Thursday, October 31, 2013

New Mexico Mule Deer Hunt

Okay, I didn't have very high expectations going into this hunt and turns out they were still a little too high! ;-)

This was a 3rd choice hunt on my application and the drawing odds have historically been in the 75 - 80% range.  Not a high demand unit at all.  I had hunted some of the units around it though and felt like with some extra effort and some planning I might be able to get away from the crowds and have a decent chance at a nice buck.  

I was wrong.

I can probably take a little bit of the blame as I just didn't put my full effort into it from the start.  I did do some internet scouting and talked with a few different people, but not a tremendous amount of time spent on it.  The unit is only a 2 1/2 hour drive from my house so from the start I just planned on doing a weekend hunt of it and not even hunting the full 5 day season.

Set my alarm for 4:30 am Central time and left the house headed to the spot I had picked out from looking at maps and talking with a few folks.  Some public land in the sand hills that was accessible from a county maintained road.  Thought I had some good looking spots lined up with no roads and some decent terrain. Got there Saturday morning about 15 minutes before shooting light and started hiking in. Kept hiking and kept hiking. Didn't see much sign at all and there had been a rain the night before so I would have been able to see fresh tracks. Finally mid morning saw a doe and 2 fawns. Got back in a little over 3 miles and that was it. 

Here's a picture that I took for an example of the type of terrain I was in.  In some other units around there would have been deer all over in this terrain.  Just not here.

Pretty discouraging, but I had several other options I had looked at and decided instead of spending a lot of time and effort hunting a spot with such a sparse deer population I would just shift to a different spot.

I ended up driving around a bit and the mix of public and private was a little confusing on what was marked and what wasn't, but basically after about lunch time I decided that there weren't many deer in the sand hills. I did hear some shots that morning up by a rimrock area, but that looked all private so it wasn't an option for me.

I relocated to an area Northwest of Roswell with some checkboard BLM and State land after lunch. It was tough to get off the highway onto public land, but finally found a spot. Looked pretty deery and spooked up 5 does and fawns right off the bat when I started hiking toward the bottom. Snuck up on a doe and 2 fawns down in the bottom, then moved up onto the top on the opposite side. Saw the biggest covey of quail I've ever seen in my life, at least 50 birds. That turned out to be the highlight of the trip probably. Thought that this rock stack was pretty neat.  I guess someone had some time on their hands at some point!

I sat down and watched the bottom area as the sun set and 8 does and fawns came working through the bottom but no antlers.  Some of them may have been some of the same deer from earlier, but not sure one way or the other.  One thing I was sure of, and that is that none of them had antlers.  I walked back to the truck in the dark and decided to try a different spot in the morning.

Here's my view of the bottom while I watched the sun go down.

And a view of the sunset.

I ended up with a tiny bit under 10 miles logged on my boots according to my GPS for the day when it was all said and done.  Net result right around a dozen deer seen, all of them does and fawns.  Hopefully the next day would be better.

I started out at Bitter Lake Wildlife refuge Sunday morning. It's 12,000 acres and open to the public for deer hunting if you have a tag.  I spent the night in my pickup in the parking lot that night and then headed out onto the refuge about 30 minutes before shooting light. Didn't see much in the way of tracks in the bottom, so I moved over into the hills a little. Heard some coyotes but not much else. Actually glassed a shed antler about 1/2 mile away and headed over there. Chalky white, but a decent find. I think that's the first shed antler I ever found by glassing.

Still not seeing any recent tracks really. Made a big loop and headed back out. Found another shed antler and saw a few more tracks, but didn't see a single deer. Here's a picture of what most of the country I was covering looked like.

Back at the truck with my chalky sheds.

Logged a little over 6 miles on my boots per my GPS.  As I was heading out a couple of recreational horse riders where heading in.  I think there was one other hunter at the trail head that morning, but they were gone by the time I came back out a little before lunch.

I decided I would at least go look at the twin buttes road area that gets mentioned as a good spot quite often, and I headed over there thinking I would try to get back in off the road a ways and see if I could at least see a buck. Wow, I've never seen so many hunters in such a small area in my life! Probably 50 or so hunters in about a 10 square mile area. Campers, trailers, tents, ATVs, a regular city back there. 

They all looked like they were hanging around camp so I went on in and tried to get off the road. I hiked about a mile and setup overlooking a bottom and within about 15 minutes see 2 hunters coming up through the bottom beating the brush. Literally, one of them was picking up rocks and throwing them into the brush. They spooked about 10 deer out, but all of them were does. 

Here's a picture of the bottom.  If you look close you can see the orange dot that is one of the hunters when they were working the bottom.

After they finished working the bottom I decided I would follow where the does went back farther in. It was going to be sunset soon and I figured they might lead me to a buck. I topped the next ridge over and a pickup was driving up a road that I thought was blocked off down on private. I moved over onto the ridge and about when I was going to sit down 2 other hunters come walking up from the North. I decide to just head back to the truck and as I'm going down the ridge, 2 more hunters are on their way up from the West. I keep heading back to the truck, bump some does and fawns on the way and decide I might as well sit a ridge looking over a bottom as the sun sets. Saw another doe and fawn, another truck drive by, I can hear ATVs roaring all around, and am just amazed at the amount of pressure put on the deer in this tiny little area. 

