Virtuoso Life - September/October 2017 - 167
A LTHOUGH HE'S DR ESSED BROW TO BOOTHEEL IN
CA MOUFL AGE, FR A NK LONG H AS A R ED K ERCHIEF
TIED JAUNTILY A ROUND HIS NECK A ND A WOR N IVORY
COW BOY H AT COCK ED ON HIS HE AD OF SILVERY H A IR.
One of Vermejo's 17 trout-filled
lakes and (opposite) mule deer
size up their guests.
In 44 years of chasing elk, the bright colors have never bothered the animals, so, dadgummit,
there's no reason they will now. He places a reed on his palate, holds the mouth of a plastic
water bottle with the end hacked off to his lips, and issues a guttural cry halfway between a
caveman grunt and a middle-school clarinetist. We huddle in a stand of mountain mahogany
with autumn-withered leaves that rattle in the wind and wait for a bull elk.
It's late September, the height of hunting season, and we're creeping around in camo at
dawn on Ted Turner's northern New Mexico Vermejo Park Ranch, which is renowned for
trophy-size elk and deer. But instead of bows or rifles, we're armed only with cameras. We're
here with a photo workshop run by wildlife photographer Sean Fitzgerald, which pairs two
visitors with a hunting guide to call in and photograph elk. In addition to the marquee ungulates, there are deer, bears, mountain lions, bison, bald eagles, bobcats, and pronghorns to
spot. The aspens are in their Technicolor autumn glory, and Fitzgerald offers advice on how
to best capture it all. The annual five-day program is part of Turner's ecotourism venture
that opens choice pieces of his properties to the public.
Of the CNN magnate's 25 properties worldwide, Ted Turner Expeditions thus far operates
only on his three New Mexico ranches, with activities ranging from hiking and horseback
riding to wildlife spotting and archeological tours. Turner began amassing land more than
two decades ago where he could escape to hunt and fish, but the effort has since expanded
into a project to protect wild lands and species across the West. "Not everyone can have a
ranch like this," Turner says, "but now, for a few days, I hope they will enjoy it. And I hope it
inspires them to also care for the land."
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