I've found my most enjoyable hunts coming from animals I honestly never thought I'd want to harvest. At the top of the list is the Pronghorn Antelope. My ignorance was buried in the thought that "they all look the same" and seemed pretty dumb. Driving through Prescott, Arizona or Route 60 from Show Low, Arizona to Socorro, New Mexico they just stand in the road and don't want to move. I've landed at the Denver, Colorado airport and they are feeding within a couple hundred yards of the runway. A buck looks like a buck and a doe is definitely a doe.
I've hunted in the Double H Ranch (Tortenson Wildlife Center) for Elk and Mule Deer and had them walk up downwind within 30 yards of me. What could the challenge to this possibly be? Sue Johnson convinced me it was harder than it looks so I booked my first Trophy Antelope Hunt with Ross Johnson Outfitters. As the hunt approached, I couldn't get fired up to go and gave the hunt to my father while I sat on a beach in Mexico.
Eventually I got a phone call from one very excited Upstate New York Shotgun Slug Hunter who just harvested his first animal of any sort at 350 yards with a rifle. My Dad is an old school Longbow, Blackpowder and Shotgun guy. This was unheard of for him and very exciting.
The entusiasm persuaded me to call Sue Johnson and book one of her areas on the San Augistin Plain for 2 days in October 2009. As I drove from Arizona to New Mexico there was Pronghorns screaming across the fields like Cheetahs. Bucks fighting. Stag bucks drooling and even an injured buck with a visable blood scar on one side. I clearly had never seen these animals in Rut before and my mind was racing.
My first morning in the field was simply a continuation of my ride up. Glassing for cutters above the ear and trying to set up stalks in the open was an eye opening and mind boggling experience. This was a pleasant and wild unexpected surprise. I was having a fantastic time.
Just as the seasonal, New Mexico High Desert Plains, afternoon winds began to move in with cloud cover. My guide Tony Lopez, and I spot a large group of Does with a nice shooter. Unknowingly prior to our stalk, another shooter was approaching quickly. The two bucks met to size each other up. Seperated from my guide who was glassing over a 100 yards behind me, I had no communication and had to make my decision on my own. I set up on my belly for a 325 yard shot on the animal I thought I had the best chance of taking. At this point the wind was circling and howling and the clouds were moving very fast. I squeezed the trigger and Antelope ran in every direction. There was 2 more bucks I never saw and at least 15 unaccounted for Doe. Did I miss? Which Buck is which? Where's a landmark where I shot? My guide approached and didn't know which one I was aiming for. He was 100 yards behind me and had a completely different view.
Fortunately, we walked up to one hell of an animal that was double lunged and fell in place. At this point I looked out and apologized to all the Pronghorns of the past and present that I had belittled. What a stalk. What a hunt. I can't wait to do it again. Thank you Sue Johnson and Ross Johnson Outtfitters. My Pronghorn Antelope is one of the best trophies in my home.
I truly missed my friend Ross Johnson on this hunt. He passed away after I was fortunate to hunt Elk with him one on one. His spirit and enthusiasm were definitely with me on that hunt. I will never enter or think of New Mexico without thinking about him and his little dog "Money Man."