After sunset I dropped down for the last 3/4 of a mile to my truck and bumped a doe in the bottom as I went through. If there are any bucks in the area they are going to about have to get stepped on to get them to leave cover. 

My best decision all week was to head back to the truck before dark as about 1/3rd of a mile away I almost stepped on a big old rattlesnake. I just left him alone and went around. 

A pretty sunset to end the day though.

I decided to just drive back to Lubbock and call it a learning experience. Just 4 miles on my boots that evening. There just weren't any real areas to get very far back in that I could see.

Total for the weekend, 20 miles logged on my boots and didn't see a single buck.  For sure saw more hunters than deer when it was all said and done as well.  

Needless to say I won't be putting in for Unit 32 as a 3rd choice on my application next year.  If any of you were thinking about it, I would seriously consider whether it is worth it or not.

Pretty sad to end both of my New Mexico hunts without an animal on the ground.  The only other time I didn't fill a New Mexico tag was my Antelope tag that had me assigned to a ranch without antelope.  Before this year I was 2 for 2 on elk tags and 3 for 3 on deer tags.  

I guess now I can concentrate on my property here in Texas and my hopes and dreams of a trophy whitetail may still come true.

That's it for now.  Nathan

Monday, October 28, 2013

New Mexico Elk Hunt

Okay, I've gotten a little behind getting things posted.  I've had a very hectic couple weeks with my New Mexico elk and deer hunts.  I'll try to get caught up now.

I took notes on my phone as the hunt progressed, I'm sure I'll have the tenses mixed up as sometimes I was typing in present tense, sometimes in past tense and even sometimes in future tense.  Hopefully you'll be able to follow along, basically as it happened.

Friday evening

Trip up here went very smooth.  Left the house around 2:00 pm central time and was parked at the trailhead around 8:00 pm mountain time.  The campground was closed and there were only 2 vehicles parked at the trailhead.  A pickup and empty horse trailer and an SUV.

The river was running a bit higher than I was expecting, I walked around the campground looking for any easy crossing spots.  A few looked doable, but none looked exactly easy.  Sure hope I don't start out in the morning getting my feet wet.  

Getting settled in to sleep a while in the backseat (floorboard) of the truck.  Set the alarm for 5:15, sunrise is at 7:15 so shooting light is 6:45.  Would like to be an hour or so up the trail before shooting light.  


Tough day! Several mistakes, but the biggest one was getting up WAY too high, elk seem to be down around 10,000' and I spent a lot of the day up over 11,000', topped out at 11,816' per the GPS.  

Ended up going up a different creek than I had planned because a guy and his son showed up just before I left and were going to head that way.  Think they got one, heard 2 quick shots about 8:30 then maybe 10 seconds later another and then maybe 30 seconds later a 4th. I heard what I think was a very small bull and a cow maybe 200 yards from me, but it was thick and early and I didn't go after him too hard, tried to get closer and cow called a few times but I think they skedaddled.  I had been following their tracks off and on, just didn't realize how fresh they were.  None of the tracks looked very big, about 4 or 5 total in the group.  

Here's a picture that I took of the area that I was hiking up.  There was still a bit of snow on the ground from a storm that had gone through earlier in the week.

Saw one lone set of tracks from a decent sized elk heading down from up high at about 11,000' before I crossed over to a different canyon.  Pretty neat view though.

Went up a lot of terrain like this climbing out of one canyon and moving over to the other.

Didn't see or hear anything else all day though. I was trying out a new pack and the shoulder strap broke when I went to set it down at lunch.  The stitching holding the buckle just popped.  Thankful I had bought some spare clips to rig my rifle sling and was able to band aid it, but it was far from a perfect fix, if I didn't keep tension on it, it would come undone and I had to mess with it 3 or 4 more times during the day.  I finally was able to get it fairly well repaired and it didn't come loose again for the rest of the trip although I was a little worried about it from then on.

The scenery was great and I really was thinking that there should be some elk up there, but based on the complete lack of any tracks I think they had all moved down already.  

Another pretty view from 11,816'.

Here's a panoramic picture that I took with my iPhone.  You should be able to click on it and see it full size I think.  Really a wonderful view.  It would have been worth the hike if that's all I was trying to do, but to be up that high when there weren't any elk really was frustrating.  

Set up camp at 10,600' thinking I was close to some overlooks I could hunt the next day, but after setting up camp and hiking over a mile to the nearest overlook I decided I had set it up too far away and too high.  Too late to pull it and move it so just camped up high.  That part wasn't bad, just not seeing much sign or any elk has me discouraged though.

Here's my tent setup.  That part wasn't bad at all.  Actually really enjoyed staying in the tent that night.

Totals for the day - 8.46 miles, 3,127' elevation gain.  


Broke camp in the dark and my goal was to try to find an overlook spot before shooting light and sit and watch the canyon to see if any elk came up.  I ended up taking a little longer than I planned to break camp and get going.  I ended up walking over 1 1/2 miles to find a mediocre overlook and it was after sunrise before I sat down.  Still not seeing much in the way of tracks or anything.  The fresh snow from Wednesday was pretty much void of tracks except rabbits, squirrels and the occasional coyote.  Did see some bear tracks yesterday.  After about a half hour of sitting I headed on down the trail to see if there would be any other good overlook areas.  This was the best overlook spot I found.  Very scenic, just nothing moving through it.

