In 2006, my dad went on a guided hunting trip in Colorado. He was paired with a young man named Jerry Blake. Afterward, they kept in touch every year. My dad’s dream was to hunt with Jerry again one day. At one point, my mom secretly contacted Jerry to purchase a guided hunt with him for my dad. Jerry had started an outfitting service named Love of the Hunt Outfitters, and for Christmas of 2016 we surprised my dad with his guided hunt with Jerry in New Mexico. My dad was elated and contacted Jerry to find out everything he needed to know. The following spring my dad put in for a tag, and to everyone’s surprise, he was chosen! This hunt was meant to be! My dad purchased a brand new muzzleloader and worked with Jerry on getting everything together.
Unfortunately, my dad passed away on Tuesday, May 30, 2017. We notified Jerry, and a few weeks later, we received an email back from him asking if there was anyone we would want to transfer my dad’s elk tag to in order to go on the hunt. Right away I told my mom I wanted to do it. I had no idea what I was doing, but I wanted to do this in honor of my dad. We emailed Jerry and said I wanted to go. Jerry immediately responded and stated he would absolutely love to take me, helping and teaching me as we went. He had no doubt in his mind that I could do it!
My hunt was Oct. 21 through Oct. 25 out of Magdalena, N.M. It was then I met my guide, Andres Trujillo.
On the first day of my hunt we hiked into a canyon and got within 120 yards of an elk, but the wind shifted as we got closer and the bull ran off. The following day brought with it a lot of driving and scouting. That evening we saw some bulls, but it was too late to shoot any of them. We decided we would come back in the morning.
Upon our return, the bulls were gone. This third day was a bit rough emotionally. I was really missing my dad and didn’t want to let him down. I felt like I was going to fail, but my spirits were soon lifted. As we drove, we stopped in the road and spotted a bull. Andres asked if I wanted to go for it, and I jumped at the opportunity!
We ran down the mountain to get to him. My legs had a hard time keeping up after the previous hike, but we made it down to the spot where we last saw the bull. We could hear him, but couldn’t see him. Andres got me set up in a position on a rock about 150 yards across a canyon and we waited, but it was getting dark. Andres cow-called, and the bull finally appeared. I found him in my scope and was trying to shoot, but I was shaking.
Andres kept prodding, “You have to shoot.” He made one last cow call, and the elk looked at us. I took three big breaths and fired.
I looked at Andres to confirm I hit the bull and the look on his face was priceless! As he took the gun from me, I looked backand saw the bull fall to the ground. I turned to Andres, and he just hugged me. I looked at his face, and he was beaming.
“You smoked him!” he said. “I’m so proud of you!” Andres explained I hit the bull in the left shoulder and the projectile traveled into his spine, dropping him in his tracks! After climbing out of the canyon in the dark, we headed back to camp and everyone congratulated me. It was such an awesome feeling!
We were up early the next morning to pack out my elk. We rode ATVs into the canyon as far as possible, then hiked in another half-mile. Andres was excited for me to see the bull after teasing me all morning about its size!
When I saw it, I was shocked! We took a slew of pictures before they started skinning and quartering the bull. The process was amazing to watch. I apologized for not helping and said my dad would have been right in the middle assisting, but I wasn’t ready yet.
I had the elk mounted, just as as my dad would have done. This trip brought me so much closer to my dad even though he is no longer here on Earth. To fall in love with the hunt as he did was extremely special. I can’t wait to go again and continue the legacy he began with his dad and grandfather. I only wish I would have begun the process a long time ago.
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