“Every time you get angry, you poison your own system.”
December 30, 2010
We have finished the elk season this year with 4 of the 5 hunters which were hunting this week. Our Essay Contest winner, Alexandra Summers, is the lone hunter still hunting. She and her guide, Mike Acklin, have been unable to find a bull. Strange week for sure, but we are in the middle of a blizzard as I write. Alex and Mike are riding out the storm for tonight, but will be back at it in the morning…
Brad and I welcomed our long-time client, Shannon Payne, back to the Alan Ranch. Shannon has archery hunted the ranch 3 times now, but the hunter this week was Shannon’s 11-year-old son, Colton Payne. Shannon was along for the exercise!
The other hunter for the week was Daryl Travis, a good friend of Rick and Lori Verbsky. Rick and Lori are two of our best, as well as favorite, clients. They both hunted on the ranch in October.
Daryl and I were hunting together his week and I went back to the same spot where Jarrett Southard, James Hilliard and Tom Moleski all whacked bulls this year within a 600 yard circle. Did the well have one more bull in it, was the question of the day. I had to stick with what has been working…
First light saw us glassing briefly from the first hill and then quickly moving across the canyon to look “around the corner”. We hadn’t made it far when Daryl grabs my arm and says, “There’s one!” while pointing down near the bottom of the wash. Sure enough, there was a good 6-point!
We were about 600 yards from the bull, but I could see the fantastic whale tails on him and got excited fast. I started to take off after him immediately, but decided I better put the scope on him and make sure I wasn’t missing anything. A quick look showed me all I needed to see. I gave Daryl a 2-second look through the spotting scope and said “Let’s go!”
The previous bulls Jarrett and Tom killed, earlier in the season, were all near the top of the ridge. Not only were those bulls threatening to get away over the top of the ridge, but it forced long shots as well. This bull was near the bottom, where Odis Dow and I watched a 5×5 one morning a week ago. I stopped along the way and told Daryl, “This bull is so dead!”
When I peeked around the last cedar, the rangefinder said 275 yards. Sweet! The bull was moving slowly up the ridge, but had stopped, as they all seem to do, to munch on a mahogany bush. Daryl set up in a prone position over our two packs, on perfectly flat ground, with the bull completely unaware we were there.
The bull was quartering sharply away from us and Daryl asked if he should wait for him to turn. I replied, “You have a clear shot. Just place the bullet to go between his shoulders.”
|Daryl shoots and whacks the bull hard. “You hit him, but shoot him again!” I said. The bull turned downhill facing sideways and Daryl pumps one through the shoulder. The bull crumpled in the front end and took a dirt nap into a dead tree before Daryl could shoot a third time.The well had not gone dry. We had another good bull on the ground.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the ranch… Brad, Shannon and Colton had gone to Brad’s hot spot. Only problem was Brad’s well had dried up! They saw some small bulls but could not find a shooter. They had heard us shoot early and once they came down, they brought the 4-wheeler over to us as we were toasting our 10am Coronas. I’m not usually much of a 10am Corona guy, but it is a rite of passage, and it sure tastes good with blood on your hands!
After getting Daryl’s bull to the cabin, the hunt continued. That afternoon we all went to our traditional afternoon hot spot and spread out looking for bulls. All we found were three small bulls. Hmmm, you say?
The next morning Brad moved the search to an area of the ranch we had not hunted since Paul Cartusciello killed his bull there in mid November. Brad went up our normal route and spotted a good bull on top of this “Killer Mountain” as Shannon put it. In the process of getting to the bull, Brad had lost sight of the bull and his smaller 5×5 companion for about 20 minutes. When he emerged on the ridge, Brad could no longer find the bulls. WTH?
|Daryl and I had been on a slope across from the action, but a ridge was blocking our view of the bulls. We never did see them. At least that morning…Brad finally pulled out not knowing whether the bulls had bedded there and he just couldn’t see them, or possibly busted them and vacated the premises.
We all went back in the afternoon to see if we could find them. Daryl and I moved down the ridge we were spotting from to get a better vantage. After looking for an hour, Brad was getting antsy. He decided to go look at another place while he still had time. So they pulled out and Daryl and I were going to keep watching and see if anything ever shows… Can you guess what happens next?
Yep. Out strolls this big 6-point and his 5×5 buddy directly across from where Brad had been looking for him that morning. Basically the same spot Brad had last seen them. Maybe 350 yards away. When Brad didn’t find anything else that evening, we didn’t make his day with our news. But at least we had a plan for the morning.
While Brad, Colton and Shannon went to look for the bull the next morning, Daryl and I went back to where we found his bull to see if anything else was around in case Brad couldn’t find the big 6-point.
As it turned out, Daryl and I found nothing, but Brad had found his bull and was on a fervid hike to get to him. Daryl and I waited patiently listening for the shots. They never seemed to come. As a guide, I know how irritating it is to have someone else badgering me on the radio when I’m trying to get a bull killed. So, as bad as I wanted to know what was happening, I left Brad alone.
Finally we hear a shot. It sounded empty. Then 3 minutes or so went by and no more shots and no announcement on the radio. You have no idea how bad I wanted to know what was going on! Then we hear 5 more shots about 30 seconds apart. We could not tell if any of the shots hit. They sure didn’t thump hard.
Then Brad calls on the radio, “Got anything over there?”
“No,” I replied. “I take it you don’t have anything over there?”
My heart sunk for Colton.
What actually happened was they had lost the bulls in the thick trees and were thinking they were not going to get a shot. Suddenly, Brad spots a tip of antlers and it’s the 5×5. Shannon and Colton were due to meet their family in Angel Fire for a ski vacation and they were running out of time. They decided to take the 5×5. That was the first shot we heard. The bullet kicked up dirt above him and the 5×5 took off like a scalded cat. Colton was visibly shook-up after missing this bull and thought he was done.
But then the big bull steps out. Colton was temporarily back in business. The only problem… he was so excited by this time he was literally shaking. For the life of him, he could never get steady enough to hit the bull. Finally, Brad told him to quit shooting, the bull was too far. The bull did not stop running for over a mile as they watched him run away. The worst part was this bull would have probably been the best of the year…
We felt so bad for Colton. It’s hard enough to miss a big bull as an adult, but I remember what it was like when I missed a big deer when I was young. It was pure devastation. But you know what? You recover, and vow to get better and not let it beat you. We consoled him, but he took it hard. It just showed how much he cared. Colton, you showed heart. We all admired you for it.
Shannon and Colton left that afternoon as we were expecting the major snowstorm that we are now enduring. Colton is going to resume his battle with the bulls of the Alan Ranch next year.
Here are a couple of photos I took this week at the ranch. Thought you might like them.
|Benny Ezzell and his guide, Clayton Wilson, were hunting at the Griffin Ranch this week. I have not heard the entire story, but they whacked this 5×5 on the 3rd morning. I’ll teach Clayton how to take pictures someday…|
|I have not gotten basically any pictures from the fall Texas hunts, but here is a picture Brad Graham sent me of a couple bucks they took.|
|I’m not usually into the “back of the pickup” photos, but I thought this one was kind of unique.|
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
|December 23, 2010Merry Christmas everyone. I forgot to mention that next week’s elk hunter on the Hondo Ranch is going to be Alexandra Summers. She is the grand prize winner of our essay contest. Read her essay HERE.
The landowner permit and the lodging for the hunt have been graciously donated by Larry and Louise Tillman, the owners/operators of the Hondo Ranch. It is because of generous folks like Larry and Louise that the Youth Essay Contest is even possible. Thank you for your support!
“The truth is rarely pure, and never simple.”
December 18, 2010
It was Odis and Kevin Dows’ turn at the Alan Ranch this week. We didn’t kill a bull on the first day this time, but it wasn’t because of a lack of bull sightings.
On the first morning, I took Odis to my hot spot and Brad took Kevin to his honey hole, just like we have done for the past four weeks.
For the first time this year, I could not find a shooter bull. We ended up seeing 5 bulls but the best was just an average 5×5.
Brad found at least 12 bulls on his trek. One of them was the huge 5×6 Brad had spotted a couple of times earlier in the season. The only problem has been catching this bull in a spot where we can get a bullet into him. This day was no different. They could only close the distance to 700 yards as there were other bulls in the way. The other bulls would have busted up the slope and taken the big bull with them had they pushed the envelope.
Unfortunately, this bull sighting did more harm than good as Kevin became obsessed with killing him and it inflated expectations past a healthy level. But, it was what it was.
We all went to the standard afternoon location across from the 80-acre Mountain that afternoon. We spotted a 300-class 5×6 as soon as we arrived, but did not find a bull we wanted until just before dark. Brad spotted this long-beamed, 6×6 in the thick trees and we just got a brief look at him before he disappeared in the timber.
On the second day, Odis and I went back to my spot and proceeded to see the same 5×5 from the day before and one other raghorn. We watched the 5×5 feed on a mahogany bush from 270 yards for an hour and a half without the bull moving 10 feet. My spot appeared to have gone cold…
Meanwhile, Brad and Kevin went back to the same place as day 1 and found their big bull. Only he was on the other side of the fence. They saw several other shooters, but Kevin passed them up.
On the second afternoon, Odis and I went back to the same place as the afternoon before. Brad and Kevin came up the ridge from the bottom to get a different vantage. Immediately upon arriving, I began spotting bulls. Several of them were in the thick stuff and it was difficult trying to figure out what they all were. But when I saw this one bull, I knew it was the bull Brad had spotted the afternoon before.
Odis was having problems with back spasms and I was worried about where I was going to be able to take him. After a short conversation, Odis decided he wanted this bull. So we started slipping down to get within range.
|Brad and Kevin were actually closer to the bull than we were. But they knew we were on a stalk, so they sat and watched. Odis and I slipped within 400 yards of the bull and set up for the shot. After a 7-shot barrage, the bull was down for the count.After Odis finished shooting, there were bulls everywhere! We ended up seeing 12 bulls on that slope. Several were good six points, too.
We took care of Odis’ bull that evening and it was one down, one to go…
The next morning, Brad and Kevin went to the usual spot and despite seeing several good bulls, they did not find the big 5×6.
Meanwhile, I went back up Snowman Road to the spot we sit in the afternoon to see if any of the bulls from last night were there. They were. I spotted 6 bulls in all, but there was this one bull who was by himself 561 yards across the canyon from me that caught my attention.
|He was a beautiful 6×6 with extraordinary fronts and no true weakness anywhere. I watched this bull for several hours in the spotting scope and was adamant that he was a shooter. I radioed Brad and they arrived on the scene around 9am as the bull bedded in the same place I had watched him feeding all morning.Kevin and Brad could only partially see him in the brush he bedded in. They decided to slip down and get into position and wait for him to get up where they could see him better and take the shot.
Meanwhile Odis had arrived and I went to get him so he could watch the show. We had been waiting maybe 45 minutes when Brad radios me telling me Kevin wants to pull out and go back to the cabin, eat lunch and think about it. Needless to say, to state that I was beside myself is the understatement of the year. “You haven’t even seen him and you want to leave? I’m telling you, this bull is a good one. And we are all here in perfect position! Why leave? We merely have to wait for him to get up.”
Despite my objections, we left. An hour after going back to the cabin, Odis came over and said Kevin wanted to go back and try to get on that bull again.
Odis and I were going to wait down low to bring the four-wheeler in to get his bull out. Since the bedded bull was only 300 yards from where Odis’ bull dropped, we didn’t want to go in and blow the bedded bull out.
Brad radioed to me that the bull was up when they arrived and Kevin liked what he saw. So they started slipping down, again, to get set up for the shot. Odis and I waited for what seemed like an eternity waiting to hear the shots. Brad finally radios that the bull has been standing in one spot, behind a tree, eating on a mahogany bush for a half hour.
|Finally, we hear shots ring out. After a 4-shot volley, Brad calls and announces, “He’s dead.”So I give Odis a four-wheeler ride from hell back to where the bulls lay. Odis and I packed his bull to the bottom as Brad and Kevin took care of their bull and packed it to the bottom. We loaded up the elk and out we all came with two good bulls.
Kevin’s bull was exactly what I thought he was. I kept telling Kevin, “You won’t be disappointed.” He wasn’t. The bull was beautiful. Awesome fronts!
|Remember the story where I didn’t have my knife when a bull hit the ground and I ended up caping it with a serrated steak knife? Guess which moron did the exact same thing? Nope, it wasn’t me. Good guess though! It was our prodigal son Brad! He got to experience the “Uh oh”. He used a 2-inch, semi-serrated knife made by “Cutco” or something like it, which belonged to Kevin, to cut up the bull. I’m still smiling thinking about it!Another successful hunt concluded at the Alan Ranch.
Brad and I have one more hunt at the Alan Ranch after Xmas… Stay tuned. Same bat time, same bat channel…
“If you’re riding ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there“
December 8, 2010
It was another “One and Done” at the Alan Ranch again this week. Brad and I welcomed father and son, James and Jameson Hilliard, to the ranch for another go at the magnificent bulls that inhabit this ranch.
