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You Need a Little Luck in Life

February 2019
Story by Jeffrey J. Kimbell
State: New Mexico
Species: Deer - Mule

I consider my relationship with Huntin’ Fool as important as my CPA or lawyer. My success and my family’s success as hunters increasingly hinges on Huntin’ Fool keeping our paperwork in order for each state, reminding me of important deadlines, and helping me make informed decisions about what guides to choose for particular areas. They have delivered consistent draw results for my family three years in a row, first in Idaho (a mule deer for my wife), then in Alaska (a Roosevelt elk for my wife), and this year in New Mexico (a mule deer in 5B for me). The opportunities for our family to hunt locally are non-existent as there is no game or bird hunting in Washington, D.C. where we live. Therefore, every tag we ever apply for anywhere in the U.S. is always as a non-resident. Thank the Lord for the North American conservation model!

Upon successfully drawing the coveted 5B unit near the Chama River in northwest New Mexico, I was immediately on the phone with Austin Atkinson at Huntin’ Fool. The major issue was that the dates for this rifle hunt were five days only, November 2-7, and were on top of the midterm elections. Since my business is in politics, there was simply no way I could be hunting on Election Day 2,200 miles from work. Austin recommended talking to a couple of outfitters to see if there was any way to realistically chase mule deer in two days in an area that massive. After a lengthy discussion with Ryan Nogosek from A3 Trophy Hunts, it was pretty simple – I needed some very good luck on weather and animals and had to be prepared to shoot a long way. I booked the hunt.

I stayed at the Frontier Motel in Cuba, New Mexico, which is a town of 500 people about 90 minutes from Albuquerque. Jordan Hall, Ryan’s business partner, Ryan, the two other non-resident hunters from Texas, and I all had dinner the night I flew in. They had all hunted that afternoon but had passed on a couple of bucks. Topics over dinner ranged from the politics of New Mexico, hunting shows (DSC vs. SCI), the need for hunters to vote/stick together, and a shot that was taken by another hunting party earlier that evening in 5B.

The weather lord was good to us as a cold front had moved in a couple of days prior. It was a brisk 25 degrees at 5 a.m. when Jordan and I left the motel for our 75-minute drive through about 20 elk into the area. You learn pretty quickly what excellent versus good gear is during those chilly mornings. (Thank you KUIU, Kenetrek, and Sitka gear for performing as you should). Jordan spends 280 days in the field guiding, and it was apparent from the start that he was an absolute professional. His Swarovski Optik setup was first rate, and our position on a large berm overlooking two vast valleys underneath us was perfect. We waited for sunup.

As the sun came over the horizon, the valley sprang to life. We started seeing does in three or four different groups coming up from an old river chasm that separated some of the valley below. One group had seven or eight does with a young 140 class buck, and another group had six or seven more does with two bucks below 130". We were clearly in the right area. We just needed a nice stud to come over the hills.

Ryan and one of the other non-resident hunters soon joined us on the ridge. The vantage point was fantastic. With four experienced hunters glassing with quality optics working together, we were seeing deer all over the place. Then, Ryan calmly said to us, “Wait, look right here. See those tips in the sage?”

Sure enough, we all soon saw a beautiful buck with a small wingman buck making their way through the brush about 650 yards from us. Since Ryan had seen him first, the protocol was simple – this was his client’s choice. If he passed on it, I was absolutely going to try and take this buck. They discussed it and decided to take a pass. We were on!

Jordan and I got geared up. I slung my trusty carbon fiber Christensen .280 Ackley over my shoulder and loaded up my Safari Arms 150 grain Barnes bullets, and we made our way off the steep with haste. Our idea was to cut as much from that 650 yards as we could but also stay high on a mound 300-350 yards to our left to keep our target in sight. It worked.

I lay down, popped the bipod out, got in position, chambered one, and put the Zeiss Victory V8 red dot reticule right on the rear end of our target. During our walk to the shooting site, the deer had laid down so even from our elevated position all I could see was his left backside. There was nowhere else for us to go. Also complicating matters was sagebrush all around the buck. We waited about 15 minutes and then the old boy jumped up and I let him have it at 300 yards. He didn’t move. Since there was so much brush and exact shot placement was impossible to determine, I let another one fly just to be sure. Both hit their mark.

When we walked up on him, luck was on our side. He went a scratch under 180" SCI. In a span of 24 hours, the temperature had dropped, there had been no travel entanglements, our careful glassing had found a great deer, and my shot placement had clicked. That never happens! As my father used to say, “You need a little luck in life!”

New Mexico Mule Deer & Coues Deer