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#2637110 - 02/14/14 12:43 AM Chronicles of the 2014 Predator Masters Hunt and Convention
DesertRam Offline

Registered: 04/26/01
Posts: 9395
Loc: Las Cruces, NM USA
As is the case every year since 2010, I was excited to learn that Predator Masters would once again hold our Hunt and Convention right in my own back yard in Las Cruces. Although hunting in recent years has been less than stellar, the convention’s proximity has afforded me numerous opportunities to bring my kids along for the evening events. They and I take great delight in the socializing, learning from leading industry experts, fawning over the latest and greatest in predator calling paraphernalia, bidding on and buying fantastic hand calls from the best makers in the business, and of course, hoping for luck in the raffling of various goodies offered up by PM’s generous sponsors.

I have really enjoyed the past four conventions, and expected to have more good times this year. I was not disappointed.

Day 1

Although some folks started rolling in as early as the Sunday before the convention, I was not able to start my fun until Wednesday because of family and work commitments. Tuesday night though, I received a private message from member HPW from Wyoming. He had rolled into town and was looking for a local fella to wander through the Gila National Forest with. HPW’s the consummate elk hunter, and was thus fascinated by the legendary Gila area. We made plans to meet early the next morning and head for the forest rather than call the desert areas near Cruces. Our hope was to do some exploring, see nice country, and hopefully find a few elk and a coyote or two. We were not to be let down.

We left town early and headed north, then west towards the little town of historic Hillsboro, New Mexico. After passing through there and topping over the Black Range, we need to make a stand, even though we were still in pretty steep country with thick timber. We pulled off the paved road and up a narrow canyon. We wandered up the canyon, crossing a small stream several times before setting up in a place that looked decent for fox. I used a badtothebone hand call for about 20 minutes, but despite its beautiful music we had no interest from furry forest denizens. It was nice to stretch the legs though, and HPW’s dog Duke was grateful for some exercise.

We continued wandering through the forest, stopping several times to try out the Foxpro Firestorm or various hand calls. We traveled and called all morning and into the early afternoon, but had no luck. At about 2:30 though, we were finally rewarded with an elk sighting, when a herd of about 40 cows and calves trotted alongside of us, then across the road. They paused long enough for us to take some pictures of them.

Not long after our elk encounter, we happened upon a nice open clearing. We looked at each other said almost in unison, “We need to call there!” So we did. While setting up, I kept hearing odd forest noises, and when I wandered out into the clearing to set up the FoxPro about 60 head of elk trotted into and then through the clearing. My camera was back by the tree I wanted to sit next though, so no pictures. We got settled in and I started the call with some cottontail in distress. After about ten minutes, I switched to woodpecker distress for five minutes, then back to cottontail. I was ready to call the stand at about 20 minutes, but Duke was still on walkabout, so I waited. At 21 minutes, I spotted a nice coyote trotting through the clearing headed for our downwind. When she paused quartering to us, I put a 50 grain HP in her chest. She dashed away, but looked pretty sick. I played some pup distress for a few minutes before quitting the call. We went to the shot location, located a blood trail even I could follow, and found this coyote about 50 yards away.

We continued our travels, and soon found a location with a ton of sign (tracks, scat). The area was very thick with piñon and juniper trees, so we were faced with pretty close quarters for calling. We got set up and I started with some cottontail distress at very low volume. As I looked up from the remote, a nicely furred coyote skidded to a stop under a piñon tree less than 20 yards from me, catching me basically unprepared. We locked eyes, I clicked off the shotgun safety, then whipped it to my shoulder for a snapshot. The #4 buck caught the coyote in mid-turn, but barely slowed him down. As he passed through a narrow clearing, I tried to put some 00 buck into him, but most was absorbed by the surrounding trees. Within seconds, Duke was on the scene. He went immediately to where I shot the coyote first, then trotted off following exactly in the coyote’s tracks. He was gone for a few minutes, then circled back around to HPW, then repeated his tracking job. His attention had me pretty hopeful that the coyote had succumbed to the shotgun, so we quit calling and let him lead us to this nice male, which had piled up about 50 yards beyond where I lost sight of him. By this point, I’m really starting to like hunting with a dog!

