Today is day 33.
I’ve been hunting alone in the Colorado Rockies. I am so cold. The wind is cutting through me like a razor. It is as if I am naked, yet I am wearing all the clothes I brought to the top of the mountain. I think I’m done. I don’t begrudge the muzzleloader hunters who are now swarming all over the mountains I’ve been bowhunting. Actually, I’m happy to be pushed to the top of the mountain. The view across the valley is tremendous. I can see the different bands of spruce and aspen in their green and yellow splendor disappearing into the low clouds. The mountain top over there is obscured with clouds and it gives it a dreamy sleepy feeling.
The truth is that I have been spoiled rotten. I can count on one hand the number of other hunters I ran into on public land this month until two days ago when muzzleloader season opened. I thought I could get away from them by climbing to the top of the mountain and sitting on this isolated water hole, but here comes someone walking right through the meadow at 4pm. Prime time and this rude SOB is just going to walk right through the meadow, straight to the water hole. He has got to see me. Hell fire, he definitely sees me. He is walking right toward me. Take a deep breath, smile, be cool it’s public land.
He speaks first.
“Hi my name is Randle”
“Nice to meet ya’, what’s up?”
“I usually hunt this water hole.”
I think to myself…in my silent inside voice…WHAT THE F*&K?!?!
Calmly I respond, “It’s public land you know that, right?”
“Yeah, I know it’s public land, but it’s where I hunt.”
Dumbfounded I sit mute, anger is welling up inside me.
I’m trying not to go Airborne Ranger all over this clown.
“I guess since you got here first that I must have been running late.”
“I climbed the mountain in the dark and got here at dawn this morning…been here all day.”
“Oh, well sorry then. I guess by walking across the meadow in prime time I probably ruined things.”
“Yeah, I’d say you did.”
“Well I suppose I will just walk over the ridge and hunt there.”
I just shook my head in the affirmative and said nothing.
My silent inner voice is raging and wants me to question the origin of his mother’s canine genetics.
I watch as he walks even slower than he did across the meadow.
He takes 20 minutes to walk 400yds.
If the cold wind cutting through my skinny worn out body was not enough, that inconsiderate thoughtless entitled jerk, that just purposefully ruined my evening hunt tipped the scales. People like that are not members of my tribe. I can’t even call him a hunter. My tribe of hunters are friends, family and generous humble folks who would never do that to another hunter. No, Randle is not a hunter, he is just a person. He doesn’t deserve the title “hunter”. I’ll hunt the rest of the evening until dark. At dark I will climb down the mountain to my camp. Tomorrow I’m going back to Kentucky.
The morning was cold and clear. The two unfilled tags I still had in my pocket felt like Atlas stones. I sit quietly, staring up the mountain into the morning mist and watch the sun burn off the clouds above tree line. God I love this place. The good Lord outdid himself when he built it, but it’s time to leave. I’m gone.
Rolling down the gravel road, still miles from any town, I start to get excited about seeing my wife, Aline. She is a big game hunter. She endorsed this trip, this odyssey, this quest. Just before I retired from 24 years in the Army, I got my Colorado trophy unit mule deer tag in the mail. I was so excited. It took me four years to draw it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had all the time in the world to fill it. I had the whole season. I was retired. Then I decided to add all the big game tags I could buy over the counter and turn my Colorado archery season into something special. I added a pronghorn, elk and black bear tag to the mix. The plan was to hunt until I filled all four tags. Now, I am rolling home with two tags still in my pocket. I had opportunities at good mule deer and a couple decent bull elk, but since I had time, for the first time, I passed. Well now I was weighed down with a little regret and two expensive unfilled tags.
I called my wife, Aline, as soon as I got cell signal.
In an excited voice, “Hey baby back at you, did you get an elk?!?!”
“No, I’m done. Coming home.”
“What? Are you kidding? You’re coming home without an elk?”
“Yes, my love. I’m tired and I’m done dodging muzzleloader hunters. The one I ran into yesterday was a total ass.”
“I cannot believe you’re coming home without an elk. This will be the first year we don’t have any elk meat in a decade.”
“Well I have a pronghorn and a black bear with me in the freezer. I will kill 5 or 6 whitetails. No worries.”
With disappointment evident in her voice, “It’s not the same. I really wanted an elk.”
“Well okay, sweetheart I am excited to see you too, good bye.” I hung up.
Text hits my phone immediately, “Sorry, I am happy to see you. I just wanted an elk, sorry.”
