This year we have been consumed with elk hunting. We have been diligently working on creating our best elk hunting film to date for a project we will be releasing in 2017 alongside RMEF and Sitka Gear. As the archery season was winding down we decided to give the elk hunting a few days off and go try to fill my antelope tag. With just a few short days to hunt we took off into the burning sunset with hopes of finding a mature buck.
The first hours of light found me glassing for white objects in the distance. BRRRAAAAAA!! A large pickup flew by my window, sporting a blaze orange interior. Then another. And another. Slightly frustrated, I hit the gas and bumped down the dirt road, which revealed camper, after camper, after wall tent. At this point I didn’t have too high of expectations, as it seemed that this unit was peppered with hunters. I pushed the pedal to the metal and continued my search. After some navigating and spotting scope studying, we found white specs. “Buck”, Zack muttered. We closed the distance and discovered it was a decent buck with fair mass, but not quite what I was looking for. I wanted to find a ‘booner’ buck (A ‘booner’ buck is slang for a Boone & Crockett buck. Although it does not have to meet the scoring requirements it does have to be larger than an average size buck).
Zack and I used our GPS to find hidden nooks, and actually turned up a bunch of antelope bucks. Bucks that most hunters would shoot in a heartbeat. At one point we found a herd of 50+ antelope and no hunters to be seen anywhere. Unfortunately, there were no antelope currently worthy of my tag. This was my first rifle tag and it seemed a good idea to do a bit of shopping before pulling the trigger. As I was watching a buck in the distance I happened to see a coyote cruising across a flat. This spot seemed like a great place to call and I sat down, grabbed my call and started ripping all sorts of distress. Three minutes into my sit and a coyote ran out below me 40yds away, I froze. He is fooled and moves to 25yds before I bark and stop him. BANG! The fawn killer dropped in his tracks. Coyote hunting never gets old.
After making it back to the truck the search continued and we managed a few more stalks on smedium (Pronounced sh-me-dium. A ‘smedium’ is slang for a small to medium size buck. They’re not small, but not quite medium.) size bucks. With an hour and a half of shooting light left, Zack spotted what seemed to be a good pronghorn on the skyline a few miles up from the road. The buck disappeared out of sight. I grabbed my pack and started a large loop to try to relocate the antelope and get a better look. As the sun started to sink past the western skyline we found the antelope feeding down into a prairie dog town below our outpost. A quick look through the spotter and I could tell he is definitely a shooter. I check my GPS. The buck and his does were on the neighboring property by a couple hundred feet and off limits. I backed out and decided to try and find him the next morning.
That night as we rolled into hunting camp, I noticed the hiss of a flat tire. Great. We quickly changed the tire and discussed our options for the next day. It seemed like an easy decision, go hunting on the spare and get the tire fixed after we found that buck. The game plan was set and we got some shut eye.
The next morning I pulled the binos up to my crusty eyes and glassed into the prairie dog town at first light. After some searching I found the buck I was looking for. It seemed the herd of antelope were going to work back up into the rolling hills. Zack and I laced up our boots and set out on a frantic hike to cut them off. As I closed the distance I noticed does bobbing their heads over the adjacent skyline. Crap, they moved far quicker than I thought they would. I laid down on my pack and got ready for a shot. The buck came out perfectly broadside, but skylined. I couldn’t take that shot, especially knowing there were ranch homes in the area. Time froze as they fed oblivious to our presence.
Finally they dipped out of sight. Once again we made a rushed loop to get in front of them. This time it was flat land with far less cover. As we knelt down and set up our ambush next to a few sage bushes the does slowly appeared into view. They eventually pinned us at 225yds and began to snort and blow. Damn those antelope and their eagle eyes! The herd started to slowly move away. I quickly jumped to my feet and moved up to a fence post nearby and squared up my crosshairs on the buck’s vitals. He stopped perfectly broadside trying to figure out what was going on. I focused on a spot and squeezed off the shot. I heard the thud and he spun and ran out of sight.
As I walked up on the buck, I was struck by his cunning features and funky horns. He was a beautiful buck and one that was more than worthy of my tag. Antelope hunting is a blast and I would recommend the experience to anyone, not to mention I think pronghorn meat is some of the tastiest wildgame available. Good luck to all the rifle hunters going out this fall and don’t forget to have fun!