The property that we hunt in New Mexico for elk is truly a remarkable place. The numbers of elk compared to many other places are not as high; but what elk are there are truly amazing. This year Stephanie and I decided that we would allow Dustin Mueller and his wife, Lacey, have the tags. Dustin had only taken one bull with a rifle in his life, and Lacey hadn’t ever hunted elk. On this trip, I was fortunate enough to be the second camera man, so I got to combine my love of cameras and elk hunting.
The first day produced two epic encounters of which we were able to get remarkable footage. Sadly, none of the bulls presented a shot for Dustin, as he was using a bow on this hunt. Day two was much the same with a couple really good encounters but no shot opportunity. On day 3 things changed drastically and I watched as both Lacey and Dustin took beautiful trophies, with one of them being an absolute monster. On the third morning we stopped along a road that paralleled a canyon to see if we could get a bull to bugle. Nick Cutlip, our long-time friend and guide bugled and we heard a bull down in the bottom. With the wind the way it was we decided to set up on the end of the canyon and try and call the bull up to us. Shane Roy, our cameraman went with Dustin and I got into place on top of a rock across a draw roughly sixty yards away. Dustin set up so that the bull would come around the corner of a rockslide and present a twenty-yard shot. Nick moved into the bottom of the draw and hid in some oak shrubs. On the first cow call the elk cut Nick off with a screaming bugle. No more then twenty second went by and the bull screamed again and he was obviously closer. As I lie on top of a rock formation I notice the ivory tipped antlers coming around the corner. As I hit the record button and checked the focus I turned toward Shane and Dustin and slowly nodded my head. The bull stopped short of where he needed to get for Dustin’s set up. For five minutes the bull was seven yards from Dustin, who held his bow at full draw. Finally the bull turned and went back around the corner in a way that allowed Dustin to reposition. Dustin peaked up from behind a bush and had a broadside shot at 36 yards. I was filming Dustin, as I could no longer see the bull when I heard the broadhead make that noise that only meat can make. Not knowing what the shot was like I continued to roll on Dustin trying to see any sign of what the outcome was. I less then a minute Dustin started pumping his fist and I know the bull was down. The footage we were able to capture was truly amazing and Dustin had his first archery bull. It took a couple hours to get him skinned, quartered, and packed out but it was worth it. A 337 inch bull for your first archery elk hunt isn’t that bad.
That same afternoon we wanted to take Lacey back to the area where we had called in so many bulls for Dustin on the first morning. Instead of going directly to that area we took the long route, as it was still early and rather warm. This turned out to be the best decision that we would make all week. We stopped along the way near a huge canyon just to see if we could get one to bugle back at us. It was in the 80’s and a little windy but we didn’t want to get to the area we knew the bulls were too early. Nick made a bugle and we faintly heard a bull but it was so far we couldn’t agree on the direction. We decided to walk about three hundred yards and glass a valley just to make sure it wasn’t coming from that direction. As we glasses the valley, Shane, our cameraman said, “ Hey guys, there’s an elk right there.” We looked to our right and standing raking his antlers in a tree was a monster. One second through the binoculars was all that it took for all other plans to be aborted and get after this bull. We set up for the wind and cow called and never heard or saw anything. Fearful that bull may have seen us we eased over the hill looking for him. Again it was Shane that saw the bull standing near a stock pond in the bottom of the valley. The bull was 268 yards away and Dustin set his wife up using her backpack as a rest. She was using the Barnes Precision Machine rifle in a .308. When the bull turned broadside Lacey shot and the bullet went just under him. The good news is that the bull really didn’t know where it came from or what happened and only ran about fifty yards. The second shot hit perfectly and the bull only went about seventy-five yards and fell. At this point we knew this bull was big but we didn’t know how big. As I watched Lacey walk up to this monster I found it hard to film as I wanted to look. This would turn out to be the second biggest elk I’d ever seen dead—386 6/8 inches.
I don’t know how this hunt could have gone any better. The bulls were huge, the footage was incredible, and it was shared with great people. If you want remarkable elk you have to go where the big elk are, Tri State Outfitters out of Raton, New Mexico is the place to go.