Wow, after 19 years of marriage, she is obviously more excited about elk meat than her husband coming home. Just then I look up and before I go through McClure Pass, I am once again stopped dead in my tracks by the beauty of God’s creation. I have to stop and take a picture of this view. I’m leaving and won’t be back to the Rocky Mountains for almost a year or, so I thought.
After getting home and giving everyone the presents I bought them, I head off to bed, exhausted.
The next morning, first thing, Aline continues, “The season is not over you know. You can still get an elk.”
“Baby, I’ve got whitetail hunts here in Kentucky, in Ohio, in Kansas and in Iowa. I don’t have time to go back out to Colorado for an elk. I’m going to eat the tag.”
“Well that’s a shame. I love elk meat and we’re out.”
With that she walks away.
I get the point – I need to kill an elk this year – end of story.
The next morning, I call a friend, Larry Richards. Larry has been everywhere and done everything. He will know where I can get a late season elk without drawing a tag. Larry points me to an outfitter he knows in northeast New Mexico. I call the outfitter. He agrees to fit me into a week he already has full, to allow me to still make my Iowa whitetail hunt. He also tells me that he has landowner tags, so a cow elk is no problem with a rifle. He thinks it will take just a couple days, because the elk will be in big herds that time of year. I send him my money, and everything is set for November.
November comes quickly, and I find myself in a lodge outside Chama, NM waiting on the safety briefing from the outfitter with six other hunters. Just then there’s a commotion and the outfitter booms into the room. One of the other hunters says, “How you doing?” The outfitter responds, “Well no one has threatened to kick my ass or sue me today, so it’s a good day so far.” I shake my head and think, “Damn, this dude isn’t right.” He gives a good, comprehensive safety briefing and then confirms all the hunters cell phone numbers, telling us that our guides will call us tonight and set up a meeting to pick us up for the hunt the next morning. All seems well and as I leave he stops me, “Mike – since you called late and I was already booked up, I had to get an additional guide to take you. His name is Marino. He is young and you all will do good. He is out cowboying right now but should call you tonight.” I thank the outfitter and drive back to the campground. Later that night the phone rings,
“Mike? This is Marino. You ready buddy?”
“Yep, sure am.”
“Okay, I will be there at 4:30am. Is that okay?”
“Yep, sounds good.”
“See you then.”
Okay, seems like he’s done this before. That’s the least I’ve spoken with a guide before a hunt ever. He must be good. I got five days and my rifle to get a cow elk in this open country on a fully guided trip. I’ve never been on a guided elk hunt and never shot an elk with a rifle. I’ve taken seven elk on my own in nine years with my bow on public land. I suppose I shouldn’t worry, this is fully guided on private land. Time to go get a steak and a beer, I’ve got a lot of walking to do tomorrow. Surprisingly, I sleep like a baby. Man, I love my Mercedes Beast 4x4 van and the fact that I built the interior around two essentials (1) a kick ass full sized bed and (2) a big chest freezer. I sleep like a baby and can always keep my meat frozen.
After essential morning operations and a cup of homemade coffee I get my gear together and stand outside. Right at 4:30am a big white Dodge pickup rolls up to my campsite and I meet Marino Talamante for the first time. He is young, bright and wiry. We get acquainted a little bit on the drive into town. We stop at the only gas station open. As soon as we pull in I realize it’s where all the guides meet with their clients to discuss the plan for the day. I watch as Marino talks to the other guides and sit quietly. When Marino gets back into the truck he says, “My uncle Larry has two clients, they are older, and he will need our help.” I said, “Okay, no problem.” But thought, “I am also a paying customer, why is it my problem to help get other clients an elk?” I took a deep breath, reminded myself to be a better Christian and take what the day brings me. Soon enough we are rolling down the road telling stories like old friends and I find myself thankful that Marino is my guide.
The grey light of day is just breaking when Marino gets quiet and starts focusing his gaze out the window into the shadows. Suddenly, he slows down pulls over and says, “There, there they are.” I am waiting for my eyes to adjust and don’t see anything at first. Then just as sudden as Marino stopped the truck, I see them, an entire herd of elk out in the high desert. They are not half a mile away. Marino says, “Damn. I wish they were on this side of the road. We have permission to hunt this side of the road.” I ask, “Who owns that side of the road, where the elk are?” He simply says, “It’s the Rez (reservation).” And pulls out to continue the search.
