New Mexico Elk & Mule Deer #84

New Mexico Elk & Mule Deer #84

Big mulie for KerryButch Manasse, the founder of Hunt-Nation, and his wife Joan have been hunting with this very excellent outfitter for many years, always with superb success. And we have probably sent 100 or more clients to him.

He called Butch the same night he got the ranch and was practically walking on air over the prospects of having 3 solid ranches to hunt for bull elk. Some good mulies too, and there are TWO landowner tags for the deer. As to the bulls, the 3 ranches get a very large landowner allocation of both bull and cow tags. This clearly demonstrates that the State of New Mexico’s population survey supports that number of tags on these 3 ranches. All three are close together, although you hunt the 2 former ranches from a different ranch house.

You will be hunting about two hours West of Albuquerque, near Bluewater, in a huge private land area of 135,000 acres that covers three game management units. The Units are 7, 9, and 10, and the ranches spread into all three areas. Deer are primarily in Area 7, and the elk on 9 and 10. Elk do very well here with its mild climate and moderate terrain. That means very low hunter pressure ON THESE RANCHES, due to their combined huge area.

He fills quickly every year with many returns and also with new hunters. DO NOT PROCRASTINATE. We encourage clients to put down your deposit quickly! We often sell 4 to 6 of these hunts in a single day, so if you want a slot, act fast. We really like the fact they will skin, quarter and hang your bull in their walk-in cooler at no extra charge!

Joans 2005 mzlldr Bull picIn terms of size, bulls typically are 5×5 and 6×6 bulls. They will top out around 320 class, although obviously there is always a chance for larger. Most are just solid mature bulls, but every year can be different as forage can slow down or speed up antler growth. A drought knocks sizes down. But expect mature bulls. Most clients will succeed here in taking a bull home, however. Rifle success is usually 90% and over, with close to 100% opportunity! Even archery – in a normal year – will run 80% or so success. On Butch’s October 2018 hunt all 6 hunters scored (one guy turned down 12 bulls first). Only Butch went empty, but he was looking for one giant in particular and never found him. Fun trip, though! Great cook, great guides and lots of friendly joshing! Butch was back in 2020 and took another bull, and his wife Joan will hunt here in 2022.

Rifle season is expected to start Oct 1st at this time. Bow is the entire month of September. Bulls should be bugling from Sept thru mid- late Oct, based on past history. The bow hunters over the years have had phenomenal encounters! They were into bulls nearly every day, and they were responding well to calling.

This outfitter has had some incredible bow seasons in recent years, with bulls screaming at clients almost all the time, lots of chances, lots of bulls and many arrows shot. Some clients missed multiple shots, several wounded and lost their bulls, but almost 100% shooting chances.  Water becomes a major issue for elk at this time of year.

Going back a few years on his old ranches, he did extremely well for us for many years. He normally had about 80% kill between gun and bow and close to 100% opportunity, all on just 20,000 acres. The new ranch is 135,000 acres of similar terrain and elk density. Butch and Joan took many bulls with him with rifle, bow and muzzleloader! Our clients all have had great hunts on the new big ranch. Opportunity always seems to hover close to 100% on harvesting a bull. So we remain excited about this opportunity. The big ranch, with its vast area, will continue to be awesome for years to come. We have been putting our money where our mouth is with this guy for many years, and have been well rewarded in return with good bulls. We are at 7 for 9 on our personal elk hunts with him! Awesome results for free range elk.

“Brian, You and I spoke several times about finding the perfect trip I was looking for my group and you nailed it!! This was an amazing experience. I had 4 hunters that have never been elk hunting and they had a blast. The guides and accommodations were great; plus we were 6 of 6 with kills. Really appreciate your assistance with this hunt.” Don M. Oct. 2021


The outfitter and his guides are truly excellent callers and they understand elk and how they relate to habitat and water and bedding. The ranch house where you will stay is clean and comfortable and has two newer bathrooms both with hot showers, about 5 private or semi-private bedrooms, a comfortable sitting room with satellite TV; and the quantity and quality of food has always been excellent (awesome beef!). The fun and warmth of the guides has always been exceptional. In short, barring unusually hot weather, he has averaged almost 100% on opportunity to harvest bull elk with both rifle and bow! Very important for archers to know you normally will have plenty of opportunity. It helps to be accurate to at least 50 yards!! Of course, once they produce the opportunity for you, it depends on the shooter. One recent bowhunter missed 3 good bulls, while another killed, but only after missing his first 5 bulls! How many elk hunts give a bowhunter 5 close range opportunities to succeed on a 5-day hunt? Basically a shot a day at a bull!

There is a reason for holding off as late as possible to purchase your license. Basically once you buy the landowner elk tag, if you turn ill or have a problem, you WILL HAVE TO PAY FOR THE COST OF THAT OUTFITTER TAG- TYPICALLY $3000 OR MORE! Butch just had exactly that happen in October of 2022, losing those funds when forced to cancel for a health issue about 5 days pre-hunt.

