looks.
Brad had another eye-popping moment as he’s looking at a big 6×6 less than
300 yards away!
Brad springs into action as the bull is one step
from getting into thick trees. He got Earl into shooting position and he
shoots. The bull started looking around and then started working back across
the opening instead of continuing into the trees. Earl shot two more times
as he went across the opening with no appearance of a hit. Just before the
bull disappeared into the trees again, Brad had to get Earl up from where he
was shooting due to bushes in the way and relocate a few yards. There was no
time to set up a rest, so Brad lets Earl use his shoulder as a rest and he
fired a 4th shot. The bull disappeared into the trees. Brad scurries up the
ridge trying to get to where he can see the bull again. He gets to the ridge
top and never sees him. He radioed to me to glass over there from where I
was sitting. Neither of us could see anything. After a while Brad and Earl
worked back to where they last saw the bull but found nothing.
Dejected and defeated, they headed back down.
I heard the results over the radio and needless to say, none of us had a
we got back to the cabin, Brad and I went over the whole scenario in our
minds. I knew exactly where Brad was and where the bull disappeared. Brad
could not understand how he lost that bull there and I agreed. We both
thought that any bull moving quickly at all should have been seen getting
out of the bowl he went into. It didn’t make since where the bull had gotten
away. Brad was convinced Earl’s rifle was off. We set up a target and he
shot twice. His rifle was dead-nuts on. Brad and I looked at each other and
he said it before I did, "We have to go look again." Brad and I went back to
the scene of the crime and almost immediately walked up on the dead bull.
The ironic part is Earl had sat down on a log not 20 yards away from the
bull and didn’t see him piled up in the brush!
Brad and I went back to the cabin to get Earl and
tell him the news. Needless to say, the day was shaping up. The bull was
magnificent as you can tell from the picture. Nothing made sense to Brad and
I on this whole escapade, and now we finally figured out why. Earl had hit
the bull on the last shot instead of the bull continuing on as Brad had
first thought. We were so glad we went back. Earl had a full day. He
vowed to be in better shape next time.
On the second morning, Brad, Steve and I went
back to where I had gotten into the bulls the first morning. We spotted a
couple of small bulls initially and eventually I spotted some antler tips
sticking up in the brush on the hillside not 200 yards from where I spotted
the two bulls the day before. I worked around a little further and sure
enough, there is a huge 5×6 laying there. We were 650 yards away and not a
lot of cover between us. I slowly snaked our way through the sparse cover,
without getting busted this time, until we were 500 yards away. We were out
of room to get closer short of walking on air. I told Steve this is our only
shot. He set up and shot at the laying bull. He hit just under him and the
bull jumps up. He shot just over him and the bull takes off. He disappeared
from our sight so we took off to get a better vantage. I immediately spotted
an elk and looked through my binos. There were two bulls standing 300 yards
from us but neither was the bull we had shot at. I then saw the first bull
we shot at heading up the mountain. He was now way out of range.
looked at the two bulls standing closer to us. One was a 4-point and the
other was the bull that had busted me the morning before, I told Steve,
"Shoot the one in the front!" He did and the bull dropped. I could still see
the first bull topping out the ridge some 3/4 mile away by this time. That
bull was bigger than the one we killed, but we got a second chance when the
other two bulls came out of the brush.
Looking back, the first bull we shot at I believe
was the bull I had seen the antler tips the day before when I got busted.
The bull that busted me was the bull we just killed. I got my second chance.
What is even stranger, was that we shot him not 200 yards from where he was
the first day. They like that spot! I have had several hunters kill bulls in
that exact spot in prior years. Jay Massaro, Renny Peterson and Mike Hussey,
if you are reading this, you know where I’m talking about.
We will resume hunting December 1 at the Alan and
Hondo Ranches. Till then, don’t hurt yourselves on turkey and trimmings! And
go Longhorns! Beat those nasty Aggies!
November 21, 2009
essay contest information is up. Get some deserving youths
November 19, 2009
The October muzzleloader/rifle elk seasons were a
resounding success. Overall, we took 41 hunters and killed 39 bulls. One
youth hunter shot a spike, but other than that bull, the smallest was a 5×5.
The two hunters that didn’t kill certainly had chances. One missed two bulls
and the other passed up countless opportunities trying to kill a 340 or
I thank the hard work and dedication of the
guides who made it all possible: Brad LaBounty, Joseph Graham, Todd Carr,
Dan Cornelius, Jerry Corliss, Scott Salway, Randy Eikanger, Chris Sanchez,
Jamie Gibson, Kenny Espinosa, Hoyt Graham, Billy Corliss, Clayton Wilson,
Mike Acklin and Steve Brugman. In case you are wondering how we could have
so many good guides, I’ve wondered the same thing myself. But each of these
guys are the real deal. I’d hunt with any of them in a minute. Thanks again,
I especially want to thank my wife, Denise, for
her supreme effort in keeping everyone in food and supplies. She not only
cooked every week for a camp, but she was responsible for getting all food
ready for our 2nd camps and to three different ranches! Her job is
never-ending and no one is better at it than her. You’re the best Denise. We
couldn’t do it without you.
I just returned from Illinois where I have been
bowhunting whitetails. I have been going to the same place for the past 6
years. I work with a couple of friends of mine, Randy Smith and John
Swanson, and take a limited number of hunters after whitetails each year. We
stay at a truly wonderful B&B in West Salem, IL. The B&B is called Thelma’s
B&B and is run by Barbara Edmondson. Each year, everyone who walks in her
door become family. She makes everyone feel that welcome. I manage to put on
10 pounds in two weeks every year eating too well and sitting too much. But
I enjoy this hunt more than I can describe.
I hunted this year for 8 days. I had shot
opportunities at 14 bucks 130-class or smaller. I saw 3 bucks over 160 that
I REALLY wanted to kill. The first good buck I saw was being chased by a pit
bull. I should have shot this dog the day before when it was under my stand,
but I wasn’t sure if it belonged to the landowner. Don’t want to piss off a
landowner by shooting his dog! It wasn’t his dog though. I didn’t get a shot
at the deer or dog again. Bite me PETA and any other bleeding heart who
might read this! I shoot deer-chasing dogs!
The second good buck I saw was the best. I had
spotted this buck a hundred yards away in the trees one morning. Then at
3:30 in the afternoon I saw a couple of does working in behind my stand, but
still upwind. Then, there he was, 75 yards away. A huge 5×4 frame with a
3-inch drop tine on the 4-point side. Easily in the high 170’s. The does fed
within 30 yards of me and the buck got within 50 yards. I had a semi-clear
shot at 50 yards but was going to let him keep working toward the does. He
ended up staying 50 yards from me and even laid down! Let me tell you, I got
the shakes so bad I looked like I had hypothermia chills. I had to put my
bow back in the holder and breathe deeply to get rid of the shakes. When I
told this part of the story at dinner that night, everyone looked at me like
I was crazy. They wanted to know how I could get that excited over a
whitetail when we hunt for big elk all the time. Anyone I have guided can
attest that I tend to get excited guiding for big elk too. But big
whitetails are the toughest animal I have ever hunted. I’ve spent too many
hours getting close too many times. Anyway, the buck and does ended up
getting up and going away from me and never gave me a clear shot. But what
On the 8th day, a Saturday, I went out early in
the morning with a new client, Devon Sutherland, from the Nashville, TN
area. Neither of us had a productive morning and mid days had been really
slow. So we came in and watched the University of Texas destroy Baylor in
football. Once that butt-kicking was over we went out for the afternoon hunt
despite temps in the 70’s. I put Devon in one of my climber trees I liked
that looks over some prime CRP. I went up to the landowner’s fishing
pond that he has cleared and manicured so well it almost looks like a park.
