Well, this pronghorn season was to be quite exciting as I was personally in the middle of moving to a new home and really did not have as much time as I wanted with the work load in the shop. We drew 4 pronghorn permits this season which is the most we have ever drawn and we were all a bit concerned that it would be difficult to harvest 4 good bucks.
It started on my birthday, Dad and I headed up to our regular pronghorn area and as we drove off the main highway back into the Montana prairie, we started seeing goats here and there. We continued back farther and drove up throw a deep canyon. The road comes out on a high flat and as we came out of the canyon I looked to my left and there was a large herd of pronghorns roughly 500 yards off the road. We continued driving as to not spook the herd until we were able to drop a bit out of sight. We then grabbed the rifles and spotting scopes and accessary gear and climbed up to a spot where we could look over the goats from a distance they would feel more comfortable at.
I got on the spotter and scanned through the herd. There were several good buck but then I came to a buck that really caught my eye. He was broken up a bit but really unique and seemed to be REALLY tall for our area. The unique feature of the buck was that his horns curled dramatically forward which I had never seen on a live pronghorn before. The problem was he was bedded just over a slight rise and we could only see from his neck up and there was no way to get an accurate range on his position. There were three smaller bucks just ahead of him so I ranged them, 688 yards. I guessed the buck was around 720 yards.
Dad and I talked it over and he was not comfortable taking a shot at that range with his 7mm Rem Mag so he told me to take the shot if I could. We watched the herd for around 10 minutes and in that time everyone of them bedded down. The trick now was getting the buck to stand without spooking the herd. I told Dad to just stand up and hopefully that would be enough to get some of the herd to stand up. Another 10 minutes passed and not a goat stood up.... We were starting to wonder what to do to make this happen.
Then, all of a sudden, the one buck I wanted to take stood up for no reason at all, what are the odds that one in 60 pronghorns, especially the one you want stands up and stands there broad side.
I found the hold over mark for 720 yards in the Leupold Mk4 scope and let the big 7mm AM bark. The bucks shoulder rippled at the impact and he dropped instantly. I figured it was a done deal so we watched the rest of the herd move off.
Seconds later my bucks head was back up and stayed that way for several minutes and then he stood up again, took a few staggering steps and then fell over again. I figured for sure he was dead this time but he was not. Again he stood up and started walking to our left. He was just below the rise and I could only see about the top third of him so I did not have a shot or enough to get a clear range measurement on.
He cleared the hill for a moment and I took a second shot at him but because of the wet ground we could not spot the impact. Then the buck stopped just before he went down into a deep draw. This time I got a solid range measurement on him, found the hold and this time, just as the first shot, the buck folded dramatically to the shot but unlike the first shot, this time he did not make another move.
We walked up to the buck after several minutes making sure he was dead this time and found out why the buck had survived the first shot. The first shot had impacted about 5" behind the front leg but only about 1.5" up into the chest. it had bruised the bottom of both lungs but it had also split the bottom of the liver and paunch without ever actually touching them. Had I left the buck alone I am sure he would have died very soon but I do not like to let a goat walk to much if I can help it when wounded.
We walked back to the original spot where the buck was when I had shot the first time and ranged back to where I had shot from and got range measurements ranging from 755 to 760 yards. Mystery solved. I shot for 720 yards and he was 35 to 40 yards past that. Luckily I was shooting the 7mm AM with the 175 gr SMK loaded to 3400 fps or I would have completely missed that buck.
He turned out to be pretty much what we thought he was. Very tall at 16" but his right prong was broken off and the tip of his curl was broken on the left side. Still, all broken up, he scored right at 73" B&C. Had he been unbroken he would have been in that 78 to 80" range but still a very unique goat and glad I was able to take him. The old green 7mm AM scored its 8th +700 yard kill and its 12th kill past 500 yards. Not bad for a barrel that is very long in the tooth.
The next hunt was that Friday with my brother and Dad. We found a good herd of goats in a big hay field and spotted one that looked to be pretty good but we could only catch glimpses of him as they were feeding just over a slight rise in the field and only occasionally could we get a look at their heads. The herd moved over the rise and we made our move. I was on the spotter and rangefinder and Korey had his 280 AI I put together for him on an old Springfield he had gotten from my Grandfather.
We got busted in the middle of the field by part of the herd so we had to get a bit aggressive with our next move. We basically made a run for it not stopping until Korey could get down and take a shot. The herd moved off as we moved into position. When Korey dropped to the ground, I set up the spotter and quickly scanned the herd. THe biggest buck I could see was right at the rear of the herd. I told Korey to get on that buck but to hold off until I got him the ranges. Luckily, two quick range measurements were 383 both times. I called the range, Korey held about 4" over the bucks back and pulled the trigger. The buck simply folded to the impact as he pinned both shoulders.