I did find the area where the other guys shot one on Saturday.  Never found the gut pile, but looks like they either too two trips with a sled or brought two sleds.  Not much in the way of a clearing, just some aspens that are a little spread out more than the rest.  Pretty discouraged. 

Went back to the trail head about 10:00.  Crossing the river was a little easier in the daylight, but still a little more than just splashing across like I normally would do.  Very pretty country though.  Here's a view from the river bottom.

I drove in Taos to get cell signal.  Talked to my wife and she encouraged me to stick it out at least another couple days.  Looked at the maps and decided to just start trying out canyons heading back to the east.  Got parked at the first trail head around 3 pm, got across the river and thought I heard voices although there wasn't any other vehicles at the trailhead.  Started looking for the trail and there were 4 Asian ladies saving some trout out of a shrinking puddle.  One could speak a tiny English, they were staying at a monastery close by.  I asked them if they had seen any elk and either they didn't understand me or didn't want me to kill any because they didn't reply.  After a bunch if twists and turns I finally got on the main trail only to realize that it was an ATV trail.  There were some fairly recent motorcycle tracks but it looked like they had gone in and out.  Pretty soon after heading down the trail there were two places that looked like a lot of elk had recently crossed it.  I kept heading to where there was a fork in the creek about 1 1/2 miles up the trail.  Not much more sign and not any good lookout spots.  Got to where I wanted to be and checked out the non-trail side of the split.  Really nice area, but the elk don't seem to think so.  Not much elk sign.  Did see a pretty good sized bear track and then later saw a pretty good sized bear!  Nice chocolate brown colored.  Of course I don't have a bear tag.  Didn't even check into whether the quota was filled or not.  

I did take a picture of the bear track in the snow.  My boots are size 13 to give some size perspective.  Not a massive huge bear, but quite a bit bigger than the bear tracks I had seen the day before.

Between the lack of elk sign and the bear I decided that I wasn't going to stay the night here.  I waited a little while and then went back to the places where the elk had crossed the trail and waited until dark.  I set up on the heavily used game trail where it crossed the ATV trail.  At least I knew that the elk were using it, just not what time of the day, or if they would use it that day.  Probably setup too close, just 20 yards, but it seemed like the best spot.  I could be using a bow at this range.  Thankfully a motorcycle or ATV didn't come screaming down the trail right at sunset or something.  

About 20 minutes before sunset a bull bugled a couple times and it sounded like it was up the canyon from me.  I gave up my ambush spot and headed that way.  I cow called a few times and got close to where I thought he had bugled from, but nothing else.  I had left my bugle tube with my pack at the ambush spot so I went back, got the bugle tube and bugled a few times on my way back to where I thought he was.  Nothing again.  I headed back to my ambush spot and heard another bugle.  Headed back that way and nothing.  I decide to go back to my ambush spot and then about 20 minutes before the end if shooting light he bugles right down in the canyon across from me.  I bugled a couple times and headed that way but he shut up again.  Getting really close to dark and I went back to my ambush spot until the end of shooting light.  Probably 1 minute before the end if shooting light and he bugled again.  This time it sounded like he was on this side of the canyon, sounded pretty close too. I grabbed my backpack and headed that way, I was either going to see him before shooting light or get out of there so he doesn't see me after shooting light.  I didn't see him so I headed on down the trail without a light until I got well around the corner and dropped some elevation.  I decided to stick there for the morning since I knew there were elk there and at least one bull.  Cooked up some supper, organized my backpack for a day trip and slept in the truck again.  Not the most comfortable, but I didn't have to mess with setting up and taking down the tent.  Not 100% sure exactly where I wanted to be in the morning, he was bedded on the other side of the canyon from the main trail, but I can get in quiet and know where I want to be on that side.  If I try the other side in the dark, I would probably be noisy and didn't really know where I would want to set up.  Leaning toward just going back to where I was tonight.  Not near as discouraged as I was.  Still hadn't seen an elk this hunt, but I for sure heard one and it was a bull and pretty close.  Maybe I would be able to close the deal on him in the morning!

Total mileage that afternoon was 4.44 miles and 885' elevation gain.  My GPS had 2.6 or 2.8 or something like that with about a mile to go to the trailhead this morning and the battery went dead before I got there so I think I had at least 3.6 miles this morning.  That would put me to a little over 8 total for the day.  This morning was mostly downhill, but I bet I climbed at least 115' going up and down some ridges and stuff.  We'll call it 8 miles and 1,000' of elevation gain total for the day.  