I had seen bucks chasing does around there in years before so I crawled up
one of the few large trees on the dam of his pond. I put on sun-tan lotion,
stretched out and started listening to the Kansas-Nebraska football game on
my XM walkman. I had a commanding view of several crop fields and some CRP.
I really wasn’t expecting anything to happen. I had only seen a 4-point and
a few does, then maybe with maybe 20 minutes of light left, I heard leaves
behind me. I looked around expecting to see one of the two-million squirrels
that live there. Lo and behold there walks a high 160-class 10-point right
I grabbed my bow and the buck was just clearing
some limbs hanging down from the tree I was in. I drew, stopped him, zeroed
the pin behind the shoulder and shot. He was 30 yards quartering slightly
away. The arrow hit him hard in the back part of the shoulder. It whacked as
if I had shot a tree. The buck bolted out into the CRP and I lost sight of
him. I knew the arrow did not penetrate well, but the brief glimpse I got, I
thought the arrow went in 1/3 of the arrow length. I decided to leave the
buck till morning. It was an exciting yet worrisome night.
The next morning, John Swanson and I went to look
for the deer. We went to the spot where I last saw the buck. We found no
blood and no deer. NOW, I’m getting worried. We searched the CRP in the
direction the buck was last headed and found nada. I went back to where I
shot, and found part of my arrow where the buck had jumped a ditch and broke
off the arrow passing by a tree. The arrow was broken only four inches from
the broadhead. The blood was only on the very tip. It now became painfully
obvious that I had not gotten as much penetration as I thought. It seems I
merely put the head barely through the shoulder. I had hit the deer in the
joint just below the scapula. I was shooting a 2-blade Steel Force head
designed to penetrate, yet it hadn’t. I really was not scared of the
shoulder bones on a deer and crowded the shoulder more than I should have.
Love that 20-20 hindsight. John and I both felt that the shot was not going
to kill the buck once we saw the arrow. No blood and no deer supported the
Saying I was sick is an understatement. I had
come 1200 miles and come up three inches short. I had gotten shots at big
bucks before but always through brush and I couldn’t ever get an arrow into
a truly big one. I finally got a clear shot and didn’t pull it off. That’s
tough to live with. John told me to keep hunting since he didn’t think I put
a killing shot on this buck, but I didn’t go out the rest of the day. On
Monday morning, I went out and sat for a few hours. But everything had
changed. I was no longer hunting for the same reasons I was two days ago.
Even though I may not have killed that buck, I hurt him pretty bad. He
deserved better. I crawled out of the tree, packed my things and came home.
I shot my deer, I just didn’t get to take him home. There’s always next
Gibson, one of our guides, went to another place in Illinois and killed a
nice buck. I have not heard the story yet, but did get a cell phone picture
LaBounty took a few hunters to South Dakota after whitetails as well. I have
not gotten full details yet, but they did kill 3 bucks out of 4 hunters.
Jeremy Sanders killed a good one.
Graham drew a muzzleloader Coues deer tag in New Mexico this year. He hunted
hard for several days but ended up killing a 101-inch and change buck.
One other thing about long drives and long hours
in a treestand, is there is plenty of time to ponder. I did manage to
finalize things in my head on the youth essay contest I mentioned a couple
of months ago. Through joint cooperation with Larry Tillman of the Hondo
Ranch and Gordon Barham of the Gordon Ranch, we are going to offer a
$10,000-value private land elk hunt on the Hondo Ranch as first place and a
$2700-value private land antelope hunt on the Gordon Ranch as second place.
The landowners are donating the landowner permits and we are donating the
license, guiding and meals. The winners will only be responsible for getting
here. Everything else is covered. The essay topic is going to be simply
"Hunting". Details will be on the front page of the website. This contest is
not going to be advertised anywhere but on this website. If you know a youth
between the ages of 12 and 16 who likes to hunt, get ready. I’ll have a link
We will begin our late-season, rifle elk hunts on
the Alan and Hondo Ranches next week. I’ll continue to update as they
November 2, 2009
last rifle hunt in the Sacramento Mountains started on Saturday. We had 5
hunters on this hunt and one hunter on the Alan Ranch for the week.
The first bull to bite the dust came at the hands
of hunter Kevin Phillips of Macomb, MI and guide Chris Sanchez. They wasted
no time in putting a good 5×5 in the cooler. Kevin survived a steep
climb and didn’t use up all the oxygen in the air either. He kept saying, "I
couldn’t catch my breath!"
It was almost a double as hunter Erik Lundy of
Bad Axe, MI tried his best to scare a big bull to death. He impressed his
guide, Dan Cornelius with a 15-shot volley into the mountainside as the bull
finally walked out of sight 400 yards away. Needless to say, Erik took some
heat that night at dinner from everyone. Luckily, Erik brought three boxes
of shells. Update:
Erik called me this morning insisting it was a guide conspiracy on the story
and that he only shot 8 times and brought 2 boxes of
shells. We believe you Erik. Wink, wink. All kidding aside, it was Erik and
Jeff’s second trip to hunt elk with us and these guys are top-notch. I would
take hunters like them every week.
hunter for the week was Jeff Poosch of Fort Gratiot, MI. Remember that foot
of snow I mentioned on the last post? Well, I couldn’t even get my truck to
the trailhead as 20-inch-deep drifts were common. We started trying to hike
through the snow, but we still had over a mile to get to where I wanted to
start hunting and a 1,000 vertical feet climb. It was hell just walking 1/4
mile down the road and the snow was only going to get deeper as we climbed.
I made an executive decision to abandon my honey hole, and head to lower
We relocated and by 7am I had spotted a group of bulls 2 miles away. We took
off to close the distance and by 9:30am we were standing 300 yards from 3
bulls. One of the bulls was very close to our minimum and I told Jeff that
he needed to take him. And he did. I put Jeff on a 2 1/2 hour death march to
get there and I have never seen anyone sweat so much in 23-degree weather
wearing basically one shirt. Even though it was only Saturday, Jeff
had a religious experience at church. Those who have hunted with me here
know what that means.
second morning saw Erik Lundy and Dan Cornelius back in action (with lots of
ammo) as Erik got a second chance at a good bull. After the ribbing he took
the night before, he made up for it as he hit his bull 5 times out of 5
shots and sent another big 6×6 to the ground. This bull is the best of the
week so far.
second bull to drop on the second day was at the hands of Duane Banyai from
Royal Oak, MI and guide Billy Corliss. Billy had spotted a couple of bulls
several ridges away and after some fun down-up-down-up-down-up climbing,
they were in position for a shot. Duane made short work in the shooting
department and soon he was standing over his first bull elk. With this kill,
4 out of the five hunters in the Sacramentos were tagged out.