When we got up to the buck we were all pretty surpised. My first impression of the buck was that he was pretty heavy but I did not realize just how good of a buck he was.
The buck was right at 15" on both sides, very heacy, good prongs and nearly 2" of ivory on each tip of his horns. He green scored 80 4/8". With this buck, everyone in our family has taken a +80" buck.
THe following Monday, Dad and I returned to the area Korey had taken his buck. It was lightly raining but we figured we would still give it a go. As we drove back to the field Korey had taken his buck on, we ran into a nice buck just west of the field. At first I did not think much of the buck so we just drove by but then I decided to stop and put the spotter on him. He had alot more mass and better prongs then I had first thought but by this time he was running up over the hill.
We drove farther back to see what what other pronghorns were around and there were not many out in the open so we decided to head back out. As we drove out I looked up the draw where we had seen the buck earlier in the morning and sure enough there was a white spot in the bottom of the draw.
A quick look though the spotter and I was pretty sure it was the same buck. Dad said he was much to far for his 7mm Rem Mag. Luckily I had my Raptor chambered in my 300 Allen Xpress in the back seat of the truck. Dad was familiar with this rifle as he had practiced with it serveral times this summer before his elk hunt in September and shot it very well out to 1100 yards. Still he was a bit nervous. I told him we could get into position, check out the conditions and make a decision on the shot at that time.
We crawled up a small hill and I got the rifle set up. Took several range measurements and came up with what I felt was an accurate average of 575 yards. The kicker was the buck was still bedded, always tricky shooting at a bedded animal. He was quartering toward us ar around a 40 degree angle. Dad got on the rifle and I told him the hold over mark in the Leuy Mk4 that I wanted him to use for that range. The wind was blowing from our right to left, not dramatically but 3-4 mph, enough to make a difference. There was about a 4" window where I wanted Dad to hit. I knew that Dad had the ability to make the shot from his practice sessions through the summer and I knew full well the rifle was fully up to the challange. I discribed to Dad exactly where I wanted him to hold to allow for the wind. He said he was ready and I layed down tight along Dads left side to protect myself from the big 300s muzzle blast from the Painkiller muzzle brake
Seconds latter the rush of air from the muzzle brake was felt against my face and the buck simply rolled over on his side with all four legs sticking straight out, stiff as could be. THe buck kicked his front legs once and it was over. Dad simply could not believe he had made the shot on a bedded buck at nearly 600 yards in the rain. I was not surpised he had done it but was very excited for him.
We knew the buck was not a monster but we also knew he had alot of character and good mass and prongs. On the way up to the buck Dad said he did not care how big the buck was, making that shot was the best part but when we got up to the goat we were both very happy with what we found.
Again, he was not tall, only 13" in length but good mass and good prongs and lots of character stickers. You can see three of the kickers on the right antler in the picture and there were several others as well. He ended up scoring just over 73" B&C, pretty good for a buck that is only 13" long. Dad was extremely happy and making the shot was all he talked about on the way home.
We now had three good bucks down, Koreys really big buck, my really unique buck and Dads good buck that was a personal longest kill by over 200 yards for him. The fourth tag to fill was Becky's my wife. The kicker here would be time. Her job simply does not allow much time away and a 2 year old at home limits what we can do on the weekend but we decided that we would give her a go this past Saturday and Sunday and see what happened.
First let me say that she puts up with alot being my wife. I am all guns and hunting as its my way of living and passion. I tend to be all go when hunting and she has never once not been up to a hunting challange we have encountered. On top of that she shoots better then I do. Saturday morning we talked my Mom and Dad and Sister into watching the little one so we could go up hunting. Before we did go hunting though we drove up to our long range shooting area and I set up two rifles for her to play with and get used to before we went hunting. One was a 6mm-06 that I built for her on a Win M70 push feed that I put a 1-8, #4 Lilja SS barrel on and a Boyds Classic sporter stock in black/grey laminate. Its a nice rifle and it really likes the 107 gr SMK loaded to 3400 fps. It will hold within 1/2 moa of point of aim for first shot out to 1000 yards easily but in my opinion, for big game, its a 700 yard or less rifle.
We shot from 200 out to 640 yards and never once did Bec take a shot that would not have easily landed in the vitals of a pronghorn at any of the ranges.
Next I set up my Raptor, same 300 Allen Xpress that Dad used. This is a large rifle, 13 lbs, 30" barrel, big chambering. The 300 Allen Xpress is a 338 Lapua, necked down to 30 cal and fireformed to my Allen Magnum shoulder angle and body taper. Its similiar in performance to the 7.82 Warbird but with better brass and less costly brass. THe load we are using is realatively mild driving a 240 gr SMK to just shy of 3200 fps. With my PK brake, recoil is roughly the same as the 6mm-06 she was shooting, really nothing at all. Bec ran several rounds through the big 300 from ranged from 500 to 950 yards, again, all would have easily hammered a goat in the vitals so we packed up and headed to the pronghorn prairies!!!
