Wilderness Elk

Sponsored by: Victory, Goat Tuff, Tru Fire, Arizona Rim, S4 Gear, MyTopo, Barnett


By: Mark Rohlfing

Last year we drew a NM tag and were covered up with bugling bulls and no hunting pressure. We were excited as we drew again. However, rain, wind, and a lack of bugling bulls will crush your morale in a few short days. The first day we were greeted with 1” of wet snow. We only heard 2-bugles that morning – possibly full moon related. Anyway, we were so fired-up that we headed into our favorite basin. The results were not pretty, we found a fresh horse camp with fire ring still smoking. Other hunters had been in this basin before we got here. Our spirits were crushed, but we now had an explanation for the lack of elk in that area.

The next few days had us scratching our heads and hoping for better weather. You couldn’t hear any bugles because it was so windy and hunting in the rain is generally miserable, especially when you’re on a wilderness hunt without a good way to dry out. Being dry in your tent was critical because the lows at night were dipping near 20 degrees. Needless to say our patience was wearing thin and it was only day 4.

The evening of day 5 we spotted a good herd of elk feeding about 2.5 miles below camp. We got up at 3:30 am the next morning and hiked to the trail that would lead us down to the elk. At this point, we almost turned around because of lightening and impending storms. However, a faint bugle in the darkness pulled us onward.

There were two herds of about 20 cows each with a herd bull. The big bulls were sounding off, making sure everyone stayed in their territory. Our first attempt to get a shot at one of these bulls found us 80 yards out when a cow caught our scent. Both herds bolted about a ½ mile, but then stopped.

Now the bulls were really fired up because they were in close proximity and their cows were almost mixing. We watched from a distance. The bulls parked their cows in a meadow corner and paced to an imaginary line, daring the other to cross it. If they kept this up it looked like a great opportunity.

We cut the distance quickly. One herd had moved into the dark timber but the other bull was holding his position, so we got as close as we could and let out a few cows calls. The wallowed-up 6×6 cut us off with a deep bugle. Like clockwork he headed our way in an open meadow. As he swaggered over he seemed certain he was going to pick-up a couple cows.

I was standing behind a thick clump of spruce trees and with the ‘S4 Gear-Sidewinder’ attached to my left arm I grabbed my Leupold rangefinder and quickly ranged the bull. 65 yards. I came to full draw as he pawed the ground, drank from a spring, and bugled in our direction. He was facing me and I had to wait until he turned broadside. It seemed like forever as my arms began to shake (probably 1.5 minutes).

The bull began turning back to his cows, …it was now or never… I put my 60-yard pin high on his lungs and squeezed the Tru-Fire release. The Victory VAP arrow struck home hard. It was a lower hit, but connected with lungs and the top of the heart. The bull staggered about 70 yards and was done. It was very rewarding given the conditions!

Author with his nice trophy bull.

He’s a 6×7 with great mass. We rough scored him at 301”. There was great penetration with the Victory VAP arrows. The VAP arrow and broadhead actually broke the opposite shoulder bone, just above the joint. I thought this was impressive at 65 yards on a bull elk.

I still believe persistence is one of the greatest elements of success. Be prepared, keep at it, and you’re bound to punch that tag. Thanks for reading!

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S4 Gear

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