Hunter Rich Mazzolini of Savannah, GA and guide Kenny
Espinosa killed a really unique freak bull on the last day of the hunt. They
had passed on lts of lesser bulls waiting for a big one when this
opportunity arose. I do not have pictures yet.
We ended up going five bulls for five hunters on the last
had one hunter on the Alan Ranch this week. Jeff Hill of Hugoton, KS and
guide Todd Carr managed to get on a couple of big bulls on the second
morning of the hunt. They had to scurry across to another ridge to get close
enough to shoot. Once they got close enough, Todd couldn’t decide which bull
was the best as they both had different pluses and minuses. Jeff said he was
going to shoot the first one that gave him a shot. The bull pictured made
the mistake of appearing first and it was his time for a dirt nap. Jeff
pounded the bull and was on his way back to Kansas by that afternoon with a
truck full of horns and meat.
October 29, 2009 Updated 11/2
Winter made an early arrival last night. The
mountain got a foot of snow and it was 18 degrees this morning! Snowed
even more today and they are predicting a low of 11 for tonight. Very
unusual weather for October.
The past week was a bye week between the rifle
hunts in the Sacramentos. So, Brad LaBounty and myself took that three rifle
hunters to the Alan Ranch. We welcomed our Mexican friends, Stefan Kneffel
and Jorge Casab, from Cancun, Mexico. We all hunted bears together a couple
of years ago and it was a disaster of a hunt. Few bears, mule wrecks,
storms, you name it, it probably happened. And to their credit, they marched
forward through it all. Too long of a story to get into, but needless to
say, we were all looking forward to a better hunt.
Lehle, an oil man from Houston, also joined us for the hunt. Glenn came to
us through a mutual friend, Topper Davenport. I knew we were in for a treat
the first night when we arrived to find Glenn preparing a gourmet dinner.
Grilled, bacon-wrapped shrimp and marinated, whitetail back-strap as
appetizers and then quail stuffed with crab and shrimp as the encore! No
matter what happens to the oil business, Glenn has a backup talent. We ate
like kings…………till he killed a bull and left.
Brad and Glenn wasted no time either the next
morning in finding a good bull. Brad spotted a big bull in a pinon/juniper/oak
thicket. The bull was just under 500 yards. It was a distance further than
what Glenn wanted to shoot, but that was what it was. Glenn proceeded to hit
that bull three times and down he went. A magnificent bull as the picture
shows. Although Glenn made the shots, Brad deserves much of the credit for
spotting this bull to begin with. The bull was in thick, thick cover with a
9am sun directly in Brad’s face. And he still found him. I’ve hunted with
Brad enough to know his glassing skills are second to no one. This was just
another example of it.
Stefan Kneffel and I hunted together for four
days. We saw lots of bulls and a couple of which we wanted, but decaying
light and too many ridges between us just wouldn’t let it happen. Meanwhile,
Brad and Jorge Casab managed to get a shot at a good bull on the second day
of the hunt. A clean miss and the bull was gone. Brad said it’s mass was
incredible but only a 5-point. Probably a bull in decline. Too bad he got
away. He needed taken. Another day………..
Which brings us all to the afternoon of the
fourth day. Brad, Jorge, Stefan and I went up to glass one of our favorite
spots for the afternoon. We almost immediately spotted a bull lying in some
brush two ridges over. It was a respectable bull, but Jorge’s legs were shot
and his feet were hamburger by now. However, he mustered-up and crossed a
big canyon with Brad and Stefan. I hung back to keep an eye on the bull.
They all got into position on the next ridge and prepared to shoot to the
second ridge. I had them and the bull in the same field of view in the
spotting scope. Jorge shot him at 380 yards in his bed. He got up and
immediately tumbled back down. An impressive way to redeem the missed shot
two days earlier. Sorry Jorge, Brad took off and I didn’t get pictures from
Jorge shot his bull, I worked my way around the canyon head glassing and
looking for another bull. Once I reached the ridge those guys were on, I
spotted another herd of elk with a good bull. I radioed for Brad and Stefan
and they came up to where I was. Note: The
Garmin Rhino 530 HCX is the cat’s meow. We then slipped down as far as
we could and set Stefan up at 460 yards, slightly downhill. He used his
400-yard pin and proceeded to shoot over the bull twice. Brad and I were
hissing at him to shoot lower so he used his 300-yard pin and drilled him.
It appeared that over the course of four days, the rifle was shooting a
little over a foot high. Thank God we were able to see where he was missing
and the elk couldn’t figure out where the shots were coming from. We
field-corrected and Stefan got his bull.
Needless to say, we worked on elk well into the
early night and finally reached the cabin. Then it was time for a steak
dinner and special celebratory tequila from Mexico. Our friends from the
tropics almost froze while they were here, but it all worked out MUCH better
than before. Thanks guys. And Stefan, every time I smell a rose in the
future, I will think of you. (Stefan kept using this rose-scented lotion
that his company couldn’t sell. He was the prettiest-smelling hunter I’ve
ever seen for sure.)
Brad and I were at the Alan Ranch, guide Todd Carr took hunter Danny Deaver
to the Hondo Ranch for the week. Danny was accompanied by his lovely wife
Kristi. They were good friends with another client of ours who killed a big
bull on the Alan Ranch 2 years ago. Gotta love referrals.
Todd didn’t take long to find a good bull. On the
first morning of the hunt, he spotted one and quickly closed in to shooting
distance. Danny put the bull down and it was another 1-day hunt at the Hondo
October 19, 2009 Updated 10/29
first week of rifle season for the Sacramento Mountains has drawn to a
close. We had 11 rifle hunters hunting the Sacramentos on the draw hunt this
week. The final tally was 10 bulls killed out of the 11 hunters. The
smallest bull was a 5×5.
Out of 11 Rifle Hunters in the Sac. Mtns:
11 (100%) had shot opps at 5-pts or better
10 (91%) harvested 5-point or better bulls
8 (73%) harvested 6-point or better bulls
On the first morning of the hunt, it didn’t take
long for bulls to start dropping either. My nephew, Brad LaBounty and myself
took three hunters to one of our favorite spots and got into bulls
immediately. We had to wait for daylight a little while, but as soon as we
could see, we started seeing elk.
We spotted a nice bull chasing some cows around a
meadow. My hunter, Russ Peagler, of Moncks Corner, SC was the first to draw
blood. He made a sweet 400-yard shot and folded the bull up. Once Russ shot,
elk began to scatter.
spotted another bull moving up the ridge and hunter, Dusty Lopp, of Coyle,
OK got ready. Dusty also made an impressive 400-yard shot across the canyon
and folded his bull up just like Russ did. And two were down.
We walked another 50 yards and saw a good 6×6
heading out of the canyon following a pile of cows. Our third hunter, John
Edwards, of Danielsville, PA dropped onto the shooting sticks and readied
for the shot. Unfortunately, the bull topped out the ridge and disappeared
before John could get a shot. Brad and John rushed to the top of the ridge
to try to cut off the bull. Upon reaching the top, they saw the bull and his
cows dropping into the thick oaks as they disappeared like the ball players
in a scene out of "Field of Dreams."