We covered alot of land driving and saw more hunters then goats. Typical on a weekend. We decided that if we wanted a good chance at a big goat we would likely have to do some walking. We drove out on another county road and spotted a bedded herd far up on the hillside. I guessed they were at least 1.5 miles away and asked her if she wanted to take a hike. Through the spotter one of the goats appeared to be a big buck but I could really not tell much more then that with the mirage. Bec said lets go, again, remember when I said she puts up with alot being married to me. Well, after a mile and a half hiking, we were about half way to the herd......
The farther away from the truck we got, we both agreed, the buck would have to be much larger for us to shoot it. I told her I would haul an 80" goat or larger 3 miles for her but it would have to be at least that big, she agreed. We got to within 500 yards of the herd. We were out of sight for the past several hundred yards and as we crawled over the hill, we found another herd had joined up with the bedded herd and they had moved off to the far skyline and then over the hill. We never did get a look at the buck to see what he was. We sucked it up and hiked out. By the time we got back to the truck, both of us were ready to call it a day.
Sunday morning we dropped the little one off at church with her grandparents and headed back up hunting.
We Drove to the field where Korey had taken his buck and we spotted a nice buck that seemed to be alone bedded to the north of the field. He was easily a mile off the road but I KNEW he was a mile out there and no more so we made a stalk on him. The stalk worked out perfectly except that we ended up actually to close to the buck and he was not alone. A doe that I did not realize was there spotted us and the jig was up as they ran away to safety.
Another long hike and no bucks.
We got back to the truck and drove back to a big basin that we had seen many goats in over the years and even killed a couple in this area. We spotted a decent size herd that had been spooked into the basin by two other trucks full of hunters. We let the other hunters move on and let the herd settle down a bit and then drove the truck as close as we could without spooking the herd again. I knew that IF we got a shot, it would be on the long side so I grabbed the 300 Allen Xpress and we hiked up around 100 yards to a small bluff where we could watch the herd, again, I really had no belief that we would actually get a shot with how spooky the herd had been acting but as we laid there watching them they settled down and started feeding.
The main herd split up into two smaller herds, 9 to our right, 11 to our left. Out on the flat of the basin it was hard to get an accurate range measurement on the herds and they were all feeding so it was hard to even tell what they were. Every once in a while you would catch a glimpse of horn but could not tell much other then that.
Then the herd on the right moved up onto a slight rise and I could see there was one very noticable buck in that herd. He had good prongs, good mass and seemed very tall but did not seem to curl much on top. The other herd was working our way and after several minutes we started to be able to tell what the bucks in that herd were. There were 4 bucks, good bucks all but nothing near as large as the one in the other herd so we set up on that buck.
I took several range measurements and figured the buck was at roughly 685 yards. Again we looked up the hold over for the TMR reticle. The wind was blowing around 5 mph from our left to right so I dialed in the windage so Bec would not have to hold off for the wind. The buck fed to the right, then turned and went back to the right. He finally stood still and she tripped the trigger on the big 300. We both heard the unmistakable smack and the buck simply stood there. I told her to rack in another round and just get back on the buck but that she had obviously hit him. The herd ran off to our left but the buck never moved at all showing no interest in trying to keep up with the herd in any way. That is a good sign that he was hurt in a serious way. Still he just stood there. He was quartering away from us dramatically so I told Beck to just stay on him in the scope. If he turned broadside to punch him again but if he would go down on his own we would let him. An unexcited pronghorn will generally die easily, an excited wounded buck can cover several miles before passing so we decided to wait and see.
It seemed like hours but it was only minutes before the buck laid down. He kept rocking his head for several minutes after that but by the time we got the game cart and got out near the buck, he had passed. She hit the buck slightly low and in the back of the chest cavity clipping the back of one lung and splitting the liver. The buck had enough lung function to stay alive for awhile but he was dead standing there and did pass with with only one shot.
When we got our hands on the buck, I was really surpised. He was much heavier and taller then I thought but it was not until I put a tape to him that I realized just how big of a buck he was. He was 14" on one side and 14 3/8" tall on the other and he scored 78 4/8" B&C, just 1.5" out of the Montana record book. Not bad for a goat that I had estimated to be around 73-75". On top of that Bec made a hell of a shot and showed a very cool head and patients in a situation that took more finese then aggression letting the buck pass calmly without spooking him or trying to take another shot at him. I could not have been more happy or proud of her. It has been nearly 3 years since I had been able to hunt with Bec and it was alot of fun to be able to get back into the field with her.
In the two days we hunted, we hiked just over 8 miles and in the end took a very nice buck, very much well worth the effort.
Now onto deer season, hopefully it will be as good as pronghorn season turned out to be.