Wayne Carlton's Biggest Bull Elk

Editor's Note: Wayne Carlton of Montrose, Colorado, a longtime Hunter's Specialties' pro and seminar speaker, took the biggest bull elk of his life this season. This week, Carlton will tell us how he found the big bull elk and how he took him with his bow.

I was hunting in western New Mexico on a piece of property that I know very well in Unit 13 near Pie Town, New Mexico. I was able to get a landowner permit and knew big bulls lived in that area because the HH Ranch, owned by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, was about 40 miles away. Unlike the Alpine country that I generally hunted for elk, the highest elevation that we hunted was 8,200 feet, and that was only one peak. The average elevation was about 7,500 to 7,600 feet. The land was what I call hilly but not mountainous.

The elk fed on flat ground, and they'd bed up on little mounds. Because I had done a tremendous amount of scouting over the years, I knew how the elk would move, where they'd go, and where they'd bed. I'd been hunting this property for about 10 years. I'd helped build stock tanks and solar panels that would power pumps to keep the stock tanks filled year-round.

I really didn't think that there would be a bull in the area I was hunting on this particular afternoon as I hunted with Phillip Vanderpool of Arkansas and another Hunter's Specialties' pro, who was acting as my cameraman. I told Phillip, "Look, it's late in the afternoon, let's not do a lot of walking and put our scent all over the country we're trying to hunt. Let's sit here at this stock tank and see if we can hear any bulls bugling or cows calling. Then if we do, we'll know where to hunt tomorrow." We were sitting on the edge of the stock tank where we could see the entire pond, hidden by some little trees. We had the wind in our faces, and I started doing some range finding to make sure I knew my distance to several different points around us.

I always use my range finder as soon as I decide to take a stand because you never know when a bull may appear. One most frustrating and discouraging experiences that an elk hunter can have is that after an hour or more of calling a bull comes in - and you don't know what the distances are or if the bull is in range. If you're a bowhunter like me, it's even more important to be prepared and know accurate ranges.

Once I had checked various ranges, I took out my Hunter's Specialties's elk calls and went through a series of calls with each one of them. I did a lot of different cow calls on the Fight'n Cow Call and Hunter's Specialties Estrus Whine. I changed the tone and the volume of the calls, and I threw those calls in various directions to give the impression that there was a herd of cows at the tank. I was also bugling with the Mac Daddy and the Super Blue Diaphragm calls to sound like several different bulls. When I call elk, I want to sound like a herd of elk, not just an individual animal, and this is especially true when I'm blind calling.

After about 40 minutes of calling, I looked up. About 150 yards away from Phillip and me, I saw two cow elk coming toward the tank, loping at a fast trot. Behind those two cows, I spotted another eight cow elk moving toward us. Following this harem was a huge bull with a rack that was 52-inches wide. The bull came to the tank without any hesitation. This 6x6 had 50-inch long main beams. I knew this was the biggest bull that I had ever had an opportunity to take.

I had about 45 minutes of daylight left when the bull arrived at the tank and started watering. Then he swam out to the middle of the little pond and was bouncing around on his feet before turning and moving straight toward me. Once the bull came out of the tank and was about 47-yards away, there were some cows between me and him. I couldn't get off a shot with my Mathews bow.

When the bull came out of the tank, he turned broadside to me at 30 yards. Just as the bull's chest cleared the water, I released my arrow. I was aiming for his lungs but I actually hit him in the liver. I was shooting a Mathews XT bow, a cut-on-impact German-made broadhead and a BlackHawk 4000 arrow called the Vapor.

After the bull elk took the arrow, he went about 125 yards and laid down before getting back up and then laying back down quickly. About that time, three other bulls came in to the tank. One of these young bulls came toward the bull I'd shot. I was afraid that he would encourage my bull to get up. But finally, the young 5-point bull the big old elk walked away from the big bull, gathered up the cows and herded them away. This 5-point bull must have thought this was the greatest day of his life because he was able to walk right into a harem of cows and carry them off with him without ever having to challenge the herd bull. It was past sunset by the time all the other elk had left. I told Phillip, "Let's let the bull lay, go back to the truck and get something to eat. Then we'll come back and get him after dark." We waited until 11 p.m. and then returned for the bull.

The bull was in the Pope & Young Club's 360 class and is the biggest bull I've ever taken. This happened on the September 3, 2007, and the weather was really hot. This was the first bow season in New Mexico, and this was my first day to hunt. This experience confirmed what I learned many years ago. If you really want to take an elk, you can't chase elk. You've got to be patient, use your Hunter's Specialties' calls and wait for the bulls to come to you.

Next Week: Wayne Carlton's Second-Biggest Bull and the Technique That Produces the Most Big Bulls