Brad worked down the ridge a hundred yards and
spotted another bull in the thick brush. John fell into position and made
two spectacular 585 yard shots to take our third bull in 20 minutes. John
hit the bull solidly on both shots.
to say, we spent the next few hours cutting up bulls and enjoying an unusual
group kill-out. We almost pulled off a triple out of the same herd, but were
fortunate to get two. Russ, Dusty and I heard John shoot over the ridge and
Brad radioed to confirm our third bull was down.
Although none of these bulls was a monster, all
three hunters were ecstatic. They all made good shots and everyone was happy
with their bulls.
David Desko, of Union Dale, PA was the other hunter to connect on a bull on
opening morning. With the assistance of guide, Jerry Corliss, Dave
dispatched a good 6×6 that made the mistake of opening his mouth. Jerry and
Dave were after a different bull heading up the mountain in front of them
when they heard another bull bugle closer. They moved to it and just like
that, there he was. David hammered him and the fourth bull of the day was
the day wasn’t close to over. In the afternoon, hunter, Greg Barsigian, of
Vestal, NY, with guide Kenny Espinosa, got onto a bull. Greg made a 360-yard
shot across a canyon and another good 6×6 bit the dust.
to be outdone, hunter Jim Shears of Shiocton, WI and guide Dan Cornelius,
also got onto a bull on the first afternoon of the hunt. Jim and Dan ended
up sneaking within 50 yards of a bugling bull and the sixth bull of the day
was readied for the cooler. Jim couldn’t believe that with all his practice
at 300 to 400 yards, and he ends up shooting 50 yards!
What a first day. Needless to say, our wrangler,
Dave Smith, was immediately backlogged with downed elk.
second morning of the hunt saw the blood bath continue as hunter Dave
Barsigian, of Old Forge, PA and guide Kenny Espinosa called in to report the
seventh bull down. Kenny said they got into a huge herd and they got a shot
opportunity at a wide bull and took advantage of it.
Carl Barsigian, with the aid of guide Jerry
Corliss got a shot last night at a good bull, but didn’t connect.
Hunter Pete Carrion of Loveland, OH and guide
Chris Sanchez reported in with a good 5×5 down. I have not gotten a picture
Day three was quiet with three hunters still at
four saw Carl Barsigian and guide Jerry Corliss getting a shot at a good
6×6. Unfortunately, the opportunity ended without a bull. Late on the fourth
afternoon, the rain came. The first snow of the season fell above 10,000
feet and everywhere below got cold rain.
The fifth day dawned cold and cloudy, but two
hunters managed to get last day bulls.
Guide Randy Eikanger and hunter Jeremy Ringheimer
connected on a nice 5×5 to start the day off. Randy and Jeremy worked hard
all week to get their bull and it finally came……..and a 60-yard shot to
boot. Jeremy, you showed true diligence.
Campbell was the last hunter to kill. He had opportunities slip away from
him during the week and his guide Dan Cornelius had worked his butt off. But
on the last morning of the hunt, Brad got his first elk. They had passed on
better bulls early in the morning, looking for a big one, but an approaching
fog bank was fixing to end their morning, so they made a snap decision to
shoot a 5×5 that had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong
time. And Brad had his first bull elk.
Carl Barsigian ended up being the lone hunter who
failed to kill a bull. Carl had two shot opportunities get away from him,
but that’s the way it goes sometimes. He had set his sights high from the
beginning and he stuck with it through thick and thin. Next time, Carl.
Joe Petcavage of Bear Creek, PA and guide Todd Carr reported in with a good
6×7 on the Hondo Ranch. It’s another extremely impressive bull with very
extraordinary mass. Todd had spotted this bull earlier in the hunt but he
managed to slip away. The bull was not so lucky the second time Todd found
him. Joe made certain of it.
October 13, 2009 Updated 10/19
official. We had 12 smoke pole hunters this week on the Sacramento
hunt and 11 of them tagged out. It was an extraordinary week as two bulls
were 5×6’s and the other nine were 6×6’s!
Out of 12 Mz Hunters in the Sac. Mtns:
12 (100%) had shot opps at 6-pts or better
11 (92%) harvested 6-point or better bulls
The slayings started with hunter Brent McDonald,
THE chief of police in Cassville, WI and his guide, Dan Cornelius. They made
it to the top of the mountain by daylight and called in a good 6-point bull
almost immediately. Brent put the bull down and just like that, he was done.
What a sunrise photo! It was Brent’s third time to hunt with Elite. He had
archery hunted twice before killing once.
second bull to fall was at the hands of hunter Eric Wilson of Cole Camp, MO
and his guide, Jerry Corliss. Opening morning, they got in on several
bugling bulls and slipped in on one of them. Shortly they were standing over
a good 6×6. Eric had hunted with Elite on three occasions and had never
gotten a bull. Missed shots, opportunities and bad luck had haunted Eric on
every occasion. I know, I was guiding him on one hunt. He earned this bull
more than most do. Congratulations Eric!
third bull to fall on the first day was at the hands of hunter Mark
Harnetiaux of Greenville, IL and guide Joseph Graham. Don’t have the full
story yet, but I did get a phone picture of the bull. A really good
6×6. This was Mark’s third bull in three hunts with Elite. Joseph is still
hunting with Nick Fox of St. Louis, MO. I’ll update when he’s done.
The fourth bull to fall opening morning went to
hunter Ted Zawol and guide Chris Sanchez. I never heard the entire story as
Ted kept mumbling something about bad shooting but nevertheless, Ted was
happy to be cutting up a nice 6-point. No photo yet.
the second day, guide Dan Cornelius and hunter Bill Schier of Glen Haven, WI
got into the bulls first thing out of the box. Dan got the bulls bugling and
when a good 5×6 stepped out, Bill dropped him. Dan had the hot hand guiding
this week. His hunters, Brent and Bill, were done by early day 2.
Harris of Cassville, WI and his guide, Scott Salway, got into bulls early
the second morning but couldn’t close the deal. They went out that afternoon
and closed it. They got into a swarm of bugling bulls and Nate got a 5×6 to
go on the wall. Still waiting on photos.
3 saw hunter Darren Brown of Port Neches, TX and guide Hoyt Graham standing
on the podium. In the afternoon, they managed to take one of the best 6×6’s
of the hunt. I haven’t gotten the whole story, but did get a phone picture
hunter for the week was Larry Day of Seminole, TX. Larry and I had hunted
together twice before. Once on a tough hunt in the Gila and the last a
couple of years ago in the Sacramentos. The last hunt made up for the first
hunt as we got a huge 6×6 on the first morning.
This year our luck went south again on the first
day. We managed to get long shot opportunities at two good bulls on the
first morning without connecting. Larry’s sentence was two more days of hard
hiking and hunting without another opportunity at a good bull. But on day 4,
as clouds threatened rain, we got on a bull at first light and made it all
come together. Larry got his second 6×6 out of the Sacramento Mountains. It
was a good week and Larry earned this bull for sure. He’s now a charter
member of the 3000-vertical-feet club.
Harris of Glen Haven, WI and guide, Scott Salway had suffered a painful miss
on a bull on day 3. But day 4 dawned and with an assist from Brad LaBounty,
Brian managed to take one of the biggest bulls of the week. A heavy,
Brian had felt a two-ton weight on his shoulders
suddenly lifted. He was the last hunter of their foursome to kill but was
rewarded with the best bull.