Monday morning 

I left the truck on time for a change, right around 5:45 am. Got to the ambush spot right around 6:15 and hunkered in to wait.  Shooting light was 6:44 so plenty of time for things to settle down, although I was pretty quiet coming in with no light on the trail.  Heard a dog barking down by the river where some houses are so I was hoping the dog was barking at elk and they were on their way toward me.  I thought I heard a quick bugle, but not sure.  Right at shooting light I let out a quick bugle but no response.  I held tight trying to stay warm without digging into my backpack and making noise and somewhere around sunrise I heard something moving down in the bottom of the creek.  I grabbed my gun and headed that way slowly and quietly.  More noise as no doubt a group of animals were moving through the creek bottom.  They passed me going upstream so I turned around and followed them.  I heard some soft mewing, they are elk for sure.    It's really thick and they are less than 100 yards away, but I still haven't seen them.  They sound like they are on the other side of the creek, but for sure in the bottom.  Finally I see the first elk.  A nice sized cow less than 50 yards away.  She didn't see me.  Then I saw another cow and a calf, then another, then another.  I was down on one knee with my rifle up, hoping that the last elk through was going to be a nice bull.  Nope, it was another cow, limping pretty badly.  I slowly tried to get back ahead of them to see if maybe I missed one at the front and there still might be a bull with them, and the limping cow busted me and starts trotting up ahead.  The rest of them bust ahead as well, and end up crossing the ATV trail about 50 yards ahead of me.  Still no antlers.  I cow called and they seemed to stop running and I heard them mewing again so I don't think they were too spooked.  Altogether there was probably 10 or 12 elk.  Lots of calves, pretty much each cow had a calf with it so that's a good sign for the future. One of them got split off low and ended up down in the bottom of the creek.  I caught a very quick glimpse of it, but couldn't tell if it was a cow or a bull.  I hung around and could hear it moving around a bit and heard it mew, so I figured it was a calf.  Never did get a good look at it though.  Was for sure good to at least see some elk even if none of them had antlers.

I went back to the ambush spot and threw out a few bugles thinking the bull or bulls maybe late getting back out.  Nothing.  I settled back in and waited until 8:30 and then grabbed my backpack and headed down the trail.  Thought about just going back to the truck and driving into Taos so I could talk with my wife, but I decided to at least check out the other side of the canyon and see if I could figure out where the bull from last night was coming and going.  Got over there and slowly made my way up the ridge.  Looked like a pretty decent spot for shed antlers so I was looking for those as well.  It's not like I had all day... Oh wait, I did.  Got up to the spot about where I thought I heard the bull bugling from yesterday.  Not much in the way of game trails in this side, but a little bit if sign here and there.  Scouted around a tiny bit looking for the most open area and settled in on the ridge top, not exactly open, but I found a spot where I could see about 50 yards through the trees in either direction.  Pretty sure the bull had walked along this ridge line last night and that's how he covered so much ground.  I did have a nice view of the canyon were I had been the evening before and where I saw the bear up in the aspens.

I was too thick to have much of a chance unless they are talking.  Got set up on the top by 10:30 am and settled in to wait.  I heard the first bugle at 4:30, then 4:40, then I bugled at 5:00, then another bugle at 5:10, then I bugled right on top of it, then pretty much constant from then until dark.  I made the mistake of not going to them, thinking they would come my way.  Turns out they have another much better route that they went about 1/4 mile west of where I was set up.  There were several bulls and tons of cows talking up a storm.  Pretty amazing.  I realized that they weren't coming my way and went after them.  I missed them by 5 minutes, 10 tops.  Was the closest I have ever been to that many elk that seemed like they didn't have a care in the world.  My head was spinning trying to think through the best way to go after them.  My biggest worry is that the cows will bust me in the morning before the bulls come through.  Probably the wisest decision would be to just leave them alone in the morning and go back tomorrow evening.  I've never been the smartest hunter though.  Spent a tiny bit of time right at the end of shooting light scouting around and found a spot that I marked on the GPS for where I wanted to be the next day then headed back down the mountain in the dark.

Very light day on the boots.  After over 8 miles the last 2 days and not seeing an elk, this day I only had 3.44 miles on the GPS, with 1,275' elevation gain but I was into elk heavy.  I knew where I wanted to be in the morning!

Just looked up for the first time this trip I think.  The stars are AWESOME!

Splurged and checked in to the Sipapu Lodge!  $34 a night plus tax ended up being $38.10 with tax and everything.  $500+ of ultralight camping gear and I'm staying in a cheap hotel! Took a hot shower and slept in a real bed and less than a 10 minute drive to the trail head.  Still no cell phone coverage, but the check in clerk let me use their phone (there aren't any in the rooms) to call my wife.  It was really good to hear her voice and not be near as discouraged as I was Sunday when I called her.  I decided that I was going to go ahead and try to intercept the elk headed back to their bedding area in the morning.  It's about a mile from the trail head and gains about 600' elevation so I decided to give myself an hour especially in the dark with no trail.  Sunrise is around 7:15 so needed to be there at least by 6:15.  That would mean leaving the trail head at 5:15, so I was going to set my alarm for 4:45. 15 minutes to get up and get dressed and out the door, 15 minutes to drive there and get going.  I think that should work.  9:15 so that's 7 1/2 hours if I get to sleep!  For some reason I decided to move my alarm up to 4:30, then for some reason I thought I would give myself 6 more minutes of sleep so I ended up setting it for 4:36.


Got a good start, left the pickup at 5:15 and got to the spot at 6:15.  Just over a mile and closer to 800' of elevation gain.  Things started out very quiet, then a far off bugle about 5 minutes after shooting light.  Closer to sunrise I heard some more, they were not coming up the way I had planned so I picked up and headed toward them.  No doubt there was a bunch if them!  I was closing the distance and getting really close.  The only problem was that there was some oak brush between me and them.  I looked for an opening ahead of them and even thought better if it at the time, but I decided to try to sneak through the oak brush a little so I could get a better look.  Needless to say, that was a mistake.  They busted me and started milling around.  It was pretty thick, but I saw a 6 point that I had a very marginal shot at moving through the brush, but I didn't take it.  I cow called a couple times and that got them settled down a little bit, but they were moving out.  The herd bull was in the back and I thought I might have a shot at him before they all got turned around, but I didn't ever see him.  After being too passive yesterday and missing them by just a few minutes, I was too aggressive today and blew it when I should have backed out a little and found a more open spot they would have to go through.   Oh well.  I followed them a bit and they ended up moving onto private.  Hopefully I hadn't spooked them too bad that they stay there all day.  I went back to my original spot and sat down and then heard a bugle off to the south.  Got up and headed that way, bugled and cow called and got one response, then maybe again, but it sounded like he was moving out.  Headed back to my spot and backpack and trying to figure out what next.  It's barely 8:00 so that means around 10 hours of sitting here until the action might get going again this evening.  Not sure what else I would do though and maybe they will try to come back to their bedding area after a little.  I guess I'm going to just hang out and try not to go stir crazy.

