The (C) antelope Chronicles
*When I took Hunter’s Safety many years back, a boy from my class would only identify a pronghorn as a Cantaloupe. From then on everyone in the class joked and referred to them as cantaloupe. Therefore, the next couple short stories are called the (C)antelope Chronicles.*
Sarah’s Lead Mine
Between my dad and I we do a lot of hunting but we LIVE for antelope hunting, it’s the hardest but the most fun hunts we go on. Every year we put in to get drawn down in the Big Hole Valley of Montana. We wait until August 1st and it’s like Christmas, I wake up, full of excitement and check my phone immediately to see if we got drawn.
Why, you may ask? If you have ever antelope hunted or even seen them you understand why they are called prairie ghosts. One minute they are there, and the next they are gone. Antelope are the fastest land animal in North America, just imagine shooting at one. With sagebrush as your only cover, the antelope know where you are well before you know where they are. SO, let me paint you a picture of the fastest land animal in America, with the closest range on average 600 yards going away from you, hiking, running, crawling through sage and cactus…. would you try it? If you didn’t say “hell ya” you are probably a PETA spy reading this. There is never a plan that is completely executed, so we never make a game plan we just roll with what happens and somehow every season we always fill our tags.
The first time we ever went after antelope I was 14 years old and let me remind you not an expert marksman. My dad also had never antelope hunted before either. We had no idea what we were getting into. Knowing only a general area of where to hunt we roll up in the old chevy truck trying to stay on a terrible washboard road with no antelope in sight just a ton of people. We drove up a steep hill to find a vacant plateaued area with an abandoned water tank and this is where we set up for the night. As we awoke the next morning compared to the night before, we were freezing. The temperature had dropped significantly, the truck was frosted over and there was about 5 inches of snow on the ground. My dad isn’t a morning person but woke up early to the sound of gun shots of opening morning. We shoved food in our faces and hot footed it out to the point of the plateau to see what we could see. To our unpleasant surprise we saw a ton of antelope split up running in every direction away from us. With opening day and all the hunters in the area, the herds were being broken up and the animals were just trying to get away. We stood freezing, watching and hoping for another hunter to turn a frantic speedgoat towards us. We finally got tired of the cold and decided to start moving again.
We spent the rest of the day climbing the high desert terrain in the wet snow. The land looks so flat until you start climbing it. Slip, sliding around and just to get super lost. About mid afternoon we made our way back to camp, as we almost reached the truck we heard a stampede behind us. Being so exhausted, I took me a second to realize what was behind us. 400 plus antelope were make the skyline about 100 yards away broadside to us. My dad basically picks me up and drags me into a position and I fumble with getting the mini-14 (.223) off my shoulder. I rest my elbow on my knee and try and find an antelope in the crosshairs. I didn’t realize what I was seeing was just a tan blurr of the herd. My dad was yelling at me to “shoot” and was so loud I’m pretty sure the yell echoed through the valley and just made the antelope run faster. Trying to time a shot between breaths since it was so cold it fogged up the scope I start shooting until no more bullets were coming out. I had shot behind all of them and missed all of them. My dad was loading magazines as fast as he can until his fingers are numb and continued to hand them to me. Within what seemed like a blink of an eye by I could see the end of the herd. My dad was screaming “lead them, LEAD THEM” as he was fumbling with his cold fingers to push more bullets into the last magazine. I continued to shoot until there were no more antelope to be seen. I look back at my dad about to cry but oddly he can’t control his laughter “you dumbass, I don’t think you hit a damn one”. We went over to the stampede area to look for blood. Not a single drop. I was so discouraged I looked through my binoculars to see if any were wounded but they were probably 10 miles away by now. My pouty attitude quickly turned into a smile when my dad said “well let’s head back to Sarah’s Lead Mine”
*Stay tuned for the (c) antelope chronicles to continue.