Joe Sledge, Bruce Purdy and Jim Helms.
Joe Sledge, Bruce Purdy and Jim Helms.
I envy those who live in the mountain states. In Wyoming, I participated in a 2015 do-it-yourself (DIY) archery elk hunt and, although it was one of the hardest things I had ever done both physically and mentally, I learned priceless lessons about elk hunting, elk behavior, tactics and strategies. While I had good opportunities, since I was archery elk hunting, many things need to occur in order to succeed. Fast forward to spring of 2016, where I learned I had drawn a tag for Unit 36 in New Mexico. It was game on from that point: preparing, training, shooting, hiking with weighted packs, and getting mentally prepared to hunt a great unit.
I was profoundly fortunate in this draw for several reasons. Being in Texas, the trip to the Ruidoso area was relatively close (only a seven hour drive). By comparison, traveling to other units in other states would take up substantial time from hunting/scouting. Also, my parents have a condo in the Ruidoso area, which meant that we could utilize their accommodations and hospitality. It also enabled my father, Bruce Purdy, to be able to enjoy and partake in my adventure. Being able to experience this hunt with my father was so rewarding and satisfying—it’s difficult to put it into words. Time is precious and spending any amount of time with him is priceless, but to be able to include him in my hunt is something I will always cherish. In addition, because I was close to New Mexico, my good friends, Joe Sledge and Bruce Palmer, were to be able to take some time off to assist me in my hunting efforts.
I should mention that I drew this tag in the guided draw outfitter pool, utilizing the two day minimum guided option. My good friend, Bruce Palmer, recommended JFW Outfitters, a GOHUNT Business Member and after I drew the tag I was introduced to Joel Beer, who was familiar with the area and the guide for my hunt. I prefer a DIY approach, but with the drawing odds being what they were, I figured my best approach was to get into the guided pool of draw odds and utilize the two day minimal guided option to maximize my success.
I took advantage of many resources for my scouting, including GOHUNT.com’s INSIDER, which was one of the resources I used for gathering intel on my unit. The Unit Profile information available to their INSIDERs was very valuable and full of useful data. I also used Google Earth and OnXmaps for boundary information and GPS chip technology. I contacted local U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and forest service employees for information regarding where I could hunt and which areas were closed seasonally for camping purposes.
The wind was perfect for me, he couldn’t see me, I got down to my knees and released my arrow deep into his chest cavity, a perfect shot. I do not consider myself to be a great archer, but it would have been hard to screw up this perfect broadside 20 yard shot with all of my pins in his vitals. Fortunately, for me, it happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to panic and get elk fever. It seemed instinctual as the shot went off. He ran 50 to 60 yards and laid down as I tried to acknowledge what had just happened. It was truly epic. As I could hear him taking his last breath, I looked up and saw a bull up the hill from where he came from staring me down, turn and walk away.
Great friendships and bonds were made on that adventure. So many things happened that I can’t properly describe the details in this condensed version for publishing. From nocturnal hypothermia and space blankets to horse rodeos and sore feet and aching backs, it was a trip full of memories and hardships. Jim suffered a broken finger after a fall, I fell and broke the quiver off my bow. The terrain was treacherous and I’m sure they might have been cursing me in their heads for shooting a bull in such rough and steep terrain. I again can’t thank these wonderful gentlemen for their heroic efforts. They truly are heroes to me for what they went through.
I shot the bull at 11 a.m. Friday and didn’t get it loaded into my truck until 5 p.m. Sunday. The meat was great and unspoiled; the hide survived. At times, we worried about the meat and hide, but lady luck was on our side. The rough scoring of the bull was 335". The official scoring after the drying period is still pending. Regardless of the score, it truly was an epic trip with memories to last a lifetime.
Chasing elk in the September rut is addicting and I am looking forward to my next adventure—after healing, of course.