Here's a picture of "the spot".

I turned my phone off airplane mode to check a GPS app on my phone and I had cell service!  Crazy.  I checked a few other places up on ridges and had to drive all the way to Taos the other day to get service and I now had it here at "the spot".  Now if I could just get into elk again!

I enjoyed having cell service during the long wait.  Talked to my wife, sent out some text messages and emails, even called a client.  Not sounding good so far for tonight though.  I think I heard a bugle way over on private as it got closer to evening.  At 4:45 there had already been a couple bugles close by but nothing was talking now.  Not much I can do about it now though.  Been thinking through my decision to not pull the trigger on that 6x6 moving through the brush at 40 yards and I think I was too interested in the possibility of seeing and having a chance at the herd bull, and that may have been part of the reason for not pushing the shot.  Also I wasted some time looking at his antlers to see how big he was.  If I had cow called he might have stopped and I probably could have got him.  Oh well, possibly a lesson learned.

The evening was a complete dud.  Didn't hear a thing.  Not sure where the elk went to after I busted them up this morning, but they aren't close enough to hear or they aren't talking if they are.  There are sure some highs and lows in hunting!

Another light day on the boots.  Only 3.53 miles and 1,207' elevation gain.

Checked back into the Sipapu Lodge. Same price I got the same room that I had the night before.  They hadn't bothered to clean it yet, but I didn't get a discount.  Oh well, it was worth asking about.

Alarm set for 4:36 again.  

Wednesday morning

Fell back asleep after the alarm and woke back up at 4:54. Had everything set and ready to go so I hustled and ended up at the trail head about the same time as yesterday.  Headed up to the spot I had marked yesterday evening and took the long way around so I didn't leave a scent trail that they would cross on the way where I had my ambush setup.  Ended up hiking in just over a mile even though this spot was a little closer to the truck.  Got setup just after 6:00 waiting for shooting light to arrive and hopefully some elk. 

Here's what it looked like where I was setup.  I had been busted in the oak brush about 50 yards west of this spot, still not what most would consider "open", but I had a good lane about 100 yards that I would be able to see anything coming across it.  This spot would have been PERFECT the morning before!

Shooting light came and went without a sound.  Some coyotes sent off to the south a little after shooting light and I let off a bugle right at sunrise, but no sight or sound of elk.  Ended up sitting around until 9:00 and never heard or saw a thing.  I bugled and cow called a few times and didn't get a response.  Looks like this group of elk doesn't respond to pressure very well at all!  Or maybe they do and that's why a 6x6 bull is a satellite bull.  

Ended up giving up and headed back to the truck.  Without the big group moving to their bedding area that morning there wasn't any reason to hang around there for the evening again.  I didn't have any real promising spots to try that evening and I was missing my family and they were missing me so I decided to just hang it up and try again sometime in the future. 

Finally tally on the GPS for the morning 2.3 miles and 835' elevation gain.

Did take this picture on the way out as it was the only time I crossed this spot in the daylight.  This was the river that I was crossing each day going and coming to the truck.  The shallow crossing spot was about 6" deep and my Meindl boots did a great job of keeping my feet dry.

Got home safe and sound and plenty tired.  Only ended up putting 25 miles on the boots with the bulk of those the first 2 days.  Sometimes the elk just aren't where you expect them to be that's for sure.  I for sure will continue to put in for this unit as my 3rd choice.  The odds still aren't great, but I should be able to hunt it every 4 or 5 years based on the drawing odds.  It's relatively close to home and if I can hunt it a few more times I think I might be able to get it figured out.

Was really surprised how quickly I bounced around with my emotions from highs to lows and back again.  Not sure I have the mental toughness to go stick it out for a full week without seeing plenty of game to keep my excitement level up.  I got depressed pretty quickly when things weren't going my way early in the week.

I'm sure I've forgotten some important details, and for sure probably have my tenses still all messed up and some auto correct errors from typing this on my phone during the hunt, but I think you can get the general idea.  I did write myself up a long note on motivational thoughts that I still need to finish out as well. 

Oh well, that's it for now.  Nathan

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dove Hunting

I have gotten a chance to get a little bit of dove hunting done in the last couple weeks.  I have 5 acres near the house that I plant each fall in wheat and oats and sometimes it really brings the dove in and sometimes it doesn’t.  Last week it really brought them in thick!  In about an hour one evening I shot 2 boxes of shells and ended up with 11 birds.  (Not the best shooting, but it was a lot of fun!)  This past weekend my friend Ben came over and we ended up with a dozen birds between us in about the same amount of time.  (My shooting improved, but the birds weren’t flying as much).

Not really much of a glory shot, but here’s my shotgun and 11 dove from the first nights shoot.

