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"Smokepole Fun"
Written by Todd DiCello

Smokepole Fun
Wow! That is what we both said when we got the news that at least one of the two of us got drawn for a New Mexico unit 34 black powder elk tag!!! My good buddy, Kent Prat, was the lucky one this year, but I was just as excited as if I drew the tag. I knew I would be going along to help and we were anticipating a great hunt.

Over the months that followed we talked a lot about the hunt, read maps, made plans, and worked on our elk calls. This hunt was to be right in the middle of the rut and we knew our calls would be important. When the day came to head out, we left Dallas, Texas early on September 28th, 2005 with dreams of big bulls in our heads.

The trip was great, and not too long considering we were towing my 35 ft travel trailer. We arrived that evening and set up the trailer and started the BBQ. The first couple of days before the October 1st opener we scouted and made our opening day plans. After two days of anxiousness and anticipation the morning finally arrived. We were into bulls right away and could hear them bugling back and forth up the canyons as we made our way up the mountain. We passed on a small 5 point bull that came into our cow "Bite Me" calls and we were into elk all morning. Each of the next 3 days provided a lot of good elk action and exciting hunts full of close calls.
On the morning of the 4th day of our 5 day hunt we made a plan to try and ambush what sounded like the herd bull in our favorite canyon. We headed up a ridge above a spring in the early morning darkness and made it to the top of the ridge before sunrise. On the way up we heard our bull sound off twice and he was all ready on the move up the mountain back towards the timber. We stopped for a few minutes to dry off the sweat from the climb up the ridge, reapply our scent blocker spray, and make a plan to get our bull.

We decided to follow an old skid road side hilling the top of the ridge and keeping the wind in our face. As we approached a saddle at the top of two ridges we spotted some cow elk feeding along the side hill above us. We stopped to look them over and there he was, a great bull feeding just below the cows. Kent stopped and got his Thompson Center Encore Muzzleloader into position. I was just behind him kneeling down and hoping the cows would not pick us off. As Kent moved into position for the shot I noticed his legs were trembling and I thought, Uh Oh, we are in trouble! He quickly steadied his stance and focused on the business at hand. When the shot went off, we both ran around the cloud of smoke and I started to cow call. We watched the cows follow in the same direction as the bull went and they all disappeared almost as fast as they had appeared.

We discussed the shot placement and decided to give the bull sometime. At the 25 minute mark of what was suppose to be 30 minutes, we started on the track. After a very short walk we saw our bull heaped up around a small pinion tree. We both rushed over to the great bull and started to celebrate. Kent shot the 6x9 at 6:30am and after pictures, skinning, quartering and a long pack, we were at the truck with the last of the meat at 2:30 pm. We green scored the bull at camp to be 349 gross B&C and needless to say we celebrated that night at camp. The entire experience was incredible from start to finish. Just being in the awesome Lincoln National Forest as the rut was going on was something I will never forget.