We had time for a couple more afternoon stands, but didn’t have any further luck. As darkness set, we scurried north towards Beaverhead, NM and the nearest paved road out of the forest. Throughout the day it had been spitting snow on and off, but started to get serious now. We crossed over the Black Range in snowy conditions.

We made it over the mountains and back into cell service so we could call off the rescue teams that my wife thought we needed. smile Note to self: Be sure Mama has a clear understanding of the hunt schedule... We stopped in []Truth or Consequences[/url] for dinner before heading back to Cruces and arriving quite late.

Day 2

Despite getting little sleep, I was back at the hotel to meet up with members 1953 and toro2669 for the day’s planned calling. We headed west across the state, then cut south well beyond Deming. Just after leaving the interstate, we spotted three coyotes within rifle range. We jockeyed the truck off the road in order to take a safe, legal shot. After barking the coyotes to a stop, I settled the crosshairs on the nearest one and – CLICK – the primer failed to ignite on my factory Federal ammo. By the time I charged up a fresh round, all three coyotes were out of range. Drat. frown We were optimistic that we’d come to the right place though!

We made several stands in some prime looking country, using both the FoxPro and hand calls, but came up dry until late morning. We set up overlooking a wide grassy flat ringed by mesquite and greasewood and put the call and decoy out about 30 yards crosswind. 1953 was positioned to the downwind of me and the caller hoping to intercept anything trying to get our wind. That worked. After about 15 minutes of cottontail and woodpecker distress sounds, I spotted a coyote working his way around the far side of the clearing trying to get our wind. I got 1953’s attention and he zeroed in on the approaching coyote. Before he could swing all the way around, he must have spotted the truck because he trotted to a stop, alternating attention between the truck and the decoy. As he started to sit to further evaluate the situation, 1953’s Nosler knocked his lights out at about 200 yards. We headed over to check him out and found the largest and prettiest coyote I’ve seen in the desert.

We were in some nice country, but two more stands failed to turn up anything further. As moderators, 1953 and I needed to help set up the banquet room at the NM Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, so we left the field and headed back to town at about 2:00. After unpacking all the goodies donated by our fine sponsors and setting up the displays, I headed home to get cleaned up for the evening’s events.

I returned to the convention hall later that evening with my daughter, who had turned 11 that day. We wandered the room looking at all the gear and gadgets on display. Of course we had to buy a few things, including a number of raffle tickets, a fire starter from Kim Carver at Horseshoe Mountain, and a couple beautiful hand calls from Rick Robbins of RR Calls. Rick has got to be one of the best in the business, and has always been extremely supportive of our young members, happily donating calls to the kids to bring them into our great sport. Thanks Rick – you rock! thumbup

After a dinner of brisket, tri-tip, taters, salad, and peach cobbler, Mark Healy of Healy Arms in Mesa, AZ took the stage to regale us with tales of calling mountain lions. He and his hunting buddy really know their stuff, and I learned a lot about the big cats and how to scout for, and maybe one day call, a mountain lion. Mark was a gracious presenter and took time both during and after his presentation to answer several the questions I had about his work. Next up was Tom Austin of Predator Strikeforce. As always, Tom’s presentation was informative and entertaining, with excellent film footage of various hunts and up-to-date information on what’s working in the field. Of special note were videos of both his wife and oldest son getting their first coyotes – well done! Discussions went late into the evening, but I had to boogey to get this little gal home for some beauty rest.

Day 3

The forecast for Friday called for high afternoon winds, so we opted to stay fairly close to town with the expectation that the afternoon would likely be a bust. I know a place up north that has been good to me in the past, so we headed there right off. Unfortunately, the morning breeze was all wrong, so we had to go elsewhere. We set up for our first stand just as the sun was peeking over the mountains through the clouds. I set up my little Firestorm and started playing the bunny blues. Not long after I switched to a bird sound, I spotted movement in the distance. I zoomed the scope in to identify the critter and noted that it was a little gray fox – the first one I’ve called in! He didn’t seem that interested in the call, even though I tried several sounds. He wandered aimlessly over a distant hill and was never seen again. We made a few more stands before the wind switched direction and we were able to head back to our original destination. It’s a great place to call, but we got totally skunked there, eventually calling it a day at about 1:00 when the wind got stiff enough to take the fun out of calling.