Also, please remember that his hunt prices INCLUDE THE LANDOWNER VOUCHER! NO DRAW! You still must pay for your license, but the voucher sidesteps the draw. That makes this a true bargain for New Mexico private land hunts in a quality area, as many landowner vouchers by themselves, with no guide, no food, no lodging, will sell for $2,750 to $4,000 each!

elk-225x300 You will hunt from 4WD pickups and on foot to access the area. Hunting is by spot and stalk, with calling too if bulls are responsive. Exciting! Also not terribly demanding (we consider it about a 5 on a scale of 10), as the terrain here is relatively flat, with gentle slopes of pinion and juniper growth, and moderate elevations of 6,000 to 7,500 feet or so. Plenty of ranch roads for access, too. Of course, it always helps to be able to run 300 yards to get to a spot to shoot! You should be able to walk a couple of miles in the morning and again each evening, although many successful clients have not been able to walk more then a half mile. It does help to be able to shoot accurately out to 300 plus yards as well. In 2018, Butch’s clients made several 500 yard plus shots to score.

Assuming normal weather conditions (not too hot), you will see bulls and should have several opportunities, including for archers. This is a class guy with a class hunt! You will like him. But he strictly limits the number of hunters, so book early. Just do not expect giant bulls- expect a great hunt with high success for good bulls- and lots of fun!  All elk hunts are conducted 2×1.

This is not a high-numbers deer hunt. You may go a day or so without seeing any deer. But they get some very good deer. They have taken several bucks over 170”, with 3 of the biggest bucks being a 187”, a 191” and a 211”. This hunt is pretty physically demanding. There’s not a lot of “up and down”, but the ranches have a lot of broken rims and you usually have to check every one of them looking for a good buck. These are usually short walks, but there is a lot of them. If you get some early snow and cold weather, it will make it easier. Only 2 to 4 deer hunters for the entire deer season! Books 1 to 2 years ahead, normally.

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2018: “Hey Butch, just wanted to let you know the hunt went great. Joe, Kyle and Stanley did a great job for us. Great guys and guides. We filled 3 /4 tags. One of our hunters had a weapon malfunction and did not get his elk. Thank you so much for helping us put this together. Hope we can make another trip with this great outfit.” Robbie K.

These hunts take place in a great area for observers to play tourist. It is a culturally rich area with famed Indian ruins, active Indian Pueblos (Acoma is just one), plenty of museums, and lots of shopping for artifacts, southwestern art, jewelry, rugs and vases. Go to this website for an idea of what to see:

AOUDAD: This outfitter has also been doing great for us for years on his Texas free range aoudad sheep hunts (a magnificent free range trophy!). Clients really like him, we really like him, and he is a pleasure to be around. He works very hard for clients, leases prime hunting ranches in both Texas and New Mexico, and delivers excellent animals at modest prices. Butch and Joan each took beauties with him, and we have sent him upwards of 75 sheep hunters to him – all successful. The price is around $5,500, which is just a fraction of the cost of most other wild sheep hunts in North America. We have a separate writeup on these Texas aoudad hunts, so please ask us.

2024 PRICING (subject to change without notice until deposit received)

ARCHERY – 5 Days 2×1 guiding. $7,000 (landowner voucher included). Mid- to late September.
RIFLE – 5 Days $7,500 2×1 guiding (landowner voucher included). October-December (LIMITED TAGS!)

5 Day Rut Hunt $6,500 1×1 guided.  November


Prices include your landowner voucher, meaning you avoid having to put in for the draw – you are guaranteed a license! You must still purchase an elk license/tag, however, but the voucher allows your tag purchase to be over-the-counter online. The outfitter will assist you in doing this.

LICENSES: Hunting License $65; Elk license is currently approx $555; cow elk is $354; deer $290.

• State taxes of about 5.125% (will be added to the final payment)
• Licenses/tags
• Rental car
•  Gratuities (normally in the $500-$600 range). Please be aware that fuel is an exorbitant cost for the guides, and the very heavy wear and tear on their personal vehicles and tires is on them! Fuel alone on this trip will run most guides over $150/hunt! Keeping good guides means paying good tips!

NM-84-Archery-Elk-300x207 WHAT IS A BIG ELK – WHAT TO EXPECT?

In most elk hunting States, a true 280” to 310” bull is a good bull these days. Exceptions are AZ – where it’s nearly impossible to draw – and maybe Utah and a few other tough-to-draw areas. So what follows is what we believe to be “the truth” (as Primos likes to say). There are exceptions to what follows – mostly on very highly priced hunts – but based on our combined 200 years of actual elk hunting and our dozens of year of booking hunts, here is the real skinny.

