By Carl B. Morganstern
-- Last year my brother, Rick, step dad, Robbie, and I were drawn in the New Mexico lottery to hunt elk. Rob wasn't able to hunt because he was involved in a serious accident. He survived a 60-foot fall that required a stay in the hospital for several weeks. Somehow he managed to make it to camp and tag along while we hunted.
Rick and I teamed up with a couple of dad's buddies for a bull elk hunt in New Mexico's Area 52 in the Carson National Forest, east of Chama. Doug acted as the guide and Wally ran the camp and kept us fed.
We showed up two days early to set up camp and scope out the area. The morning before the hunt began we set off for what would be our daily starting point to see what the elk were doing. We sat in the truck waiting for the sun to come up all the while being serenaded by almost continuously bugling bulls. As the sun finally shed light across the valley, we could see groups of between four to 10 animals moving up from the valley floor to the wooded cover and canyons to the north. The sight of all of those elk made the trip worth it. We estimated we saw 180 elk in the short time from first light to full sun up.
The next day, we were off to an early start but came up short with only a cow crossing in front of us as we returned to the truck in the morning. Later, our luck seemed to improve as we watched several elk descend into the valley as the sun settled on the horizon, but we didn't spot any shooters.
The second day, we changed our tactics a little and set up along a draw coming up from the valley. Almost immediately, Doug and Rick spotted a large bull less than 100 yards away. I was in a spot closer to the elk, but the terrain prevented me from seeing it. Rick took the shot and dropped the elk, but his eyesight or excitement betrayed him. He had clipped the elk's antlers and stunned it, which caused the elk to tumble down the draw. By the time we made our move into the draw, the elk was high-tailing it up the other side. We spent an hour searching for any sign of blood but only found a few rocks dislodged by its tumble and tracks up into the tree line.
The third day was my turn. We set up in the same place in the early afternoon and glassed the valley. Shortly, I spotted a bull, with six or seven cows, emerge from the forest. Their placement was fortuitous because it put them just beyond a small stand of trees that they were able to use to cover our stalk. I was able to slither up within 80 yards and put a .308 round from my Remington 700 through the elk. The bull ran a few yards, doubled back and went down. We quickly field-dressed the bull and placed it under the trees to cool until we could get the horses in the next day to haul it out.
A few inches of snow overnight made the trip to retrieve my elk a little more interesting; in addition to the fact that I hadn't been on a horse since I was about 8 years old. After getting the carcass back to camp, we relaxed and got ready for the final day of the hunt.
This trip was by far the best vacation ever, even though Robbie wasn't able to participate much.
This season we lucked out again and are headed to Area 51, a few miles south of last year's adventure.
Carl B. Morganstern
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East Meredith, New York