My first elk hunt was in 1988 on the Baca Land and Cattle Company in New Mexico. I had done a lot of hunting over the first 18 years of my life but most of it was done right at home. I was excited to get after elk and to hunt something that I knew nothing about. A great friend, Shelby Fischer, who also accompanied me on this hunt, put the hunt together. We flew from Houston to Albuquerque and from there rented a car to the ranch where Ric Martin was conducting elk hunts. It’s funny how certain things stick in your mind about places that one wouldn’t think would be important. One of the things that is burned in my mind about this hunt was the smell as I stepped out of our rent car. The smell of pines for some reason is etched into my memory as much as the hunt itself. Before I made it to the front door of the house that we would stay in, I heard a bugle. An elk’s bugle is one of those things that I don’t simply hear; I feel it as well inside. At the time, I didn’t know it, but this would be the first of 47 elk to date.
During that time in my life, I was extremely shy and not at all good around people. I grew up on a ranch in south Texas and being around strangers was something that didn’t happen very often. That evening in elk camp I was around ten hunters, ten guides, two cooks, and a couple of people that just hung around. Just being around them I was a little nervous but when Ric Martin thought it was a good idea for me to stand up and introduce myself to everyone in the room, I felt sure I would faint. Forcing myself to comply, I stood and made it through this little speech and at the same time swore to all that this would be my last hunt away from home. The rest of that evening is a blur to me because my mind was rattled from having to stand up and speak in front of people. I do remember that night being so put out with having to do that, that I really didn’t care of we went hunting or not; I just wanted to go home. The one and only reason that I didn’t head for the airport was that I didn’t want to ruin Shelby’s hunt. Looking back this was preposterous and ignorant and at the end of the day one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Around 5:00 AM, I walked out on the porch and that smell of pines hit my nostrils giving me another rush of excitement. Next, I heard it again; a bugle, and all of the prior evening’s speeches were dissolved. I would be hunting with Ric Martin and I was ready to go. Our plan for the morning was to glass some meadows, listen and see if there was a bull that we could move in on. By ten o’clock, we had attempted several stalks, we had tried to cow call to few bulls but were unsuccessful. That afternoon, we returned to the same area and started glassing. It was Ric’s plan to catch the bulls coming down from the high country into the meadows for the night. Around 4:30, we spotted a good bull with some cows working their way down an old fence line. Ric and I moved into position with the elk at around 200 yards. I never had a shot opportunity due to cows being either in front of or behind him. The wind swirled and all hell broke loose. The elk turned and started running back in the direction they had come from. The bull went about 200 yards up and stopped on a rock outcropping. Telling Ric that I could make that shot I rested my rifle on a huge boulder that we were standing by and I squeezed the trigger. Down this bull went and Ric was more excited then me. By the time we arrived at my bull, I was fully aware that coastal raised Texans have real trouble finding air in the mountains. I thought that I’d pass out from lack of oxygen. I couldn’t really believe what I was looking at as I ran my hands up and down the biggest set of antlers I’d ever seen. A gorgeous 6 x 6 that scored 342”. This hunt solidified a love for elk hunting that would last a lifetime. At the same time, it started removing that horrible shyness that I had for the first 18 years of my life.