Zawol and guide Randy Eikanger have reported killing another good 6-point
late in the afternoon of day 4. Dave gave Randy most of the credit for
seeing this bull to begin with. Dave did make a nice shot on the bull to
close the deal. Good job to both Randy and Dave.
the morning of day 5, Joseph Graham and hunter Nick Fox of St. Louis, MO
connected with a nice 6×6 after hunting hard all week and passing on lesser
bulls. Nick has hunted with us so many times I lost count. He has had his
shares of heartache and triumphs as any hunter does if he hunts elk very
long. But another bull is going home to Missouri. Eleven down, one to go.
Kirk Kassel and his guide Jamie Gibson hunted to the last
minute but ultimately were the only hunter/guide combo not to tag out. They
almost got a really good bull as daylight faded out on day 5, but it just
didn’t work out. Kirk turned down bulls during the week waiting for a really
big one. In the end, Kirk left without a bull, but he stuck to his standard
from day 1 and earned respect around here for it.
second week of rifle hunters at the Alan Ranch had a good week. Two members
of the Allied Fire Protection crew, Alan Hertz and Jeff Mechler, were teamed
with guides, Brad LaBounty and Todd Carr.
Jeff Mechler and Brad were the first to draw
blood as they located and dispatched a good 6×6 on opening morning. It was
Jeff’s first trip to the Alan Ranch and he managed to hunt for only an hour
thanks to Brad. They were literally into a frenzy of bugling bulls and moved
up a ridge until they could see a good bull across the canyon. And they were
Hertz and Todd Carr, with an assist from Brad, located a good bull on the
second morning of the hunt. Following a good climb onto a ridge, Alan
dropped an extremely wide 6×6 on a shot across Price Canyon.
This bull was his second bull on the Alan Ranch.
Other members of Allied Fire Protection crew,
John Hubbard, Shannon Payne, James Zamora and Troy Sambrano, have all
archery hunted the Alan Ranch and taken good bulls. We are welcoming them
back again in 2010. Thank you to all the Allied crew for believing in us.
So far, there has been four rifle hunters on the
Alan Ranch in 2009 and four good 6×6’s taken. The season is off to a good
October 7, 2009 Updated 10/13
finishing up the first week of gun hunts. We started on Oct 1 with
four rifle hunters on the ranches. The results were four bulls with the
smallest being 310.
Randy Blomberg of Ogema, WI hunted the Hondo
Ranch with Mike Acklin guiding. They didn’t waste any time in finding a good
bull and took a 330-class 6×6 early in the hunt. Notice any resemblance to
the bull in the photo below which was taken in archery season?
Holland of Maple Grove, MN and Rick Verbsky of Black Creek, WI were back to
hunt the Alan Ranch. Both had hunted the Alan Ranch twice before. Jim had
gotten 300 and 330 bulls on his hunts and Rick had two 340-class bulls to
show for his efforts.
Rick wasted no time in collecting his third Alan bull on the first
afternoon. His guide, Brad LaBounty, along with Jim and I, went to hunt near
one of our favorite water holes. We had barely gotten there when a bull
starts screaming in the timber maybe 200 yards away. Brad and I hit the
calls and here he came. As he stepped out, Rick asks Brad, "Is he over 300?"
Brad says Ye…BOOM…s. Rick came to kill something. The bull dropped in
his tracks. There is something to be said for .338’s. Rick had his third
bull in three trips. Although not as big as his previous bulls, the bull
still scored 311.
Even after Rick shot, there were other bugles all around, so everyone stayed
in position and Jim got ready. We were after a double. Brad and I continued
with the calling and ended up calling in several more decent bulls, but
nothing great. We let them walk and took care of Rick’s bull. It was a good
The next morning Brad, Jim and I went back down
to the hot water hole and called in a 5×5 from 1/2 mile away. Brad watched
him run off the mountain. He strolled right into the middle of us. He
finally decided things were not kosher and left. We continued calling and
got a nice 300-class 5×6 to come in too. He wandered around for 20 minutes
before he figured out something was amiss. He wasn’t the bull we were after
either. It was a fun morning though.
Jim and I, along with the help of another guide,
Todd Carr, hunted the next two days with shots at a couple of lesser bulls
but we were having trouble finding a whopper. On the fourth evening of the
hunt, we set up on another water hole where we had seen a good bull at dark
the night before. Like clockwork, several bulls descended on us just before
dark. I spotted a good bull coming into water following a lone cow. Jim and
I made a short stalk and he hammered him barely 50 yards away. The bull had
two broken points, but was still a good bull in the 330 class when put back
together. It was the conclusion of a good hunt with two top-notch clients,
no, friends. I’ll post pictures shortly.
helping Rick bag a bull, Brad LaBounty had his own hunt to do on the Gordon
Ranch. He invited his father Terry down to New Mexico from South Dakota to
experience the hunt with him. On the first day of the hunt, Brad spotted a
good bull and while trying to get to him, the bull disappeared on him. Brad
is still scratching his head on that one. But alas, he soon spotted another
bull. This bull hurt Brad’s eyes when his eyes popped out of their sockets
into his glasses. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It was a monster!
He and Terry called him in to 200 yards, when the bull suddenly decided to
take a dirt nap. The bull had three chipped-off points but still scored 360.
I have never seen mass on a bull like this one. It’s incredible! The score
is an insult to the trophy quality of this bull. The father/son team took
the best bull of the short season. Congratulations to the LaBounty boys!
October 3, the youth rifle hunt began in the southern Sacramento Mountains.
We had four youth hunters this year. Kody and Kristen Hansen of Portland,
OR, Grant Lannen of Ridgefield, WA, and Braden Nieder of Anchorage, AK.
As a matter of coincidence, Kody and Braden knew each other. Both came
to hunt with Elite from two completely different avenues. It is truly a
14-year-old Kristen Hansen was hunting with guide Chris Sanchez and got an
extremely unique 6-point. The bull had a club point on one side of the rack.
Kristen shot the bull just before dark and they were not able to find it
that night. Upon searching the next morning, Chris and Dan found the bull
dead. They decided to yank on Kristen’s chain and went back to tell her they
found the bull, but he was still alive! Kristen chambers a round and begins
to sneak up on the "alive" bull. She was carefully watching her steps as she
slipped through the brush and almost walked on top of the bull before she
saw it. She had some choice words for Chris and Dan!
11-year-old brother, Kody, was down with the flu and ended up barely getting
to hunt. After hunting the first day, he spent part of his hunt at the
emergency room, but once he saw the bull his sister took, he said "Let’s
hunt!" He was rewarded for his effort with a good 5×6 that he harvested on
the 4th day with the help of his guide, Dan Cornelius. It was truly a
football story of going out with an injury in the first quarter of a game
and returning hurt in the 4th quarter to lead your team to victory.
You showed heart Kody.
Nieder, also 11 years old, was hunting with guide Jamie Gibson. They teamed
to take a 6×8 that had some unique palmation. They had seen bigger
bulls, but once Braden saw the palmated top on this one, he said, "That’s
the bull!" Braden held his emotions together and got his bull. Jamie said
the excitement on Braden’s face is what it’s all about.