Brad was taking Jameson with him to his favorite spot that has been so good to him the entire winter. It’s the “Death Hill” according to everyone Brad takes here. I was going to hunt with James and we were going back to the same spot that has been blessing me the past four weeks. It’s hard to go against what has been working…
At first light, James and I spotted a pair of bulls from the first hill. It was a 5×5 and a good 6×6. They were 600 yards away and working straight away from us. I tried to cut the distance, but couldn’t outpace them and they got into the trees and appeared to be heading off the ranch. We didn’t ever have a decent chance at a shot, so I decided to just let them go and try and catch them another day.
We worked our way across the main canyon to get on the opposite side to glass the slope around the corner that has been so kind to me the past few weeks. My normal route takes me through the exact spot we saw the two bulls. In fact, we saw their fresh droppings when we walked by. (Tom Moleski, this all happened in the exact spot you and I walked up on that bull that busted out on us just before you shot your bull.)
I crossed a side draw to get back on the last bench to resume glassing then I saw something just to my left in the bottom of the draw I just crossed. It was the 6×6 just standing there munching on a mahogany bush! And only 102 yards from me! James is probably thirty yards or so behind me and I can’t see him from where I stood because of the the cedars. James is crunching as he walks in the rocks and I can hear him coming up the slope. Then the bull hears something, stops eating and looks his way.
The hunting Gods blessed us here, as at the exact moment the bull looks his way, James stopped to catch his breath on a rock ledge and was quiet. I still can’t see James and the bull will see me if I move. Luckily, the bull decided he heard nothing and went back to munching mahogany.
I quickly retreated back toward James and got his attention to alert him of the bulls presence. We were blocked from the bull’s sight by some junipers so I had James come toward me quietly. When James was maybe 10 feet from me he stopped and looked toward the bull. There was no reaction on his face so I thought he must not be able to see the bull.
I asked, “Can you see him?”
James replies, “Yes,” in as calm of voice as you can imagine.
“Then shoot him!” I barked.
So James shoots him offhanded at 100 yards as the bull continued to shove his face into the mahogany. I knew the bull was hit, but he took off up the slope and James shot him again running straight away. The bull turns sideways and stops behind a bush. James shoots him again and the bull takes off again. Geez!
|As James was going for more shells, the bull tips over, finally. He hit him solidly all three shots too. We were done at 7:10am.All you guys that have been shooting 400 to 500 yards with me would have appreciated this opportunity!
When I last saw this bull go into the trees, I made the assumption he was continuing on and would eventually move off the ranch. In reality, he hadn’t gone 100 yards when he stopped to eat. It got him kilt. Apparently he was making so much noise munching that he never heard us cross the draw below him.
But, if James had not stopped walking when he did, the gig was about to be up. We appreciate the divine intervention…
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ranch, Brad and Jameson had started up “Death Hill” when Brad spotted a bull in almost the same spot where Nolan Young whacked his bull. Brad put the spotting scope on him and although he couldn’t see the bull well because of the brush, he saw enough to say he was a shooter. Jameson didn’t even want to look at the bull. “I trust your judgment. I don’t need to see him.”
The problem was the bull was feeding up the slope away from them and they had to cross a canyon to the next ridge to get a shot. Brad took Jameson on a vicious pace as time was going to be a factor. Just before they topped out on the next ridge, they heard James shoot his bull several miles away. Brad was setting Jameson up for his shot as James’ third shot rang out. Jameson shot maybe two minutes later. The bull never exposed all of his rack, but Brad still could see enough to know he was a shooter.
Jameson made a 420-yard, one-shot kill. He had never shot anything at those distances, but his practice on the range with the milk jugs paid off. The bull crumbled from a heart shot.
Then, as they started off the ridge toward the kill, Brad spots another bull, then another, then another, then another. They ended up seeing 8 other bulls with the one they shot! These bulls just continued feeding up the slope and Brad and Jameson had to wait over an hour to keep from spooking them.
|Needless to say, it was a pleasant surprise to Brad and Jameson when they finally got to the downed bull. After pulling it out of the brush and trees, they realized just what they had killed. It was the best bull of the year so far! The width of this bull was incredible as were many other things. This bull was one of those precious few that grew when it hit the ground.The Hilliard boys were ecstatic to say the least. After packing both bulls to the cabin, it was R&R for the rest of the day with two good bulls on the table.
Jameson and James, thanks again to both of you for believing in us. We loved your attitude and look forward to next time.
Ironically, we are welcoming another father-son team next week, Odis and Kevin Dow, for another high adventure on the Alan Ranch.
|I FINALLY got a picture of Katlyn Vincent’s bull from her hunt with Clayton Wilson on the Griffin Ranch.Katlyn was accompanied on her hunt by her dad, Donnie Vincent. They got to share the moment when Katlyn dropped her first bull, a nice 6×6.
Thanks Katlyn. Everyone said you were a sweetheart. I wish I could have met you!
“Never confuse motion with action.“
December 5, 2010
This past week, we welcomed Roger Rubrecht to the Hondo Ranch for our first “late season” hunt on that ranch.
Mike Acklin is our Hondo guide and it didn’t take him long to spot a group of bulls. Unfortunately the bulls bedded and Mike and Roger spent all day trying to figure out a way to get a shot. Just before dark that afternoon, they managed to get in position for a 300-yard shot and Roger took care of the rest.
They got a beautiful bull and I don’t think Roger has let those antlers out of his sight since!
Guides Brad LaBounty and Paul Flache welcomed Schyler Savage to the Wade Ranch for some whitetail hunting. She is an 11-year old hunter from Rye, New Hampshire. She was accompanied on the hunt by her dad, Jon.
Schyler wrote us a story about her hunt, so I included it for you. Just a quick note on Schyler. Brad and Paul did nothing but rave about the high character that this young lady showed. She quickly won their admiration with her wonderful attitude and impeccable manners. Schyler, you are what the future of hunting should be and we couldn’t find a better ambassador to represent youth hunting in America. Thank you from all of us.
|I arrived at the Wade Ranch Friday night. Just on the drive through the ranch we saw a lot of deer. I was so excited! That night we rode around the ranch. The next morning I got up all excited because I was actually going to see some deer! I am from NH and there aren’t many deer where I hunt.My dad and I sat in a blind that morning. Before sunrise, a doe walked out and saw us. She ran off. Then, half an hour later, a small eight point walked out. My dad said “Let’s wait for a bigger one.” Those were the only deer we saw.
That night was good though. We had five bucks come out, a six, three eights, and a ten. The six and ten pointer were the first deer out. The six was watching over a doe when the ten came along and pushed him out of the way. Then the ten was just standing there so I asked my dad “Do you want me to shoot?”. “Go ahead!” So I shot and dropped him. One of the points had broke off from a previous fight. A nice 9 pointer. Successful first day!
It was coming down to the last morning and I had passed up a lot of bucks. Tuesday morning we saw an Axis deer and two does. I was upset because I had sat there another morning and had seen a lot of deer.
All the sudden my dad said “Hey! Buck!” We turned around and then another buck started chasing that buck. Then the bigger buck stopped and I was about to shoot when my dad whispered “Change target!” This shot was closer, but still far, 238 yards. I put the deer in the scope and he stopped. I shot and hit him behind the shoulder.
He kept walking and then stopped again. I shot and missed. Then he laid down. My dad made a slight noise and the deer got up and just stood there. I shot and hit him. He kept walking and then once again stopped. I shot and hit him. He walked a little distance and stopped behind a tree. Just one more step and I would shoot again. Then he started wobbling and fell. I said “He dropped! I got him!” We walked over to the deer and he had 11 points and a drop-tine! Successful last day!
I had an awesome hunt with guides Brad and Paul at the Wade Ranch. Thanks again.
“The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this:
decide what you want.”
|December 1, 2010It was another 1-day hunt at the Alan Ranch again this week. As I alluded to before, this hunt was with Jarrett and Glenn Southard, a pair of brothers from Texas. It would be Jarrett and mine’s third hunt together on the Alan Ranch. The first hunt we killed at 9am on the first morning. On the second hunt we killed out at 7am on the first morning. Both bulls were among the best killed each year too.
This year, we vowed to hunt more than an hour. Well, so much for that plan…
We all awoke to a crisp, 9-degree morning and set out for the day. Brad and Glenn were headed to the same place Brad has hunted the past three weeks.
Jarrett and I went to the same place where my last two hunters, Tom Moleski and Dan Neeley, both got shots at good bulls. I spotted a bunch of cows and a small bull from the first hill. I saw nothing else, so we started to the other side of the canyon to look around the corner where the elk always seem to be. Just like clockwork, I spotted a good bull not 100 yards from where Tom Moleski dropped his bull. The bull was 709 yards away, so I dropped my pack and put the spotting scope on him.
All I could see was the tops of his horns, but what a top! The first thing I told Jarrett was, “He’s got a split G-4!” I saw the big whale tail and that was enough. “That is our bull!” I told Jarrett. “Even if it is only 7am, we need to kill that bull!”
So we closed the distance to 501 yards. Just like Tom’s bull, this bull was about to hit the trees on top of the ridge and we would lose him if he did. I threw both our packs down and Jarrett got into a prone position for the shot. Jarrett fired and I saw the dust fly just over the bull’s back. “Shoot him again!” came out of my mouth like a parrot. Jarrett shoots and again dust flies just over his back. “Shoot lower!” I’m hissing.
The bull is taking off by this time and I’m trying to get Jarrett back on him. The bull stops behind a tree but there is no chance for a shot. The bull started walking out across an opening and Jarrett fires a third time. I didn’t see dust on this shot, but the bull walks behind another tree and I’m telling Jarrett to get on him when he comes out the other side. As the bull stepped out, Jarrett was about to drop the hammer again when the bull just nose-dived down the hill. The third shot was perfect.
|By 7:05 am, we were done on the first morning… again. Now, we wanted to get a good look at what we just shot. The bull didn’t disappoint as he has a 7×7 with an extra point on each G-4. It was another good hunt with Jarrett, despite the fact that out of three elk hunts, we have hunted a total of maybe 3 1/2 hours! I guess that is a good problem to have.Meanwhile, Brad and Glen had heard our shots so Brad was trying to radio me to find out what happened. The hills between us made radio contact sketchy, but they did hear we had a 7×7 with split G-4’s. Brad had spotted this monster 5×6 and was wanting to go after him, but after Glenn heard we had a 7-point down, he didn’t want the 5×6. The bad part is the 5×6 was probably a better bull than what we had down! It is not always about the number of points.
The other good bull Brad had spotted was three ridges over from the one they had hiked up. So after not finding anything else closer, they decided to go back down and go up the ridge where the other good bull was spotted earlier.
|Once they got relocated, Brad walked off the ridge to look across the canyon. A bull almost immediately busts down the ridge and starts heading up through the thick trees on the opposite side. Brad saw a 6-point horn on one side but couldn’t really tell what the bull was. He was trying to get Glenn set up and on the bull in case it was a shooter. Glenn was having trouble seeing the bull and once he did, Brad began to bring his binoculars up to see what kind of bull he was. Boom! The bull crashes into the trees.|
|“Uh oh!” is what Brad is thinking. “I don’t even know what it is!””Well,” Brad says, “Let’s go see what you killed.”
Once they get there, they see that the bull is basically a non-typical 5×8. It all turned out OK. Brad was sure sweating it for a minute!
Tom Moleski, Brad said this bull was the same bull you and I had at 100 yards, in the trees, on the first morning of your hunt.
And by 10am, we were done. Another successful hunt at the Alan Ranch.
Remember my last story where I had somehow lost my knife and I ended up caping a bull with a steak knife? Well, Brad was in Texas this week getting ready for whitetail season and what does he see in one of the ranch roads? You got it! My knife! Somehow I had lost it when I was there a few weeks ago. Glad I got the bright orange handle or Brad would have never seen it. I was sure happy to have it when Jarrett’s bull took a dirt nap.
Tim Harrawood wrote a story about his, Kirk Allman and Henry Svrceks’ hunt on November 9 with guides Brad LaBounty, Clayton Wilson and Kenny Espinosa. I wanted to share it with you since I was not there in person to be able to write about it.
After a 12.5 hour drive, an overnight stay in Roswell, NM and a short stop over at the Ruidoso Gun Club for one last check of our rifles, Kirk Allman and I arrived at the designated meeting place one hour early to meet one of the Elite Outfitters guides, Clayton. After some brief introductions, we, along with Henry Svrcek the other hunter embarked on a 16 miles drive (1:10 minutes) to the rustic cabin on the Alan Ranch.
Understandably, we did not sleep as well as we would have liked to due to the level of anticipation we all felt about the next 5 days of hunting on the Alan Ranch. Kirk and I had been tracking the website and reading all of the hunting stories posted in the “What’s New” section of the website. Being familiar with the stories, we knew what may be in our future. We could only imagine that if we were fortunate enough to succeed in harvesting a trophy bull how our stories would read. We went to bed that night, bellies full from the wonderful dinner prepared by Brad along with heavy anticipation about the morning hunt.
