Trophy Pronghorn Hunt
Horns alone do not make a trophy. There is more to an animal than its horns or rack that make a trophy animal. The hunt itself dictates in part whether or not an animal is a trophy.
This was the case with my third antelope hunt. The pronghorn antelope I took was not the biggest, but he is the one I have hanging on my wall. His horns will not make book, but they are representative of the species and well, he is just a darn good looking example of the pronghorn antelope.
So, if not the horns, what made this buck a trophy worthy of hanging on the wall? It is simple; it was the way the hunt unfolded. It was mid-October in south-central Wyoming and we were hunting our normal unit. Chris and his brother Nate had already tagged-out and I was the only one with an unfilled tag.
The conditions had been tough. High winds had the bucks unsettled and spooked. Stalking up on pronghorn under normal conditions is tough enough, but when the winds keep them moving makes it even more difficult.
Every hunter understands the highs and lows of hunting. Some will say it does not matter if they fill their tag or not, but I guess I do not fall into that category. Sure, I enjoy hunts where my tag is unfilled, but the truth is I want to fill it. So, I was a bit down when it looked like I might not get a shot.
We decided to check some walk-in land before calling it a day and heading back to the motel. Glassing the field we spied a herd of goats about a mile off. Chris asked if I was up for the hike and of course I was. Even though we were a mile off, we had to take our time using the terrain for cover. For anyone who has not hunted pronghorn antelope, sneaking up on a herd is like sneaking up on a squad of law enforcement officers with 8 power binoculars keeping a vigilant eye out for intruders.
The goats all face different directions and take turns eating and watching. You have to be, as Elmer Fudd might say, very wary, very very wary to get into shooting distance. After about an half-hour we went as far as we could go with the available cover and then it ran out. This still left us 400 yards away from the largest buck in the group.
Chris asked if I could make the shot from there. I responded yes and prepared to set up. I was using my Cooper semi-custom .270 Winchester that I regularly shoot out to 300 yards from a variety of positions so I was confident that I could make the shot. Helping me make it was my Leupold scope with its Boone and Crocket reticle.. This scope has hold over points on it so while I had not shot out to 400 yards before I knew where to hold. It is a very accurate system.
As I settled down into the seatied position with my rifle and shooting sticks so that I could shoot above the sage brush, the buck abruptly started to move. Great, I thought, he saw me and I blew the stalk. But something unexpected happened. Instead of moving off, he was actually chasing does toward me. I switched from sitting to prone to take advantage of the cover.
This was a pleasant surprise because while I can make the 400 yard shot, I prefer closer and prone is my favorite shooting position. First 400 yards, then 300, then 200 hundred….okay, stop and give me a shot, but no he keeps coming. He closes to 100 yards and I think come on and stop. Any closer and he is going to see me.
Finally at 75 yards he stops, but is quartering toward me. I wait for a broad side shot, but it is not going to happen. I can tell he is getting ready to bolt so I take the shot. He takes a couple of steps and drops.
He now hangs on my wall not to remind me of taking him, but how I took him. A mile stalk in tough conditions to finally make a 75-yard shot is a memory I cherish and I have him on the wall to remind me of it.