I have been a whitetail hunter for 45 years. In 1996 I took my first outfitted elk hunt and I was so disappointed, I didn't elk hunt for the next 20 years.
If you ever do an elk hunt the V7 is the place to come.
Good, Godly people, great food and accommodations, a family style atmosphere and lots of elk.
I saw 24 bulls in three days and had a successful stalk on a 6x5 bull.
Chris Miles from Mississippi remarked, "There is no need for improvement on the V7 Hunting Outfit!"
Awesome Hunter Guy
Wes Mason from Illinois upon visiting & hunting on V7 Ranch: "I think this place is the best kept secret in the country."
"Being from Louisiana I have the opportunity to eat the best cuisine in the world. The Van Swedens of the V7 Ranch in Raton, NM offer their hunters meals second to none."
World & National Champion Turkey Caller and Vice President of Crossland Game Calls
At this time (2002) I am 62 years old and to a fair extent I have been there and done that. I have won the game of the most toys but I keep insuring my position. I just ordered the 1500 meter range finder.
I have hunted Africa with a rifle, bow and pistol. Drop camped in Alaska, fished and hunted in Mexico and most of the western US for everything. In general, guiding in the western US is a sideline.
My coming here was after I had just finished hunting in the Panguitch. On the fourth day I took what the guide said was a "dandy" buck, 25 inches. I skinned it in the guide's garage. Lots of flies. Luckily I had brought everything I would need. Before this the only guides I have repeated with have been in Alaska and Africa. I have taken some nice animals.
Having a good hunt to me means a decent animal and a good time. I have booked to come back next year. My primary weapon will be a pistol. I love to hunt elk in the snow but shirt sleeves are nice.
A FEW SUGGESTIONS OR COMMENTS:
Soft sole shoes like you would wear in Africa. Full camo. They are good judges of game here. Tee shirts that are a weave that breathe help. There can be a lot of walking.
They take you to a rifle range for the same reason they do in Africa. They want to see if you can shoot. An African guide usually wants you to be less than 100 yards from the game you are after because of problems they have had with hunters who cannot shoot well.
Not all cell phones get a signal out there.
Two 100 quart ice chests can hold most boned elk. Three will handle a quartered elk. You cannot fly with dry ice in your ice chest.
My best tool is my 22 power spotting scopes set in a rack to become a pair of binoculars. They are made by R W Hart.
Spend a little time in the area. Lots of history. Dry ice is available in Raton at the "Super Save" grocery store, also 23 miles north of V7 headquarters at Wal-Mart in Trinidad, Colorado. They have a good sporting goods department, even clothes. Dry ice can burn your meat. Put newspaper under it. Shooting sticks work well here. Crazy Glue works on small cuts or splits on fingers. Bring mosquito repellant. You could be shooting within sight of the freeway or way back in the mountains. Since the NRA range is the next ranch the animals are used to gunshots. The butcher will work on short notice and it makes life much easier. The work from their taxidermist friend looks good.
THE HUNTING LODGE
Is clean, old, and comfortable. This is a family operation. I met Misty on the back of a trailer when John brought the truck to where my elk was down. Christy, Misty and Vivienne, Jason's wife do the cooking. It is fine. Raton is close and if you want to you can make arrangements to cook for yourself or go to town. Everything you need to cook for yourself is in the bunkhouse.
EQUIPMENT AND VEHICLES
This is a working ranch and is not by nature a clean business. They are well equipped with everything from a D-10 dozer to tractor trailer rigs. This ranch size is in the top 1% of cattle operations in the US. They have made a strong effort to have what you will need. They had just bought a 4 door truck just for hunting. They use horses a lot but you normally do not need them on a hunt.
Probably the most important thing is a relationship. I made a couple of suggestions, they listened and made adjustments. They are very interested in their children having the opportunity they have had. The economics of the cattle business or farming in general are pitiful. They know in order to survive they need to make this work. They are trying hard. They are good people.
AFTER THE ELK IS DOWN
I am used to bringing everything I need to bone the animal out. This includes a block and tackle. The only time that I have ever felt I was not needed to help was in Africa. This is like Africa.
"Thank you so much for taking good care of me while at your ranch. I can't remember the last time I ate such wonderful food, every meal was delicious. I tried to visit with most of your large family and found everyone to be both interesting and to have big hearts."
Matt F. (Oregon)