Grand Slam New Mexico: Day 1

Write a 250-word essay and win the outdoor adventure of a lifetime--that's the theory behind Outdoor Life's Grand Slam contest. To date, we've taken readers hunting across the country for turkeys, to Colorado for elk, to Alaska for brown bear and to Africa for Plains Game. Right now, Bloomington, Indiana's Steve Chafin and Deputy Editor Gerry Bethge are in the high timber of Chama, New Mexico working out the kinks in preparation for Chafin's elk hunt of a lifetime which begins on Wednesday. The Grand Slam adventure is being hosted by Chama Land & Cattle Company in northern New Mexico. More on this six-star (well, that's how good it is) operation in a moment. Even flight delays couldn't wipe the smile off of Chafin's face as he arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Saturday. "You're looking at the luckiest man in the world," Chafin said.
…individualized place settings are the added touch in this no-holds-barred hunting lodge.
The front entrance to the Lodge at Chama.
A mantra to hunt by?
With Chafin's elk hunt a couple of day's off, a blue grouse hunt was the order of the day on our first day at Chama. Owned by the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the ranch schedules a short spruce grouse season just prior to their observed September 1 elk opener. These grouse were pretty tough and didn't live up to their reputations as dummies. It took hours to spot the first birds. Chafin put the moves on them like a veteran. He muffed the first shot, but…
...his second shot hit the mark.
Chafin inspects his first northern New Mexico spruce grouse.
Chafin shows the fruits of several hours of labor to our hunting guide Pat Carpenter.
The evening's dinner.
The limit on grouse is three and it was the final bird of the day that proved the most frustrating. After spying a single loafing in a small clearing, Chafin moved into position for a flush. No matter how prepared you are for a grouse flush, the birds avoid all predators with surprise. That's how they avoided Chafin's first load of sixes.
There was no such avoidance on the reflush. Chafin made his shot count.
The final bird for the pot.
A feathered hull--a special memory from Day 1 of the Chama Slam.
The grandeur of Chama in all its glory. Our Grand Slam winner takes an elevation reading with his Garmin Oregon 550-t--10,628 feet.
There's nothing quite like a lakeside picnic lunch after a tough morning of grouse hunting--complete with tablecloth.
The view from the lake.
The game-rich Chama ranch as evidenced by this mature muley doe.
Timber country in New Mexico is a mushroom-rich environment.
A spruce grouse recalling to others in its covey.
A second bird returns to the scattered covey.
A young muley spike buck.
UPDATE FROM DAY 2: Here is a photo and current position of the group. Check out the Google Earth map below for a awesome look at the topography. View Larger Map