Target hitting time: hunting season begins

Travis Denton, who has hunted since he was 9 years old, poses with his latest taxidermy project. He said he hopes to take an elk bull like this one home with him this fall during bow hunting .

Tova Fruchtman

By Tova Fruchtman
As summer ends, leaves begin to change colors, cool winds fill the evening air and hunters get their rifles, shotguns and bows ready for another season in tree stands and blinds.
For one longtime Clovis hunter, that means a hopeful showdown with one if his more respected adversaries: a 10- to 12-year-old bull elk that roams 70 miles outside of Socorro on his friend’s ranch.
Hunter and local taxidermist Travis Denton said his friend Ruffus Choaks recently found the “magnificent” animal’s antlers, which had shed.
Denton then mounted the antlers atop the head and torso of another bull elk that had already died.
“These are only sheds. This bull is still alive,” Denton said. “He was not taken by a hunter. He’s still out there trying to survive the best way he knows how.”
The bull’s horns are 5-feet, 7-inches long. He has seven points on each of his antlers.
“Hopefully, he’s sired several offspring to carry on the genetics of this magnificent animal,” he said. “I hope to see this bad boy in the fall, to see if he outsmarts me again.”
Denton, who usually hunts with a bow and arrow, first saw the bull elk last fall, but was unable to bag the animal.
Marty Frentzel of the state department of game and fish said that although most elk seasons in the state are fairly short — less than a week — the bow and arrow season is extended because of the difficulty in taking an elk with that weapon.
Frentzel said a lottery for a license to hunt elks took place in April, but elk can be hunted on private property through the Land Owner Sign-up System (LOSS). Hunters can find landowners who sell these licenses by going to the Hunting Information section and selecting “Printable Unit Boundaries” on the state department of wildlife Web site.
Besides elk, Frentzel said that with good weather here and a cold winter up north hunters near Clovis may get ducks, geese and cranes flying over the eastern New Mexico.
For those trying to bring home deer, Frentzel points out a significant rule change: Hunters can only take deer with at least one antler with three or more points.
He said the commission changed this rule to control population growth, allowing deer to get older before they are taken.
“They’re not trying to make everyone a trophy hunter but trying to change the population of the deer herd,” Frentzel said.
Regarding hunter safety, Clovis residents can take Dave Williams’ New Mexico Game and Fish course.Though Williams said state law requires anyone under the age of 18 to take the class before purchasing a hunting license or firearm, he also recommended the course for others and has given the course to children as young as 9 and as old as 50.
Frentzel said the commission will be conducting road blocks and using big game decoys during this hunting season.
The decoys are set to catch those hunting from roads. “It’s a public safety issue,” Frentzel said. “We don’t want people shooting off the highways.”
Frentzel suggested that hunters get information booklets that contain the rules for hunting big and small game. The booklets, he said, are available at hunting license vendors.
Denton, who has been hunting since he was 9, said he loved the sport because it’s “family-oriented.”
Denton said his passion is hunting elk, and he has started hunting them already this year with his bow and arrow.
As he grew up he continued to hunt and picked up some new skills — hunting with a bow and arrow 13 years ago and taxidermy 12 years ago. Hopefully, he said, he’ll get another chance to see the animal behind the giant antlers he’s grown so fond of.