I awoke at about 3 am and did my best to stay quiet and in the bed until about 4 am. At that point I couldn’t stand it anymore and got up to make coffee and finish packing my backpack for the day. I’m sure that Kirk and Henry would have rather me stayed quiet until 5am, I just couldn’t do it.
It was finally time to leave camp for our first hunt. Henry would be paired up with Clayton while Kirk and I would be teaming up with Kenny and Brad. We arrived at the base of a steep road where Kirk and Kenny peeled off and started to climb what appeared to be a very significant climb. Brad and I kept straight on what seemed to be a pretty easy hike. It wasn’t too long before we left the easy hike along the ranch road and started to climb what turned out to be a very long and steady climb to the top of a mountain. About half way up we stopped to catch our breath and I made the comment to Brad that I thought I could see the top just though the tree ahead. He smiled and informed me that we were only about half way up. At this point I was no longer concerned with the steep climb that Kirk was facing with Kenny. I had work of my own to do.
Minutes later, Brad and I made it to the top. Almost immediately Brad whispered “ELK”. We dropped to our knees and started looking through our binoculars to see if they were shooters or not. As it turned out, one of them was a definite shooter, a 6×6, tall but not terrible wide. Brad told me that they were too far away for us to fool with, but Kirk and Kenny were climbing the mountain that they were browsing on. Brad radioed Kenny and informed him of the shooter.
We then took up a position to cut the elk off if they winded Kirk and Kenny as the wind was definitely not in their favor. Well it didn’t take long for things to unravel. Unaware to Brad and I were several cows in the brush just beyond the browsing bulls. Those cows would eventually spot Kirk and Kenny and when they did, they busted down the mountain and along the way took the bulls with them. Just like that they disappeared into the thick cover.
About this time Brad and I looked to our left and spotted another good bull just below Kirk and Kenny. This one was more impressive than the first shooter that we spotted. Again Brad radioed Kenny and directed him towards the bull. The sneak was on! From the opposite hillside we watched as Kirk and Kenny slowly worked their way down the mountain side toward the bull. Because of thick brush and the lay of the land they never laid eyes on the bull. At one point I could see the bull and the hunters in the same field of view through my binoculars. They were within 75 yards and the bull was still concealed in the brush. A few minutes later the bull, unalarmed, slipped into the canyon not to be seen again. Wow, right out of the gate and we had already spotted two good bulls. I pinched myself to see if I was actually dreaming or not.
After the initial excitement, Brad and I decided to walk the edge of the ridge and glass. The wind was brutal up there and we didn’t see any more activity so we decided to head back down the mountain that we had just climbed an hour and a half earlier. I must say that I performed much better going down than I did coming up.
We arrived back at the truck to find Kenny searching for radio batteries. He had just encountered a big bull with massive thirds but had left Kirk to watch a bull they spotted bedded up across the canyon from their position. We talked briefly before the three of us loaded up in the truck to go up the mountain and see if we could help Kirk. As we neared Kirk, he motioned that there was a good bull across the canyon, only problem is that it was bedded down in very thick cover. At this point we moved farther down the mountain side to see if we could get a better angle on the bull.
The next three hours were spent watching and trying to find a position where we felt Kirk could get a shot on this wonderful bull. Twice during this time we watched this bull stand up, only to watch him lay back down just feet from where he just laid. Neither time presented Kirk with a shot opportunity. Frustration was setting in! Brad tried to whistle and see if the bull would stand but the wise old bull was not playing that game.
Kenny took off farther down the ridge and quickly returned and said that he found a spot where Kirk might be able to attempt a shot. All four of us moved slowly toward the new location and took great care not to bump the bull from his bed. Finally we found a vantage point that may provide a small window of opportunity for Kirk to shoot.
With only a few Pinon pine limbs between Kirk and his first bull elk, he got comfortable and prepared to make the shot. Once he was set up he asked Brad and Kenny, “What do you think he will score and how far is he” to which they replied he’ll go about 290-300 and he’s 285 yards away. That was all Kirk needed to hear. He made a few final adjustments and alerted us that he was ready. The shot rang out as he placed the shot right through the front shoulder of the bedded bull.
For good measure, Kirk placed one more slug into the bull in case he had any ideas of getting up and running off. It was nearly noon now and the three hour stalk on this bull had ended successfully. Congratulations were given and high fives and handshakes were in abundance. As Kirk and his guide Kenny headed toward the bull, Brad and I stayed put to assist them in finding the bull once they made it through the canyon. Minutes later we all joined up, took lots of pictures and then started the process of removing the bull from the mountain side.
Once the bull was hanging back at camp, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and started talking strategy for the afternoon hunt. Brad and I would drop Kenny and Kirk off to glass a canyon that had been productive in the past while we went to the location where we had seen the good bull slip into the canyon earlier that day.
After about thirty minutes of glassing, Kenny radios Brad and tells him that he has spotted a bull that would probably go 320 or so. Brad looks at me and asks,” are you willing to take a chance”? To which I replied, “That’s why I’m here”.
The race was on. We practically ran all of the way back to the truck, loaded up and drove hurriedly toward Kirk and Kenny’s location. Arriving back at the spot that we dropped them off, we met Kirk. He showed us the way to where Kenny was located.
Once we met up, Kenny pointed across the canyon where we could see a small bull and a cow browsing on Mahogany. He stated that the better bull was concealed behind some larger trees and bushes. Brad instructed me to get comfortable and get my shooting sticks ready. With shooting light quickly fading, the bull, a good 6×6 appears from behind the large junipers across the canyon. Brad tells me to get ready to shoot, to which I replied, how far is he? Brad whispered he’s 630 yards. I whispered back, “Have you lost your mind! You must be crazy? I have never attempted a shot that far.”
Brad immediately told me that I could do it, and to just be confident. Kenny, who was sitting just to Brad’s left asked, didn’t you say that the first bubble below the cross hairs of your BDC reticle was dead on at 400 yards? That’s right I said. Kenny then asked to see my rifle so he could look at the scope. After a quick study he handed my rifle back to me and said, put the bottom of the third bubble right on the top of his back.
At this point, I don’t remember if it was Kirk or Brad, but someone said, what about the wind. It was blowing hard somewhat from left to right with the wise old bull’s nose dead into the wind. Kenny instructed me to hold the bottom of the third bubble on the base of the bull’s antlers. At that distance my cross hairs were several feet above the bulls head. I steadied myself and alerted the others that I was ready. One final deep breath and I squeezed the shot off.
The recoil took me off target after the shot. I ejected that shell and loaded another into the chamber while asking for a report on where the first shot had hit. Kirk, Kenny and Brad remained silent for what seemed to be an eternity but in reality was only several seconds. Where did he go guys, I asked? I can see the smaller bull but can’t see the one I shot at.
At this point, Brad said, “Did you guys just see what I just saw?” Kirk replied, “He raised his head a bit and then rolled down the hill about ten yards”. Then Kenny said, “He’s down.” Still skeptical at this point and not being able to see where the bull lay, I looked to Brad who immediately said, “That’s a record.” You beat the 618 yard shot record and did it with one shot whereas it took six shots to down the one from 618. We all stood up and exchanged high fives and I’m sure we looked like professional football players celebrating in the end zone after a touchdown.
Camp was full of laughter and good times. Day one ended with one hanging in camp and another on the ground to be retrieved in the morning. It would be a long night waiting to go get the bull.
The next morning Kirk and I stayed in camp and tended to camp chores along with sharpening our knives for the upcoming deboning party to be held later that day after it warmed up a little. Henry and the three guides arrived back at camp mid morning. They had seen several bulls but couldn’t make it happen.
That afternoon Brad, Kenny, Kirk and I went back to the same area where I had harvested my bull to help spot for Henry and Clayton. As luck would have it we spotted a good 5×6 across the canyon. Brad radioed Clayton and him and Henry headed our way. I was down the ridge a good piece from everybody else and was not taking my eye off of the bull while all the others worked hard to get Henry into a location where he may get a shot at the bull.
For an hour and a half I watched the bull stand like a statue amongst the junipers and pine while the rest had positioned themselves approximately 350 yards away. We watched and watched as the bull would not even turn his head or twitch his ear. We watched the bull until the light faded into darkness as Henry could not see the bull to shoot. We backed out and decided to give it another try the next morning.
Morning came and the level of anticipation was again high. All five of us traveled back to the canyon where we had watched the good 5×6 the night before. I split off from the group and climbed the hill for a good 100 yards or so and found a good vantage point to do some glassing. With shooting sticks as a rest for my binoculars I started looking over the opposite mountain side. Ten to fifteen minutes had expired when Brad had found his way to where I was located. He stood next to me looking over the terrain while I continued to glass the hillside.
Brad commented that it may have been a little optimistic thinking that the bull would still be on the mountain, especially after he seemed to be aware of our presence the night before. No sooner than he uttered those words, I spotted the bull in my binoculars. As I started to whisper to Brad that I had located the same bull, he spotted him as well. Brad said, “Don’t take your eyes off of him!” He then bolted back towards Henry and Clayton’s location.
For the next ten minutes or so, I did not look at anything other than that bull. He was browsing on mahogany and seemed to not have a care in the world. And then the silence of the morning was interrupted by the sound of Henry’s 338. I watch as some rock dust kicked up just above the bulls back. I wanted to yell out, “Too high Henry” when the sound of the second shot filled the canyon air. This time the bull dropped in his tracks. Five hundred and twelve yards would be the distance. Three bulls on the ground in four days and none had to be tracked. I have to wonder how often that happens.
Moments later we all found our way to where Henry, Clayton and Brad were located and congratulated Henry on his early morning harvest. We all pitched in and made short work of the task at hand, the bull was loaded on the 4-wheeler and the long hike out began. After thirty minutes or so we found our way back to the truck where we all enjoyed a well deserved beverage of choice and talked about how nice it was to have harvested the bull and had it out of the canyon and it was still only 9am. The hunt was over and the results could not have been any better. Three bulls and three happy hunters, what more can you ask for. I hope the guides were as happy as us.
The Alan Ranch proved to be a bull-elk magnet, Kirk and I saw approximately 25 bulls, 13 cows and several mule deer doe apiece. I don’t have any statistical data to compare to but in five trips out of camp, that seems pretty amazing to me. The terrain is steep and unforgiving to those that choose to chase elk but the scenery is magnificent. The fall colors were in full swing and now that I am gaining in the age department, I tend to notice things like that a bit more. I took lots of pictures and more than half of the ones I printed are of the scenery itself. I highly recommend the Alan Ranch to anyone who has the desire to chase bull elk.
The guides, Brad, Kenny and Clayton were amazing. Their professionalism is unsurpassed. Their ability to put you on the elk, score the elk in the field and assist with ballistics at long ranges is second to none. On a personal level, they are simply good guys with a passion to hunt elk. The opportunity to hunt this ranch was only made better by having guides like these three gentlemen. From their ability to their attitude and wonderful sense of humor, they are tops in our book. I can only hope that the future holds opportunity to hunt with these gentlemen again.
Not only are the guides professional, Johnny and his wife Denise are as well. They were very helpful in helping plan our trip. Having had a bad experience with an outfitter before, I was somewhat leery about trying it again. Elite Outfitters showed me that there are true professional in the business. Thank you both for your assistance in our hunt of a lifetime.
Thanks for the wonderful memories!
“Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is true failure.”
George E. Woodberry
|November 25, 2010Happy Turkey Day!
Brad and I just returned from another great hunt at the Alan Ranch. We went out to the ranch prepared with turkey and all the trimmings in case we didn’t get done by Thanksgiving. As you can tell, we got ‘r done.
Nolan Young and Dan Neeley were our hunters this week. It was Nolan’s first elk hunt. Dan had done multiple elk hunts but it was his first with Elite.
Dan was hunting with me and Nolan went with Brad. I took Dan to the same spot Tom Moleski killed his bull last week. We did not spot anything at first light and I began to work toward the slope that has produced so many bulls for us on past hunts.
I didn’t see anything where Tom’s bull dropped but as we continued, we ran smack dab into a good bull not 75 yards in front of us. He sprinted off without giving us a shot. I berated myself for not seeing him sooner. Oh well.
We didn’t make it another 100 yards and I spotted a bull further down the slope. A quick look in the spotting scope revealed a hefty 6-point. The bull was near a 1,000 yards away, so we began to close the distance. Once we got closer, I saw the bull again. Or so I thought I had. This bull was a 4×5 and certainly not the bull I spotted earlier.
We began to work up the opposite side of the canyon to increase our viewing angle. Then the big bull steps out. I dropped Dan into a shooting position and got him onto the sticks. The bull was 405 yards away. Dan got on him and fired. The bull sprints up the ridge for 50 yards or so and stops. Dan shot again and the bull whirled and disappeared over the ridge. We thought maybe he was hit on that second shot but could not tell for sure. A third bull came out after the shot I had not seen yet. He was only a 5×5.