Earlier this week we had some really nice weather and my son and I were able to go out for a very short hunt one evening together.  He actually has a lifetime Texas resident hunting license already, but not sure the Red Rider BB gun is legal for shooting dove or not.  We didn’t have much luck at seeing any birds so it didn’t end up mattering.  He enjoyed shooting at the Mojo Decoys anyway!

Here’s a picture of us back at the house after we struck out.

I think that gets me caught up.  I actually have a 5K race on tap for tomorrow morning and am thinking about trying to make a quick trip down to my hunting property and maybe try to shoot a pig and for sure check on how my food plots are turning out and check on my cameras.

Getting down to the final stages of planning for my New Mexico elk hunt as well.

That’s it for now.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Panhandle Half Marathon

Panhandle Half Marathon Race Report

This summer my running was pretty focused on making my goal of running under 45 minutes in a 10K race since I was 45 years old this year.  I wrote a blog post about meeting that goal when I ran the Shallowwater Stampede back in early September.  My remaining running goals for the year are to simply keep my streak of running at least 100 miles each month going (I’ve run at least 100 miles every month since March of 2011), and end the year of 2013 with over 2,000 miles logged.

With that said, a race that really interested me was The Panhandle Marathon and Half Marathon.  Lubbock hasn’t had a local marathon for at least 10 years, and last year they held the inaugural Panhandle Marathon and Half Marathon, but it was during my annual elk hunting trip to Wyoming.  This year they moved it back a week and I was going to be home in time to run in it, although I wouldn’t be able to prepare very well for it since for at least a week I would be either hunting or driving and probably not able to get any running in.  I decided that although I might be able to run the marathon and finish it, I really doubted I would have a very good time, and more than likely I would really have to struggle just to finish, so I decided I would run the half marathon and try to set a new personal record.

After meeting my goal time on my 10K race on September 14th, I ran 4 miles a couple days after the race, then 10 days in a row that I didn’t run at all, then after getting back from my very successful Wyoming Elk hunt I got in one 6 mile easy run 3 days before the race and then the day before the race I ran 3 miles with 6 – 15 second strides thrown in.  So in the 2 weeks from my goal 10K race to the half marathon I ran a whopping 13 miles.  Now I needed to run 13.1 miles and was going to try to do it in my personal best time!

Okay, long introduction but that gets us to race day.  The weather forecast was about as close to perfect as you could want, 47 degrees and a light 5 mph breeze at the start, warming to about 60 degrees by the time I should be finishing.  Tried not to do anything out of the ordinary.  Up early, light breakfast, go to the race and was able to do my packet pickup that morning.  Weather was perfect.  Things were pretty well organized, watched the marathoners get started at 7:30, got my bib and my shirt, did about a mile of easy jogging to get warmed up.  There were a little over 500 runners for the half marathon last year, and as we were lining up for the start it looked like at least that many again this year.  Enjoyed talking with several folks from the local running club, several of the women that run about the same pace that I do were there and we discussed our target times and fun stuff like that.

Here’s a picture of the crowd looking back behind me.

And here’s the starting line.

Before you know it they are counting down to the start and the horn goes off.  They actually had some pacers, but that was a little mixed up at the start.  The 1:40 pacer was toward the back of the pack and the 2:20 pacer was pretty close to the front.  Those were the only 2 pacers that I saw, although the others could have been mixed in there somewhere.  I was debating on what pace to start out at, and according to the race predictors I might be able to run a 1:40, but anything under a 1:50 was going to be a PR so I figured I would try to end up somewhere between them.   I ended up closer to the front and figured that the 1:40 pacer would catch me pretty quickly and I would try to keep a visual on him for a while and see how things turned out.  I was pretty confident I could get a PR, and willing to risk it a little on the possibility of surprising myself and pulling off a really good number even on the limited amount of running I’d done the 2 weeks before the race.  If I blew up, I could still probably suck it up and drag myself in at a PR pretty easily.

The race started and I fell in a pretty good rhythm with one of the women from the local running group that I had been talking to.  She was going a little faster than I wanted, but pretty close.  If I ran 7:45 splits all the way in it would be right around that 1:40 mark and I wanted to see if I could pull it off.  The first few miles of the race seemed like nothing but a series of twists and turns through the downtown area of Lubbock.  Looking back on the route there were 15 turns in the first 2 miles of the race.  My GPS tends to cut corners on routes like that so it was telling me I was turning out some 7:50 splits, but after I went back and corrected the corner cutting it showed that my splits for mile 1 was a 7:50, but mile 2 dropped down to 7:24.  Too fast, but I didn’t know it because my GPS was telling me I was right on pace.

The crowd support was very surprising to me because generally the races that I’ve run or been a spectator at in Lubbock the crowd support is very limited.  Through the first couple miles there were pretty much spectators every ¼ mile at least, holding signs, ringing bells, etc.  It was really nice.  Saw several signs that made me grin and a few even got a quick chuckle out of me.

We finally got out of the twists and turns and had a nice long straightaway for all of mile 3.  Back to some twist and turns, but at least these were along a road that actually had some curves to it instead of just going back and forth around square city blocks.  The next mile was a slight downhill and then into some slight rollers, one of the nicest areas to run in the city of Lubbock in my opinion.  The splits for miles 3 through 5 are all very solid at 7:38, 7:39 and 7:40.  A little faster than I was planning, but feeling good and it was slightly downhill throughout those miles and I would for sure be losing some time going back up later on so I wasn’t too worried about it.  My heart rate was a little higher than I wanted, but not terrible, still under my lactate threshold on average.