We move on to other vantage points and glass for elk. We don’t see any other elk. We do see a bunch of elk urine and scat on the roads. Then we round a bend on the mountain road and I see Uncle Larry’s truck. Marino pulls over and gets out to talk to his uncle. I can hear their conversation. Uncle Larry has seen a lone cow three quarters of a mile to the west, sky lined and lit up by the rising sun. Marino tells him that we drove all the way around that canyon and saw elk urine and scatt on the road. They agree that the elk herd we are looking for must be over the ridge and down in the hidden canyon we cannot see. Then I hear their plan. It appears I am being volunteered to climb over the ridge into the adjacent canyon system and chase a herd of elk out, so that the two older hunters in Uncle Larry’s truck can get a shot opportunity. It seems they are too old and feeble to go in after the elk themselves. I say nothing. Marino gets back in the truck and asks, “You up for a walk buddy?” I respond, “Of course.”
Marino grabs shooting sticks and his binoculars, then jumps out of the truck. I grab my rifle, daypack and follow. Damn this kid is fast. Usually when I hunt the mountains people have trouble keeping up with me. I’ve never had trouble keeping up with anyone. I remind myself that it is my first day above 8,000ft elevation and try to keep up. I soon discover that the hidden canyon is three ridgelines away and we hike hard and fast to get there. When we get there, we glass for a while and listen, we cannot see or hear a single elk. Marino bombs off the ridge and drops down into the bottom. As he rolls up the next canyon wall, he stops short in the shade of a juniper and waves for me to follow. Then he points straight up to the top of the next ridge and whispers, “Cow bedded, how far?” I don’t see her with the naked eye and half way don’t believe him. Without admitting I cannot see her I pull up my Zeiss RF Binoculars and scan just below the crest of the ridge. Wow…there she is right where he pointed. I take a range reading, “403 yards and she is bedded.” I’m impressed by his skills at this point. We sit there and develop a plan. Marino is convinced there are more elk in this canyon, we just cannot see them. He starts to make soft random cow calls, as if he is a young cow that has lost the herd. He is hoping to get a response from a mature cow and then we will have a play. The young cow we see gets nervous and stands up. Marino asks if I want to shoot her. I respond, “no”. Then I follow up in a whisper, “I have no problem shooting an elk at 400 yards, but I’d rather not on the first morning.” He says, “What range are you comfortable shooting?” I respond, “I’m a hunter, not a shooter, the closer we get, the bigger your tip gets.” He must control his laughter and smiles at me broadly. The muted laughter is broken suddenly by the bark of a mature cow. There are other elk here. Immediately, the young cow we can see crosses the ridgeline and is gone. We are standing there scanning the other side of the canyon for the mature elk that barked at us when we hear, boom, boom…then a few seconds go by and we hear boom, boom, boom. Marino looks at me and says, “The plan worked buddy. They got their shots. We need to move fast and catch the herd.” With that and without discussion, he pitches off the canyon wall to the bottom.
We walk, run and slide down the soft dirt canyon wall scrambling to the bottom, across it and up the other side. Marino is moving fast, he stops half way up and tells me he thinks the elk are just over the top, be ready. I am climbing hard and still cannot keep up with him. Damn he’s fast. He reaches the top about 30 yards ahead of me, stops, drops and runs back to me. “They are over the top across a small canyon and they’re leaving…we’ve got to go.” I smile and shake my head, but don’t respond. I need all my oxygen to make the top and then slow my heart rate for a shot.
We crest the ridge and there are at least 20 elk across the next canyon on the far side. Marino opens my bipod and sets my rifle down as I range them. It is 273 yards to the center of the herd. I am shooting a Christensen Arms Classic Carbon in .300WINMAG. My bullet is a 180 grain Federal Premium Trophy Bonded Bear Claw. It drops less than a foot at that rage and I can take dead aim on the top of an elk’s vitals and “let it eat”. I settle into the top of the hill and take a deep breath.
Marino says, “Don’t shoot the spike.”
“I don’t see a spike. I do see the herd leaving.”
“Shoot the really big cow near the spike, just don’t shoot the spike.”
I am now looking through my riflescope and respond, “I don’t see a spike.”
Marino says, “Look lower on the canyon wall.”
“Okay got him. He’s a 3 point. I see the big cow. Here we go.”
I take the slack out of the trigger.
My muzzle brake throws dirt everywhere, damn New Mexico loose dirt.
We wipe our faces.
Marino is back in his binoculars quickly.
I’m back on the scope.
The cow didn’t move.
“How did I miss that damn shot?”
“I don’t know buddy. I couldn’t see through the dirt. Hit her again.”
I take the slack out of the trigger.