So, we hiked up to where we last saw the bull and began looking around. It was only 7:30 in the morning. About that time, I hear a shot from across the ranch. I told Dan, Brad and Nolan just shot. Sure enough, Brad came over the radio saying they had a nice one down. We still had found nothing. I finally found where the bull had gone and we tracked him for 400 yards or so up the hill, but it became obvious we had not done any damage. We found the other two small bulls and two others but could not ever see the bull we had shot at.
|Dejected, we retreated off the mountain. We drove over to where Brad and Nolan were located to help them with getting the bull out.According to Brad and Nolan, they had begun to climb up a ridge and they began to see bulls everywhere. Brad spots this one bull who got his attention. Nolan was initially looking at a different bull and was not as impressed as Brad with the bull. Once Brad realized he was looking at the wrong bull, Nolan saw the one Brad was looking at. “Oh yeah!” Nolan says. “He’s nice!” So, off to get closer they went.
Once they got to within 400 yards they set up and Nolan whacked him. We almost had two bulls on the ground in the first hour of the first day!
But one on the ground is better than none. We got the bull quartered and packed to the truck by noon.
That afternoon we went to the ridge where we spotted the big one-horned bull the week before. As soon as we got there Brad and I both spotted a bull at almost the same time. He was a good 6-point we had estimated at well over 300 inches. We were 709 yards away at the time. We slipped around and closed the distance to 530 yards and Dan set up for the shot. The bull had no idea we were there.
|Dan shot and the bull starts moving, He continued to shoot until the bull crumpled. Another bull bites the dust. Dan and I made it over to the bull and got pictures before dark. We climbed back across the canyon and concluded another magnificent hunt. We returned the next morning and the four of us made short work of the bull. Dan and Nolan, thank you for tour help on getting these two bulls out. Your effort was much appreciated by Brad and I.Just like that, we were done.
Next week, Brad and I are welcoming back the Southard brothers, Jared and Glenn, and their dad, Freddy. This trip will be Jared’s fourth with us. Two were on the Alan Ranch and one on the Hondo Ranch. He has three good bulls on the wall from those hunts and we plan to put number four there soon. Glenn hunted the Alan Ranch two years ago and killed his first big game animal on that hunt. We’ll be looking for his second bull in as many trips.
|****Our other hunter for the week was Katlyn Vincent, a 17-year old hunter from Kentucky. She was hunting the Griffin Ranch with guide, Clayton Wilson and her dad, Donnie.
They got on three good bulls the first day and unfortunately for Katlyn, she missed twice. Not to be deterred, she got another opportunity at another nice 6-point on the second day and did not miss this one. I’ll get pictures from Clayton one of these days. We have threatened to hold his paycheck until we get those pics!
Some men see things as they are and ask, ‘Why?’
Others dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why Not?’
Robert Francis Kennedy
November 19, 2010
Since I last wrote, we had Jim Maus and Michael Niebauer hunt on the Griffin Ranch. Jim killed a nice 5×5 and Michael took a cow elk. I do not have the photos from Clayton yet.
I went to the Wade Ranch last week for the opening of whitetail season with my friends, Mark Soward and Tom Willis. We had absolutely lovely weather for hunting…..Not! It was 80 degrees every day with the wind blowing 20 to 30 mph day and night for 5 days. It was miserable hunting weather to say the least. However, we still saw lots of deer and had a good hunt. Mark and I didn’t shoot at anything, but Tom shot at two different bucks and through much shooting and deciphering, we decided he was having a scope problem similar to Dan Pridemore’s. Ironically it was a high-end scope by the same manufacturer as the scope that gave Dan grief. Cough, Leupold, cough.
If you recall, Tom was my partner in crime on the elk hunt I almost got bitten by two rattlesnakes. Anyway, Tom had shot at a buck at dark one night. We found no sign of a hit that night, but came back the next morning to look some more. We didn’t walk 50 yards when Tom walks up on a 5-foot rattler! He stepped within 18 inches of it before he saw it. The thing was as big around as the end of a baseball bat! I think it had swallowed Tom’s deer…
I had spent countless days here last summer and this fall and had never seen a snake of any kind on this ranch, much less a rattler. Tom shows up and here come the rattlesnakes. I’m wearing snake chaps whenever I hunt with Tom in the future.
|While I was playing with the snakes in Texas, Brad LaBounty, Kenny Espinosa and Clayton Wilson guided three hunters on the first Alan Ranch “Late Season” hunt for this year. We welcomed Tim Harrawood, Kirk Allman, and Henry Svrcek to the ranch for the first time. It took three days to whack three bulls. I have photos of Tim and Kirk’s bulls.Kirk shot this bull in his bed at 285 yards. The position you see the bull in the picture is the position he died in.|
|Tim shot this bull at an amazing 630 yards! He made a 1-shot heart hit.|
| *****This past week, Brad and I welcomed Tom Moleski and Paul Cartusciello to the Alan Ranch. It was their first time hunting with us, but it won’t be the last. We had a great time pursuing bulls and enjoying the Chamber-of-Commerce weather. It couldn’t have been nicer.
Paul found out what a “5” on a scale of 1 to 10 is like concerning the difficulty of the terrain. I think Paul’s response was, “I’d hate to see what a 10 is!” But after a tough first day, and persistent “pink panty” prodding from Brad, Paul found his legs and went places he never dreamed he would.
The first day belonged to Brad and Paul as they managed to spot 17 different bulls from the ridge they had climbed onto. They saw several shooters but none were close enough or in a position to get a shot.
Paul and I only saw two bulls from the ridge we climbed. However, the first bull we saw was 900 yards across a canyon from us and he was a definite shooter. We’re only 10 minutes into the hunt, but I told Tom, we need to make a move on him. We started back down the ridge we had just climbed, but by the time we had closed the gap to 500 yards, the bull was on to our treachery. He promptly went up and over the ridge leaving us to climb back up the same hill we had just climbed. We only saw one small bull the rest of the morning.
That afternoon we all went glassing together and spotted a whopper bull across the same big canyon, the boys had fun in the week before. I spotted it and immediately dropped my binos to get the spotting scope on him. Before I could, I hear Brad say, “He’s only got one horn!” Sure enough, he’s a beautiful 6 point on the one side and not even a stub on the opposite side.
The next morning saw Brad and Paul scaling their ridge again. Brad spots a bull across a draw, less than 200 yards away. The bull slid into some trees and Brad got Paul set up to shoot. The bull comes out and Brad says, “There he is! Shoot him!” Only problem was Paul could not spot the bull to save his life. The bull was on to them and as he exited over the ridge, Paul got to see the posterior end of the bull as he disappeared. Brad took a blood-pressure pill and they continued on up the ridge.
Meanwhile, Tom and I are across the main canyon from Brad and Paul. Brad radioed to me that there were two nice bulls underneath us just up the canyon. As I slipped up above them, Brad had worked into the trees and could not see anymore. I tried slipping down looking for them, but finding a bull on the same slope as us is difficult. Brad finally called and said he could see again. I showed him my orange and he informs me the bulls are 100 yards below me and running. Great! We only managed to find a few small bulls the rest of the morning.
The second afternoon, Tom and I went to a prominent point to glass for elk. We managed to spot 7 bulls, with the best being a decent 6×6. None of them got us excited, but it was two bulls I saw 2 miles away that had my attention. We decided to go after them the next morning.
Tom and I were in place glassing at daylight the next morning. The bulls were not where they were the night before. After seeing nothing, I figured they must be around the corner on a canyon wall where I have had hunters kill countless numbers of bulls over the years. Sure enough, there was a good bull! It took me all of two seconds to tell Tom, “That’s your bull!”
We were 600 yards from the bull so we dropped back into the bottom and closed the distance. I slipped back up to where I could see and spotted the bull behind some trees 350 yards away. Tom got ready to shoot but was having trouble finding the bull in the trees. The bull was working toward the only opening we had and I was getting frantic as the bull approached it and Tom still was not on him.
Then the bull steps out and I’m squealing, “See him!? See him!?” And then Tom sees him. He was looking too high on the ridge. The bull steps behind a mahogany bush and stops to munch on it. One more step and the bull is gone into the trees. “Shoot through the bush?” Tom asked. “Please!” I replied.
|Tom shoots and I saw the bull buckle and I could hear the bullet hit. “Shoot him again!” I barked. By the time Tom chambered another round, the bull was down. We both fell back on the ground at what had just happened, hugging like school girls.I guess now is the time to tell you that Tom hunts all over the world for everything under the sun. But with a bow. This hunt was his first rifle hunt…ever! And he makes a 1-shot kill on a bull. He broke both shoulders and destroyed the heart. The bull died in seconds. It was textbook.
Once we had taken pictures, I went to my pack to get my trusty Havalon Piranta knife and promptly pulled out an empty case. Uh oh… Sure enough, that knife was nowhere to be found. I sheepishly asked Tom, “Uh, do you have a knife?” Tom looks at me and says, “No. I didn’t want to take it through the airport.” Great! What kind of a guide doesn’t have a knife. But I didn’t. So the plan was to go back and get in contact with Brad and use his knife.
|We get back around to where we can get a radio signal to Brad and he and Paul have a bull down in one of the nastiest places to get an elk out of. He was not even close to us, so we went back to the cabin to look for a knife. Paul said he had a Swiss army knife that was “razor sharp”. We found it and it was razor sharp enough to cut butter. I found a serrated steak knife and took it. We went back to the downed bull and commenced to cutting it up. Or attempted to cut it up would be a better description.I can now say I caped a bull with a steak knife. It wasn’t easy, but I guarantee you one thing….I will NEVER be without a real knife again. I learned my lesson.|
|Brad and Paul’s story revolved around them spotting this bull early in the morning. They slipped to within 300 yards and 5 shots later, the bull was down. And not in a pretty place.Tom and I went back and helped Brad and Paul pack their elk off the mountain. Tom, your help was so vital in helping us get these elk out. You worked your butt off and I want you to know how much I appreciate you.
We ended the hunt after a full third day. Tom and Paul rebooked for next year before they left.
“There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.”
November 3, 2010
Yesterday, Dan Pridemore resumed hunting after having a scope malfunction the day before that cost him a bull.
Dan, guide Kenny Espinosa and I went back to my honey hole where Denise had killed her bull on the first day of the hunt. We barely made it past daylight when I spotted a bull across a deep canyon. The bull was a 5×5 but not a big one. We kept working down the ridge and eventually saw 6 bulls in this group. These bulls were less than 800 yards from where Denise dropped her bull.
There was no definitive monster in the bunch. The smallest bull was still a decent 5×5. We had worked to within 600 yards of the bulls and Kenny and I were studying them meticulously trying to determine which bull was the best. We both decided on this one 5×6 as he had the best mass. I looked at Kenny and asked, “What do you think?”
Kenny replies, “It is the 4th day.”
“Exactly!” I confirmed. “Let’s whack him”
I told Dan that it was going to be 500 yards or so on the shot. Dan’s eyes bulged a little at that revelation, but he followed us anyway. We managed to slip down to 530 yards and we found an opening in the oak brush to shoot from. Kenny nestled Dan under a tree with his back to it to brace on. We discussed the drop and also the wind which was blowing down the canyon at 10 mph or so.
Dan squeezed off the shot and I could see it hit the bull, but he just stood there.
“Shoot him again!” Kenny and I said in unison.
Dan shoots again and this time I see the dust fly in front of the bull. The wind had blown this shot at least 5 feet off target.
“Aim to the right,” we squealed!
The bull takes off at this point and the other bulls were scattering by this time. Kenny and I are trying to keep up with the bull we were shooting at.
As the 6 bulls are all moving in and out of the trees, Kenny and I were barking back and forth at Dan trying to keep him on the right bull.
“See the three bulls in a row? It’s the middle one…”
“The one facing to the right?”
“Not that one!” As another bull walks out of the trees.
“Wait for him to come out…”
“No, he’s below him…”
This dialogue seemed to go on forever and would have been quite comical to anyone listening to it. But, Dan did a great job of keeping with the right bull and on the sixth shot, the bull crumbled.
The celebration began. Dan couldn’t believe he just killed a bull from over 500 yards away.
We immediately called Brad (who was standing by at the lodge) to bring the mules. Kenny and Dan started down across the canyon to the bull and I went back to the top to wait on Brad. It took Kenny and Dan almost an hour to cross the canyon and find the bull in the brush.
Brad showed up and we all made it to the kill. It was a group effort in getting the bull quartered and caped. Some call it work, but it’s really just the smell of success.
|The bull was a beautiful 5×6 and was hit either 3 or 4 times. We were having trouble figuring out all the holes. Regardless the bull was well-perforated and down.The bull had an awesome cape and will make a beautiful shoulder mount. Hint, hint, Kendra! A European mount just won’t do him justice. Hint, hint, again Kendra!
We made it off the mountain and were back at the lodge by noon. This pack out was much easier than Denise’s elk. We didn’t get out with hers until 6:30 that evening.
We hauled the mules to their winter pasture as they were now officially done for this year. The next stop was green chile cheeseburgers at the Outpost in Carrizozo. The final stop was everyone horizontal and sleeping in the recliners at the lodge. It was a good day…
Dan, you’re the man. You did everything we asked of you. Even through equipment problems and all, you never lost your will. You were amply rewarded for your effort. Consider yourself a new member of the Elite family.
