My first hunt - Success against the wily speedgoat!
At the ripe old age of 57, I finally gave in to my brother-in-law's repeated invitations (and CARE packages of frozen goat meat) and headed for eastern Montana to try for some Pronghorn, my first-ever hunt for anything larger than a mosquito. I had been an observer on his hunt last year, since I didn't draw a tag, so I had some idea what to expect. In preparation I had bought a Savage Model 16 in 300WSM (my first big-bore rifle) and spent enough time at the range to become familiar with it and develop a load I liked. I think having shot handguns for the past 35 years helped me keep the flinchies away.
I met Doug off I-94 on Saturday the 7th, and we headed for a friendly rancher's barn lot to set up camp. We were hunting on Block Management land with the owner's permission, and on BLM and state land. This required some pretty sharp map reading skills to identify what was legal, and what was out of bounds. Just one of the many skills I hadn't developed at the range.
Sunday morning we set out at first light and by 7:30 I had my first goat, a yearling buck. It wasn't pretty. I had buck fever so bad I couldn't settle down at all, and at 150 yds off shooting sticks managed to hit his near front leg so low the bullet went under his brisket. He sat right down in the grass and all I could see was his head. I fired again and he went over. When we approached he was still alive and kicking. My second round had hit the base of an antler and stunned him. I had to finish him with a head shot, which pretty much vaporized everything between the ears. Ulp. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/tongue.gif[/img]
Doug was upbeat as he gave me a demo on field-dressing, noting that I had managed to down the little buck without spoiling any meat, but I was upset at my lack of composure. I did cheer up during the day as Doug downed a big doe on his first turn and then nailed a nice 14" buck (I'd filled my buck tag with the yearling) at 425yds with his 308 Baer.
That evening, I got OJT on skinning and quartering, and with three in the coolers we put our heads down to the yapping of coyotes.
Monday we were again up early, and saw plenty of critters. Unfortnately, they were all mule deer. We just about had to kick 'em out the road. The antelope eventually appeared, but usually 500yds away in full retreat. They seemed to know which sections we couldn't hunt and headed there, especially a big field which had just been hayed and was full of rolls.
After lunch we noticed that a tractor and semi had pulled into the hayfield to collect the rolls, and sat down with the local quad maps to decide where the goats that had been there would go and how to get at them. With a little driving and a good bit of walking we arrived on a rise overlooking the best route. We put on a good sneak and crested the hill to find...nothing.
About this time a coyote popped out of a fold about 50ft in front of us and Doug decided to at least do a little pest control. As I watched him take aim, I saw 10 antelope trot through a little cut about 100yd away. "Doug! Don't shoot!" I whispered as another 10 or 12 followed. The goats were headed around the little promontory we were on, so we beat feet to the other side just in time to see them parade by, not 100yds off. Doug got a solid hit on a moving doe - 10 steps and thud - and the rest went into high gear. For some reason, another doe paused a ways away and I bellied down, got a good shoulder hold, bang, flop. 275 yds right on point of aim.
I sure felt a lot better as I field dressed the doe, with a bit of advice from Doug. Not only had I made a good shot under pressure, I didn't lose my lunch while gutting my first critter. The 180gr CT Ballistic Tip had gone in just behind the right shoulder blade, made a silver dollar sized hole in the right inner chest wall, and shattered the left shoulder on the way out. And to top it all off, a two-track passed within 20yds of both goats so we could drive right up - no long haul required.
With three more in the cooler, and Doug having to head back home for work the next day, we toasted a successful hunt. I am so hooked I don't know what to say. I'm already planning for next year, and I just got finished putting this year's harvest in the freezer.
- Make haste, slowly. I missed taking a couple of shots because I was in too much of a hurry and fumbled about.
- Don't slam the door. Antelope can hear as well as see.
- Practice with what you'll use. I had been using a bipod at the range, and shot fine from it, but had picked up the shooting sticks at a Cabela's on the way, and wasn't comfortable with them at all, causing a bad shot.
I like Montana's Block Management program. It's really nice to meet the ranchers who's land you're hunting. The ones I met are great folks.
The comments I've read here about Savage rifles were spot on. With a little load development, Norma brass, and a light skim bedding job around the pillars, mine shoots under 0.5" all day long. The Nikon Buckmaster 4.5x14 scope performed well.
That's my tale. Not really long distance hunting (aside from the drive from and back to Virginia), but what I've read here really helped me get ready. Maybe next year I'll have a 'way out there' story to relate.
There is no "overkill". There is only "open fire" and "I need to reload."