Antelope are easy to kill, assuming you put the bullet where it belongs. Bullets I have used on antelope successfully: Nosler Solid Base and Ballistic Tips, Hornady A-Max, Richard Grave’s Wildcat, and Sierra Match Kings have all provided one-shot kills. Although I have not tried Berger VLD’s, partner Steve has used them extensively to long-range on game even at low muzzle velocities from specialty pistols. For my 7mm Dakota Remington XP-100 I will be using Bob Carterucio’s 176.5 grain VLD for all of my big game hunting.
Hunting with a partner is always a good idea. It helps to have an extra set of eyes and some words of encouragement when your plans fail or even worse if you get hurt. For those of you who will be hunting on your own and want to have the potential for shooting long-range I would consider having your barrel fitted for a muzzle brake. With a good solid bottomed partition style brake you will be able to spot your own shots with most rigs. Typically, I hunt with a partner, and still I use muzzle brakes on all of my hunting guns. I always wear hearing protection when I shoot and when I am hunting.
When you make a shot on an antelope that you were convinced was a good one, do not be surprised if the antelope takes off in a high speed run from 50-150 yards before stopping or piling up. You may witness some spectacular flips and rolls that will remain etched in your mind for years to come..
After several days of failed stalks and missed shots due to misjudging distance, I found myself without a filled tag and frustrated. We had about an hour of daylight left and the season would be over. I didn’t have a pair of binoculars I could use with my glasses on, so I was scanning the area through the Redfield 3x9 scope (no hunters in the area) which was mounted on my custom Ruger Model 77, 257 Roberts AI. With great surprise, I spotted a lone buck over a half mile away to the north. There was a very small hill just his left. We slowly moved to the left to conceal ourselves, then Steve carried my rifle (chamber empty) and we trotted toward him with the wind in our favor. As we approached the hill I took the rifle, chambered a round and we carefully climbed single-file to reduce any noticeable movement.
As I topped the hill I was shocked to see nothing but open prairie. Steve soon scooted beside me to my left only to confirm the buck had disappeared. As we were lying there prone trying to figure out what had happened, our buck appeared out of a fold on the hill within 40 yards or so of us walking south just to our right. If we moved he would spook so we let him continue on his way. After he had moved beyond us and to our south, we eased around and I got set up to make the shot.
For whatever reason, this antelope had no intention of slowing down to graze and I wasn’t about to attempt a moving shot on my first game animal. Steve suggested that if he whistled, the antelope would turn around out curiosity and allow for an easy shot. I was not in favor of this but Steve whistled and that buck took off like a scalded dog. Many times a strategy like this will work, but not on this day.
When that buck took off, I experienced “buck fever” for the first time and it hit me hard. The antelope did pull up around 175 yards to see what had scared him, but I was in no condition to make a shot. Steve quickly realized I was in no condition to make a clean shot and made a comment that brought me out of my delirium. He said, “Ernie, just pretend he is a big prairie dog.” The hours of shooting dogs with Steve with my 257 Roberts AI, somehow pulled me out of it, and I settled down and made the shot. To my surprise that buck took off again, like he did the first time and Steve could tell I was ready for another episode, and assured me he had heard the “meat report” and the buck was dead even though he didn’t act like it. The buck again stopped around the 250-yard mark and I was preparing to shoot again, when Steve said, “Don’t shoot, he will go down in a moment.”
As much as I wanted to trust the words of my friend, I was going to shoot until that buck dropped. At the second shot he went down quickly, and all the effort and frustration quickly washed away to be replaced with a joy that could not be described. Even though I have shot much larger bucks since, my first hard-earned antelope will be a trophy I will always treasure.
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