Gila National Forest in New Mexico is one of the most coveted elk hunting destinations in the United States. Hunters such as MeatEater’s Steven Rinella, wait for months – even years – to walk the vast and often intimidating landscape with an elk tag in hand. When the opportunity finally arises for Rinella, he enthusiastically accepts the challenge. However, he soon discovers finding the right elk is just as difficult as picking a needle out of a haystack. MeatEater airs exclusively on Sportsman Channel Thursday, September 4 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

After four long years, Rinella is welcomed into Gila National Forest. Gear and elk tag in tow, Rinella backpacks his way through breathtaking mountains in search of an elk worth harvesting. Rinella passes up the first elk he sees with hopes of getting a better opportunity to survey the land and locate the “ideal” elk. While doing so, he discovers the elk are privy to shaded, tree-filled areas. There’s only one problem: the forest is spotted with hundreds of similar pockets of shade. Rinella has a lot of ground to cover in a limited amount of time.

“When you wait four years to be drawn for elk tags in a place like this, it would be easy to get excited and shoot the first elk that you see,” admitted Rinella.  “Personally I think it’s better to hold off. There may not be another chance, but I had a good feeling about this hunt in particular, so I held off on pulling the trigger for anything on the first day of the hunt.”

MeatEater airs exclusively on Sportsman Channel, Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

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Image courtesy Sportsman Channel

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