I can vividly remember the day my brother, AJ, drew the tag. We were going steelhead fishing in Wisconsin, and he yelled, “I drew the New Mexico ibex tag!”
The hunt was October 1-15, and we wanted to be there a few days early to scout. When we made it to the small town of Deming, New Mexico, we couldn’t wait to start glassing for billies. It only took an hour or so of glassing to find a group of ibex. They were up high and feeding around a cliff-ridden mountain. There were two or three mature billies in the group. We set a nice tent camp in the only shade available and planned to be there for the entire 15 days or until AJ’s tag was notched.
The next morning, we glassed the same group of goats again within a few hundred yards of the area they were feeding in last night. We then drove around to check out different areas and glass different parts of the mountain. We found some nannies and another group of billies not too far from camp. They were noted as a good option for plan B. We then headed around the mountain range to glass from the other side of where we saw the original billies. We picked out a few more ibex in different cuts and cliffs. We found the original group bedded on the opposite face of where camp was. This was the direction they were feeding in that morning, and we were confident we had their pattern somewhat figured out. AJ said, “There are so many stalkable cliffs and chutes to catch them under. We’re going to make it happen!”
We watched them for a minute, and then AJ brought up the idea of staying on the mountain that night and being on top for first light and in position for a stalk. I agreed fully. It made the most sense to keep him on top of the mountain, making multiple stalks per day if needed, while I stayed on the bottom, finding the next big billy to chase.
The next morning, I was in position just in time to spot the billies as it got light. They were right where we thought they would be. I messaged AJ, and he said they were a hundred yards or so below and to his left, so he began creeping over the rock face and peering down. In a few steps, he was within 25 yards of two billies he never saw to his right and 40 yards above three billies he could now see. This group had the best billy in it. I saw him range and draw. His shot was about 42 yards and straight down. His voice crackled through the radio, “I think I missed!”
While my brother climbed back up to get his pack, I was on the glass again. I quickly found what I thought was the same group about a mile down the mountain. They were starting to calm down and were feeding again with a few bedded down in a good spot. It took my brother 20 minutes to run down the saddle spine and back up to the top of the next peak. I got him in position to come in above a billy that was feeding by himself. I watched as my brother crawled over and ranged him. He drew, and the billy stood just 37 yards below the cliff my brother was on. He released his arrow, and I could tell it hit a little far back but looked good. The group all took off. Most of the ibex went high, but the one billy began to separate from the group. I knew he was hurt.
The billy stopped on a cliff for a few seconds and then ran down and disappeared. He reappeared, coming off of the next cliff. He fell 70-80 feet into some desert shrubs, and I knew it was over. About 10 minutes later, AJ was coming up from below where his ibex fell into the thick brush. I got up to my brother for pictures. We packed his billy out and headed back to camp. I couldn’t believe it was over so soon, and I know AJ felt the same way.
I cannot wait until one of us draws this tag again, but selfishly, I hope it’s me this time with the tag. I hope that I too can be one of the few bowhunters to see one of these incredible animals up close.