Mile 6 had a little bigger hill to go up and down and then around one of the canyon lakes for miles 7, 8 and 9.  Still one of the prettier places to run in Lubbock, but a few noticeable ups and downs mixed in here.  This is where I started feeling the big layoff and the mistake of running some hard strides the day before the race after a long layoff as well.  My legs were feeling heavy and I don’t remember that before in a race, usually it’s just my cardio that gets me, but my legs were letting me know they were getting tired on this one as well.  The 1:40 pacer caught up with me somewhere in there I think real close to the halfway mark between miles 6 and 7.  I hung with him for a while and he had about 4 or 5 others with him, but then they started pulling away at about mile 8 and were getting pretty far ahead of me by mile 9.  My heart rate pushed over my lactate threshold keeping up with the pacer toward the end of mile 6 and then stayed over it for the duration of the race.  Had some pretty good spikes on some hills in there and my avg HR hit 179 on mile 8 and then 180 on mile 9 and kept climbing the rest of the race.  My splits were slowing with mile 6 at a 7:54, then mile 7 at 7:54, mile 8 at 7:58 and mile 9 at 8:00 on the dot.

Mile 10 was back up and over a decent little hill, then mile 11 was mostly uphill climbing back up and out of the bottom.  I was really starting to have to work at it by this time even though my pace was slowing.  Mile 10 was 8:12 and with the uphill climb on mile 11 it was my slowest split of the race at 8:22.

Miles 12 and 13 had some more downtown run around the block twists and turns but not as bad as at the start.  Just 7 turns in this 2 mile stretch.  I was really having to push it now and even pushing it I wasn’t tearing anything up by any means.  Mile 12 picked up to an 8:02 split, but I was pushing redline and slowed back down to a 8:13 split on mile 13.  I still had a tiny bit left at the end and kicked it in the last little bit at a 7:28 pace, but I was totally expended crossing the finish line.  My max HR got up to 193 at the finish which is as high as I have gotten it in a long time.

My official time ended up at 1:44:25 which was a new personal record by over 5 minutes.  My official average pace was 7:58 which is pretty crazy to me.  I finished 41st out of 506 runners overall and 3rd out of 20 in the 45 – 49 age group.  That’s my age group, not the Clydesdale division.  Pretty happy with that especially with the overly optimistic start and just hanging on there at the end.

Looking back at my HR numbers, my HR crossed what I think is my lactate threshold right around the midway point of the race and kept climbing the rest of the way.  The last 5 miles of the race it averaged at least 180 and actually mile 12 was a 184 average and I hit 191 for a little on that mile before being forced to slow down a little bit on mile 13.  My average HR for the entire race was 176 which was actually higher than my average HR from my goal 10K race just a couple weeks earlier.  It’s supposed to be the other way around.  One thing I think I can say for sure is that I gave it pretty much everything I had.

Here’s my splits with HR information if you are interested.
Splits (GPS Interval)
TypeDistance Split settingsDurationTotal DurationPaceAvg HRMax HRNotes
1Manual1 mi7:49.397:49.397:50161176
2Manual1 mi7:23.6615:13.057:24170177
3Manual1 mi7:37.4622:50.517:38171176
4Manual1 mi7:38.8330:29.347:39172179
5Manual1 mi7:39.3138:08.657:40172175
6Manual1 mi7:53.246:01.857:54173180
7Manual1 mi7:53.3353:55.187:54176178
8Manual1 mi7:57.591:01:52.777:58179186
9Manual1 mi7:59.471:09:52.248:00180186
10Manual1 mi8:11.771:18:04.018:12181185
11Manual1 mi8:21.181:26:25.198:22182187
12Manual1 mi8:01.761:34:26.958:02184191
13Manual1 mi8:12.521:42:39.478:13183186
14Manual0.22 mi1:38.521:44:17.997:28187193

One interesting thing is that the lady from the running club that I ran the first 3 or 4 miles with before she pulled away from me ended up winning the women’s race with a time of 1:41:02.

Forgot to have someone take a picture of me with my age group award, and my family wasn’t able to make it because they were at church so I ended up just taking a picture of myself in the mirror.

Here’s my race shirt and all the bling from the race.

Overall a pretty positive experience.  Again, I was impressed overall with the crowd support during the race.  The marathon only had 146 runners and I think if I had kept going the crowd support for the full marathon would have dwindled pretty quickly, but with a little over 500 runners in the half marathon that is a pretty good sized race for here.  The event ran pretty smoothly, but if you were looking for a big expo with lots of vendors and things like that you would have been really disappointed.  The post race food was decent with the usual bananas and bagels and some pretty tasty breakfast burritos as well.  Not much for bling, just the shirt in the registration bag, but usually most of the other stuff in the registration bag ends up in the trash anyway so no big loss there.

Overall I'm still pretty stoked.  Felt like I did about as good as I could have and this still leaves me with a number that can be beat if I decide I want to really work at it and set a goal half marathon to race sometime in the next few years.  I think if I had hung a 1:40ish number up there on this it would be a long time or maybe never before I would be able to beat it.  Sounds like a good excuse anyway.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

2012 Wyoming Antelope back from the taxidermist

Got my 2012 Wyoming pronghorn back from the taxidermist.  Always a fun day to get it home and get it on the wall.  I think it turned out great.