“When they discover the center of the universe, a lot of people will be disappointed to discover they are not in it.”
November 1, 2010
The last rifle hunt in the Sacramentos began on Saturday. We had only 1 guided hunter draw this hunt. The other lucky recipient of a tag was my wife, Denise.
Brad and I went with Denise to assist her on her quest for a good bull. We were heading to one of our favorite spots where Brad and the Honorable Dick Dorr had spotted a big 6×8 bull in muzzleloader season. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get a shot at him. During the 1st rifle hunt, Dale Huhnke and Brad killed a whopper bull before they ever got to the spot the 6×8 was seen. Nobody else in camp that week would go there, so we were forced to wait until this week to hunt it again. Denise was more than happy to go.
The wind was howling as we hiked in the dark. Brad and I were both a little nervous about what we would see as elk like to “bush up” in the wind. As light broke, we began to glass as we moved down the ridge. We weren’t seeing anything which was making us even more nervous.
When we reached the exact spot where Brad and Dick had spotted the 6×8 in muzzleloader season, Brad spots a 4×4 on the opposite side of the ridge. We didn’t see anything with it so we continued up onto a point where we could see better. As soon as Brad topped out on the point, he motions to me he sees a bull right where the big 6×8 had been! But it’s only a decent 5×6.
We started looking back on the other side where the 4×4 was and spotted another bull below him in the thick stuff. This bull was a heavy-horned, crab-claw, 6-point, but not what we were after.
As we eased down the ridge, we kept glassing where the 4×4 and crab claw were grazing on the mahogany. At almost the same time, Brad and I both said, “There’s a third bull!”
We couldn’t see him very well in the thick trees but we could tell he was a dark-horned 6-point. With the meager looks we had, we thought he was over 300-inches, so we started looking for a place to get a shot. Of course, we are in the thick oak brush and there is no place to get a shot. Finally I found an opening and I tried to get Denise comfortable on the shooting sticks. The slope was so steep we couldn’t even sit on it easily, much less shoot easily.
We didn’t see any place better so Denise tried to get set up. By this time, the bull we wanted had laid down in the trees. We had a small opening where we could see his body. The bull was 350 yards away and Denise could not anchor herself on the steep slope to get a shot. We finally dug a hole into the ground where she could sit without sliding.
Although she said she was still not comfortable, she reluctantly got ready to shoot. The .30-06 barked and the bullet looked like it hit just beside the bull. The bull never moved. She cranked another round in and shot again. This shot hit him hard and he jumped up and began walking through the trees.
Denise shot at him twice more walking through the trees and hit him again on the 4th shot. The bull turned into a small patch of trees and didn’t come out. We are not sure if he went down or what. As Denise and I stayed on him, Brad eased down the slope trying to see the bull.
In a few minutes, Brad radioed to me he could see him laying down but still alive. We’re not done yet! So we eased down to where Brad was watching the bull. We set Denise up in a prone position over my pack which made her much happier. She pumped two more slugs into the bedded bull and he got up and walked deeper into the trees. Jeez!
As we sit and watch, we see nothing. Finally, Brad went over to where the bull disappeared while Denise and I waited. Brad soon radioed to Denise, “Congratulations! He’s better than we thought!” Denise radioed back, “But, is he dead?!” Brad confirmed, “Yes, he’s dead.”
|So Denise and I crossed the canyon and headed up to where Brad sat with the newly-dead bull. Even though we had not seen the 6×8 Brad and Dick had seen, guess what Denise ended up killing? A completely different 6×8! The bull was a typical 6-point with two extra points on the right antler. The mass was incredible! This bull grew when it hit the ground. That doesn’t happen often enough.Denise was practically in tears looking at the bull. What am I saying, she WAS in tears! It was a special moment. Getting to share this moment with Denise and Brad was as good as it gets.|
|On Denise’s first elk hunt 5 years ago, she got a 5×5 with two non-typical points. This time, she got a 6×6 with two non-typical points. Wonder what’s in store for next time?****
Our other hunter for the week is Dan Pridemore. He is hunting with Kenny Espinosa. They got into some good bulls yesterday, but couldn’t get a shot. They went back this morning and got a shot at a good 6×6, but his rifle was hitting way high. It cost him a bull for the moment. I was with him two days before when we checked zeros. Somehow it was now major-league off.
After more time at the range, we have all decided there is something seriously wrong with the scope. It won’t stay in one place. So we are bringing in some alternative artillery to use. The next bull won’t be so lucky!
Kelton Goold, the 2nd-place winner of the Youth Essay Contest wrote a story about his antelope hunt he won on the Gordon Ranch. I want to share it with you.
By the way, we are planning for next year’s youth hunt giveaways and will be putting something up by the first of the year. We’re expanding what we did last year and already have 6 hunts to giveaway. We’re adding some hunts on the Wade Ranch in Texas for whitetail and Axis deer. Also, Mark Michalsky, one of our good clients, has donated a cast and blast for turkey and fishing in the Chesapeake Bay area. If anyone else wants to donate either a hunt or some travel money for next year, now’s the time! Help us make a difference.
Three strikes, you’re out!
by Kelton Goold
As two spent shells ejected out of a Remington model 700, 22-250, on top of a tall, rocky hillside, I felt sick from two less then textbook shots, and half heat sick from the hot New Mexico September day. The antelope were gone, only to be seen as small specks on the horizon.
After leaving the hillside, my guide Brad LaBounty and I chugged an orange rock star energy drink and began the stock on the wide buck. As we began to close in on the herd, the antelope knew we were present, and still after them. Watching them from behind a juniper tree, all were bedded down except for one doe that was standing lifeless, not moving a muscle, and just waiting for any excuse to flee. Moving from juniper to juniper, at a crawling pace, staying under the antelope radar, we had gotten within 400 yards from them, waiting for the decoy-like doe to bed down, except she decided to move on and as she did that, the buck got up to bring her back to the herd. As he went to get the uncooperative doe, the rest of the herd went with the buck, disappearing into a wall of junipers. Brad and I then decided to circle around the herd and get ahead of them, swiftly moving, trying to get ahead moving along a small ridgeline. Thinking we were ahead of them we looked onto the field, except we were within spitting distance from them, in the wide open, both of us trying to hide behind a single piece of sagebrush. Trying not to move wasn’t good enough, and the antelope were gone, all the way back to where we had started.
As we were heading back, the heat was becoming more then I can handle, so we headed for the truck to get some water. Walking to the truck, I envisioned the antelope winning, making the two day drive from Oregon to New Mexico for nothing. While cooling down, we then got word on the radio from ranch owner Gordon Barham; the antelope were coming our direction, so we got out and quickly set up. As we waited anxiously, doe after doe appeared from behind a tree, then the buck that had always been one step ahead of us all day, made his mistake. The buck was now in my scope, and this time I was ready for him. The shot went flawless; the bullet piercing both lungs and the buck didn’t run thirty yards. Five hours of stalking was over and forgotten, my first big game animal was down.
|I would like to thank the whole Elite crew, especially Brad LaBounty, without him pushing me to keep going; I most likely wouldn’t have an antelope. I thank Johnny and Denise Hughes for the great lodging and awesome cooking. I also thank Gordon Barham for letting me hunt on his property, and also helping guide me. Lastly, I want to thank Michael Groom of Los Gatos, CA for donating the money to travel to the hunt. This has truly been a once in a lifetime hunt, that I will never forget.|
“Whether you believe you can do something or not, you are right.”
|October 28, 2010Del Ruth and his guide, Jamie Gibson, collected this bull during the first rifle hunt.|
|The final tally from the first rifle hunt in the Sacramentos looks like this:7 hunters took 6 bulls.
5 of the 6 bulls were 6-points.
All 7 hunters had shot opportunities.
The second rifle hunt starts Saturday. We have one client coming in for the hunt. My wife, Denise, is the other lucky tag holder. She drew this same tag in 2005 and got a very unique bull. She’s looking for a good bull this time and is willing to work to get it. We’ll see what happens…
|Riker Graham, son of our guide Joseph Graham, went on a muzzleloader mule deer hunt this past week and whacked this nice mulie. He made a 267-yard shot and the buck went 20 yards. He grossed 172 and change.|
|It appears we ruffled some feathers this past week with the one hunter, Roger Knoll, who failed to kill a bull. It never fails to amaze me how anyone can book ANY of our elk hunts, much less the Sacramento hunt, and not expect to work for it. Have I not made that perfectly clear 20 or so different ways on this website alone? Regardless, it seems we ended up with just such a situation. Now everything is my fault. Unfortunately for some, money doesn’t buy heart.A line out of Cool Hand Luke sums it up: “What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it… well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.”
If anyone wants to talk with someone who hates us, call Roger at 989-738-5511.
For posterities sake, Dale Huhnke was is the same camp the entire week as Roger. He might give you a little different spin on things from a third-party perspective. His number is 630-981-4282.
“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”
|October 22, 2010I’ve got some more photos to show.
Mark Smith and Kenny Espinosa teamed up to take this monster in archery season.
|Kevin Phillips and Chris Sanchez got this bull in muzzleloader season.|
|Dale Huhnke and Brad took this bull opening morning of rifle season. Russ and Dusty, do you recognize the spot?|
|Jeremy Ringheimer and Dan Cornelius took this bull opening morning. Here’s an excerpt from Jeremy:Johnny,
Thanks for another awesome hunt!! Dan is the man. That guy is part mountain goat. He knew exactly where we needed to be and we were covered up in bulls.
Here is what went down:
The first morning, when we got to the top of the trail, we heard a bull bugling and immediately went after him. When we got to where we heard him, Dan spotted a bunch of cows going up into the timber with the bull trailing them. I got down on the shooting sticks and got ready, the bull was at 202 yards. Dan said he was a 6 point and I could shoot him if I wanted. I asked “how good?” Dan says, “He’ll probably go two nin….BOOM…ety”. I busted him right behind the shoulder and he ran 5 yards, stopped and BOOM one more behind the shoulder. The rest of the day was spent cutting up the bull and giving high 5’s. Even better the bull was over 300.
Mike and Jamie Stuenzi (brothers) hunted with Kenny Espinosa during the rifle hunt. They got on these two bulls on the third morning and made short work of putting them on the ground. A double!
|I spent last week at the Perry Ranch with Tom Willis, a client of one of my good friends/clients, Jim Holland. We hunted the ranch for two days and could not find any elk. However, Tom and I still had a great time trying and with the realization that the elk just were not here right now and Tom’s business schedule, we abandoned the hunt and will try again another day. You’ll be hearing more about Tom is the future. We’re going to do lots of hunting together.I did have a couple of those “memoir” moments during the hunt I’d like to share with you……
It was Sunday afternoon. We had watched the Vikings kicking the Cowboy’s a** on TV and listened to the finish of the game on the radio on the way out for the afternoon hunt. With knowledge of the Vikings victory (finally) I was feeling pretty good.
I had Tom sit on a ridge point above a water hole and I walked over the back side of the ridge to watch the next canyon. I had not walked 100 yards from where Tom and I split up when I noticed a 6-inch diameter hole in the limestone going straight down into the ground. I could see a few feet into the hole and it appeared to go deeper.
A few years ago, I had found a similar hole one cold January morning on the Hondo Ranch, only a couple of miles away. There was warm air blowing out of this hole which was condensing in the cold air. I knew immediately it was part of a large cave system.
Which brings me back to the newly found hole…. The first thing into my mind was the hole I had seen at the Hondo Ranch. So I reached down with my hand to feel if any air was going in or out of the hole. When I got my hand about 6-inches from the hole I heard what sounded like a growl and I thought it was some type of varmint in the hole. Of course, I jerked my hand back at the noise and was peeking into the hole when I saw it….. Maybe 12-inches from the hole lay a coiled rattlesnake!!!! And I’m standing 12 inches from the hole on the opposite side!
I ran back from the hole (no, sprinting and screaming like a little girl better describes it) with the realization that I had just stuck my hand about 12 to 14 inches from a coiled rattler!!! How I did not get bitten, I do not know. The “growl” I heard was the snake rattling when I stuck my hand down in front of him. But with the wind blowing, I did not recognize what it was or where it was. I thought something was in the hole.
I whacked the 3 1/2 foot snake with a rock as he started to slide back into the hole. I was literally shaking in my boots at what just transpired.
I have never been in a circumstance where I was ever threatened by a rattler. But it finally happened and I was just thankful I survived the ordeal unscathed. Do you think that is the end of the story? You know it isn’t….
The very next morning, Tom and I hiked up onto a ridge to glass for elk. Tom sat down on a good vantage point and I was slowly working my way along the ridge glassing. I was about 500 yards above the spot I had the encounter the afternoon before. I was just easing along picking my foot steps in the rocks trying to be quiet. One step, as I put my foot down, I thought to myself, “Did I just see some small white stripes where I stepped?”
