From the moment I drew my New Mexico tag I knew It was going to happen this season. I had a feeling in my gut, and I could picture it in my mind. After three years of hard elk hunting I knew this was finally my time… but then I snapped back to reality and realized my time was running out.
It was the last day of our month long elk hunting trip. I thought about the miles of public land we covered during September in Montana, and the past five days scouring this new unit in New Mexico. We had averaged 10-12 miles a day, hiking through shoulder high underbrush, over and under deadfall, and side hilling until our feet were raw. All while carrying our weapons, packs and camera gear weighing down our aching backs. It was hard, it pushed me not only as a person, but us together as a couple, a team, working towards something that was slipping away…
While beginning the hike back to camp on the last evening of our hunt I had came to peace with the fact that maybe this wasn’t going to be my time.. and I decided I was okay with It. I accepted it. The next moment I am scanning the hillside behind my husband Grant, and I notice a few cows grazing about 200 yards away. We instantly drop down to our knees and quickly find cover beside a row of spruce trees. Grant begins to cow call softly and he lets out a bugle as more elk appear through the trees about 150 yards above us moving from right to left. No response. Grant cow calls a few more times and a calf comes running down the hillside right to us mewing the whole way. She stops not 10 feet in front of us on the other side of a log looking straight through us trying to find the source of the calling. I have my muzzleloader propped on my monopod and continue to scan the hillside above her, hoping to spot a shooter bull. However, there are only two spikes with this herd of cows. As the calf makes her way back she never lets up and continues mewing. With only fifteen minutes left of shooting light I know it is going to be now or never.
Then suddenly we hear branches breaking in the timber further above the herd. It sounds big. Grant is scanning with his binoculars and I have my scope zoomed in all the way just trying to catch a glimpse of what is making this racket. Grant suddenly whispers “it’s a bull, it’s a BIG bull!” I can’t see him from my angle, but I take this time to mentally prepare myself that this might be the opportunity I have been waiting for. I send up a quick prayer and control my breathing inhaling through my nose and out of my mouth; begging my body to calm down. Then suddenly through the aspens and spruce trees I catch movement of antlers. A bull majestically steps into the clearing and I immediately know he is a shooter. I carefully cock the hammer back on my gun. Grant whispers to me to shoot whenever I am ready, and I wait patiently for a clear shot. A few more steps… there, my sights settle behind his shoulder and I squeeze the trigger.
Smoke goes EVERYWHERE. Elk scatter as I am squinting through the smoke trying to lay eyes on my bull. Grant says he saw him stumble and he didn’t see him come out the other side of some brush, not 10 yards from where I shot him. I wasn’t so positive. I needed to see him. I needed to lay my hands on him before I could let myself get too excited. I fumbled quickly reloading my muzzleloader like I have numerous times before. My hands shaking as adrenaline rushes though me. I prop up my gun again and find him in my scope. Through the brush I can see he is laying down, but his antlers are moving side to side, which throws me into a panic. I move to try to get another angle to make a follow up shot, but there is no need. Grant is watching as his head falls back and the bull, my bull, takes his last breath.
I can’t believe it boiled down to the last five minutes of my very last hunt! At this point Grant is more tore up than I am hugging me and reassuring me the bull was down, and that I did It. I am just a bundle of emotions as I grab my phone with shaking fingers trying to call my dad. He picks up on the second ring, I whisper, “I did It dad, I shot a bull!!!” We wait another 10 minutes before walking up the ridge to look.
By flashlight I make my way toward where we saw my bull fall, my dad still on the phone, and my husband right behind me. Trying to peer past my flashlight I see the outline of his backside. I walk up to his rear and tap him with my gun barrel… he was done. I knelt down beside this massive animal and almost cried as I ran my fingers over his beautiful hide and gripped his antlers. We thanked the Lord for this amazing opportunity, and we know the real work is about to begin. We are able to FaceTime both my family and Grant’s family right there on the mountain to share in our pure excitement and bliss. I couldn’t have asked for a better first elk. 100% public land with only my husband and myself. We did it!!!!!