Lannen and guide Scott Salway were still hunting as I write. According to
initial reports, they turned down several nice bulls looking for REALLY
nice. Now I’ve heard that Grant hunted to the last minute looking for a
monster bull and ended up taking a huge spike.
I did talk with Grant’s dad, Shawn, and he said
he and Grant had the best hunt they had ever been on. He said they had
multiple opportunities at 300 to 320-class bulls and Scott did a GREAT job
getting them into elk. The spike was harvested with only minutes left in the
season. If you didn’t know, Grant was the recipient of our donated hunt
given away through Carter’s Huntin’ Fool.
It was another successful youth hunt. In the past
three years we have had 11 youth hunters who got 11 bulls. Congratulations
to the youth hunters and the guides who made it all happen for them.
September 23, 2009 Updated
Archery season is done! Our tally on the
Sacramento Mountain hunts for the week was 6 bulls out of 8 hunters. Every
bull killed was a 5×6 or larger. One of the hunters who didn’t kill had
three shot opportunities and the last hunter didn’t get a shot opportunity.
So, the totals for the archery season are as follows:
Out of 16 archery hunters in the Sacramento Mts
14 (88%) had shot opps at 5-pts or better
11 (69%) had shot opps at 6-pts or better
7 (44%) harvested 5-point or better bulls
6 (38%) harvested 6-point or better bulls
Out of 7 archery hunters at the Alan Ranch:
6 (86%) had shot opps at 5-pts or better
4 (69%) had shot opps at 6-pts or better
4 (69%) harvested 5-point or better bulls
3 (43%) harvested 6-point or better bulls
Out of 3 archery hunters at the Hondo Ranch:
3 (100%) harvested 6-point or better bulls
Out of 1 archery hunter at the Gordon Ranch:
1 (100%) harvested a 6-point bull
Overall, it was a very successful archery season. Thanks from all of us to
all the hunters who came and participated.
The next elk hunts begin Oct 1 on the ranches as
that is the first day of rifle season on private land. The youth rifle hunt
begins Oct 3 and muzzleloader season begins in the Sacramento Mtns on Oct
We’re always looking especially forward to the
youth hunt. The guides love it from a quality hunting perspective, but also
from getting to watch the wide eyes of the youths during the excitement of
the hunt. We have given away a youth hunt the past two years to the Garth
and Jason Carter of Huntin’ Fool magazine. They provide draw services for
the public and all youths that successfully draw our youth hunt unit get put
into a drawing to see who wins the free guided hunt with us. Michael
Knowlson of Albuquerque, NM won it last year and Grant Lannen of Washington
state was the lucky winner this year. If you are not familiar with the
Huntin’ Fool magazine, these guys are worth checking out. They provide draw
services for nearly every western state and have a wealth of knowledge
within their personnel. Their website is
www.huntinfool.com. Their membership includes a monthly magazine that is
beautifully done. All stories are submitted by members and are real tales by
real folks. They also work with reputable outfitters in all the states for
members who wish to do guided hunts with their newly-drawn tags. They are
truly one of the good guys.
The archery hunters for the last archery hunt must have felt like they were
hunting the temperate rain forests of the Pacific northwest for the first
three days of the hunt. It was endless rain with temperatures hovering in
the 40’s. Talk about miserable hunting conditions………. Despite the
rain, it seems everyone was into bulls and if the weather did anything good,
it got the bulls active.
The first bull killed for the week was by Larry
Woodward with the aid of our guide, Joseph Graham. They teamed together to
take a big 6×6 in the rain.
The second hunter to kill a bull was Vince
Matthews. Guided by Scott Salway, Vince arrowed a 5×6 on the second day of
the hunt. No photos yet.
hunter this week, Tim Markiel, endured the rain for three days. In that time
he passed up shots at a 5×6 and a 5×5 on the first day and was at full draw
on three occasions on days 2 and 3. Getting a clear shot was the hold up. As
the weather broke on the fourth day of the hunt, Tim drilled a good 6×6 at
first light, and just like that, we were done. It was Tim’s third time to
archery hunt elk with Elite and his second bull.
morning I got a call from guide Todd Carr reporting his hunter, Greg Jochem,
had just killed a massive 7×7! Needless to say, Todd and Greg are two happy
Smith, with assistance from guide, Dan Cornelius, also reported in this
morning. They teamed to kill a 5×6. No details on the kill yet, but these
guys, along with Vince and Scott, endured the monsoon in a spike camp! My
hats off to them for enduring the elements and getting their bulls.
The remaining hunters in camp are still hunting.
Jeff Cole and guide Chris Sanchez have been successful at getting three
shots, but limb deflections and bad luck have them still hunting. Chris is
wondering "Why me?" after having his hunter from the first week wound two
different bulls without killing them.
Joseph Graham had succeeded in getting Larry Woodward a bull, he began
hunting for himself. He finally succeeded in getting another big 6×6, with
future guide Riker Graham (Joseph’s son) on the job.
Brandt was the second archery hunter at the Hondo Ranch. He got a good 6×6
on the second day. Mike Acklin was his guide.
third hunter at Hondo was Mike Acklin himself. He killed a massive 6×7 on
the first day of his hunt that scored out at 349! And he is reporting that
there are two other bulls he has seen since that are bigger than his! Mike
says one is the best bull he has ever seen.
third group of hunters at the Alan Ranch had a good week. John Wilmesher
killed a beautiful 7×7 with an extra crown point on both sides. This bull
had style. Mark Michalsky got a shot at a big 6×6 and hit it too far forward
and whacked the shoulder blade. The arrow bounced off and the bull continued
chasing his cows. Sorry Mark!
did manage to find Mike Unruh’s bull from the first week at the Gordon
Ranch. If you remember the story, Mike hit this bull just before a
torrential rain storm which obliterated all blood and tracks. Despite
searching for 1 1/2 days, Mike was unable to find the bull in the thick
pinon and juniper he disappeared into. Just to show how hard it is to find a
bull that travels very far without blood or tracks, I found the bull a week
later, with the help of ravens, only 300 yards from where he was hit. It was
so thick, someone would have had to walk less than 10 yards from it to see
it. Mike is still beating himself up over it.
Overall, the nasty weather this past week did
succeed in putting the bulls into action, but it is still archery hunting
and the bulls don’t seem to make it easy very often.