As I took my next step and I removed my foot from the ground, I looked back. Would you believe it, there was another coiled rattlesnake!!!!! And I stepped smack-dab on it!!!!! I almost didn’t even see it. It was just the small white stripes on it’s diamonds that I even saw. It never rattled even after I stepped on it. The temperature was 58 degrees or so and I guess it was too cold. The snake was 2 feet long and it started rattling when I commenced to pummeling it with rocks.
Once again, I had not had a close encounter with a rattlesnake in 49 years. Now I’ve put my hand a foot from one and stepped on another in a span of less than 15 hours!!!! I am ready to get the H. E. double hockey sticks, out of here! I walked back to where Tom was sitting and I was on pins and needles the entire way. I even jumped back from a piece of dead cactus in the grass once. I don’t do snakes, by the way.
I’m just lucky to be alive.
Brad and I are headed to Texas to the Wade Ranch this afternoon to finish getting things ready for the fall whitetail season.
We still need some hunters for this fall. Call me and I’ll make you a deal you can’t refuse. And we have some really good deer here! It won’t happen this cheap again!
“The more sand that escapes from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.”
October 15, 2010
The muzzleloader season is now over. We took 11 hunters with everyone getting shot opportunities at 5-point and better bulls. We ended up killing 7 bulls for the week.
I have a few pictures from September and some more from this week.
|Kelton Goold was the 2nd place winner of last year’s Essay Contest. He won an antelope hunt on the Gordon Ranch and he worked his tail off to take this buck. Brad humped from from one side of the ranch to the other and back again trying to get on this goat. Kelton’s perseverance paid off.|
|Barrett Truluck and his archery bull.|
|Rick Verbsky and his wife, Lori, took the first two rifle bulls on the Alan Ranch with Brad’s help.|
|Here is an excerpt from our Facebook page that Lori posted to:”My husband and I just returned home from our Elk hunt at the Alan Ranch. I have to say, this was by far, one of the best experiences of my life. Being a woman, and this being my first “big game hunt”, I was a little apprehensive. Thanks to Brad (The Best Guide Ever), who made me feel totally comfortable and worked his butt off to get the job done. I have memories that will last a life time. I am saving my pennies and I am coming back!! Elite Outfitters, YOU ROCK!!”|
|Kyle Kennedy, one of our youth hunters, took this bull at first light opening morning of the hunt.|
|Dwight McComb and Joseph teamed up to take this 6-point opening morning of the muzzleloader season.|
|Justin Simakas took this fine bull on the 2nd day of the mz hunt. Justin is only 12 years old and had never killed or hunted for anything larger than a pheasant! Till now!Justin, you are a class act. If I could bottle your enthusiasm and heart and then sell it, I’d be a millionaire.|
|I got to be a part of this bull suddenly deciding to take a dirt nap. I went with judge Dick Dorr and Brad one evening and it took us all of three minutes to spot this bull. We hauled buns over to the ridge across from the bull and Dick worked his magic to make a 310-yard shot. The bull went 25 yards and piled up. Sweet!|
“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”
Edgar Allan Poe
October 7, 2010
Sorry about not getting any posts up on the website, but I spent a total of 3 nights at my house the entire month of September. Busy is an understatement. The Alan Ranch is not exactly cyber friendly either, so I apologize to all those who have been waiting.
Archery season came and went with much fanfare. The Sacramento hunters fared better on killing elk than did their ranch counterparts. We took 12 archery hunters on 3 ranches with everyone getting shot opportunities except one. A total of 12 arrows were shot at under 40 yards. The result was zero bulls killed, 5 bulls hit but not recovered, and 7 arrows into the dirt. It was a tough pill to swallow for everyone involved. The only consolation on the hit bulls was we believe at least 4 of the hits were non fatal and the bulls will live on. The 5th bull we are not sure where it was hit. The worst part of the story was most of the shots were at 320 to 380-class bulls!
I still don’t have all the stories from the Sacramento hunts as I spent the entire archery season in isolation at the Alan Ranch and have just gotten bits and pieces so far. The Sacramento archers had a tougher hunt the 1st week than did their 2nd week counterparts. I’ll get the stats eventually, but I have a few pictures of some archery bulls from the Sacramentos. The crown jewel was a 350-class bull taken by hunter Mark Smith and guide Kenny Espinosa. Kenny got some good footage of this bull being shot as well as photos. Unfortunately, I still don’t have them. Some day…..
|Larry Woodward and Joseph Graham hooked up for their 10th bull in 10 years.|
|Here is a synopsis of John Douglas’s hunt by Jerry Corliss:We ended up killing this bull on the evening of Sept. 19th at 6:30. We were in elk everyday. The first and second days were fairly good calling in 7 bulls to within range, just none of them were what we were after.
The third day we were going to start in a new area and found some other hunters already there. We tried another spot, but nothing. As we were headed to where we had seen a bull the night before I spotted a cow on a hillside. We parked and headed in to see what else was with this cow. There were two bulls in the herd with her, so we set up thinking we could pull one away. We had no luck so we backed out and came back in the afternoon.
We came in from above them and as we were getting out bearings a bull bugles right below us. We got set up and started calling. There were now three bulls bugling around us with one coming pretty hard. I was able to get John’s attention and got him set up for the bull coming. I kept calling and this bull slowed, John hears the bull below him raking a tree, so he moves above him to hear footsteps coming.
I kept calling and see John at full draw, next thing I know John shoots. I get up and hurry over to John to see the bull that was coming from the top standing about fifty yards away. A decent 6×6. John tells me about the shot so we give the some time. As we are waiting I decide to walk the ridge to the north to see if I can see anything and before I can get my binoculars up I spot an antler sticking up out of the oak brush. Needless to say it was our bull piled up only 44 yards away. This truly was a great hunt!!
|Hoyt Graham, one of our guides, took this bull during the archery season.|
|Myles Bennett and guide, Andrew McWilliams teamed up to take this nice 5×5.|
|Hunter Steve Schleicher and guide Clayton Wilson took the first bull off the Griffin Ranch! Clayton called the bull to 25 yards. Yes, that is a rifle in the picture, although he could have easily shot this bull with a bow.|
|Ten-year-old Colton Nosker took this incredible Persian Ibex on a youth rifle hunt in the Florida Mountains of southern New Mexico. He made a 488 yard, one-shot kill! Yes…..488 yards! Colton is the son of Brand Nosker, a good friend of Joseph Graham, who was also along on the hunt.|
“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”
September 8, 2010
The first ranch archery hunts are complete and the Sacramento archers are in the middle of their first hunt.
I had Brad and Lana Graham of Corydon, IN with me on the Alan Ranch. Lana was the hunter who we were trying to get a bull and we almost succeeded. On the third day of the hunt we had a big 6×6 come into the water hole Lana was on. She stuck the bull, but unfortunately, the bull did not go down. Best we can determine, she hit the bull high behind the shoulder in a dead spot. We lost sight of the bull after 350 yards or so and were never able to find him.
It was a tough week as bugling was sporadic at best. We saw a lion at the same water hole the day after Lana shot the bull and his presence shut down activity at that particular water hole. Have I mentioned I hate lions?
John Boyd was hunting the Hondo Ranch with Mike Acklin. Right out of the gates, Mike calls in a huge bull and lady luck frowned on us again. The arrow stuck the shoulder and broke off right at the broadhead. Another one slipped through our fingers. Needless to say, John and Lana were sick because of it. It’s a game of inches and they lost both bulls by inches.
The Sacramento hunters started on September 5 and the first bull to go down was at the hands of Michael Wolfe and his guide, Jerry Corliss. Jerry summarized the story:
|“The first day was pretty slow, as we saw only 4 elk all day. One bull at 100 yards and could not close the deal. This morning we headed to a spot I had scouted on Saturday and there were 4 bulls were bugling until 10 o’clock in the morning.
We showed up at daylight today and as we were getting our packs on a bull broke the silence of the morning. We headed up the mountain and started calling. With 4 bulls bugling within 400 yards we had quite a few options. The first set up produced nothing but a few cows and spikes and a good 5 X 6 that was too far. We then moved up the hill about 150 yards and I got Michael set up and I moved down the hill about 70 yards and set up the decoy.
Within a few minutes 2 cows and a calf came down a draw at 53 yards moved into another draw. The cows and calf then came into a clearing and had Michael pegged. I was down the hill watching the whole thing and the cows then ran down the mountain to me and the decoy. The cows slipped off, but we still had 4 bulls bugling. The next thing I know Michael is coming out into the opening and I am wondering what the heck is going on. I make the motion to Michael to see if he had shot and he gives me this confused look like he doesn’t know what I am talking about. At this point I cannot take it anymore and I ask him out loud if he has shot one, he immediately says yes. I then walk up to him and ask him what went down. He tells me all about the cows and I am really not interested in the cows because I saw what happened with them, I want to know about the bull. He tells me he saw him across the canyon headed our way. The bull came into 12 yards and Michael smoked him. The bull made it about 40 yards and piled up. ONE HAPPY HUNTER!!!”
|The next bull to bite the dust was at the hands of Jerry Milos and guide Joseph Graham. After having a shot at a huge bull deflect off a limb the day before, Jerry made the second opportunity count as he dropped a big 5×5 in his tracks.|
|Here is a picture Joseph Graham took right at dark through his spotting scope as a bull silhouetted himself on the horizon a mile and a half away. Can you say, “Huge!”|
|I got a report that Rusty Shelton and guide Jamie Gibson shot a bull late yesterday but were not able to recover it in the dark. They were headed back this morning to resume the search…..Several missed shots highlighted the remaining hunters’ stories. Hopefully I’ll have more pictures when I return from the 2nd Alan Ranch hunt. We’re welcoming our good clients from Allied fire Protection back for the fourth consecutive year!
I’ll report back in a week!
“Not all who wander are lost”
J. R. R. Tolkien
|September 1, 2010I just got back from a trip to the Colorado high country. I’ve been hunting mule deer with my good friend, Mike Unruh, of Bozeman, MT. We’ve been hunting together now for 12 years and I have to admit, Mike is probably the best hunter I have ever had the pleasure of hunting with. He’s as passionate about hunting as a person can be. Not to mention he can out-hike anyone, and I mean anyone!
The thing I like most about Mike is he makes me not only a better hunter when I’m with him, but he makes me a better person as well. Mikey, you’re the best, in every sense of the word.
We arrived at our base camp at 12,000 feet on the day before the opener and managed to see several nice bucks that afternoon. After trying to sleep at 12,000 feet, which was not very successful, we split up at first light and began looking for deer.
I spotted three bucks together and a couple of them were very good. Mike didn’t find any of the bucks he had seen the evening before, so he came over to where I was sitting and watching the bucks I had found.
It was Mike’s turn to put a stalk on them, so we waited until they bedded and made a plan. Mike scaled around the peak the bucks were located and began crawling down a rock slide trying to get in position.
|Mike slipped to within 40 yards of the bedded bucks and suddenly, they all jumped up out of their beds. They got a whiff or heard something. Mike drew and shot and the deer exploded out of the bushes they were bedded.I didn’t know which buck to follow in the spotting scope and of course, the one I am watching is not the one that he shot. By the time I figure it out. I grabbed my binos to start looking for the other buck. Before I even put the glasses up, I saw the buck piled up in the willows maybe 150 yards from where he was bedded.
Just like that, we had a good buck on the ground. It was Mike’s first archery mule deer. I met up with him at the spot the deer dropped and the celebration began. The buck was a perfect 4×4.
Mike took the buck out to the processor that afternoon and returned the next morning. By “returned” I mean he hiked 2400 vertical feet over 2 miles in 2 hours! Without a trail! He claimed he was just “plodding”. I’m telling you, the guy can hike!
By the time he gets to where I am, I have already found a couple of bucks. I’m sitting and watching the bucks and they finally settled in for the morning. Neither of these two bucks are monsters, but one of them had an extra point and some really unique front forks. Character trumped the lack of size so I planned a route in on the deer. They were bedded about 500 yards from where I shot a buck here last year.
|I had gotten within 80 yards or so of the bedded deer and I could see the tops of one set of antlers sticking up out of the willows. The other buck, with the extra point, was buried in the willows and I couldn’t see it at all. For some reason, right as I’m in the middle of crossing an opening, the buried buck I’m after, stands up and is staring a hole right through me. Mike and I are both thinking the same thing, the gigs up!The buck that saw me bolts out of the brush and takes off. The remaining buck stands up but doesn’t seem to know what happened. He eventually moves up the ridge and beds again about 100 yards away. Mike tells me to slip up and around to get on him if I want. Although the extra-point deer has vacated the area and this buck was just an average 4×4, I was already in the canyon and the thought of pulling off two stalks in two days was lurking in my mind.
“Let’s do it”, I told Mike. So Mike guided me in on the bedded buck and I get to within 30 yards of it. I can see the antler tips but nothing else. Of course, the buck is buried in the willows and I’m going to have to wait for the buck to stand up to get a shot. So I waited….. and I waited….. and I waited….. for what seemed like an eternity. Three hours to be exact.
