The idea for this hunt started almost two years ago. A fellow retired police sergeant, Frank Miller, got interested in long range shooting especially when the Best of the West Shooting Range opened not far from his ranch. We started talking antelope hunting since he had already taken an antelope in New Mexico and Wyoming a few years back. He purchased a new Savage LRH in .260 Rem. for the possibility of a hunt. One day I was thumbing through the “Safari Times” and ran across an advertisement that got my eye. It was in prime antelope country, northeast New Mexico and only about a ten hour drive from my ranch. The outfitter, Ross Hastie, of Tucumcari was the owner of Red Dirt Trail Outfitters. He answered all my questions and was also interested in long range hunting. Frank reviewed the web site and I called some references, which all had glowing reports. Can you ever trust references given by the outfitter? In this case they were right in all details.
Author with his antelope buck. You can see the entry wound just to the left of the rifle.
Now for me it was the question of what to take. Shots could easily be 300-400 yards. At the same time I did not want to lug around a big heavy rifle. I chose my Steyr Pro Hunter model in .25-06. This particular rifle was purchased shortly after the model came out in the 1990’s. I put a Leupold VXII 3x9 on it and sighted it in with plain old Remington 100gr. ammunition. It shot less than an inch so I never tried a single reload. This rifle became my “go to” rifle. I could take it out of the safe, put some store bought ammo in it and knew I could depend on it. It weighed less than 8 pounds without the scope and was easy to carry.
I knew the Leupold on it was not ready for a long range shot, so I called Randy Ford to see if he had any ideas. He had a new model that he wanted me to try. It had parallax adjustments, was good to 1000 yards and each yardage marker had a horizontal line. The end of the line was where to hold for a 10mph cross wind. He calibrated it for a load I had developed in the mean time for the rifle. It was a 115gr. Berger VLD/Hunting over a healthy load of 55.2gr. VihtaVuori N165. The load shot about a half inch groups at 100 yards and was clocked at a little over 3000fps. Randy’s scope arrived the week before the hunt. I had little time to sight it in but no time for a long range try out. My back up rifle was also a Steyr .243 with a Quigley/Ford scope, the same one I have written about in the past, with which I had a lot of range time. Frank’s son surprised his Dad and gave him a custom made 6.5x284 on a Mauser action just before the hunt. Frank had time to break in the barrel properly and developed a good load. The gunsmith who built the rifle lent Frank a Night Force target scope for the trip. It was not the perfect rifle/ scope to lug around on this kind of hunt because it was real heavy but it meant a lot to Frank. The Savage LRH was taken as a backup.
Author with Ross Hastie.
We stayed in a small motel in Logan, NM and had breakfast there each morning with the rest of the hunters. First afternoon, we met up with Ross, did our paperwork, hunting license and final payment. We then headed to the local range to check out our rifles. There were a total of 17 hunters for this two day hunt and we each shot our rifles. Both my Steyrs were right on the money. We met our guide, D.J. Weber, out of southern Colorado. He was a nice, knowledgeable person. After two days with two worn out old cops, he showed a lot of patience and was obliging to our limitations. He did ask how far we were comfortable shooting and we both said about 300 yards. We could not have been happier with our guide. Dinner that night was at Ross’ house and it was great, a shrimp boil.