NM Elk Camp Wrapped Up

By Brodie SwisherSeptember 17, 2016

We hunted hard all week in hopes of finding a bull in New Mexico to play the game. The weather turned ugly for the second  half of the week making updates from the top of the mountain pretty slim, so finally, here’s an update on the second half of our week at elk camp.

Elk Camp Day 4

We started off the morning of Day 4 glassing from the top of the rim in an effort to make a move on elk headed back to their beds. I was glassing a bull with cows a mile away when I heard rocks rolling down the mountain in front of me. As quick as I could spin around to grab my bow, several cows and calves came cruising by me 60 yards down the mountain. I slapped an arrow on the string hoping a bull might be in tow, but soon realized the cows were on their own. We didn’t hear any bulls that were in striking distance the rest of the morning.


Scouting from a distance in hopes of setting up an ambush point.

My plan for the afternoon was to pack a lunch and climb back into the stand I sat the day before by the wallow. I climbed in at noon and planned to sit the rest of the day. There was a bull on the trail camera at 1:45 the day before, as well as several cows prior to that. I figured even if that particular bull didn’t make a return visit, one of the other local bulls might stop by.

elk at wallow

This bull showed up while the treestand was empty the day before. We were hoping to catch him, or one of his buddies, stopping in at the wallow again.

Unfortunately, a storm blew through dropping sleet and rain for much of the afternoon. Not exactly what I needed for a sit over a wallow. With a couple hours left before dark, I climbed down and joined back up with my buddy, Max, to check the status of a drainage we’d seen bulls heading into earlier in the hunt. But as darkness closed in on us, we hiked out not having seen or heard a thing.

hunter walking

We put on a lot miles checking high and low for a bull to play the game.

Elk Camp Day 5

We spent Day 5 returning to hunt for what we felt was an old hard-headed bull that was holding tight in some rough country. We slid down into a bedding area that had a lot of fresh sign and hoped to catch the bull slipping through the timber.

elk bed

We thought we were on to something when we found a really fresh bedding area in a high traffic area.

The bulls have been shut-mouth all week long, and this bull was no exception. He typically popped off with a locater bugle and then shut up for the day. This morning was no different. He wouldn’t talk, and he wouldn’t budge. He never gave us enough to make a move on. We tried everything we had on him from cow sounds, to bugles, and even the silent treatment. He simply wasn’t wanting to play the game.

elk calling

Hard calling, soft calling, and even the silent treatment. Nothing seemed to work on this old bull.

When we walked out to the trail at last light we had a bull chuckle a short way up the mountain. It was a different bull ,and he was in a great spot for one last run on the final day of the hunt. We would go after him at first light on Day 6.

moon over elk elk camp

The bulls seemed to have our number. We never heard a sound all afternoon. At last light, standing by the 4-wheeler, we heard a bull chuckle below the moon up on this ridge.

Elk Camp Day 6

Ugly weather moved in overnight bringing high winds, thunder, lightning, sleet, and plenty of rain to start off Day 6. It was far from what we’d been hoping for, or needed, after a tough week of hunting. Despite the weather, we climbed our way up the mountain to look for the bull we had heard the night before. And much like the rest of the week, the bull was silent. He never said a word. With the wind in our face, we slipped up through some great looking terrain. We came across a handful of cows later in the day that were side-hilling the mountain but there was no bull to be found.

hunter walking away

The rain and soggy weather was quite fitting for how our hunt had been going all week.

The bull had been in the area the last two evenings so our only hope was that he’d do it one more time on the last night. We would slip into his hangout early and try to catch him coming down the mountain before dark. The plan was to hunt him like a whitetail and ambush him when he came through. We never made a call all evening, hoping to avoid the call-shy bull from knowing we were in the world. We never made a peep. And neither did the bull. He was a no-show…once again.

elk stand

We took cover from the wind and rain under the trees in what we hoped would be the perfect ambush point as the bull came down the mountain at last light.

The sun set on Day 6 bringing our painfully slow elk hunt in New Mexico to a close. I had a weird sense of relief as I walked off the mountain that night. I was tired of chasing elk and ready to see my family. I told my friend and guide, Max Baker, before the hunt that we’d have fun regardless of the outcome. And though the critters didn’t cooperate, we had plenty of fun with a great group of bowhunters.

elk camp sunset

Walking off the mountain on the last night of the hunt was a bittersweet moment.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in how things turned out on this hunt. Every man and woman in camp would love to have seen a different ending to the story. But when I look back over the week, I’m reminded that while we came home short on meat, great memories had been made.

Meat will come and quickly go…antlers will collect dust…but the friendships and memories made on the hunt will last a lifetime.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

elk camp

New friends, old friends…there’s nothing quite like elk camp.




Brodie Swisher
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
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