Sorry for the "Christmas Story" plug in the title but I just saw the movie for the millionth time and it is seared into my brain.
My brother is fascinated by long range shooting. And he's got the caliber for it. His 7mm WSM is quite the sniping rig. He practices regularly with a 12x12 AR500 steel plate out to 600 yards and it has paid off in the fact that he is quite the shot. On this hunt, he needed this particular set of skill sets. This was his first antelope hunt and we had heard from a friend that the area was full of antelope and that we should expect to punch our tags early with a short shot on oblivious antelope. It didn't turn out quite like that.
We had driven up on a Friday after my brother and I had gotten out of class. We made it up to our camp on BLM land and got to know the new hunters in camp. They turned out to be great guys and I look forward to sharing many campfires with them in the future. One of the other guys and his son had already filled all thier tags and told us of a spot that they'd seen antelope while driving back to camp. Through a simple game of rock-paper-scissors, we decided who would get the first chance and it turned out to be my brother. He was also the only one out of us to be holding a buck tag. We geared up and headed for the area that our buddy had mentioned. He wasn't lying. There were antelope not two miles from camp. Here it was, just a couple hours after we had made it up to this unfamiliar area and we were already on antelope. We were hooked!
Three young bucks ran across the road in front of us and stopped about 200 yards up into a small canyon. My brother got out of the truck and started a stalk. I was to man the video camera and he would wield his long range rig. As it turned out, he needed to have done more practice shooting on the run because his first chance at them came while they were on a full on sprint. He ended up missing the shot and we watched where the bucks went. They disappeared into a deep ravine about 3/4 of a mile away. Once they got out of sight, we took off across the prairie. My brother was determined to make up for the missed opportunity and assured me that if I gave him the correct range, and the animal cooperated by presenting a standing, broadside shot, that it would be a done deal. He was right.
We crept up to the edge of the ravine just in time to see the first of the bucks climbing out on the far side. My brother asked what the range was. I pulled out my Bushnell Yardage Pro and leveled it on the bucks brisket. It read 511 yards. But the buck was still putting distance between us. He hadn't seen us yet but was still acting a little skittish from his earlier encounter with humans that make big noises. When he came to a stop I ranged him again. This time the rangefinder said that the buck was 552 yards across the canyon. I was getting ready to let my brother know what I thought about a shot that far, when the rifle cracked. The buck went three and a half feet... from standing on four legs, to the ground. He had put a perfect high lung shot on him that departed enough shock to the spine to not allow the buck to take a step. He was a young buck, but any first in a hunter's career is a trophy. And the fact that all of his practice on the rifle range had paid off was just icing on his backstrap laden cake.