Have you ever won a free New Mexico elk hunt for two people?
That’s what happened to a lucky RMEF member when his entry ticket was first out of the hopper in our 2018 Win A Dream Hunt Sweepstakes. As the Grand Prize winner in our random drawing, Michael B. of Colorado had his choice of a British Columbia moose hunt, $10,000.00 cash, or an elk hunt for two at New Mexico’s famed Montosa Ranch. He quickly chose the elk hunt. And then he gave his teenage son the bull tag while keeping the cow tag for himself.
Entering that 2018 sweepstakes—and making a voluntary $25 donation to RMEF to support conservation in elk country—was the beginning of Michael’s amazing father/son adventure. After their hunt last fall, he sent RMEF this story:
I remember receiving my sweepstakes entry tickets from RMEF in the mail, and literally thinking, “I will probably never win, but of all the drawings we’ve entered, this one would be the most incredible to win.” That’s because it would give me an opportunity to share an experience with my son that otherwise we would never be able to do. It wasn’t just the opportunity to win the hunt of my lifetime, but the hunt of our lifetime.
When I found out that I had won the drawing, I was stunned. After a little time to soak in the reality, I shared the news with my son. And the only thing I could think of better than me taking a trophy bull would be seeing my son take a trophy bull!
I called the outfitter, Eric Kern, to discuss the hunt. Eric talked to me about what to expect and forwarded trail cam pictures of elk on the ranch. He told me that upcoming TV episodes of “RMEF Team Elk” as well as “The Crush with Lee and Tiffany” would feature hunts on Montosa Ranch. My son and I were even more excited to hunt the same areas where those shows were filmed. Needless to say, anticipation and excitement kept growing as we got closer to October.
Finally, the hunt dates arrived. We drove to New Mexico, arrived at the ranch bunkhouse at about 1:30 a.m. and hit the sack. Eric knocked on our door at about 7:00 a.m. to make sure we made it okay and to see if we were ready to go hunting. We were getting a late start, but Eric smiled and reminded us that this was the Montosa, so we’d still probably see elk. Eric asked my son what type of bull he was hoping to see. A nice 6×6, or maybe something with a little character, was his answer. And with that we strapped on our packs and headed out to make something happen.
We climbed to the top of a hill and up into a spotting shack, a raised stand with a great view of much of the ranch. It is no exaggeration to say we had just gotten our packs off and our binoculars out when Eric started seeing elk. He saw a smaller bull walking up a draw, and then a large herd in a meadow about a half-mile away, and then yet another herd with a wide 5×6. My son said it was a “cool looking bull,” so we climbed back down to try and intercept that herd. The weather was really damp and windy, and for whatever reason, we never saw those elk again. I reminded my son that when you’re hunting, if it’s meant to be, things can all come together very quickly.
After lunch, the weather warmed up a bit. Eric spotted a herd on the horizon moving down to water. We decided to make a big circle downwind, use the pinion and juniper as cover, and catch the herd at the water. When we finally got there, it was something I had never seen before. There were elk everywhere, with cows chirping back and forth, smaller bulls and spikes pushing each other around, and bulls bugling. There was one really big bull but one side was broken off, and my son decided to wait.
Suddenly we heard what sounded like a stampede of cattle. We looked up toward the meadow and saw a second huge herd of elk running full speed toward the water and the elk that we’d been watching. Had I not seen it I would not have believed it. Then we spotted the herd bull at the rear of the new group. It was decided that if this bull presented a shot, my son would take it. We watched for an hour but never had a clear shot. Eventually, the bull rounded up some cows and wandered away.
While we were sitting there taking in this unbelievable spectacle, we could hear other elk bugling from up the mountain. By now the light was fading, so we decided to work our way out and look for those unseen elk on our way to the truck. As we came out from behind some trees, I spotted movement. A bull stepped out some 600 yards away across the meadow. There was no cover between us and the bull. Eric said he didn’t think we could cross the meadow without getting busted. But with the bull going crazy in full rut and facing away from us toward some cows, and with the sun going down and the wind in our favor, we decided there was nothing to lose by just going straight at the bull.
Eric told us to stay as close together as possible, single file. We angled toward the bull, stopping when it stopped, moving when it moved. The cows saw us and edged up into the trees, and the bull began to follow. We had to keep up and close distance and our pace across the meadow got faster. The three of us were nearly running into each other as we stopped abruptly whenever the bull paused or looked around.
As we were running across the meadow, I remember thinking to myself, “This may just happen.” We were hunting with muzzleloaders, and Eric must have thought the same thing, because in one smooth motion he stopped, reached back and inserted a primer onto my son’s rifle. Now he was ready to shoot—but first we had to cover just a bit more ground.
Finally, we closed into range. The bull had dropped down in a little dip in the terrain, and we could only see the tops of its antlers. My son knelt and positioned the gun on a tripod. When the bull popped back up into full view, Eric gave a really loud cow call and the bull stopped and looked directly at us. Eric ranged the bull and said, “86 yards.” My son settled in and squeezed the trigger.
I saw the bull turn and run up into the trees, and then we heard a crash.
As he reloaded the muzzleloader, Eric said it was a really nice bull. My son admitted that he hadn’t looked at the size of the bull or even the antlers, as he was just concentrating on the shot placement. By the time we got to where the bull had been standing, we could see antlers sticking up not 50 yards up the hill. I initially thought the bull’s head was up, but a quick look through binoculars showed it just an enormous set of antlers sticking up that high!
Standing beside it, we saw that the bull was absolutely beautiful, and that my son had made a perfect shot. Then the sheer size of this animal really hit us. It was indeed the bull of my son’s dreams, a mature 6×6, with a little extra character in a cord of velvet hanging down from one of the main beams. As we marveled and celebrated, Eric turned to me smiling and shaking his head at what had just transpired. “There is no way that should have ever happened,” he grinned. In spite of long odds, it had all come together absolutely perfectly, just as my son and I had discussed earlier that day.
After thanking Eric for the hunt, I said a quick prayer. We were incredibly blessed. We gave a silent moment of thanks and respect to the bull. At that point, Eric left to hike back and get the truck. When he was gone, I gave my son a big hug—and may have shed a tear or two at the incredible experience we had just shared.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
The next evening, Michael killed his elk—a big cow. His letter went on to describe that part of the hunt, to rave about the outfitter and hosting ranch, and especially to thank RMEF for making these kinds of lifetime experiences available to “average joes” through sweepstakes prizes.
Yes, these prizes are real—and the funds raised through accompanying donations are vital for managing and protecting habitat and improving public hunting access across elk country.
Would you like a shot at winning your own dream hunt? Now’s your chance! If you’re a member, watch your mailbox for the 2019 RMEF Win A Dream Hunt Sweepstakes. Or you can see the full prize list, enter your tickets and help support conservation in elk country by clicking here.
If you’re not a member, join now at www.rmef.org/join.
Have fun and good luck to everyone!