The cow still didn’t move.
“How the hell did I miss twice!”
“Hit her again.”
I rack another round into the chamber and get back on her.
Just then the 3 point bull tries to mount her and breed her.
What the hell!
Before the hammer falls on the third shot, she falls dead.
She never moved.
I roll over laughing.
Marino says, “What’s so funny?”
I respond, “You know what that young bull thinks?”
“He thinks his dick is deadly!”
We have a good laugh and then climb over to see my cow elk. Wouldn’t you know it, both shots were perfect, and she never moved. She is massive, easily the biggest cow I’ve ever seen. We exchange some congratulations and decide to walk over the ridge down into the open near the road where we parked and see how the two older hunters did.
We catch up to them and they’re looking for a blood trail. They know where one elk is, but they cannot find the other one. We help them look for over an hour. During that time, we get separated. As I am climbing to the top of the next ridge, analyzing every gap and hole in the juniper trees I find mountain lion tracks. Well hell. I am creeping through this stuff with the scariest apex predator in North America. I take my rifle off my shoulder and chamber a round. I follow the lion tracks to the crest of the next ridge and then find what looks like drag marks.
Suddenly, Marino appears. He is following elk tracks, but no blood. He thinks the drag marks are the elk we are looking for and she’s simply dragging her back leg. He is not sure what to think of the lion tracks. We continue together along the ridge and find a mule deer leg that was eaten. We break off the search and head down the canyon wall to meet up with Uncle Larry.
Uncle Larry calls off the search for the second elk and rightfully orders that we recover the two elk we know are down. It takes us some time, but we field dressed the two cows, keeping the livers and hearts. Then we use good old fashioned human muscle power and drag them downhill to the bottom. Yes, no kidding, we didn’t quarter them. Marino, Larry and I drug them downhill. Then Larry uses his winch and winches the two cows into the bed of his truck. My cow goes in second and she doesn’t fit, damn she’s big. Her rump is up against the front wall of the truck bed and her head and shoulders are laying on the open tailgate. We drive out of the canyon and park near the main road for Larry to call the outfitter.
Larry is trying to convince the outfitter that the second client should be allowed to continue hunting. The problem is we are sure he hit an elk, even though we didn’t find a blood trail. The rule is that if you hit an elk, that’s your elk. You can search as long as you like, but you cannot hunt for another elk. The client who made a bad shot is almost physically sick at his poor shooting and sits with his head in his hands distraught. We all walk off and leave him with his friend to console him. They decide on their own to walk back into the canyon and look again. Larry doesn’t see them leave, he is still on the phone with the outfitter. Marino and I take a minute to call our wives.
Aline is happy I got her an elk. I am happy that I’m off the hook for not bringing an elk home from Colorado. And, since I got it done on the first day, I can go back to Kansas and hunt public land for whitetails on my way to hunt whitetails in Iowa. I let so many good bucks walk in Kansas I never did take one. I’m excited to go back to Kansas again. Aline and I are talking about it and celebrating over the phone. I am watching Marino, who is kicking the dirt and talking on the phone about a hundred yards away downhill towards the main road. Suddenly, Marino hangs up his phone and runs to the truck. I do the same.
I meet him at the truck and he says, “I found the other elk. She made it to the bottom of the arroyo near the road. She’s shot through the back leg and simply cannot jump the fence. She’s still alive.” I grab my rifle and run after Marino. We get to the edge of the arroyo and there she is near the fence, still alive. I shoulder my rifle and apply the, “coup de grace”. She’s dead. We are relieved to have found her. Then Marino says, “Look up there. That’s the ridge where we stopped looking. Maybe those drag marks were not a lion and a mule deer, but her dragging her back leg.” I agree and say, "I’m going to get the older gents." Marino nods as Larry is headed our way, wondering what the gun fire was about.
I find the other clients and tell them we need to go back to the truck. They say they’re not leaving until they find a blood trail or it gets dark. I tell them it’s over we found the elk and I shot it. They are dumbfounded. I don’t wait for a response and start walking out of the canyon back to the truck. In short order, we get back and Larry and Marino have the third elk field dressed and winched up into the bed of the truck. We transfer my elk to Marino’s truck and are saying our goodbyes when one of the older clients walks over to me. He thanks me for helping drag out his elk and for finishing off his friend’s elk. I tell him that Marino found the elk, so thank Marino. He says he owes me and would like to give me some money. I tell him to buy me a beer instead. He smiles, shakes my hand and walks off.
