by Robert Sargent as told to Hesperia Bevan, Clarksville, Ohio
On September 18, 2011 my son Craig, our orthopedic knee surgeon Dr. Thomas Cook, and I met Gary Webb, guide and outfitter at the trail head for a six day bow hunt for elk in Area 16B of the Gila National Forest Wilderness of New Mexico.
Along with Gary were our guides, Avery Hunt and Kit Laney, plus horses, mules, and gear needed to make the eight mile, 4-1/2 hour ride to the campsite where Gary’s wife Julie was waiting. Julie would be in charge of all meals and keeping the camp in good order.
The journey into the Wilderness was breathtaking; profusions of fall wild flowers of rainbow hues were everywhere. Tall timber and sheer rock cliffs made for cautious, but safe, travel, thanks to the experienced guides and sure-footed mules and horses. At times we would ride from the timber into view of the distant mountain range. We even spotted a red wolf, one of which has been reintroduced into the area. A single trail was indication that only crews coming in to set up camp were allowed passage. No vehicles were permitted into the Wilderness…a truly pristine landscape.
Our campsite didn’t have the modern conveniences of home, but for six days it had ample amenities. Tepee-like tents were large enough to stand upright and move about with plenty of space to accommodate two people. Flashlights, properly positioned, gave adequate light at night. The best part, however, was Julie’s fantastic meals cooked over an open fire. She could equal any chef in the most upscale restaurant.
Each day’s hunting proved to bring hours of beauty just from riding through such spectacular country. On one such trip we came out from the trees into a lovely meadow surrounding a pond where we saw wallows, evidence of the presence of the elk we had come to bag. While Craig and I, the experienced hunters, left elkless, our doctor friend Tom, a novice with bow and arrow, brought down a spike bull elk and used our coolers to transport the meat home.
I requested mules to ride because they allowed me to be closer to the ground, were easier to mount and dismount, and were more surefooted. This was my first experience with mules close up and personal. I learned never to beat a mule, as it will not forget such unkindness, and will get even.
One evening, as we were riding back to camp, Avery’s mule stopped and refused to move. Upon close inspection Avery discovered that had the mule not stopped, we would have ridden into barbed wire that had somehow become entangled in growth along the trail. The mule was able to sense, or to see, what we could not.
As we were getting ready to leave for home I was holding one of the mules being packed with gear. Accidentally a strap thrown under the mule to the packer on the other side hit the mule’s leg, causing the mule to jerk its head up suddenly. Before I knew what was happening, the mule’s head hit mine. I was knocked down and was out for a short time. My take-home trophy wasn’t an elk’s head, but a real shiner.
Being with my son and our doctor friend, making new friends with our outfitter, his wife, two other hunters, and our guides, seeing how they cared for their animals and the country into which we had traveled…all of this added up to my having “the trip of a lifetime”. To experience your own trip of a lifetime contact: Gary Webb Guide & Outfitter, HC 68, BOX 149K, Lake Roberts, NM 88061 – 575/536-9368 – www.garywebbguide.com