Well, we had a hard rain the day before our opening day to the 2006 pronghorn season. This generally throws the pronghorns into all kinds of crazy patterns because they are not dependant on the watering tanks as usual.
Anyway, this morning we packed up and headed out to see what we could see. When we got up to the area we had scouted just at first light, about all we found were trucks full of hunters lining the back country roads. This was as bad as I have seen it hunting pronghorns in this area.
They give out 75 buck tags and I think 70 of them were sitting on that dang road!!! [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/frown.gif[/img]
Suprisingly there were NO goats to be found driving this 20 mile back country dirt road right through the middle of prime Montana pronghorn country.
Obviously the rain had moved the herds to the higher plateaus as they were not dependant on the watering tanks.
We decided to get as far back into the middle of nowhere as we could and after about an hour and a half of following a "road" that was a poor example of even an old cattle trail we were far away from the nearest competing hunters but still no goats. We had already put over 100 miles on the GMC and not a pronghorn had even been spotted!!!
As we were coming out of the middle of nowhere onto more familiar ground and trying to decide what in the heck to do neck, a big buck jumped out of a coulee as we rounded the top of it. Dad was first shot on this hunt as he had never been able to draw a tag.
He was in the back of my 4 door GMC with his rifle. We only caught a quick glimpse of the buck before he ran over the edge of the coulee but I stopped the truck and told dad to get out and get down and ready for the shot.
He did and almost as if it were planned the buck ran up the off side of the coulee. We had scouted this buck in the area before. He did not have huge prongs but was quite tall and average prongs with good mass. Nothing monsterous but a beautiful mature pronghorn.
The buck ran up the side of the hill and then stopped and turned to face us. I ranged him. Not far, 220 yards, I told dad to put it right where you want her to land and squeeze. Just before the trigger broke, the buck whirled again and began running up the hill again and just as he neared the top he stopped and turned toward us again. This time he took a couple steps back to us almost as if to challange whoever had disturbed his morning rest.
I ranged him at 295 yards and did not even tell dad the range, just to hold center on his shoulder and shoot.
At the shot from Dads 25-284 Win (APS Built, selfless plug, sorry [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]) My brother and I heard a very solid Whack but the buck showed no sign of a hit in any way. He simple ran to the left and then turned up the hill. From the sould of at the shot I had a hard time believing the 100 gr BCFBHP Wildcat bullet had missed its mark but he covers just enough ground to make me start thinking about it.
As he got to the top of the draw, roughly 20 yards from the place he was at the shot, I was just about ready to tell dad to give him another when suddenly he started doing that classic running sideways dance which is the best sign a hunter can get beside an animal dropping to the shot.
Within a couple strides the buck was on his side and Dad had harvested his first pronghorn of his hunting career.
HE did not believe it went down as he did not see it happen but my Brother and I were watching and saw the whole thing.
We drove up to him and found the buck we had scouted several times. Not terribly heavy but solid and with prongs that were not outstanding but again solid with a very nice inward curl. His horns curled in nicely with good ivory tips on each. He had good length at 15 1/4" on the left and 15 1/8" on the right. His bases were right at 6". I have not fully scored him yet but he should go in the 77 to 78" range net score. Not a record book buck but a solid mature buck anywhere.
The shot was absolutely perfect. JUST behind the shoulder on the slightly quartering towards us angle and took out both lungs and the top of the heart!!! The 100 gr Wildcat was found just under the offside hide in a mangled little ball that weighted 70 grains. Not bad for a J-4 based 100 gr Hollow Point.
After taking pictures and cleaning the buck out we drove to another area where we could walk in but not drive. We spotted a herd of pronghorns way off on the flats. It was still pretty early so we started off to see what we could see.
The excitement of Dads buck carried us through the first two full sections and we were still a solid section way from the herd be we kept walking on. It was cool and calm and pretty level walking so it was not to bad.
We finally came up to a rim that was about 800 yards from the herd which was feeding on top of a high bench. We could see most of the herd but no bucks were visable. We set and watched for nearly 15 minutes as we just could not believe that a heard of this size, about 30 animals did not have a quality buck in it opening morning as they had obviously not been bothered yet.
Then from a draw to the right came a big pronghorn speeding up from out of sight. The herd swarmed together as we spotted a truck across the draw. We were 750 yards from the herd and the truck was at least that far away. The big buck, as they typically do, dove right in the middle of the herd and they all just stood there.
The guy in the truck got out, laid his rifle over the hood of his truck and let a shot fly. Sounded like a rifle in the class of a 22-250 to be honest. The herd bolted and we watched them closely to see if there were any animals that fell out of the herd limping from the very poor quality shot from this so called hunter.
Now I am not saying the range was to far, I am saying the range was to far for this hunter, no question about it in any way.
We watched the herd roll over the side of the high bench and steam down to the valley below and noone appeared in anyway to be having any problems running. At this point you are routing for the animals even though you just walked over 3 miles just to have some guy in a truck screw up your stock with a shot he had no hope in hell of making.
We set up and watched the herd. They were about a mile away and then they split in two and one half banked back toward us. They cut to within 700 yards but unfortunately the big buck stayed in the valley floor. Seems he had played this game before.
Not shot was available so we started the long walk back to the truck. We were all glad that no pronghorns had been wounded by this guy and as soon as he saw us he high tailed it out of the area.
We got to the truck and headed back for some lunch and to hang up Dads buck for skinning.
We went back out this afternoon and did get into several good bucks but nothing the class of dads and just not quite large enough to take. I did debate on taking a doe at 750 yards in one herd but the herd buck would not let the herd settle down for a quality shot. he kept running them around so I passed on the shot.
It was a good day, one good buck, alot more excercise then this gunsmith has gotten in a long time. We figured with the path we took our hick was easily 6 1/2 miles round trip.
Tomorrow is another day, hopefully less hunters and more big goats!!
More to come.