Later in the afternoon, I fetched my son from school, ran a few errands, and reported for duty at the banquet. Dinner was brisket, red chile con carne, beans, rice, and brownies al a mode. A couple of gents (sorry, I didn’t catch names) from EOTech were on hand to discuss the practical use of thermal imaging devices in various hunting scenarios. In addition to their indoor presentation, they let interested folks handle some of their instruments in a hands-on display outside. They even donated one of their new thermal imagers as a premium raffle item! thumbup

Next up was the custom call auction, my son’s favorite part of the convention. The kid just loves bidding, and tries to put me in the poor house every year. grin Once again, our custom call makers graced us with some fantastic examples of their craftsmanship, and the boy and I were lucky enough to have the winning bids on several excellent hand calls. The star of the show, though, was member jackjacker, who was the winning bidder on Kim Carver’s beautifully made and hand-carved buffalo horn howler. Man, what a piece of art that was! Congrats on the winning bid jackjacker!

And last but certainly not least, Big Al Morris got front and center to offer his well-honed insight on such matters as coyote calling and national politics. I got the distinct impression that Big Al is not a fan of the current administration. wink Big Al showed some great footage of FoxPro calls in action, and even gave a demonstration of howling using diaphragm calls. That was a nifty trick! Before cutting out for the night, I just had to get some more raffle tickets…

To be continued...

"A person is smart; people are dumb panicky dangerous animals and you know it." K as played by Tommy Lee Jones, Men In Black

#2637112 - 02/14/14 12:48 AM Re: Chronicles of the 2014 Predator Masters Hunt and Convention [Re: DesertRam]
DesertRam Offline

Registered: 04/26/01
Posts: 9395
Loc: Las Cruces, NM USA
Day 4

Saturday was to be a day of fun in the sun at the range. I skipped out on hunting in order to watch the Egg Shoot and Youth Egg Shoot and to participate in the Predator Masters Champions Cup. Scott Milkovich and crew from Specialized Dynamics volunteered to run the Egg Shoots this year, and they did a great job. Scott also built the AR-15 that was awarded as the grand prize for the Egg Shoot. After the requisite safety briefing and orientation, shooting commenced.

After some pretty fierce competition, the field was narrowed to three shooters: 220_swift, venatic, and Ben Austin. A round later, there were only two: 220_swift and venatic.

These fellows traded shot for shot until finally, 220’s egg was destroyed and venatic’s was not. Great shooting fellas, and congrats on the win Terry! thumbup1

As you may know, past winners of the Egg Shoot are not allowed to compete subsequent Egg Shoots. I was fortunate enough to win the shoot in 2010, which means I’ve had to live vicariously through other Egg Shooters in the years since. No longer! The event coordinators decided, in their infinite wisdom :), to host a Champions shootoff in which past Egg Shoot Champions get to shoot against each other. For the inaugural year, the fine folks at FoxPro offered up a new Shockwave as the prize for this event.
Despite gusty winds and competition with two great riflemen (1953 and Kerry Carver), I was able to make my shots count, break the egg, and become the first to take home the new Predator Masters Champions Cup traveling trophy.

The PM youth then took to the firing line to try out the semiauto .22s provided by DPMS Panther Arms. They shot one at a time, so I don’t have any firing line pictures of the whole crowd.

I’d like to say I stuck it out and watched the youngsters shoot, but like a kid with ADHD, I was distracted by some guys down the line cranking off rounds with their big .50s. I wandered down there to find that a local gun shop, DAM Ammo, was holding a fundraiser for a candidate for sheriff. For three bucks a pop, you could take your turn trying to blast a rock at approximately 850 yards with one of their .50 BMGs. I couldn’t resist, especially since the guy running for sheriff is a staunch 2A supporter, and I ponied up $15 to take five shots with a .50 on an AR upper. I managed to put all five shots into the distant rock (it was a pretty big rock…). That was a hoot, and now I want one of my own. drool By the time I returned to the PM end of the range, the Youth Egg Shoot was winding down. Yellowhammer posted up some photos of our intrepid youth shooters, so go take a look!