It’s a weird feeling being 30 yards from a deer for so long. The wind had been swirling and I was amazed that I had lasted this long. Sure enough, the buck suddenly threw his head around, jumped up and took off. Just like that, it was over. Three hours went for naught. We were amazed at how long the deer stayed bedded. Most of the time, they get up every hour or so, move around and bed again. The only consolation was this buck was not really what I was after.
We went back to a prominent ridge to glass a distant bowl for the afternoon and almost immediately I spotted a buck in some willows about a mile and a half away. Mike put the scope on him and all I hear out of him is, “Wow!”
We ended up seeing four good bucks in that area. We decided that it was too late in the day to pull a stalk on them so we made a plan to look for them in the morning.
Next morning we found the bucks again and I started off for the distant bowl and Mike stayed on the ridge to keep an eye on them. It took me an hour to get within 250 yards of the feeding bucks. I set up and started watching them. Then it started to sleet, then snow. The wind was howling and it was COLD! I had on every piece of clothing I had brought on the trip. Thank God for patch of Krumholtz I was able to burrow into for some shelter. Mike buried himself in some trees and built a fire! I didn’t have that luxury being so close to the deer.
|There were four bucks in the group. Out of these deer, there were two bucks I really wanted. A huge 4×4 with deep forks and no weaknesses. The other was another big 4×4 with a G4 bent downward. Both were even bigger than the buck Mike shot. The other two were a decent 3-point and a forkhorn.The weather had the bucks very active feeding but they finally bedded. I managed to slip within 40 yards of them when the 3-point stood up and caught me in the middle of an opening. He and the forky bounced off, stopped and gave me a 50-yard shot, but the big 4×4 was now standing up 40 yards from me. All I can see is his horns! Instead of following the 3-point and forky, so I had an opening to shoot through, he takes off the other way taking the other big deer with him.
Although I really appreciated my Sitka Stormfront Light rain gear in the sleet/snow storm, it ended up being my albatross on the stalk. This rain gear is light, durable and quiet when it’s wet, but it’s noisy when it’s dry. The precip had stopped and the rain gear dried out. The pants made noise trying to move through the willows and it got me busted. I knew I should have taken them off before the final stalk, but I kept remembering the 3-hour standoff yesterday and the squalls were not done, so I was hesitant to shed my waterproofing.
Regardless, it was an awesome experience I won’t soon forget. Learned some things and had a great time hunting with Mike.
Now, it’s time to get to work. Elk season is here and it’s time to put some bulls on the ground.
Stay tuned. Same bat-time, same bat-channel.
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
August 23, 2010
Just got back last night from a trip to the Wade Ranch in Texas for an Axis deer hunt with John Levee from Round Rock, Texas. Although John and I met over through the phone years ago, we had never actually seen each other before. John is a financial planner and had done work with my stepfather. That’s how we met. John is an avid Longhorn fan so politics sometimes makes for good hunting.
I arrived on Thursday afternoon and spent the evening and next morning making salt licks for the deer. One of my clients and friends, Mark Michalsky, had pointed me to a mixture of Dicalcium Phosphate, trace mineral salt and stock salt as a viable deer attractant and antler-mass accelerator. Did some research on the web and many out there swear by it. The experts claim bucks crave it during velvet and does crave it during lactation.
So…..I get to the ranch with instructions to dig a 3-feet circle down 6 inches. Yeah…right…. Obviously whoever suggested this dimension never tried to dig in the sparse caliche soil and limestone in west Texas! With highs near 100 degrees, I discovered making 12 salt licks was more than I anticipated. Regardless, I got them scratched into the meager soil in strategic locations.
John arrived about 3:30 on Friday afternoon and after unpacking we decided to go look for some Axis. I set him up for the hot afternoon on a water hole that had been very productive for us. I went to another part of the ranch and glassed from a prominent point.
|It was almost 7pm before I saw my first deer, and it was a whitetail doe. The whitetails began appearing and among them, I saw a monster whitetail buck. This was the 2nd whitetail I had seen in two days that was pushing every bit of 170! I thought it was an Axis buck when I first saw it because the horns were so tall. Guys, the chance to kill two trophy whitetail bucks, with a rifle, in the December rut, plus a Rio Grande gobbler, for under $3000, is going to be the steal of the century.Anyway, back to the story….at 8pm I watched a nice Axis buck heading down the ridge toward the road where I had to go out. Not wanting to bump him, I left my perch and headed back toward John before this Axis buck could get in the way. My thought was to come and look for him in the morning as John was on the other side of the ranch.
I’m just toodling down the road when I come around a corner and I see an even nicer Axis buck trotting up the hill! Not wanting to stop and give the buck a reason to fly off to some distant hinterland, I kept on going. I called John on the radio and asked if he had seen anything. He said, “Just a whitetail buck.” I said, “Pack up, I just saw a good one, we may have time to find him again before dark.”
|We made it back to where I saw the buck just before dark and sure enough, there he was. John made short work out of the shot as the buck dropped as if struck by a lightning bolt. We were only a few hours into the hunt and we were done. We were sad to be done but happy to have a very nice Axis buck on the ground.By the time we got the buck taken care of, it was 11:30 in the evening before we could make dinner. But steaks and fine wine at midnight after a kill is as good as it gets.
We futzed around the ranch the next day without any great fanfare to report. We dined that evening exclusively on Axis back strap and fresh shrimp John had brought. No potato, no salad, just protein. What a feast.
It was a good time being with John. We are doing an elk hunt together at the Alan Ranch next month, so it was good getting to know each other. We’re looking forward to elk now.
I’m heading to Colorado on Friday to do a high-country archery mule deer hunt with my compadre, Mike Unruh. We’ve done this hunt the last three years and I got a good buck there last year. Now, I’m holding out for a monster, which we seem to see at least one each year. Then, it’s back to New Mexico and the beginning of elk season. I’m ready for that too. It’s going to be a good year. I feel it…
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
|August 12, 2010My son, Eric, and I drew archery mule deer tags in the Ruby Mountains of northern Nevada. I have hunted there twice before and I was looking forward to this hunt even more as it was Eric’s first archery hunt. Although he has rifle hunted since he was 8, he could never seem to draw a good archery tag. Till now….
Eric was celebrating his 20th birthday during the trip and it would make a fitting birthday present. My friend since high school, Mark Soward of Seguin, TX, didn’t draw a tag, but joined us on the trip.
The plan was to drive 1,100 miles, with mules, to Nevada and then pack in 15 miles to a remote portion of the Rubies. The Ruby Mountains are spectacular in their own right. High glacial lakes, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and mule deer all make the Rubies a special place.
It took us 19 hours to drive to Nevada and we spent the night at the trailhead. The next morning we packed in the 15 miles over 5 hours. Let me tell you, it was a lot of effort to do this trip. But we never saw a hunter or even a single footprint the entire hunt. We were the only ones around. How sweet.
|Hunting archery mule deer in August is entirely a spot and stalk affair. We try to spot a shooter buck in the mornings if possible, then wait for them to bed. Once the thermals stabilize in the midday, a stalk is planned. It’s fun stuff.The first morning we spotted a whopper buck we estimated at 200 inches. The buck worked around a ridge from us into a small box canyon and disappeared from our sight. We worked further down the ridge until we could see into the box canyon. We glassed for that buck on and off the rest of the day and never could find him. It was as if he vanished.
Meanwhile, I spotted another buck in the next canyon over. It was not a monster, but a very nice 3-point buck with G2’s in the 18-inch range. Eric said he would shoot him so he bailed down the cliffs into the canyon. Unfortunately, he ran into another buck we hadn’t seen bedded and he ended up blowing the whole gig up. Eric humped his way out of the canyon defeated for the moment.
The next day we hunted the same ridge and watched two nice bucks, we had not seen before, work their way into the box canyon the monster disappeared into the day before. Different day, same result. Once I got where I could see into this canyon, there is nothing there! Glassed it for much of the day and could never find them. We saw some nice bucks but none were in a favorable location for a stalk so we were patient and didn’t push things.
The third morning saw us on the same rock we had glassed from the previous mornings. I spotted a nice buck in the head of the canyon we were camped. It was only 550 yards from camp as it turned out. We decided he was a shooter, so instead of sitting in the cold shade on the rock to wait him out, we decided we could bed him from camp…….with hot coffee! So we did just that.
We watched him bed once, then get up and bed again. He limped on his right front foot and spent considerable time licking at it. We wondered what had happened to him.
|The buck through the spotting scope.|
|Napping the morning away.|
|Once it was 10am, the uphill thermals had established, so Eric planned a route down from the top and set off to flank the buck. I stayed in camp and kept tabs on the buck and to help zero Eric in on the deer. He got on the bluff above the buck and waited for the buck to stand. Although Eric was only 25 yards away, he could only see the tops of the antlers of the bedded buck. He had to wait…..Not 30 minutes passed and the buck suddenly jerked his head upward. He had heard Eric trying to make a small repair on his quiver. The buck ran across in front of Eric along the base of the bluff and stopped 40 yards away. Eric had drawn his bow and when the buck stopped, he shot. I was watching the entire sequence in the spotting scope and when he shot, I saw the arrow kick up dirt as it hit. The deer bolted for a couple hundred yards and turned and looked back wondering WTH?
The buck trotted a ways further around the ridge and then slowed to a walk. I told Eric to just wait, it looked like the buck was going to stop soon. Sure enough, it bedded about 600 yards around the ridge on the opposite side of the canyon from me. Eric stalked around and dropped within 30 yards above the bedded deer, but he could not see him due to some trees. He had shots if the deer moved right or left so he waited…and waited…and waited. The buck got up twice and repositioned without moving 10 yards. I was wondering WTH?
|Buck in the second bed as seen through the spotting scope.|
|Finally, it was getting late in the afternoon and the buck still had not moved where Eric could get a shot. I told him he should try to slip on down and try to get a shot because if he waited much longer, the thermals were going to shift for the evening and blow his cover. So Eric slowly worked his way down and finally could see the bedded buck through a small hole in the trees.|
|Mark and I were in camp 450 yards away watching everything when Eric drew. He shot and the arrow went just over the buck’s back! The deer jerked his head up, but amazingly, did not get up. Eric nocked another arrow and drew again. This time he drove the arrow home and the buck bolted down the slope. It went maybe 75 yards and went wobbly. It was over…finally.Upon getting over to where the deer and a happy hunter were located, we soon discovered there were two holes in the buck, not one. When I saw Eric shoot at the buck with his first shot, all I saw was the arrow kicking up dirt. I didn’t realize it had blown through the deer like hot butter. The shot was 6-inches too far back. But it explained why the deer stopped so soon and why he never moved around. Because I kept a visual on the deer the entire time, I didn’t even have Eric go look for his first arrow.|
|It also explained why the buck let Eric’s 2nd arrow clip a limb, fly over his back and the buck not get up. The fog was lifting. Had I not been able to keep a visual on this deer, we would most likely have lost him. He was hit too far back initially and bled absolutely nada. I watched both sides of this buck for 4 hours and could see no sign of a hit.But on the day after his birthday, Eric’s perseverance paid off with his first archery kill. It was the moment I had come here for. I could have cared less if I shot anything. I just wanted him to have a good experience. We hunted one other day and never saw a monster so I ended up leaving without making a stalk. I saw two bucks I would have liked to have killed, but fate didn’t dictate it.
Spending time with my good friend of 35 years, Mark Soward, and getting to take Eric on a big-time wilderness adventure were reward enough. We enjoyed our time together in the Rubies. It was as good as it gets.
|Eric on top of the world.|
|Eric and I in camp.|
|Did I mention mountain goats?|
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
|July 23, 2010This past week, we did a “guide” hunt for Axis deer on the free-range, Wade Ranch in Texas. It was a chance to hunt but mostly it was a chance to learn the ranch. Nothing like Texas in July for a sizzling Axis hunt. The temps are hot, but the Axis were rutting and roaring.
Brad and I arrived a couple of days ahead of everyone else and set things up. We started hunting for Axis bucks the afternoon we arrived and found several. I was wanting to assess the bucks for the first few days more than I wanted a quick kill. But, if a monster showed it’s head, it was going to take a dirt nap. That had already been decided.
Brad had an itchy trigger finger and wasn’t going to be as patient as I was. He was determined to kill something and the first good buck was going down. Or so he thought…..
|We hunted the first evening and the following morning and saw several nice Axis bucks but couldn’t get a shot at one we wanted.Early on the second afternoon, we spotted a pair of Axis bucks and one of them was a long and wide buck but without spectacular mass. Brad and I slipped within 150 yards of them and watched them for a while. The nice buck was bedded and we had no shot. All we could see was his head and horns. We were waffling about shooting him because of his lack of mass.
Brad decided we should pull out and leave them and go eat lunch, absorb some air conditioning and think about it. Over lunch and AC, Brad decides we should go back and see if the buck is still there and if he is, whack him. Sounds easy enough.
|Of course, it never works out that way. Once we started our stalk back to where we had set up earlier, we ran smack-dab into some whitetails. They promptly sprinted up the hill and right to where our Axis bucks were bedded. “Oh great.” we’re thinking.We slipped up to where we could see and thankfully the Axis had stood up to see what all the ruckus was about, but didn’t take flight. They were now on full alert. We slipped into place without getting busted and Brad set up for a shot.