September 13, 2009
been a whirlwind the last three weeks and I’m finally getting back to the
site. I had the good fortune of doing an archery mule deer hunt at the end
of August in Colorado with my good friend, Mike Unruh. We had a great time
and I had the good fortune of getting a nice buck on the first day of the
I spotted a 5-buck group early in the morning a
mile away and found them bedded later in the morning. That afternoon, after
the thermals and wind steadied, I snuck within 15 yards of the closest buck
and was forced to wait around an hour and a half before the buck I was after
stood up to stretch his legs. He meandered into an opening and I drilled him
at 35 yards. The deer bucked and ran 30 yards below me and stood there for a
few seconds and then tumbled over. The other bucks in the group exploded out
of the krumholtz and willows they were bedded in. I could hear Mike
celebrating on the ridge above me, as he was watching the entire thing. It
seemed surreal. I haven’t scored the buck, but it looks like it will
approach 180. It was an awesome hunt spent with one of the finest people and
hunters I have ever known, Mike Unruh. The buck was just a welcome
One other thing worth mentioning on the Colorado trip was getting to meet
Ted and Peggy Scott of Kremmling, CO. They own and operate Kremmling Wild
Game Processing LLC, located just outside of the town. Wow! If you want to
talk about a clean, first-class meat processing operation, you need to see
this place. I’ve seen a lot of processors, but these guys are the best I’ve
ever seen. Spend, 10 minutes talking with Ted and Peggy and you can
appreciate the place even more. They run a tight ship and will not accept
dirty or tainted meat of any kind. They demand excellence from their clients
as well as themselves. They put my cape and horns in the freezer and
processed and froze the meat in time for my pickup date. I don’t trust
burger from most processors because too much garbage ends up in it and it
tastes like crap. Their deer burger looks like ground sirloin and tasted
like it too. I just wish they were in Ruidoso……………….. Should you
find yourself in the Kremmling, CO area on a hunt and are in need of storage
and processing, their phone number is 970-724-3759. Email
firstname.lastname@example.org. They are the best.
first week of archery elk season began around here September 1, with the
first season ending on Sep 10. It was met with mixed results. Most all the
guides who were hunting in the Sacramento Mountains, including myself, found
the elk uncooperative as a whole. Bulls were not interested in the cows or
calls as early this year. However, several hunters got shots at some whopper
bulls and several shot opportunities ended up getting blown. It was not a
good week for recovering hit bulls. Four bulls over 320 (two of them over
350) were hit and not located. A combination of torrential rain and
questionable shot placements combined to cause most of the problems.
Harry Surprenant of Sand Lake, NY ended up being
the only Sac Mtn hunter to truly put a bull on the ground. He got a good 5
point on the last day of the hunt. Everyone but one hunter got shot
opportunities at 4 and 5-points. Only a couple hunters failed to get a shot
opportunity at a truly good bull. One of them was my hunter, Shawn Schmidtke.
We found good bulls and almost got a shot at them twice, but close only
counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades. Shawn humped his butt and is a
multiple member of the 3000-Vertical Feet per Day Club. It was his third
trip here and first without a bull. But we set our sights high and stuck to
our guns to the last day. Killing big bulls is never easy. You’re first
class Shawn. Thanks for hunting with me.
brother, Glen Surprenant, gets the heart award for the week. He hunted with
his guide, Dan Cornelius in one of the toughest areas just to get to, not to
mention to hunt. I KNOW what he did, and my hat is off to him for his
effort. A couple of those unfortunate mishaps is all that prevented him from
hanging a big 6-point on the wall. Glen, you’ve got heart.
The ranches faired better with getting hit bulls to go down. Mark Tanner,
Joel Edin and Joseph Edin all killed big bulls on the Alan Ranch. They
fought flash floods, heat, and stubborn elk but came away with good bulls.
Sorry, I don’t have pictures for those yet. Brad LaBounty and Clayton Wilson
worked their tails off guiding and getting their hunters into bulls. You
guys did good.
Eisele, one our best long-time clients was the first archery hunter on the
Hondo Ranch. It took him and his guide, Mike Acklin, about 15 minutes to
arrow a 6-point bull. They got the award for not wasting any time. It was
Don’s first archery bull and he said he could hear what I told him ringing
in his head, "Don’t pass a shot on a bull the first day, you would be happy
to shoot on the last day." This bull met that criteria, so he took an arrow
for the team. Mike’s a "killing machine" on the Hondo Ranch. No bull is
My friend, Mike Unruh, hunted the Gordon Ranch on
a quest for a 350-class bull. I hunted with him the first morning to show
him around, but he was going to hunt by himself for the duration of the
hunt. We saw a whopper bull the first morning and found several sets of big
tracks. But Mike soon found out that a lot of the activity on the ranch was
nocturnal. Finding tracks was one thing, finding the bulls was another.
Heat, rain and a full moon seemed to combine in making the hunting so tough.
He passed a shot at a good 5×5 one afternoon hunting water and after hunting
for a week, buried two arrows to the fletchings in a big 6×6 just before
dark. The bull hit the thick timber and for whatever reason, two days of
looking has not yielded a bull. A torrential rainstorm immediately after the
shot washed away all blood and tracks. I’m going to continue the search, but
it made for a long ride home for Mike to Montana. It isn’t over yet, Mike.
Last spring, I had the pleasure of meeting a
phenomenal young hunter from Roswell, NM located 1 1/2 hours from where we
live. What makes this story interesting is the young hunter is a 16-year old
young lady named Danielle Turner. She and her mother Nancy, would get up and
drive to Ruidoso each day to come turkey hunting. She worked so hard at
getting a turkey and finally got a shot at a gobbler. She hit him but not
hard enough and ended up not getting the turkey. Her disappointment was
obvious but her will could not be broken. Her mother, who didn’t even hunt,
would bring her and go with Danielle when she hunts. The heart that these
ladies showed was incredible. I was touched by their true love for the hunt.
It made me think………. (I know, that’s spooky). I approached one of my
friends and landowners, Gordon Barham, owner of the Gordon Ranch with an
idea. He and I agreed to split the cost of an antelope tag and invite
Danielle on an antelope hunt. She accepted and came down last Saturday with
her Mom to do the hunt.
got up at 3am and were sitting in Carrizozo waiting on me at daylight. We
went to the Gordon Ranch and proceeded to hunt for a good antelope. I
spotted a buck on a distant hillside that soon disappeared over the horizon.
We drove closer and then left the truck to put a stalk on the buck we had
seen. Once we got close, I discovered that both Danielle and Nancy were
game-spotting machines! Danielle spotted the goat we went looking for and it
wasn’t what we wanted. Then Nancy, without binoculars, spots a group of
antelope on the distant horizon that were so far away I couldn’t believe she
had seen them. We then hiked all the way to where the goats were headed and
began easing around a hill looking for them. I’m carefully glassing the hill
in front of us as we moved along when Danielle says, "There’s one!", and
points down the hill. Sure enough, there comes a nice buck heading our way.
We drop to the ground and I set her up on the shooting sticks. She took a
shot at the buck and just missed him high. She later admitted she had slid
the crosshairs off right as she shot. Not to fret, she drilled him when he
made the mistake of stopping a second time.
It was her second big-game animal as she had
gotten a mule deer buck on a previous hunt. Getting to spend this time with
Danielle and Nancy renewed my faith in hunting. The love of the hunt and not
the kill was what sets them apart from most. I keep talking about heart, but
no one has more heart than Danielle. I’m just thankful I could be a part of
this experience. In fact, she has inspired me to do more for youths in the
future. I’m still thinking on it, (yeah, spooky, I know) but I’m going
to come up with a short essay (under 500 words) contest for youths aged 12
to 16 and give away some guided hunts as prizes. The essay will be on a
topic like "What Hunting Means to Me" or something similar. I’ll
finalize things and post something on the website.
August 20, 2009
Just got back from an archery mule deer hunt in
Nevada. Went there with my nephew Brad LaBounty and one of my best friends,
Mark Soward. Saw lots of deer and 6 bucks over 180. In fact, I saw 42 bucks
on the first day alone! We didn’t do so well on killing them. Even though we
killed a good buck, missed shots and blown stalks were the norm. Otherwise,
we had an exceptional trip.
