Well we have returned from our annual New Mexico cow elk hunt. Each year is a much anticipated adventure. One never knows how the weather, vehicles, Mother Nature and the elk will perform. We were fortunate to take 4 cows over 4 days.
We were greeted by the usual domesticated natives. Maggie was the only one willing to stand still for her photo.
Others were also waiting and hoping we were going to be successful.
These beauties were with us every day.
And the most dominant - the Golden Eagles.
The first sun-up was a very chilly -22*F.
A little shocking even for Minnesotans. Layering was important as always. Snow shoes were the order of the day as anywhere from 12" to 20" was encountered down below. We hunted in two man teams and quite a few elk were spotted the first morning. This first half day is sort of a "shake down" time to check your equipment and make certain everything is working. I was glad to have Hodgdon Extreme 4350 loaded for the pre'64 30-06 with 180gr. Partitions.
A good spotting area is usually a benefit as herd location and movement can be noted. Back at the cabin for a quick lunch, warm-up and pow-wow confirmed that the elk were there in good numbers and we just had to put some good stalking plans together.
My afternoon plan was to snow shoe up to a vantage point where I could glass the opposite southern hillside. The snow had melted there giving the elk food and quick available cover. My partner went along but stayed lower to watch another ravine. After about an hour of gaining altitude, I was getting into the area that I wanted to be.
This is the view across to the other side.
As you can see I was in the dark timber side could see various views of the sunny hillside which I hoped would attract some elk. We all know from experience that smaller groups are easier to approach - fewer eyes, ears and noses!
Now in the area, I wanted to glass and just be vigilant. But first I needed to drop the pack and exchange the two damp layers for some dry stuff. It was now about 10*F.
Well, I didn't get that far. While taking the pack off I spied some movement on the other side - a group of about 8 feeding on the hillside.
This is a close-up view from where I setup for the shot.
That large dead tree was where I snuck down to and brushed the snow off trunk.
I ranged the closest cow at 285 yards. I glassed all the others as they came into view. No spikes to worry about and they all appeared to be about the same size. The two closest cows gave me the worst angles. One with her butt to me and the other facing me. With the downward angle about 30 degrees I prepped for an aiming point of slightly above even. The rifle was sighted in to be "on" at 200 yards.
Getting into shooting position with the snow shoes on gave me a cramp in my right leg! I hope the elk wouldn't see my commotion!
Finally the closest elk turned broadside and things worked out quite well. At the shot, the others jogged uphill into the pines. My cow stood in place and slowly tried to walk uphill. Screened by the pines, she was out of sight for about 30 seconds but I heard some brush and branches break as she toppled over and slid into view.
This is what we came for.
They always seem to fall with their feet downhill. A wrestling match ensued to roll her over so I could tie off a rear leg for field dressing. The shot angle produced a double lung pass thru so no bullet pics this year.
A quick report of the other 3 hunter successes is as follows:
Two cows taken with a boat paddle Ruger 300WM using 180gr. WW Power Points. The dad got his at 335 yards and the son the next day at 300 yards. Both were pass thrus as well.
The other hunter had a hour long sneak thru a winding creek bed to get at a herd of 29 out in the middle of a field. We were about to pass them up but a thorough search with binos showed a successful stalk could be made if the wind held.
It did and he got a 145 yard opportunity. The only concern was to make sure that a pass thru wouldn't wound another cow.
I watched the entire event unfold from a half mile away. I sat under a big Ponderosa pine making a big show of my presence which I think kept the elks attention in my direction. I saw the cow drop thru my Leicas and then heard the shot. Pretty neat.
We were going to hunt this saddle. The elk did show up where we thought they would.
But we got side tracked with the "creek sneak" instead.
With a 30 year old Remington pump, 30-06 with 180gr. Silvertips. Yes a pass thru.
All told a very successful hunt, without any real problems.
The temps stayed pretty cold, with the other morning lows at -15*F, -5*F and -12*F. Thankfully the wind was minimal and the sunshine warmed things up in the afternoon.
So with notched tags and full freezers, we are happy and ready to go back!