Surprisingly we got drawn again for elk hunting in 2004. Due to the costs, we only put in for cow season but that's OK as the meat is better. Unlike last year, the hunt this year was a mixture of emotions. Randy was diagnosed with cancer shortly after the hunt last year and while he was trying to hold out to make it up this year, a few weeks before the season he passed away. Obviously that was on the sad side of emotions. I know Dwaine has had some craziness going on and my work has had me traveling a lot more than I would like to be which has made the home front more stressful than it should. I was glad that George and Jack decided to come down from Ohio though as I thought that they would both enjoy getting out with the guys and taking their minds off their brother. Joining them was "Dead Eye" Ray again, and Ray's brother Gene. Gene was originally planning on coming down to help Randy out and I'm glad he decided to come on down anyway (for reasons you will read about later). Rounding out our merry band of hunters was Scott, a friend of mine in Houston. Like me work has been rather hectic on him and he actually was planning on not hunting after all because of work. In the end we talked him into coming out and renting a car in Carlsbad that he could drive to El Paso and catch an early flight back to Houston.

Before I dive into the story I want to take a moment to bitch about the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. These hunting licenses are not cheap. I'm not complaining mind you, I gladly pay for the license, but what happened with Randy was bullshit. In order to get a hunting license you have to buy it all the way back in April. Then you find out in July whether you got drawn. The hunt isn't until the end of October. Obviously a lot can happen during that time. When Randy passed away George called to see if someone else could hunt on his license. Now keep in mind, the license has already been bought and paid for and the game and fish department has already taken into account whatever effect the hunter would have on the herd. Their response was "no". So they asked if they could get a refund. Again, the response was "no". Now this isn't a case of someone deciding they didn't want to go hunting or anything else. Randy died. George could send them a copy of the death certificate. The state refused to do a damned thing. What a bunch of bureaucratic dickheads!!! I mean the man already bought and paid for the license. If he can't use it (given the circumstances) the least the state could do is refund the money to his family. An even better thing would be to allow someone else to hunt using it. Instead the State of New Mexico acted like a bunch of chickenshits and I hope someone bagged an extra elk for Randy. Fucking assholes. If you live in New Mexico, write that coward governor and tell him they should learn to show just a little bit of humanity instead of being a bunch of greedy cocksuckers. Anyway, enough of my rant.

So, Thursday night we headed to San Antonio to meet Dwaine and then get an early start on Friday. Things went pretty smooth and we decided to take my wife's Lincoln Navigator for the better ride. Of course this meant if we killed an elk we would have to throw it on the trailer (which meant about a 3 hour round trip to drive back, pick it up then come back to the hunting area and finally drive the elk back to camp). Still, the idea of sitting in a cramped Toyota truck for 12 hours while we drove to New Mexico was too much to handle. Anyway, when Scott went to pickup his compact rental car in Carlsbad the rental car gave him a 4x4 Dodge Dakota. Talk about the hunting gods smiling down on us!!

When we finally pulled into camp Friday afternoon we unloaded the trailer to find that the container full of chili had busted open in a cooler and chili was everywhere. To top it off, a bunch of sodas had busted open and a can of 7-up was sitting in the middle of the chili bowl. Everything was a mess. It was a sign of things to come. I start unpacking to find that my wife packed all my cold weather gear God knows where so I'm going to get to spend the next 5 days freezing my ass off. Thank you honey!! All's well that ends well though and it was good being around everyone again.

The first day of the hunt Scott, Dwaine and I decide to go hunting one area and George, Jack, Ray and Gene decide to hunt their normal area with Ray setting up near where Randy always hunts. Now, after last year I went out and bought a GPS because I wasn't about to get lost (not that I got lost last year, we knew exactly where we were)!! The morning goes by pretty mellow. Dwaine decides to go try to stir things up and Scott and I decided to haunt a ridgeline. Well, about mid morning I told Scott that we should split across this stand of aspens and meet up on the other side where we came up an incline. So off we go and I'm figuring we will meet up in about 10 minutes... 20... 30... and hour... Well, I backtrack to try to find Scott and find nothing. I try to raise him on the radio... nothing. After what seems like 45 minutes of walking around I find that I can sometimes raise him and sometimes not. I ask where he is, and he says he is in this big valley. I ask him if it's the one we saw and he says yes. I ask if he can get back to where we came up at and he says yes. Well, about that time Dwaine comes walking up from the valley I thought Scott was in. He's been wanting to scout that valley for a while and was telling me about a watering hole on the other side of it. We finally get tired of waiting for Scott to show and go looking for him again. Eventually we can raise him on the radio and he says he is in a valley with a watering hole. None of it is making sense though, as the valley Dwaine was in is on the other side of where Scott and I split up and he was heading the opposite way. To make a long story short, we spend the next hour probably trying to pin down where Scott is, eventually having him fire a shot so we can get some sort of bearing on him. Come to find out that instead of bearing left along the aspens he beared right, down a ridge side and into the next valley from where we came up. By the time we tracked him down it was lunch time and we headed off to the truck. We ran into some dogooders that seemed to be anti-hunters. We figured they were probably keeping the elk away (we hadn't seen shit all day) so we headed off to where the rest of the crew was.

As we get near we raise George on the radio and he says that they have 2 elk. A really big cow and a baby. Apparently dead eye Ray was on the ball and popped one. To top it off, George also got a shot off at another but he lost the blood trail on it. Well, they killed these things way the hell up in this little bowl surrounded by ridges. The cow is too big to drag out so George is driving back to the house to get the saws so we can quarter it and pack it out. In the midst of this conversation apparently the dogooders ran across Jack, Ray and Gene and offered to use their 4 wheeler to drag it out. Apparently our assumption that they were anti-hunters was off the mark. Well, they dragged that one out and Scott, Ray, Gene and I set up on that baby. Now, mind you that baby elk still meant a good 300-350 pounds. We spent the next 2 hours dragging that damned thing out of the woods. By the time it was over, we were ready to head home and we did.

Sunday was a relatively mellow day with Ray and Gene playing the roles of camp bitch. I have to admit, Gene is a much better bitch than Ray is. He made this elk roast on Wednesday that was the best roast I have ever had - and I hate roasts. I didn't see a thing on Sunday, which became a theme for my hunt. On Monday it poured. It was down right miserable. Around 3:00 I guess we decided enough was enough and everyone was wet, miserable and ready to head home. On the way out though, it stops raining and since Scott had to fly back to Houston on Tuesday we decided to stay out and hunt. Whatever good will we had with the hunting gods was lost however, as it started raining again within 10 minutes of us heading back out in the woods. We found some new areas to hunt however, where we had heard a lot of shooting over the weekend which was at least cool. Tuesday wound up being a nice day, but again I saw shit. Dwaine and I setup on either side of this really long valley and he saw an elk run across the far end but it was moving so fast that by the time he told me it was already gone. Wednesday I setup on the same valley but this time it poured again. Well, by about noon everyone was ready to call it a trip and we did. I saw turkeys and coyotes all over the place, Jack saw a bear and any number of elk that he should have shot <g> as did George. Scott shot a tree while he was lost, Dwaine shot a tree while we were looking for Scott and I was ready to shoot just about anything for the sake of shooting. At the end of the day though, as a group we bagged two elk and the rest of the guys were kind enough to hook us up with plenty of meat for steaks, roasts, sausage and the like. Now I'm already looking forward to next year!!!

Well, if you read this far the reward is the pictures on page 2. Enjoy!!

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