Where There's a Will, There's a Way
By Phillip Smith, Hunter Jackson Smith
When Huntin’ Fool called and told Jackson that he’d drawn a New Mexico elk tag, he was elated. We sat down with the New Mexico Huntin’ Fool edition and started reading up on unit 16D. He was only 11 at the time, but he realized the significance of the tag and how low a percentage it was to draw.
I do physical therapy for a living, and Jackson started a training regimen in one of my clinics. I knew after the first two weeks that he really wanted to do this hunt. I started researching outfitters and the area, and he kept training. It was the first time I’d ever seen him set a goal and start working for it.
We began increasing the poundage on his bow, and he started shooting out to 30 and eventually 40 yards. When we left for the hunt on August 31st, he was pulling back 43 lbs. I’d watched him work so hard the last four months, but I was still nervous.
We flew into Albuquerque, rented a car, and drove four hours to Reserve, New Mexico on August 31st. Our guide had a wall tent set up for us, and we got ready to roll the next morning.
We awoke at 4:30 each morning and started hunting. We hunted extremely hard for 14 days in a row. On our final day, our guide had to leave us to go to northern New Mexico to hunt elk with his family. He had showed us a few watering holes we could sit at if we didn’t want to leave. We decided we’d give it one last evening of hunting. My friend, Jacob Gordon, had also flown in to hunt the last few days with us.
I dropped Jackson and Jacob off at 2:00 on the 14th at a watering hole we’d sat at before. I went back to camp and packed all of our gear. We were going to leave straight from the watering hole to Albuquerque. At about 7:40 p.m., I saw two small lights flicker on the gravel road. My heart jumped into my throat; it had to be someone walking towards me. I knew it had to be them. Jackson had shot and made a great hit at 20 yards. They thought they had heard the elk crash. We started down the road, and my heart wouldn’t stop pounding. We began looking for blood and eventually found a few drops and had a path to follow. Five minutes later, we found Jackson’s bull. It was such a great feeling.
We now had a huge job to do and a short time to do it. We took some quick pictures with our phones but never really took the time to do it right. I only had a Havalon knife to dress the elk with. We began the process and had to figure out how the three of us were going to get the thing loaded into the back of the rental truck. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and we got it done.