Elk hunting takes a team

Contributed/Hunter Burnham

Hunter Burnham, heir to a tradition of Hill Country hunting, displays a majestic herd bull was approximately eight years old.He says it took a team working in unison to bring him down. Read much more of interest to hunters in the 2017 Hunters' Guide inside the Tuesday, Oct. 17, edition of The Highlander.

Highland Lakes natives and tourists with long memories remember the Burnham Brothers sporting goods store, once found on Avenue H across from the Blue Bonnet Cafe, if only for its window full of rattlesnakes. It was owned by Winston and Murry Burnham, who parlayed the hunting and game calling expertise handed down by their father, J. Morton Burnham, into a successful business of national repute.

In 1961 Roy Rogers invited them to Los Angeles to teach him to hunt and call predators. Their quick success with him led to hunts all over the world. Many thousands of hunters have relied on the game and predator calls they developed.

The business continues under other ownership, but the tradition lives on. Murry's son, Hunter, has been a lifelong hunter and continues in a predator call enterprise, Murry Burnham Game Calls, Burnhamcalls.com

The Spicewood resident provided this account of a New Mexico elk hunt just in time for our edition containing the 2017 Hunters' Gude, which appears in this edition of The Highlander.

 

By Hunter Burnham

Special to The Highlander

Elk can be hunted as an individual quest, some people choose to do so as a solitary experience.

Because of their size and mobility you can also hunt them with the help of friends and hunting partners.

A bull elk will weigh around 700 pounds, move quickly and travel for miles without stopping if he feels threatened. He can be in front of you in one minute and be miles away in a short amount of time.

My elk hunt in New Mexico this year will be a team effort. The first member of my team is the rifle I will carry. It’s a Browning Safari .375 H & H magnum caliber that legendary outdoor writer John Wootters bought new for his first African safari in 1972. John passed the gun on to me a few years ago when he was no longer able to hunt with it; a lot of gun for a lot of animal. The other team members will include my New Mexico friends, Dave Ogilvie, Pete Walden and Matt Gutierrez.

The afternoon before elk season began, Pete and I went up on a high point where we could see for miles so we could set up a spotting scope, use binoculars and look for elk. We were moving around the point looking for elk in all directions. I was walking to the north side of the point when something on the ground startled me. I jumped and it jumped; “it” happened to be a big rattlesnake. I’m not sure if he tried to strike me or if we just startled each other, but he was less than two feet away from me, fully extended and tangled up in some big weeds.

His head was about knee high, belly up and rattling. He quickly recovered, coiled and resumed rattling at me. I called for Pete’s help and with a big stick and Pete’s pocket knife, the rattler won’t have another chance to bite anybody.

We had no luck on the first two days of the five day hunt but the third day would be different. The plan was for Matt to set up on a high point with a spotting scope. He would be able to search thousands of acres. Once he spotted the elk he would be able to direct us to the elk using two way radios.

Matt spotted a herd of elk within a short amount of time. Dave, Pete and myself would make the stalk. After about two hours of slow steady walking we were close, we could hear the bulls bugling over the next ridge, they were only about seventy five yards away! My heart rate is up, my palms are sweaty and enough adrenaline is pumping to make my stomach feel queasy; it was about to happen.

Two more steps forward and there are two cow elk looking straight at us. They turn, alert the herd and start to run. They disappear, then reappear again trotting out of the draw at 130 yards, they are strung out almost single file. I kneel on one knee and rest my gun on the other, I’m ready.

The herd bull, which will be the biggest and strongest, will almost invariably be the last animal to show himself. Among the fleeing cows, there is a spike, a five by five bull, then, finally, there he is; big and majestic, a real trophy.

Right behind me I hear Dave and Pete in unison give confirmation, “that’s him, shoot.” I squeeze the trigger, it’s a solid hit. He doesn’t go straight down, so one more shot and it’s done. He’s at least eight years old with six points on each side. By the look of his almost black antlers, he’s past his prime but still a magnificent trophy.

This elk hunt was a success and it took a team of people working together to make it happen.

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