By Larysa Switlyk @LarysaUnleashed / @UnleashedGlobalAdventures
Fall of 2020 was no fun for anyone. Most of my international hunts were cancelled due to the travel bans. I found a last-minute elk hunt in Chama, New Mexico in November and finally, I had something to look forward to.
I was excited because the forecast showed snow, which meant a lot of elk would be pushed down from Colorado and the hunting should be really good. Extreme wind, rain, and sideways snow delighted me the first three days. Despite the weather, I still glassed a ton of elk but not the mature bull I was seeking. The fourth day of the hunt, my guide and I hunted all morning but still did not spot the mature bull that I was looking for. Another guide spotted a shooter in a difficult spot to get to 1200 yards from our current location. We assessed the situation: this group of elk were up and feeding. Trying to make a move on them to close the distance would not pan out. The only option that we had to get to this bull would be to shoot it from our current location. In the past, I would not take a shot like that, but I had professional training on these custom built long range GunWerks shooting rifles so I was very confident about making that shot. I use the GunWerks .28 Nosler rifle for that reason, so I decided to go for it.
I laid down in the snow, lowered my bipod and got prone on my rifle. My guide ranged the elk at 1150 yards, so I turned my turret. There was a slight wind while I was locating the targeted elk in my scope. I made the proper adjustments, allowing for wind drift and I steadied the cross hairs on the elk. I could feel my fingers starting to go numb from the cold air. I squeezed the trigger, and my first shot was a hit. The group of elk now all huddled together and started to move down to the left through the thick trees. Mine followed them and stopped for a moment in the open. I reloaded quickly and shot my custom loaded 180 grain berger bullet again when he was broadside. “Hit” I heard from my guide. All the elk went down in a valley and popped up the other side without my bull. We closely kept an eye on that ridge but my elk never showed himself, which made me feel confident I hit him well. The rest of the group ran towards us without him and passed us at 300 yards.
My hands and face were frozen. I got up from my Gunwerks and brushed the snow off. Those elk ran past us and the one I was after still was not with them. I thought to myself, did I just pull off what I think I pulled off? I could not wait to climb up and to see him lying there.
As we started to ascend, I started to get more and more anxious. From that far away I knew he was a big elk but was not quite sure how big or what his rack truly looked like. I could not wait to see his character and to piece together his story. My guide and I walked up to where we last saw the elk while a friend filmed. I pictured walking up on him- however that part didn’t quite go as planned.
When we couldn't find him, I started to get worried. I started playing the shot back over in my head. Did I account enough for the wind? If he is not here, where could he be? We watched him with the group and he never followed them over the hill towards us. We searched the area where we last saw him and we found blood. He gave us the slip. He must have turned around and disappeared out the back door. It was a good blood trail so I prayed we would find him soon.
He ended up sneaking out the other way without being seen. We followed the blood trail about 1-2 miles until we caught up to him at about 60 yards. I took a quick free-handed shot to officially drop him. As my guide and I walked up to him, we were excited to see how big he really was. Turns out it was the biggest bull taken that month: a beautiful 7x7 with heavy mass and long main beans. Putting my hands on his rack opened a flood of emotions. I was speechless at the pure beauty of this elk I had just taken. I’m proud of myself and my shooting ability. As they say in The Gunwerks world, the #gunwerked. I would not suggest just anyone to take a shot like that. However, I knew I was capable and trained for those types of hunting situations. I want to push my hunting skills to the next level. It was a little stretch for that size of bullet on such a big animal, but I got 2 good shots in him and we were able to catch up and make a final follow up shot.
One of the best parts about being a hunter is knowing where our meat comes from and being able to provide it to our family and friends. Not to mention all the health benefits and leanness compared to beef. I teamed up with Margie Nelson who is a wild game chef, and she is providing one of her favorite Elk Recipes.
If you are interested in booking an elk hunt or any other type of hunting adventures, Contact Larysa Switlyk at UGABookings@gmail.com. Watch this elk hunt on TV on an upcoming episode of www.UnleashedGlobalAdventures.com later this Fall! Interested in building your own custom built Gunwerks Rifles, contact us for our discount code!