Hello everyone! 2015 turned out to be another great year here at Antler Ridge Outfitting. I had huge expectations for the year since the amount of moisture was unbelievable and the bucks and bulls I had been seeing seemed to have better than normal antler growth. As it turned out, hunting is just that and due to a very warm fall, we experienced less success than in some of the past years. That being said, it was still a good year for ARO since the entire season was filled with great guys and great times.
Muzzle Loader Season
The year started out with a New Mexico hunter, Bruce Hobson, coming up for a 771 muzzle loader mule deer hunt. I showed Bruce around and while he was scouting, he spotted a giant buck on the place he was going to hunt the next morning. He and I were both very excited for the season to open the next morning, and the chance of getting a toad, but unfortunately neither of us ever saw the buck again. Three more days went by, and Bruce was able to take a nice buck to start the year off at ARO.
Next up was a group of guys from Haskell Texas for the 1st Rifle Season which is an elk only season. Wayne, Jeremy, Ford, and Jeff made their way up for the hunt, and although I was sure all of them would have success, things just didn’t work out that way. All of the properties had fresh elk sign on them but we just couldn’t seem to end up in the right place at the right time. Jeremy and I came very close one evening when I had inadvertently driven the side by side right up to a group of elk. It was one of the best elk experiences I have ever had with probably six different bulls all bugling at the same time. One would bugle and another would immediately cut him off, cows mewing, rocks rolling down the hill side, it was hard to believe we had driven right up on that many elk making that much noise. All of the elk were in the timber where we couldn’t see them and they were headed to the tribal ground. Jeremy and I were hiding behind and cedar tree and were able to call one up to 15 yards, but he was about three yards on the wrong side of the tribal fence! The rest of the hunt was slow only seeing an elk or two the rest of the season. Although we did not draw any blood, I got the privilege of meeting some really excellent people and had an elk hunting experience that will probably not come again for a long time.
For the 2nd season, the guys form Corpus Christi were back, as were the guys from Cleveland, and John, Joe, and Grace were able to make it down from Boulder for the last couple days of the season.
As for the guys from Corpus, Craig started things off when he dropped a nice 6×6 at almost 400 yards. Jason was next when he took a really nice 6×7 at just over 400 yards, which seemed like a convenient distance after Craig had just got one a little under that…Hmm. Scott, was a first timer here with the guys from Texas and was able to get a great mule deer, especially since it was his first. Barrett, another first timer with the group, was unable to connect on a nice muley on the first day when the ranch hand decided to stop and admire the buck, eventually running it off. Barrett did eventually harvest a small buck for meat on the last day, as did Jason. Fred was the guy in the group that fared the worst. Although he was unable to get a chance at a buck or a bull during the week, he did manage to come up with a few colorful and somewhat profane descriptions of the outfitter he had chosen! They are a great group of guys and look forward to them coming back, as long as the rest of the group can convince Scott that he probably should leave his, although interesting, not nearly as convincing as he thinks elk impressions at the cabin…. so he doesn’t run Fred’s elk off again.
The guys from Cleveland experienced similar success. Pretty good in the way of elk, and little as far as deer go. It took a few days for them to have success but somehow John and Father Time, I mean Dennis, were able to pull off a double on a couple great bulls one morning at Zellitti’s. Bill and I however, hunted like crazy all week and were never able to quite get it done all though we did get terribly close once or twice. I always have a blast when these guys are out and this year was no different. Bill got to listen to me flap my jaw all week and I got a golf lesson. Dennis had everyone admiring his very handsome beard, John gave me a headache when he gave me that one beer that day, and all of us got to listen to the many not very convincing reasons my cousin and professional guide Kevin should be from now on referred to as the “Hammer.”
John, his daughter Grace, and son Joe were able to come down again for the last weekend of the season. Joe and Grace are both in college so they have a limited time to hunt but I’m very glad they were able to come. John got a nice deer and Joe had a chance but it didn’t quite work out. And once again, the property boundaries were an issue for Grace and I on the last night when we had about 70 head of elk come out just across the fence on the tribal ground.
Everyone that came in 2nd season are great people and it was one of the most enjoyable seasons I’ve had even if the deer hunting was the slowest that ARO has experienced.
And then there was the 3rd season of 2015….A group of twelve guys from Wisconsin made the trip down to hunt. So let’s see, Zach, Lance, Randy, Dustin, Mike D., Jim, Drew, Todd, Corey, Mike S., Pat, and my favorite, Billy, have to be the most organized and serious hunters that I’ve had. I must say it was quite the experience having all these guys here at once and in one group.
I’ll try to get this close, Dustin shot a really big 5×5 bull at Archie’s, Jim, with his hair completely dry, got a stud deer at Linda’s, Todd fired a warning shot at one deer and then was able to get a nice one later in the week. Billy admired how far the elk could run that Jim didn’t spook, Pat practiced for his strong man competition by rolling rocks, and Mike S. got a decent bull at Bruce’s. Drew worked on his quick draw at Archie’s but the buck was just a little faster, and Mike D. liked Todd’s style and fired a warning shot at a buck at Pargin’s. Lance got a nice muley at Linda’s and his dad Randy showed great patience, spending the whole week at Bumpy’s as he auditioned for a role in “dances with elk,” wait make that dances with cow elk. Zach and Corey generally supplied moral support and were excellent workers in the nightly sandwich assembly line.
I didn’t do anything but laugh with these guys and I’m glad I got to meet the guys I hadn’t and see the ones I had again. I look forward to having come out again and will make sure the area has a double stock of Busch Light and sliced bread when they do!
Fourth season was the only season that I felt was really successful. I had four great guys for the season, Larry and Mike from California, Jim from San Antonio, and Jerry from Arizona. These four guys’ have hunted with me the longest and have some of the highest expectations. 4th season 2015 came through for them pretty well.
Jimmy and Jerry were able to harvest a couple of absolute giant mule deer, the biggest bucks since A.R.O has been operating. Jim’s buck had a 31 inch outside spread plus a 2 inch kicker, and Jerry’s was just a very heavy, deep forked perfect typical deer.
Out of the four guys, Mike has less antler expectations and leans more toward being a meat hunter, so he was very satisfied with the nice muley he harvested as well as the cow he filled his either sex elk tag with. The only guy that didn’t have success was Larry. We came very close on the last evening but due to some guide error (we won’t mention any names), and fading light, we just weren’t able to get it done.
I want to thank every single hunter that came this year for choosing my outfit and would love to see everyone out here again. I am absolutely grateful for the clients that I have as my business would not be successful if it weren’t for the great people that I’ve been lucky enough to do business with. It was pretty rough as far as harvesting animals goes but the 2015 season was a great time for me. I got to meet some new hunters and see many of my good friends from years past. I’m already looking forward to seeing many of you next fall and do it all over again!