Casey's First Antelope Hunt
Casey was drawn for a New Mexico antelope youth hunt on the 2C/ Ranch outside of Roswell on the weekend of 19-20 Sep. 2009. We coordinated a scouting trip with the land owner Mrs. Candy Ezzel the Wednesday prior and spotted some animals just before dark which gave us a good outlook for the weekend. I have to back track a little, when we found out about Casey being drawn for the hunt in June we set to work on settling in his shooting skills on the Rossi Tri-fecta that his Mom and I had got him for Christmas.
He had already got accustomed to the 22 cal. and the 20 gauge barrels hunting rabbits during the winter but he had not yet fired the 243 cal. version yet. During this time frame ammo has been really hard to come by as it is gone as soon as it hits the shelves or is marked up so high at local gun shops that it makes it completely unaffordable. Friends to the rescue!!! We had settled on Federal 100 grain Power Shock bullets and they would pick-up a few boxes when they found them. His uncle Mike and I would have him shooting at the range every chance we could and Casey went though quite a few rounds to get him to not be scared of the recoil and then get the rifle tuned to him. Remember??Casey is only 9 years old, he was 8 when he was drawn.
The day before the hunt started he settled into his shooting form and was shooting pie plate groups at 100 yards without flinching or jerking the trigger. We (Mike my best friend/brother, Craig my oldest son/Casey's older brother and myself) left the range outside of Alamogordo N.M. with camper and ATVs in tow and headed over the mountain to Roswell, met with Candy and set up camp and enjoyed some dinner and a campfire.
The alarm went off at 5 a.m. and water for coffee and hot chocolate went on. By the time we all got dressed (it took a little time, 4 people in a 17 ft. camper), coffee/hot chocolate was ready. When we finished we hopped on the ATV's and headed to the ranch house to get the briefing from Candy. She had made breakfast for all her youth hunters, Casey was one of six. Everybody shook hands and chatted a little bit while we viewed the ranch map and decided where everyone was going to hunt and we decided on the north pasture first.
We headed out around 7 a.m. and within the first 10 minutes we saw antelope, worked our first stalk on a buck and a doe but couldn't close the gap to under 400 yds. We worked our way around the north pasture and saw numerous big bucks everywhere and most of them within comfortable shooting distances of 200 yds. or less but the youth hunt was for a doe or immature buck (horns no taller than its ears). When we did see does they were so far out in the open that a stalk couldn't be made, finally around 9 am we spotted a group of 20 or so does being rounded up by this big buck about a mile out. There was a herd of cattle in between them so we would have been busted before we even got close, we found a way to skirt them on a two track that ran on top of a dirt bank to the south.
We dropped down into a wide ditch and closed the gap to 400 yds., after coming out of the ditch we crouched down and got to 300 yds and contemplated a shot. With Mike's Steady Stix (I'm buying two) Casey set up but we decided not to chance such a long shot for a 9 year old. We belly crawled for 50 yds. ,but the antelope were walking faster than we were crawling and we were losing ground. All of a sudden the does disappeared into a small bowl at the bottom of a round knob and as soon as we saw the buck's rear end drop into the bowl we high tailed it to the edge of the knob and were starting to slowly work their way around the base of it. All of a sudden the buck comes over the top of the knob, stomped and snorted at us and went back over the hill to his does but doesn't run them off, we were running out of borrowed time.
We had to make a plan and execute it quick before he decided to get his girls out of there, we decided to split up and Craig and I would work our way around the north side of the knob by the top to draw the buck's attention to us and off Casey. The buck charged to within 40 yds of Craig and stomped and snorted and wheezed at him, he knew we were there but didn't know what we were, just that he didn't want us near his does. He continued this peek-a-boo with Craig a couple of times and all you could see were his antlers and ears.
Mike had set Casey up in the Stix and made him comfortable in a kneeling position not ever taking his eyes out of the scope. Craig's game with the buck had gently moved the does back around the knob towards Casey. He cocked the hammer back, flicked the safety off, controlled his breathing and touched off his Tri-fecta at 80 yards without blinking an eye. The doe did a rear legged straight up dance for 20 feet and went to the ground. All his time spent on the range shooting and breathing control paid off, the bullet went in just behind the shoulder, severed both ventricles to the heart and exited through the opposite shoulder.
After the hugs, the high 5's and the "I did just like you and Uncle Mike taught me", came the pictures and the work of getting it back to the ATVs (it felt like a mile) and back to camp and he never once complained. Our family is so proud of Casey for this was a true hunt, not a "jump out of the truck and shoot", we planned the hunt, carried out the stalk and made a well placed shot happen.
Candy came to camp to take pictures and congratulate him on his first antelope. She really cares about her young hunters and the future of hunting and runs a top notch operation. It was Casey's first big game hunt and it was done with best of friends and family from the planning stages to packing up and going home, the way it should be. I now have a full fledged hunter on my hands and he is chomping at the bit for more, he is well versed in archery also by placing in local and out of state 3-D tournaments in the Pee-Wee and Cub level. A little bit more poundage and he will be there shooting with the grown- ups. We all have to pass the test in January for our archery deer hunt because if we miss an opportunity Casey will not let us live it down.