Larry is on the phone with his preferred local meat processor. They are willing to take two more elk. He asks them about taking a third, mine of course. The two older clients didn’t do anything but wait for Marino and I to push the elk herd to them and one of them made a terrible shot. Now, just because they’re older they get precedence at the processor. I bite my tongue and ask Larry, “What am I supposed to do? The outfitter said he doesn’t have a place I can hang the elk and butcher it.” Larry calls another processor, no luck. I look at Marino and he shrugs his shoulders. I say, “Brother I can debone that elk in the bed of your truck at the campground myself. We can just throw it right into the onboard freezer in my rig.” Marino smiles and says, “Let’s go I got an idea.”
We follow Larry back to town and he waves for us to stop. Marino stops, and we watch the nicer of the two old men go into a gas station. He comes out with a twelve pack of Budweiser and walks up to my window as I sit in Marino’s truck. In a very sincere tone and with genuine thank in his eyes, he gives me the beer and says they would have struggled today without our help. The beer is the least he can do to thank us. We shake hands and I realize immediately what God’s plan was. God wanted me to help today. He planned for me to get my elk, but he knew that Larry and Marino would need a little help with the older gents and three elk on the ground. I thank my Lord quietly, as we pull away.
I’m lost in the beautiful scenery going by out the truck window for about ten minutes, just staring glassy eyed at New Mexico, the “Land of Enchantment”. Marino shakes me back to reality, “Buddy what if we go back to my house, after we get your van at the campground and you can cut up your elk in my driveway. I don’t want to do it at the campground. That might not be a good idea.” I agree. Before long, I am following Marino and we pull into his driveway. He has a modest house with a great view of the prairie and the mountains. We are not there long when his children come running over to us. He is obviously a beloved father. They are so excited to see him. He beams with pride as he introduces his boys.
We start working on the elk and I’m not paying much attention to anything around me when I realize we have company. There are now more children, they’re not his, but they are just as cute. The boys have negotiated their way into my stash of beef jerky and are super happy and thankful when I give them some and tell them they can have as much as they can eat. Marino thanks me and then says, “Mike, this is my wife Sunshine.” I had not seen her walking up. Still focused on my work. I look up from my work to see a young lady with a great smile. I introduce myself and she walks up to the house.
For the next half hour, we work on the elk and are entertained by the kids. Then I hear Marino say something loud toward the driveway. When I look up the neighbors are walking up the walk. A couple handsome young couples are interested in what we’re doing and stop by to visit. I keep working as Marino visits with them. Then another car pulls in the driveway. It’s Marino’s dad and an old friend. Marino stops me and introduces me to his Dad and we start talking. I need a break anyway.
I sit on the tailgate and crack a Budweiser. Marino’s Dad, pulls out a bottle of whiskey and we pass it back and forth. It is at this point I realize that the neighborhood is in Marino’s yard. I look over at him and he smiles a big warm smile. I am impressed by the warmth and friendship. Marino walks over and explains quietly that they thought my big van was a moving van and were worried Marino and Sunshine were leaving. When they realized it was just a hunter cutting up an elk and that Marino and Sunshine weren’t leaving, they were so happy they stayed.
Marino’s front yard turns into a bit of a family or tribal reunion. There are family members, tribal members, neighbors and just regular old friends. We are having a “big time” as we say in Kentucky. Before sunset we finish with the elk. It took us about 2 hours, but we were telling stories, drinking, and enjoying the fellowship. About the time I’ve got all the choice cuts off the elk, bagged and in the freezer Marino hands me the ivories.
Then it happens, one of Marino’s friends says, “Hey brother, are you going to take all that neck meat?” Before I can answer another says, “Hey brother, what are you going to do with the liver?” I smile, giggle and think – I need to share the harvest. I put down my knife. Climb out of the truck bed and grab a beer. Then I say, “Man if you want anything else off the elk, have at it.” Family and friends clean her up and take all the remaining edible meat. I watch as this scene unfolds…family, friends, hunters…my tribe. This is how it is supposed to be. Everyone shares in the harvest. Then a warm feeling begins burning in my chest. Thank you, God, what a good day.
Not only did we do good today. Not only did God point me towards helping others harvest an elk. But God directed me back here to Marino’s driveway to cut up my elk and share the harvest. The sun is setting. Children are laughing and running in all directions. Adults are telling stories and laughing as well. The beer and the whiskey are adding to the glow of an amazing sunset. Marino builds a fire. I am soaking it all in, when he says, “Hey man, you shouldn’t drive. You need to leave your RV in my driveway. You can plug up to my house.” An hour passes and some of Marino’s family and friends depart.