Here's a picture from the hunt.

He joins my New Mexico mule deer and elk.

Since I was taking pictures I went ahead and took a couple new ones of the deer and elk.

Not sure where I'm going to put my Wyoming elk yet.  I might end up taking my New Mexico elk up to my office and putting my Wyoming bull where it is now.  Maybe just put it over on the other side of the room.

Thought I would share.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Wyoming Elk Hunt Part 3 - Retrospective

Okay, it’s been a bit and I’ve had plenty of time to think about this hunt.  And I have thought about it quite a bit!  Thought I would try to get some of those thought down in writing while they are fresh on my mind.

First it is just amazing that we have the opportunities to do things like this in this great country that we live in.  Having hundreds of thousands, MILLIONS of acres of huntable public land is something that you aren’t going to find very many places, but we so often take that for granted.  As hunters we really need to do more and step up to promote hunting and public land access because there are folks out there that would like to take it away.  

Second, I was VERY lucky on this hunt!  The area that we hunt is not a trophy type unit.  It is a general tag unit.  Any resident in Wyoming can buy an elk tag over the counter and hunt the unit I was hunting in.  This is not a unit I would have ever expected to shoot a potential record book animal in.  My goal each year on this hunt is to have a chance at shooting a legal bull.  The largest bull I had shot in this area before this year was 245”. This is not a hunt where you see tons of elk and get to pick and choose which one you want to shoot. I have never passed on a shot opportunity on this hunt. I can't recall any of us passing on a shot opportunity. My buddy did shoot a nice 315” bull a couple years ago, but that was his biggest bull of his life and he has been hunting this area for 20+ years.  I think we know the unit pretty well and we have a little over 50% success on this hunt each year so actually getting a bull on the ground wasn’t the very lucky part, I think we have a little skill and determination that contributed to getting our bulls on the ground, but getting a trophy class bull on the ground was the lucky part!  I have no clue what this bull was doing and where he was spending his time to grow such a great set of antlers, but I’m very happy that he did!

I mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again, when I pulled the trigger on my bull I really had no clue how big he was other than the fact that he was a legal bull.  As far as I knew he could have been a raghorn.  I would have still been happy with him if he was, I just wouldn’t still be on cloud nine over a week later like I am now! 

Another thing that I am very blessed with is a great friend to share this hunt with.   “Our spot” used to be “Mike’s spot”.  He invited me to share his spot 6 years ago and bugled in my first ever bull elk for me and I’ve been hooked ever since.

This is my first bull elk shot in 2008, .59 miles from the overlook tree! 

It’s not the best picture, but looking at other pictures that are posted, lots of folks have pictures with 5 or 6 guys in their posse with the elk on the ground.  With my bull it was just my friend Mike and myself, and a 10 second timer on the camera.  To me even if my bull didn't end up scoring as well, it is a huge sense of accomplishment to be able to do it on your own instead of using an outfitter.

On our day 2 walk about, we ended up going back by the spot where I shot my bull on day 1.  I ended up taking a few pictures to show the general type of area we are hunting in.  This was actually a pretty open spot and the only reason I was able to get a shot off on my bull.  Most of the area is even thicker.  Another way to help describe the area is that my friend Mike was less than 30 yards from me when I shot my bull.  It wasn't because he was being a nice guy and passing on a shot so that I could shoot him, he never had a clear shot at the bull although he did see some glimpses of him and knew he was a legal bull.

We have a few spots marked on the GPS as clearings that would be bow range to anywhere in them even if you were completely on one side or the other. 

Surprisingly there wasn’t a bear on the carcass, and it was relatively untouched except for the ravens which didn’t seem to put too much of a dent in it.  I went ahead and took a picture of it to show what is left in the field after it has been quartered and deboned.  I’m sure there is some meat left on it that some will say I’m being wasteful for leaving, but this is about what it looks like when I’m done on most of my kills.

Okay, now a couple pictures that didn’t originally make the cut that I’ll throw in.  Here’s one of the first pictures we took, I was still just in awe of the bull and amazed that I was lucky enough to shoot him.

Here’s a shot back in camp after day 3 when we got Mike’s bull and packed it in.  My son was so happy to have me in camp before he went to bed.  

I mentioned it before about how awesome it was to be tagged out and spending the entire day hanging around camp with him on day 4.  I just get so focused on the hunt and filling the tag that most of the time I’ve gone way before the family wakes up and am back well after dark, right before my son is going to bed.  I guess to fix that I’m going to have to plan more family camping vacations at other times of the year.

Last picture to post is probably one of the most important ones, although it’s not that flattering.

The end result of a successful hunt is not just the antlers that are going to end up on the wall.  It’s good quality healthy meat for the family.  When it was all said and done we ended up with 215 lbs of boneless meat out of my elk.  About half of that went to steaks and roasts, the rest went to jerky, sausage and hamburger.  That’s enough meat for my family for a year almost.   Generally we split the meat that we get on a hunt with whoever we are hunting with, but since Mike was able to fill his tag as well, we ended up with everything.  If I’m lucky enough to shoot an elk in New Mexico in a few weeks, we may have enough meat for the family for a couple years!  I think I’ll have to invite some friends over for some elk steaks!

That’s about everything I can think of.  Feeling very blessed, and thankful for sure.