Here is where the story gets interesting. Brad was shooting a .338 Ultra Mag with 250-grain Swift A-Frame bullets. Only gun he had at the time. Rather than use it he wanted to use my .30-06 which he had used successfully a few weeks earlier on a Black Buck Antelope. He sets up. The buck is 150 yards away. He shoots. The bucks sprint off. He shoots again at the fleeing buck. They kept on fleeing. We are standing there with Egg-Foo-Yung on our face wondering WTH?
We looked for blood. Nothing. We looked for the deer. Nothing. Brad is scratching his head wondering, “How could I miss that shot?” Well, long story short, the ’06 was over a foot high once I shot it again. However we didn’t find that out for a couple of days. I was hunting all this time with a gun that couldn’t hit anything!
|Brad and I went out again the third morning and we were slipping down into a canyon when we hear an Axis buck roar about 200 yards below us. We slipped down, set up and waited. After a few minutes he roared again and then we saw him walking through the trees. “He’s a shooter!”, I squealed. The buck is 200 yards, walking quartering away from us. Brad had to rush a shot before he disappeared into the brush.This time he’s using the .338 Ultra Mag. The shot goes just over the buck. The Axis whirls and runs closer to us and is working through some trees in front of us. We wait on an opening and Brad fires at the walking buck. The buck sprints about 10 yards and goes down hard as he disappeared out of our sight.
We started celebrating and gathering our packs. We headed over to where we saw the deer go down. A smaller Axis buck, which was with the one we shot, ran off as we got up. Once we were near the spot where the deer dropped, I saw another good Axis buck take off heading up the hill.
“There goes another good buck!” I hissed to Brad. We didn’t think much about it at the time and continued looking around for the buck. As we were not seeing a buck on the ground, a queasy feeling was seeping into our guts. We were slowly realizing that the buck was not on the ground. It was the buck I saw heading up the hill! We found a minimal amount of blood and it quit after 10 yards heading in the direction I saw the buck leave. We searched up the hill looking for blood, a deer, anything! We went over 1/4 mile and hit a four-feet high fence at the top of the hill.
“There is no way he went over this fence.” We said. Remember those prophetic words…
We searched the hillside on THIS side of the fence the rest of the morning and found nothing. Brad is ready to throw up. First, missing the deer yesterday (he still didn’t know the rifle was off) and now this. We had to meet the rest of our crew in town that afternoon, so we abandoned the search and went to meet everyone. Needless to say, it was a somber ride to town. We’re perplexed at our bad luck. All we can figure is the buck must have been hit high in the shoulder.
We were expecting guide Joseph Graham, his son Riker, guide Paul Flach, and a friend, Leroy Lavender. Everyone was hunting for Axis bucks except Leroy who was after an Axis doe.
Once we got back to the ranch, Brad, Paul and Leroy went to resume looking for the wounded buck. They searched the rest of the day with no sign of him.
|Joseph, Riker and I went to look for a huge Axis buck Brad and I kicked up on the drive out to town. We didn’t find him again, unfortunately. Joseph walked up on a good buck but the deer saw him at the same time Joseph saw the deer. We met back at the truck a little before dark and on the ride back to camp Joseph spots an Axis buck ahead of us. We could see he had great harps (the middle point) and the buck had not spotted us. Dirt-nap time.Joseph and Riker started their stalk and closed the distance to just under 100 yards. Riker was going to do the shooting. He said he was so nervous he could barely hold the crosshair on him. But he dropped him in his tracks! The deer never knew what hit him. Axis buck #1 was on the ground.
The fourth morning saw everyone scattering out across the ranch. Brad and Paul were hunting near the area where Brad’s buck was wounded. In the next canyon, over the ridge, over the fence we swore there was no way the wounded buck could cross, buzzards were circling. Sure enough, Brad spots the dead buck down below them.
Here is where the story gets bazaar. None of the buzzards were on the carcass, but Brad could see something else on it. Once they get to it, they realized there was a live hawk impaled on the long point of the dead Axis buck! Check out the picture below! They managed to pull the hawk off the horn and laid it in the shade of a tree. It was alive, but plenty sick. The best we can determine, the hawk was probably diving on something eating on the carcass and impaled itself instead. The buzzards wanted no part of it until the hawk was dead.
|Once they got past the hawk ordeal, Brad realized that the buck was not hit high in the shoulder, but dead-nuts in the middle of the shoulder! With a .338 Ultra Mag! And the buck was over 1,000 yards away from where he was shot! And over a four-foot fence! WTH? Tough critters. Regardless, Axis buck #2 was on the ground.Needless to say, we lost the meat, but Brad was happy to finally find the deer. And even happier he hadn’t made a bad shot. After seeing his .338 bullet on the mark, it made me wonder about the ’06 I was carrying. Brad missing that first deer at 150 yards was lingering in my mind. I shot the rifle that afternoon at camp and sure enough, it was well over a foot high at 100 yards. I’d had this rifle for 10 years and this was the first adjustment I had ever had to make on the scope. I had grown complacent that it was on since I had checked it a mere month ago. I was just glad I hadn’t shot at Muy Grande yet. Brad was even more ecstatic to learn he hadn’t missed that first buck because of bad shooting.
The next day saw Riker draw blood again as Leroy had let Riker shoot his Axis doe for him. Dropped her in her tracks just like the buck before.
|I had spent the better part of two days now searching for that monster Axis buck we had seen. He wasn’t where I guessed and I didn’t find him again. I did manage to snap this picture of a whitetail buck. He’s a typical 9-point with a kicker you can’t see in the picture on the left side. All of us were amazed at the quality of some of the whitetail bucks in mid velvet. I saw several bucks better than the one pictured. We all agreed that 150+ deer are going to be much more common than we anticipated. Multiple bucks had kicker points or some type of trash. It has me looking forward to whitetail season now.|
|The following morning we all awoke to the sound of Axis bucks roaring not far from camp. Their roar sounds much like a drawn-out, amplified whitetail deer snort or blow. Axis deer are very vocal similar to elk during the rut. It makes for fun hunting as you can hear them before you see them.Joseph set out after the source of the roars and everyone else went in search of Axis elsewhere. At first light, Joseph was watching two Axis bucks moving out of a large opening toward a line of thick brush. Joseph said one of the bucks was much better than the other and he had to make a snap decision. He had a 225-yard shot and he drilled the buck.|
|Joseph was the first to experience Axis-ground shrinkage. Although the buck was nice, it wasn’t as big as he thought. Joseph was left scratching his head. He said, “Either I shot the wrong one, or I misjudged both of them. I’m still not sure what happened.” Low light and lack of time didn’t help matters. But, Axis buck #3 was on the ground.I had spent the morning looking for Muy Grande again with no success. I had searched every canyon in the direction I last saw him headed without success. As I’m deciding to abandon the search, I thought to myself, “He’s probably back in the initial canyon we kicked him out of two days ago.” I didn’t know I was going to be a prophet….. Again.
The following morning I went to a different part of the ranch where Brad and Paul reported seeing a good Axis buck chasing a doe the day before that had eluded them. I had been primarily still hunting for the entire week as much as I had been glassing from the ridge tops. It’s possible to see anywhere from 50 yards to a half-mile in front of you and I typically won 3 out of 4 encounters with deer by seeing them first.
|This day was no different. I was easing along and I walked within 50 yards of what appeared to be three Axis bucks. Two didn’t see me, but a third buck, back in the trees, was giving me the stink eye. I’m trying to ease my rifle up and the buck that saw me headed out the back of the trees. The other two followed him into the trees and I didn’t get a shot. I slipped around and saw them moving through the brush a few hundred yards in front of me. I moved around some trees and expected to see them. But they were not there anymore!By this time, I’m getting tired of the ghost-vanishing act Axis seem to do so well. I’m easing slowly along looking for them every few steps when I spot them to my left about 200 yards away. There are two bucks standing up facing the other way, but the third is laying in the shade looking right at me. I eased down to the ground and got my rifle onto my shooting sticks. The bucks standing didn’t look as good as the buck looking at me.
The lying buck stands up and I knew the gig was almost up. I drilled the buck that just stood up and the herd was in flight. I heard the shot hit and could see the buck floundering in my scope as I prepared to shoot again. I walked up cautiously, learning from our mistake on Brad’s buck, but he was piled up. Axis buck #4 was on the ground. Although not nearly as big as Muy Grande, I was happy with the buck. He was exactly what I thought he was when I shot. He had 14″ front points! The best of the week!
And now we’re down to one hunter, Paul Flach. Paul is a friend of Brad’s from South Dakota and has helped us with guiding whitetail hunters on our hunts there. He is going to be a primary guide on the ranch for us and we are happy to have his talent. He and Brad had been picky and turned down several nice bucks and almost made it pay off when they spotted Muy Grande and his band in, get this, the original canyon Brad and I saw him in! Holy Cow! I had been right about where he had gone, but gave up the search too soon.
|Anyway, Paul and Brad had to work around one ridge and should easily be able to get a shot. What could go wrong? Whitetail does are what can go wrong. They ran into some does they hadn’t seen, who promptly sprinted around the ridge blowing the Axis deer out as well. Another Egg-Foo-Yung on your face moment.Not to fret, they got on another buck the following morning and nothing messed it up. Paul planted the buck and Axis buck #5 out of 5 was on the ground.
We’re going to take some guys back Axis hunting in a couple of weeks. At least Brad and Paul are. I’m headed to Nevada on an archery mule deer hunt. I drew! Yippee! I have to admit, it’s killing me not to be able to go back on the Axis hunt too. This free-range Axis hunting is the cat’s meow. If you have not done it, you don’t know what you’re missing. Even in the Texas summer.
“Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die tomorrow.”
July 8, 2010
Due to terms on our hunting Axis/whitetail lease in Texas, we need to hunt some Axis bucks this summer. We are planning on taking several hunters in August of 2010. We are discounting the regular price due to the last-minute timing. The normal price is $2500, but we will book any single hunter for $1900 and if you book with a buddy, we’ll do the hunt for $1500 apiece. That is essentially our cost. It won’t happen again! The dates in August are flexible.
“Our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future.”
|July 1, 2010Brad and I just got back from a trip to southwestern Texas to finalize a 8,300 acre ranch for Axis and whitetail deer hunting. Needless to say, we came away thoroughly impressed! This property is truly amazing and is going to produce some exceptional Axis and whitetail deer hunting. High percentage hunts at reasonable prices.
We are most excited about the Axis deer hunting. These magnificent deer are the most underrated game animals this side of Aoudad sheep. If you’ve never considered them, you’re missing out.
Click on the link to the Axis deer page: Axis Deer Hunting
The whitetail deer hunting is a unique opportunity to rifle hunt extraordinary numbers of whitetail bucks in the 130 to 150-class. It is possible to better 150-class bucks, but it’s the sheer numbers of bucks in the 130 to 150-class that makes the hunt special. We’re offering a one or two-buck package plus a Rio Grande turkey with either package.
Click on the link to the Texas whitetail page: Texas Whitetail Deer Hunting
I grew up 30 miles from this ranch in Junction, TX. I started hunting whitetails in that area when I was 6-years old. My dad always had a ranch lease and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to hunt at an early age. I know exactly what to expect from this part of the world and I couldn’t feel better about a new property than I do with the Wade Ranch. Brad and I are almost giddy with excitement. Like two kids on Christmas morning.
I had been reluctant to offer hunts in this part of the world due to everyone’s dependence on baiting and hunting out of box blinds. I know, I did it growing up. By the time I was 10, that had gotten old fast. I liked spot and stalk hunting then and even more now. Few ranches were large enough, had terrain suitable for that type of hunting, and the terms were reasonable, and I could go on and on. But that changed when we heard about the Wade Ranch.
The Wade Ranch is the ultimate spot and stalk hunting terrain. Most of the area around the ranch is overgrown in cedar and mesquite. It’s so thick, hunting without baiting is almost impossible. Not to mention the productivity of the land is severely decreased. Besides, the big bucks rarely come into feeders in daylight hours and Axis tend to avoid them.
The Wades’ 60-year battle with cedar and mesquite is what makes this ranch the Mecca it is. The ranch is dominated by Live Oak trees and grass. It’s productive habitat and very huntable. Limestone hills provide elevation to glass and the cover is thin enough for us to see into decently, yet thick enough to provide security to the deer.
There are equal numbers of whitetails and Axis on the ranch. You will see 10 to 20 bucks of each species on the average, any given day. Maybe more. The challenge of these hunts is not in killing a deer. That will happen. The challenge lies in hunting for good bucks. If you have ever hunted elk with us and liked it, you will enjoy these deer hunts every bit as much. Maybe more, since the hills are a few hundred feet high, not thousands of feet like elk country!
If anyone wants to do an Axis hunt this summer, we can do it in late July or August. We might work out a..cough..cough……deal. We’d hate to be the only ones to hunt them this summer!
“Patience is needed with everyone, but first of all with ourselves.”
St. Francis De Sales