Might seem easy, but world-class antelope are needles in very big haystacks.
The magnificent slanted-horn pronghorn stared intently at me from 70 yards. His ominous glare let me know I was an unwelcomed guest in his environ.
My heart raced as I tried to steady my crosshairs on his tan-and-white frame, now facing directly toward me — just like an old west gunslinger preparing for a showdown. Seconds earlier, the rut-crazed buck was trying to corral two does it desperately wanted to breed. With their departure, I knew my chances of taking this super buck were good.
Years before, my first hunt for pronghorn antelope left an indelible impression in my mind. It was during a combination muley-antelope hunt in Wyoming in the early 1980s that I became mesmerized by these mysterious creatures. Though I didn’t take an antelope on that trip, my hunting companion did, and I knew I was destined to match wits in the future with one of those prairie speedsters.
Land of Billy the Kid
A few years back, outfitter Randel Mansell invited me to hunt antelope on the Carter Ranch near Fort Sumner, N.M. The hunt was set up by booking consultant Wade Derby, who operates Crosshair Consulting (925-679-9232). Derby offers premium hunting opportunities all over the globe. He assured me the ranch was home to some record-book animals, and he urged me to be patient and not to settle for just any ’lope.
A plan was hatched for me to hunt the two-day, early-September season with fellow Oklahoman Steve Scott, who would be filming our hunts for his outdoor television show, “The Outdoor Guide.”
Upon arrival, we were greeted by ranch owner Pow Carter and fed a sumptuous dinner before retiring for the evening. The next morning, we awoke to the sights and smells of hunting camp. After eating breakfast, we left at daylight in Carter’s truck to begin our New Mexico adventure.
Ironically, we drove a few miles without seeing a single pronghorn. I asked Carter, “When will we start seeing some antelope?”
I scarcely got the words out when an antelope buck jumped a fence beside us and began running down the ranch road in front of our truck.
“Is that soon enough for you?” Carter chuckled. “He’s a nice buck, but we can do much better.”
After looking over a few other bucks, Carter suggested we head to another ranch nearby where he had seen a big one a few days earlier.
“This buck is really unique,” Carter said. “I nicknamed him Dagger because he has long horns that are slung forward.”
We arrived at the adjoining ranch a short while later. Antelope were everywhere. A huge buck was chasing does 100 yards away. Carter recognized the buck and said, “That’s Dagger. What do you think? Will he work for you?”
In amazement, I responded, “He’s awesome! I would love to get a crack at him.”
In an instant, the buck galloped over a sedge-peppered hill and vanished like a wisp of smoke. Carter suggested we drive around the section line and approach the buck from a different angle. With Scott and his cameraman at my side, we made a short stalk before Scott grabbed me, jerking me down into a crouched position.
“He’s right there,” Scott whispered. “He’s staring at us. Can you shoot him in the chest?”
Once Scott’s cameraman gave us the signal that he had the giant antelope in his viewfinder, I settled my .300 Winchester Magnum on shooting sticks and prepared to shoot. The nervous buck, now facing us at 70 yards, glanced to its left, trying to keep a keen eye on the two estrous does.
After seizing my nerves, the best I could anyway, I fired, striking the antelope in the neck and sending it to the ground. Scott was elated and slapped me on the back. I felt like I was walking on a cloud. I’d fulfilled my quest for my first pronghorn.
We hurriedly walked to my trophy and were amazed. Each of the buck’s gnarly horns stretched almost 16 inches. There was good mass as well. We knew the buck would score high.
After taking photographs and shooting a series of cutaways for the television show, we dragged the antelope a short distance to Carter’s truck.
Later, the buck was scored, tallying more than 82 inches.
Everything is Big in Texas
Last fall, I hunted with Danny Pierce, who operates Rush Creek Guide Service in Wheeler, Texas (806-323-3030). Pierce outfits for whitetails, muleys, turkeys, quail and antelope. His Panhandle operation affords his clients with some incredible hunting opportunities.
Accompanying me on the trip were my brother, David, and Josh Fulks, both newbies to antelope hunting. The plan was to assist David and Josh in getting their bucks, and then I would hunt.
Pierce’s son-in-law, Mark Scroggins, guided us on the Canadian, Texas, property, while Pierce operated a second antelope camp in Dalhart. On opening morning, David took a nice ivory-tipped goat in the 14-inch range. Later that afternoon, Fulks shot a dandy with nicely curled horns and long prongs.
We went to a different ranch Sunday morning. It was my turn, and it was supposed to be a cakewalk. Despite hours of driving and glassing, however, we didn’t see a single antelope.
Scroggins called his father-in-law at lunchtime, and Pierce’s five clients were all tagged out. Pierce suggested we make the three-hour drive to his property near Dalhart. We scarfed down our hamburgers and hit the trail.
At the ranch, Pierce warned us that the antelope there were pretty skittish. They’d been chased and shot at for two days. Nevertheless, we loaded into his truck and began our search for my buck.
With the temperature sweltering, I knew that time was going to be my nemesis. David and Josh had construction jobs they needed to return to, so I felt compelled to settle for an average antelope.
We drove a mile or so onto the vast ranch and spotted herds in almost every direction. Unfortunately, they ran the moment we saw them. Pierce tried to provide levity by asking if I could make a long shot.
“I’m sure I can,” I said. “Just find me one that’s not running.”
David later spotted a lone buck walking across the cactus-strewn plain. After glassing it, we figured it was at least 13 inches, and I agreed to shoot. Pierce turned off the engine, and I stepped out of the truck to plant my sticks.
Pierce ranged the buck at 450 yards, so I held slightly over the antelope’s back and fired.
“You shot over him,” Pierce said.
The buck ran a few yards, but then slowed to a walk. I chambered another round, placed my crosshairs just above the buck’s shoulder, and squeezed the trigger. We clearly heard the “THWACK” of a bullet striking its target, and then the buck staggered and fell.
After some high-fives, we drove near to where the buck lay and were surprised when we walked up to it. My second shot had been perfect, but, best of all, the antelope’s horns were much larger and more massive than we expected. I took a few measurements and gleefully exclaimed the results.
After the photos and field-dressing chores were completed, we headed home. Our six-hour drive was spent reminiscing about our hunts and making plans to go back the next season for another high-plains antelope hunt.
A few days later, my antelope was scored and made the record book with a score of 82 2/8, my second book buck!
Editor’s Note by Tim H. Martin: Sadly, Mike Lambeth passed away April 10, 2014. Mike was a journeyman outdoor writer and longtime friend of Buckmasters. We remember him fondly, and his outdoor adventures live on through his writing. This article was published in the September 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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