This will be a long post, so skip to the bottom if you just want pictures.
I started chasing elk with a bow 6 years ago. The very first morning of my very first elk hunt, we were in a screaming match with a nice bull. We didn't kill that bull, but that experience had me hooked. I spent the next several years unsuccessfully chasing these critters.
This year, I was so wrapped up in my business, I missed the application deadline for New Mexico. I went into panic mode, and started doing a lot of research. I finally found a landowner tag I decided to purchase so I could hunt this year. I spent the months leading up to the hunt getting prepared, but due to a really busy year at the office, I never really had a chance to get excited. In fact, it didn't really hit me until I wrapped things up at the office the night before I left. Finally, I was pumped. Little did I know, it was going to be a week of extreme highs and lows.
The hunt started on Sunday morning. My guide and I went for a hike on a ridge around daylight, and 10 minutes in, we were chasing 3 bugling bulls. This was great! We followed, called, stalked, etc, but we never could catch up to them. The weather was pretty warm, and the elk were going to bed early. We left the elk alone, and decided to try to find them that afternoon. Sunday afternoon, we heard a few distant bugles, but nothing we could get on. Overall, it was a great start to the week.
Monday morning was dead. Nothing was talking, it was hot, and it was a bust. That afternoon, due to the heat, we decided to just sit a water hole. We sat sweating our rear ends off for hours. Just before dark, we cow called a little, and a 285"+- bull came in to inspect. My guide gave me the option to shoot, but I decided to hold off that early into the hunt, knowing I may regret it.
Tuesday morning was good. Bulls were bugling again. We had a group working down a mesa toward us, and then they bedded down before we ever put eyes on them. We chose to leave them alone and come back that afternoon. It started raining that afternoon, but we put our rain gear on, and went out. As soon as we got to the ridge, we were hearing bugles. We saw a nice bull in the meadow to our west, but the wind was not good to after him. We started looking to the east where we had heard the bulls that morning and we saw to bulls. The first we saw, the guide immediately said was a GREAT bull. He was obviously the heard bull. There was also a satellite bull that seemed pretty nice. We made a plan and went after them. We worked down the ridge to the meadow and started our stalk. We had the heard bull and his cows feeding directly to us about 110 yards away. Unfortunately, the wind swirled, and the cows busted us. We kept working our way down the meadow, and all of a sudden the satellite bull stepped out at 80 yards. He came into 60 yards, and I was ready to shoot him. My guide was standing a few feet to my left, and told me not yet. Then the bull busted us. The guide thought the bull was straight on due to him having a different view from me. The bull was broadside for me, and I could have killed him. We just had miscommunication, and blew a chance at a 340" 6x6. I was bummed.
Wednesday and Thursday were extremely slow and it was HOT.
Friday was my last day to hunt. I packed snacks planning on not leaving the mountain until dark. What I didn't plan on was a stomach bug. The first part of the morning was not pleasant on the mountain. There were some bulls bugling a long ways off, but we could not get to them. I was feeling terrible, and the guide was ready to go back to camp so I could rest. I told him that was not happening. I will stay out and suffer till dark. We changed direction and walked up a new ridge. As we were walking, we heard a bugle very close. We went directly at the bugle and didn't have a clue how big he was. We got to a point where they elk were in a slight depression, and snuck up to 30 yards in really thick cover. At this point I was going to shoot any legal bull I saw. The cows started getting nervous, and we knew it was now or never. I found a small window and got on my knees. The cows walked through that window, and we waited for the bull to follow. Right away, I saw fronts from the bull start to enter the window. I drew and focused on the window. The bull walked in, I released the arrow, and it looked like a really good shot. I didn't get a full pass through, and there was 6" of my arrow still sticking out. I still had no idea how big the bull was, as all I had really seen was fronts.
We waited an hour and started our search. This is where things went from extreme highs to extreme lows. We could not find blood. In all, we found six DROPS of blood. Doubts started filling my mind. I thought the shot was good, but maybe it was high? We spent the next hour tracking his prints very slowly. We only covered 150 yards. With no blood, the guide started talking about how tough elk were and that unless the shot is perfect, these things just don't die. I had seen it first hand before, but I was not ready to give up. Just as my guide was about to call off the search, he looked up, and he was laying 200 yards away dead. We found him with dumb luck. The shot actually was perfect. I hit both lungs, he just bled out internally. I will not be using that broadhead again.
We walked up on the bull, still not knowing what I had shot, and were shocked. It was the giant heard bull we were after Tuesday afternoon. He is 8x7 and rough scored 380 7/8". My first bull is a giant, and I will most likely never top it.