Yellowhammer’s Egg Shoot Photos

Saturday night brought the main banquet and raffle drawings. Did I mention all the goodies donated by our sponsors? In the general raffle there were ghillie suits, calls, and other assorted odds and ends from All Predator Calls, FoxPro calls, a ton of stuff from Mojo Outdoors, shirts and other goodies from Jeremiah and the folks at Boondock Outdoors, some Wicked Hunting Lights, a bunch of GPS maps from onXmaps, a coupon good towards the purchase of a McMillan Stock, DVDs and other toys from the Tactical Night Vision Company, and a new rifle from Savage Arms. I’m probably missing a few, but don’t hold that against me, there was a ton of stuff! Premium raffle items included ammunition from Hornady, two EOTech 512s and magnifiers, a couple more savage rifles, an UMAR in .22-250 from Olympic Arms, three, count ‘em three, Nightforce scopes, the thermal imager from EOTech, and a .44 Special revolver from Charter Arms.

Before the festivities really got going, Tony and Ruben from New Mexico Desert Dogs, a local predator calling organization that has been a staunch ally of PM, distributed raffle tickets to all the kiddos in the group and held their own little drawing. Two of my three kids were lucky in that drawing and picked up some NMDD gear, including handmade calls! Thanks Tony and Ruben.

In the general raffle, hundreds of prizes were distributed around the room, with every table sending someone up to collect at least once. Hats and T-shirts were flying, tickets were checked, and prizes hoarded. One of our tablemates, ol’ toro2669, really cleaned house in the general raffle and just about had to buy a bigger truck to haul all his loot. grin When all those goodies were given away, we took a break before the awards ceremony. The kids that participated in the Youth Egg Shoot were called up first. Each one received a token for participation (hand call), and the top three shooters were awarded custom plaques just like those provided to the adult Egg Shooters. Way to go kids! thumbup

The three Egg Shoot winners were next up. Each received a commemorative plaque. Additional prizes were also awarded. Ben Austin, the third place winner received some cash (a most excellent gesture by Mr. 1953, the 2012 winner). Second place contender venatic took home a FoxPro ecaller. And the grand prize, a cool custom AR from Specialized Dynamics was awarded to 220_swift. Congrats guys!

Jeff Mock then called the three past Egg Shoot winners in attendance to the forefront. He sang our praises, which didn’t take long grin, then awarded the Champions Cup, Shockwave, and much to my surprise, an EOTech 512 holographic sight! I was stunned at the continued generosity of our sponsors. I mumbled my way through the speech Jeff demanded before shuffling back to our table to my very excited offspring.

Then the top award – the Will Craig Award, which carries the name of one of PM’s founders – bestowed upon someone who selflessly supports PM with countless hours and positively advocates for our sport. The WCA is PM’s way of recognizing the sacrifices made by an individual for the sake of Predator Masters and this great pastime we all love. The 2014 Will Craig Award went to reb8600, a moderator on the PM forums and a long-time supporter of our organization. Congratulations Mark, this award is hard-earned and well deserved. thumbup1

Here’s Mark with JasonElPaso, another PM founder.

After Mark’s emotional acceptance speech…I mean gruff “Thanks”…the premium raffle kicked off. Many excellent prizes were awarded to lucky raffle ticket holders, and a few even made it back to our table.