When it comes to trophy elk, New Mexico is perhaps the worst kept elk secret around. For nearly 30 years the magazines have touted this State for its superb elk hunting, and rightly so. Although most of these articles ran a bit overboard, it is the case that many Boone and Crockett bulls, Pope and Young bulls, and Long Hunter Society bulls make book from here each and every year. It is, however, important to realize that there is a substantial measure of hype in these articles and videos, as most of the hunters are getting free hunts in return for the publicity. Also, the TV stars often get preferential treatment and often are hunting high priced private ranches ($10,000 to $15,000) at premiere times and for calm and un-hunted critters in areas saved just for them! On TV you will see examples of this practice – showing hosts on high-priced hunts for calm animals that absolutely surround the hunters! Or worse yet are the shows that are doing high fence hunts, but hide that fact from the viewers. After all, the outfitter wants the show to generate bookings, and the producers cannot show unsuccessful or only moderately-successful hunts – those don’t sell DVDs or products! But we tell it to you like it is.

We too watch the elk shows and enjoy them, and in fact we know many of the actual ranches being hunted. But those fun shows also breed unrealistic dreams and expectations, and that is a recipe for disappointment. Don’t allow yourself to get unrealistic. In our office, we share about 200 years or more of elk hunting experience in most of the western States. We have hunted elk every year for nearly 45 years, and in multiple States, from New Mexico to Oregon to Montana to Wyoming – with bow, muzzleloader and rifle. Please believe us when we tell you that it is just not realistic to EXPECT you will kill a bull over 300 inches on every hunt! You might kill a 300 plus, (it happens every year), but do not expect giant bulls, no matter where you hunt (except you might on those $12,000 to $18,000+ elk hunts!). But lightning does strike, and hunters do take 330”, 350” and 370” class bulls every year on moderate priced hunts in the $6,000 to $7,500 range. The hunt described above is one where you might maybe do that, and you should HOPE for that, but do not EXPECT it. Yes, you’ve see many pictures of huge bulls, BUT IT TAKES MANY THOUSANDS OF HUNTERS TO PRODUCE A SMALL NUMBER OF GIANT BULLS! And those few huge bulls are the ones everyone publicizes (plus there is an art to taking trophy pictures – some guys will stand 5 feet behind the rack!) So while you need to understand that out of those thousands of hunters, only a few are lucky enough to knock over a giant. Still you cannot kill one without trying, so we urge you to keep going, keep enjoying elk and elk hunting, and you might just get lucky the first time, or it might be the 20th time!

deer-3-300x224 We continue to think that New Mexico is generally one of the very best elk States, but we caution clients to be realistic in their expectations. It is our opinion that any 270” or better bull (normally a good, heavy 5×5 or 6×6) is a true trophy. In fact, many New Mexico heads on walls will not even make 250” or 270”, despite being 6x6s or solid 5x5s. Yet they look great and make impressive mounts! And honestly, many hunters cannot tell a 260” class from a 300” anyway. From long experience, we often see pictures of so-called 300” class bulls, and someone is sure stretching things a mite! Nice bulls, yes, but 300 class? No. We would personally happily take a 270” class bull every year and never complain. We like horns, we like success and we love the meat!

But we love the elk experience even more. Do not let score decide whether you had a quality experience. Just realize how lucky and blessed you are to be chasing elk in elk country! A “trophy” really is purely in the eyes of the beholder. If you will be happy and proud to look at that beautiful mount on your wall for the next 20 years, nothing else really matters.

And you don’t need to just take our word for it. One of the best New Mexico outfitters out there (quite a famous guide whose hunts typically cost $9,500 and up, and who is frequently cited as a premiere outfitter) told Butch privately that out of 66 clients he had hunt the famed Gila one year, his 4 largest bulls scored between 330” and 350”! That is a reality check, folks! 330” PLUS BULLS ARE RARE! His clients went 4 out of 66 on bulls of 330+”. That means you will have to hunt 15 times even in that prime area to probably tag one! Or you have just one chance in 15. Or you just plain get very lucky the first time! That is hunting. That is the reality.

All those giant elk pictures are real, but realize it might take 40,000 hunters to produce maybe 100 giants, but those 100 giants are the only ones you see on video and in pictures. So please be realistic. Any mature bull is a trophy to be proud of, and 260” to 300” class bulls are a delight. We all hope for the giants, but it sure is awfully nice to stalk and cleanly shoot a 700-pound bull with close to 4 feet of horn and then take it home. Enjoy it!

Finally, be highly skeptical of anyone promising you they kill “large numbers” of bulls over 300”. Many good outfitters offering quality elk hunts in the $5,000 to $8,000 range do manage to kill some bulls over 300 every year, but the lucky hunters with 300” class animals are likely to be a minority of the outfitter’s clients. We have many outfitters who do kill 300” class bulls with consistency, but those few outfitters who are really producing, say at a 60% to 80% success rate on 300+” bulls, are going to cost you $10,000+. So do not get pulled into a low quality hunt by unreasonable promises. Just ask us. We ALWAYS tell it like it is!

CALL US AT 307-637-5495 TO BOOK