The kids never left. I’m sure two of the boys belong to Marino, but I’m not sure where the others are from. They hang out around the fire with us. We tell stories and I feel like I’ve know these people all my life. Just then Marino says, “She wants to sing a song for us.” I am taken back. A pretty little girl wants to sing us a song. I am honored. I think it’s going to be a Christmas carol or something, when she starts drumming a rhythm akin to a heartbeat. Then she starts singing. It’s a native language. I guess Apache, but I don’t know. It moved me to tears. Just as she finishes, before I can ask Marino what that was, Sunshine yells from the front porch, “Dinner is ready.” I say, “Man you have been a tremendous host. I will let you get to dinner. Thanks for letting me crash in your driveway.”
God has yet another surprise for me today.
Marino says, “No brother, Sunshine has already fed the kids and herself. She made dinner for us.” I think I sat there with my mouth open, looking surprised for a little too long. I was startled when Marino said, “We will go inside in a minute. Let me finish my story.” He finished his story. We grabbed the last couple beers and went inside. I was greeted by Sunshine who explained dinner was homemade enchiladas. The house was spotless. You could eat off the floor. The kids were running around a Christmas tree. A woodstove provided the warmth. I smiled and thought, “This is what happiness looks like.”
We ate, finished the beer, and told more stories. Then it was time to say goodnight. Marino invited me to hunt with him again, anytime. I accepted. Sunshine had gone to bed, so I asked Marino to thank her for the wonderful dinner. I shook his hand, walked out to the van and crashed.
To my surprise, I woke up five hours later, bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to drive home from New Mexico. There wasn’t a light on in Marino’s house, so I didn’t wake them. I decided to call him later that day on my drive. He’d done more for me in one day than any other guide has done for me in ten days.
I’d had a successful hunt, but more importantly I’d been cured of the anger that Randle had planted in my heart. I know God has a plan. I trust that plan. I love him for the plan and am as thankful as a man can be for it. But when God shows you his love through other people. When he demonstrates his love through the kindness of strangers, it is a thing to be cherished. It makes me hope and pray I make it through the narrow gates some day.
Marino, Larry, Sunshine, their family and friends treated me with such warmth, kindness, and respect that I felt like I belonged. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t a member of their family or their tribe or that my skin was a few shades lighter. It mattered that I was a genuine human being and a hunter. Half way across the country I found other members of my tribe – hunters.
Here’s what you need, “soup to nuts” to serve up your own cow elk adventure -
____ A willing soul, a semi-stout heart, good legs, feet and hips – priceless
____ Time Off – up to one week including travel, maybe less
____ Tag – New Mexico non-resident hunting license $65; private land antlerless elk tag $347; habitat management and access validation stamp $4 = total $416
____ Outfitter $1,500 + guide tip $300 = $1,800
____ Firearm – you should already own it
____ Gas and campgrounds = $1,016 (2,600mi gas + 3 nights in a campground)
____ Ammunition - $100 (5 boxes of 20; 4 for practice and 1 for hunting)
____ Clothes – you should already own it
____ Boots – you should already own it
____ Pack – you should already own it
____ First Aid Kit – you should already own it
____ Food & Water – $41 per day x 6 days = $246
____ Hiking Stick(s) – you should already own them
Total Cost of this adventure: $3,578
There are a few different states and outfitters to chose from when doing a late season cow elk rifle hunt. This hunt is usually short and fairly easy. The elk are herded up and have started moving down into lower elevations for their winter range. My hunt was still over 8,000ft, but yours doesn’t have to be. Especially if you choose a location and outfitter with lower elevations in mind. I drove across the country in my RV, because I’d rather do that than get a firearm on and off a plane. Plus, it’s much easier to get the meat home in my onboard freezer. Most of the friends I’ve spoken with who’ve done a hunt like this said it lasts maybe 3 days, tops. The outfitter said it was rare that they have someone who hunts for more than 2 days, even with weather challenges. The tags are guaranteed in New Mexico with their outfitter/landowner program. It is a truck hunt, really. You drive around scouting for an elk herd. Then you get out and, USUALLY, make a short stalk to harvest your cow. My hunt was an exception and I honestly appreciated the additional work. The truth is, that things are just more precious when you work for them, so in the end I was happier about the work I did, even though I was a client. I camped on the way out in Kansas and didn’t on the way back. So, there again, it’s up to you and how you chose to do it. The shorter that hunt, the less expensive and vice versa.