Soon the tables were emptied of prizes, last adult beverages were drunk, winnings were packaged up, sponsors were thanked, hands were shaken, and goodbyes were exchanged. Another Predator Masters Hunt and Convention had come to an end, and much too soon if you ask me. frown

I would be remiss if I didn’t take one more opportunity to thank PM’s sponsors for their generosity. Their time, money, and donated goods and services are greatly appreciated by us PM members. I cannot thank them enough for their support, both in manpower and in material goods. Without them, this forum would not be possible. Therefore, I encourage a big round of applause for our benefactors!!! Cheers! thumbup

I must also thank the PM administration and staff, without whose tireless efforts this forum would falter and this convention would not have been possible. To Jeff, who seeks and finds the best in our industry to support us. To Terry, who spends untold hours coordinating the convention on our behalf. To Stu, who selflessly gives of his time to ensure this board runs smoothly. To the other admins and moderators who sacrifice time away from family and recreational pursuits to ensure we members have this great resource. And last but not least, to the spouses and families of these individuals, who put up with and even encourage this obsession. I salute you all! Thank you, and see ya next year in Tucson!
"A person is smart; people are dumb panicky dangerous animals and you know it." K as played by Tommy Lee Jones, Men In Black

#2637194 - 02/14/14 07:57 AM Re: Chronicles of the 2014 Predator Masters Hunt and Convention [Re: DesertRam]
220_Swift Offline

Registered: 11/03/06
Posts: 15703
Loc: Central Oklahoma
Real Nice Write Up Troy!!!!!!

Due to an increase in the cost of Ammo do not expect a warning shot!

#2637368 - 02/14/14 12:57 PM Re: Chronicles of the 2014 Predator Masters Hunt and Convention [Re: DesertRam]
Fursniper Offline
Retired PM Staff

Registered: 09/14/09
Posts: 1968
Loc: AZ
WOW! That write up really sums it up. Well done!
Introducing a new person to hunting and watching them be successful is more rewarding than being successful yourself.

Make time to create a conservationist.

#2637377 - 02/14/14 01:16 PM Re: Chronicles of the 2014 Predator Masters Hunt and Convention [Re: DesertRam]
KYR15 Offline
Seasoned Member

Registered: 12/05/08
Posts: 103
Loc: Kentucky
Wow! Nice write up about convention. My son and law and myself got to attend in 2012 and it was a blast, got to set with two great people at the banquet, Fursniper and birddog. It was allot of fun, we attempted to attend last year only to be required to turn around and return home due to a death in the family. I really hate that i missed it again this year, but maybe next year. For anyone who has never attended one of these events, it is very professional, yet very family oriented. The PM staff are so welcoming and helpful, its a great experience. Not to mention all the sponsors do for this organization.

#2637964 - 02/15/14 01:40 PM Re: Chronicles of the 2014 Predator Masters Hunt and Convention [Re: DesertRam]
Matt1953 Offline

Registered: 11/28/09
Posts: 1367
Loc: Alamogordo, New Mexico
Very nice Troy. Once again it was fun hunting with you and seeing your family again.
2012 Predator Masters egg shoot champion
2015 Champion egg beater of egg beaters

#2638025 - 02/15/14 03:22 PM Re: Chronicles of the 2014 Predator Masters Hunt and Convention [Re: Matt1953]
Yellowhammer Offline
Retired Moderator

Registered: 02/07/02
Posts: 16606
Loc: Huntington, Texas
Excellent write up, Troy.
"The recreational value of a head of game is inverse to the artificiality of its origin"

"No prize is greater than the effort taken to acheive it"

- Aldo Leopold, The Father of Wildlife Management

#2638039 - 02/15/14 03:38 PM Re: Chronicles of the 2014 Predator Masters Hunt and Convention [Re: DesertRam]
catwhacker Offline
PM senior

Registered: 10/07/07
Posts: 6488
Loc: west michigan
Very well written Troy! Fun read.

Made in Michigan!!

SKEPTICAL HIPPO!! What Would Doggin Coyotes Do???????????

Doggin says Hi!!!

#2638233 - 02/15/14 09:37 PM Re: Chronicles of the 2014 Predator Masters Hunt and Convention [Re: catwhacker]
Jeff Mock Offline
Retired PM Staff

Registered: 09/01/01
Posts: 11080
Loc: Manchester, MI
Pure poetry!!! Very nice write-up Troy! thumbup
Life is hard, it's even harder when you're stupid! - JOHN WAYNE

"Predator calling has produced some of the most spectacular misses I have ever witnessed." ---- Fred Cronk


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