New Mexico's 1st Crossbow Elk!|
by: Chris Whitley (Hunter/Author)
On a cool mid September afternoon in 2006 my girlfriend Stacey and I arrived at Brandon Gaudelli's, All American Outfitters located in the extreme southwest of New Mexico, where he hunts the majestic, Gila National Forest. Brandon has catered to mobility impaired hunters for some twelve years now. So, last
summer when he told me New Mexico decided to allow Mobility Impaired hunters
to use crossbows, I had my excuse to go hunting. I am a quadriplegic, dependent on a wheelchair.
Traditionally, when hunting this desert region, you would find a water source called a wallow (big mud puddle) or "tank", as the locals say, and set up for an ambush. That's all and well but, we have had more rain than the past 111 years. We could not count on tradition alone and were potentially in for a
long hard hunt.
Day one came and went with the later half of the day showing more than the first. Day two, 11:30 AM once again Brandon lifts me into the truck and we're soon "rockcrawling" to our stand.
Set up in the "pop-up blind" Brandon and I briefly broke silence to whisper about the absence of bugling by the normally, vocal elk at this time of the year.
As if on queue, a blood curdling scream from a bull elk jolted us from less than a hundred yards away. As Brandon turned my chair and readied the camera he told me where and what to expect from the elk. I, in turn adjusted myself into position for the anticipated shot.
Thirty yards to our right we pick up movement. Slowly one, two, now a third bull
elk cautiously emerge from the thick timber. Two spikes and a beautiful 5X6 sporting a large and very unique rack stands next to our wallow. To my surprise, the big bull plopped down on his belly and started rolling and
thrashing around. He threw mud and grass well into the air with his rack and feet while making quite the noise.
Finally, the massive bull stood up and bounced out of the wallow. Strolling ever so slowly from right to left, he stepped into my shooting lane perfectly broad sided at 22 yards. I laid the sights directly behind his leg and let the arrow fly. The bull was vigorously shaking the muddy water from his coat and
never heard the shot from my 185lb Excalibur crossbow. I knew the shot was true
and watched the magnificent animal stand still as if nothing had happened. After 60 seconds of smiles, silent celebrations and expectations of it laying or falling down right in front of us, Brandon asked "Are you sure you hit him?" "Yes!" I replied.
For at least five minutes after my "Perfect" shot and the elk standing there like a billboard, at 22 yards. Brandon says: "Shoot him again." I told him that cocking the bow would certainly scare the bull off. Brandon shrugged his shoulders as if saying "What now?"
Thirty minutes after last seeing the valiant bull, we quietly slipped out of the
stand. Back at camp we confirmed our thoughts with the video camera. The bull's
leg was back as far as it could go when I squeezed the trigger. That's bad! I obviously did not catch as much lung as I initially thought. I don't believe the shaking helped matters either.
Early the next morning, armed with cameras and optimism we returned to the
stand with Stacey and Ernie, a friend of Brandon's. Knowing the bull would not be far. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The guys gave it their best and could not locate the bull. Physically and mentally ill from the loss of the trophy bull, we pressed on hunting hard for bear, deer, and turkey. Day after day, we hunted from dark to dark, with each morning progressively harder to
wake and every day feeling longer than the last. To make matters worse, we saw far less game due to the abundance of rain.
About noon on the Seventh day Brandon decided to again check out the area in hopes of finding our bull. I set up in hopes to fill a tag.
At mid afternoon I see Brandon returning. With a huge smile on his face says: "Yes! I found him." It felt as if a ton was lifted from our shoulders.
The size of these magnificent creatures is unbelievable. The rack, a wide and deep forked 5X6, with unique shaped eye guards and a 10 inch cork screwed kicker as a bonus, surpassed my expectations.
A long hard hunt this was, mentally as well as physically but the loss of meat was the only sour note of this trip. The biggest thrill of all is, to the best of our knowledge, being the first to legally take an elk with a crossbow in the great state of New Mexico, on public land to boot! I applaud NM's Game and Fish for their recognition toward Mobility Impaired Hunters.
Contact All American Outfitters about our Mobility Impared hunt program. These hunts are some of our favorites. Call Brandon at 575-533-6200