Getting ready for the upcoming elk season. All
the guides are fired up and many are reporting seeing some exceptional
bulls. The rains are beginning to taper off. It appears the monsoon is
drawing to a close for the year. El Nino is appearing in the Pacific which
usually coincides with a wet winter in the southwest. We’re looking forward
to it. Wet winters seem to be few and far between anymore. They are
basically nonexistent except during El Nino years.
July 22, 2009
The rains continue. Went shed hunting yesterday
and my son, Eric saw two good 6-points in velvet. Walked up on them bedded.
Found 4 sheds too. It’s been a good shed hunting year. Between myself, my
son and my nephew, we found and packed-out over 150 elk and mule deer sheds
Just after posting my story about the management
of wolves, I read where Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar sided with the US
Fish and Wildlife and federally delisted the wolves in all states except
Wyoming. The states now have control of the burgeoning wolf population. It
appears Wyoming is the rebel with a cause in this fiasco. Their management
plan was initially rejected by the feds because it apparently allows
unrestricted hunting in many parts of the state. Under the current
delisting, Wyoming will be unable to hold hunts this fall because of that
impasse. Idaho and Montana are already planning wolf hunts for the fall!
July 2, 2009
The spring and summer rains have been steady in
the Sacramento Mountains this year. Following a dry January and February,
the snow and rain came in March and has persisted through the entire
horn-growing period to date. And we are now entering the wettest period of
the year for us. Vegetation growth has been excellent and horn growth seems
to be matching it. I’m hearing reports from several of Elite’s guides of
seeing bulls in velvet, already in the 300 to 350 range. With a month still
to grow! It’s looking good for the upcoming season!
Just returned from a trip to central Idaho. It
looks like the hunting public and professionals in central and northern
Idaho are facing somewhat of a crisis with the wolf situation. I hunted in
central Idaho during the late 80’s and early 90’s and hunting was always
tough for either deer or elk due primarily to access issues with the largest
Wilderness Area in the lower 48. The formidable nature and size of the
country protected a limited but healthy number of deer and elk. But with
15-mile pack-ins, I always found elk and had some great hunts.
Now, after hearing stories from people in the
middle of it, the wolves have wreaked havoc on the game populations.
Reintroduced in 1994, the wolves have eliminated most of the moose, and many
of the deer and elk. Even the lion population is being thinned out because
of the wolves. Unlike lions, which return to feed on a kill, wolves seem to
kill, feed for a while and leave the rest to rot. Then kill something else
for it’s next meal. The once-healthy game population is now extraordinarily
thin. With the wolves multiplying like rabbits, it’s only going to get
worse. The situation is forcing outfitters to refocus their business plans.
I feel even more for the hunting public because they have had an awesome
natural resource stolen from them off THEIR land! Sure, seeing wild wolves
would be a thrill to most. But to see wolves, the public has to give up
seeing moose, elk and deer in those areas. It hardly seems like a worthwhile
The answers to the wolf problem lie in the
"eventual" passage of management from the US Fish and Wildlife to the
states. The US Fish and Wildlife has actually approved state wolf management
plans in both Idaho and Montana and given the rights to the states to manage
the wolf population. But morons keep suing and getting injunctions to
prevent the states from assuming control of a situation that is destroying
the state’s wildlife population. What can we do? Good question, but raising
awareness and putting pressure on the courts to settle this matter would be
a good start. A lot of small voices is a big voice.
On a lighter note, my wife Denise and I, stayed
at the Diamond D Ranch in central Idaho while on our trip north. Tom and
Linda Demorest and their daughters, Dana and Kara, own and run a magnificent
spread deep in the heart of the Frank Church – River of No Return
Wilderness. They operate a summer guest ranch on their 320 acres of private
land which is surrounded by 2.5 million acres of Wilderness. Yes, 2.5
million acres of the most awesome wild country in the lower 48. The ranch is
located 25 miles from the pavement and 2 hours drive from the nearest town
of 100 people. You want to get away? But yet they offer first class
accommodations, meals, and service to go along with endless summer outdoor
recreational opportunities. We primarily fished while there and had
moderate success and a ton of fun despite high water. Summer was late in
coming to the northern Rockies and snow runoff was high. There are miles and
miles of fishable streams, which we sorely lack in southern New Mexico.
The ranch includes trail riding for their guests
on some of the finest horses in the land. Even a hard-core mule man such as
myself could appreciate the quality of their horses. Hiking trails are
endless and you can even try your hand at gold panning. This area was a
boomtown in the late 1800’s. I can’t say enough about our stay with these
fine people. If you want a summer wilderness experience in a classy
atmosphere with good people , this is the place. Tom also offers pack-in and
ranch-lodging hunting for elk, deer and bear and hopefully wolves
in the near future. Even though the game herds have been thinned by
the wolves, these guys are still consistently finding game. Call them for
the ultimate pack-in adventures. You would have to see the magnitude of the
country to believe it. Their website is
Saw enough of Yellowstone to remember why I
hadn’t been back in 20 years. People. Hundreds and hundreds of people.
Everywhere you go. Do yourself a favor, if you think you want to go to
Yellowstone, go to central Idaho. Better scenery without all the tourists.
June 11, 2009
The results for the 2009 New Mexico draw are in.
The following applicants drew elk tags with Elite for the 2009 season:
Jason McGregor – 2nd archery
Kelby McCall – 2nd archery
Harry Surprenant – 1st archery
Glen Surprenant – 1st archery
Kody Hansen – Youth rifle
Kristen Hansen – Youth rifle
Jim Shears – 1st rifle
Brad Campbell – 1st rifle
Eric Wilson – Muzzleloader
Russ Peagler – 1st rifle
Jeff Cole – 2nd archery
Greg Jochem – 2nd archery
Jeff Poosch – 2nd rifle
Erik Lundy – 2nd rifle
Nick Fox – Muzzleloader
Jared Mistler – 2nd archery
Thomas Held – 2nd archery
Kevin Phillips – 2nd rifle
Duane Banyai – 2nd rifle
Larry Woodward – 2nd archery
Brent McDonald – Muzzleloader
Brian Harris – Muzzleloader
William Schier – Muzzleloader
Nathan Harris – Muzzleloader
Dusty Lopp – 1st rifle
John Edwards – 1st rifle
David Zawol – Muzzleloader
Theodore Zawol – Muzzleloader
If your name is not on the list, then as far as I
know, you were unsuccessful in this year’s draw. If it makes anyone feel
better, I have not drawn an tag in this area in 6 years now. But if they let
everyone hunt who wanted to hunt, then it wouldn’t be worth hunting. The New
Mexico Game & Fish does a good job of balancing opportunity and quality.
Although a bonus point system would be nice! Hint, hint.
Thanks to everyone who
applied with us this year. Patience will pay off. And if you thought your
luck was bad, the king kudo on patience belongs to our most dedicated
clients, Tony Sandheinrich and Al Schaller of Illinois. These guys have
applied every year for elk since 2001 and have never drawn! We’ve had other
hunters draw five elk tags in the same amount of attempts! None of it makes
sense statistically, but it is what it is. All we can do is keep