This fall, Outdoor Life will send two readers on the elk hunt of a lifetime, for a trophy bull and a cow on New Mexico's legendary Vermejo Park Ranch. This is no ordinary property. Owned by Ted Turner, the 584,000-acre Vermejo is managed for wildlife, especially trophy bull elk.
I visited the Vermejo Park Ranch last spring to hunt Merriam’s wild turkeys. We toured high-country meadows, alpine peaks, oak-brush draws, and trout streams. This view looks to the western portion of the ranch just prior to sunrise.
Though turkey hunting, we saw far more elk on the property than gobblers.
This fall’s Grand Slam Adventure hunt is designed to celebrate the mentors in every hunter’s life. One hunter will get the opportunity to hunt a trophy bull. The other will hunt a cow elk. Together, we hope the adventure reminds the participants that hunting is always more memorable when it's a shared experience.
At mid-day, in the interior of the ranch, our turkey hunting party had to stop to wait for a string of elk to stampede across a wide meadow.
While the Vermejo is best known for its trophy hunting, it has remarkable trout fishing, as well. The ranch is located west of Raton, New Mexico, and much of the property spills north into Colorado. This is one of the most game-rich spots in the West, and the ranch carefully manages wildlife to the carrying capacity of the habitat.
While elk are the headliners here, the ranch has a substantial (and huntable) bison herd, trophy-class mule deer, wild turkeys, mountain lion, and black bear. We cut this sizeable bear track while hiking to a turkey set-up.
The Merriam’s turkeys are abundant and widespread, from lower stands of ponderosa pine…
…All the way up to timberline. I killed this gobbler at just over 10,000 feet above sea level, by far my highest-elevation gobbler.
You will hunt hard on the Vermejo, but the ranch’s legendary hospitality ensures that you will recover in style. This is the entrance to the historic Vermejo Park Lodge. The main building is built in the style of the grand lodges of the American national parks.
The outbuildings at the headquarters complex reflect Vermejo Park’s rich history. The property dates from the Mexican and Spanish land grants of the 1840s and has been owned by several captains of industry, including the Pennzoil Corporation, which built this charming sandstone house, still used as guest quarters. Turner’s company bought Vermejo Park Ranch from Pennzoil in 1996.
The ranch retains the high-end hospitality that has defined it for over a century. Entrees include world-class bison, elk, and trout, and visitors can participate in a variety of activities. But, as this sign to the headquarters indicates, the property is really all about elk.