In the past any mention of " exotic " hunting conjured up mental images of "high fences " , "fish in a bbl" that sort of thing . That is no longer true for me .
My friend Scott Smith drew a " once in a lifetime " tag to hunt oryx on the White Sands Missile Range . Drew the very first time he applied !! wish I could have got him to stop at a casino on the way there .Anyway he invited me to go and offered to pay my way , how could I refuse ?
The "WSMR" is located in New Mexico and is high desert country with the San Andres mountains( top out around 9000 ft. ) along its west border and has around 2.5 million acres . Alamogordo is the closest big town and is along the eastern border of the range .
The oryx are free ranging on the WSMR and population is estimated at around 8000 or so .
Plans were to take a nice oryx ( over 35 inches ) at long range after spotting a herd at a distance then using the big 85 mm Swarovski spotting scope to determine the size of the individuals . Sounds good but really wasn't realistic give the two major constraining influences , namely WIND and TIME. Wind is pretty much self explanatory and we had a ton of it . Gusting to 35 mph with switches and sudden brief lulls just about eliminated anything over 300 yds. Then there was the time thing , we only had two days to hunt with no scouting time allowed beforehand.
The The military officials and the New Mexico wildlife officers were class acts and very friendly but being on a Military installation of this type rules were tight . I would have taken pix of the terrain as we hunted but no cameras were allowed on base . Thew pix we did take of the oryx were taken after we had left the base and were on the outskirts of town . There is a photo of me taken with a mountain range behind me that shows the foothill draws and some of the elevation changes we experienced . [image]
The cover was vast flats of mesquite and creosote shrubs along with ocotillo , cholla , ycca and more . Very rocky along the foothills ,sandy in the desert floor .
After many failed stalks the first day we headed back to the motel ( Satellite Motel , very clean and 46$ a night for a room with two queen beds ) and rested up for the next and last day .
Next morning found us at the range at sunup and we did not have to go through orientation again so were hunting a bit sooner . The area we were hunting was around 35 miles after we went through the base gate . There were oryx closer but we wanted the foothills of the San Andres because of the elevation changes and the cover offered by the deep draws that led up out of the flats .
As we approached the area we wanted to start at we came upon two groups of hunters that had pooled their resources and were beginning a drive from the main road to the foothills due west of the road and had spaced them selves about a half mile apart . We stopped and glassed and discovered that their quarry was a band of 7 bulls about a mile and a quarter off the road and at the beginning of the foothills in a stand of creosote . I surmised that they hoped to pinch the bulls and cause them to go toward one group of hunters or the other as they could not go up the vertical cliffs behind them .
Everything I had learned the day before told me this was a failed venture before it got started . Those oryx are plains animals and their vision is superb and distance is their guardian . They obseve aproaching hunters and when their " personal space " is intruded upon they tuck their chins to their neck pointing those long horns to the sky and move of in a curious slow gallop. They will travel for miles without stopping when so disturbed , many miles ! Sometimes as much as 10 or more if they continue to see hunters as they travel .
Since this group of bulls was pointing north and that is the way we were going we got back in the truck and and I floored it for 5 miles up the road to a two track that we knew about from the first day . It led to a gravel pit that put us out of sight and had a nice high knob we could sneak up the back side of and glass .
We had barely made it up the knob when I glassed to the south and spied the band of 7 bulls head tucked , galloping our way , already half way to us . Scot headed down the knob to a gravel wash that separated us from the next ridge , the one the bulls had dissappeared behind as they made their way to us .
No dice , they cover ground so fast and the distance from one place to the next is so decieving that they busted Scott before he could cross the wash . I had stayed up high so I could keep a eye on the bulls and inform Scott by radio ( very handy for guiding someone to a downed animal in the middle of hundreds of acres of mesquite or creosote ). After they made the top of the ridge nad spotted Scott they dropped back over it and made their way along it to the end . I could see that they had to cross the wash about a hundred and fifty yards on down so I was hollering at Scott to get down and deploy his bipod since he would have 50 or 60 yds. of clear field of fire as they crossed.
He did , but could not make himself take the shot as the bulls crossed and the last one was the big one and I was telling him that to . He has never taken shots at running animals before and didn't want to start on this hunt . I certainly don't blame him , everyone needs to stick to their idea of their abilities .
While I watched the bulls run off in the distance ( they never stopped ) Scott made his way over to the shoulder of the mountain and climbed high while sidehilling and glassing down in the draws as he came to them . His oryx came charging out of one of those draws and he was forced to shoot it in self defense (125 yds )
The nosler 180 accubond traveling around 3400 fps made quite the mess of the onside shoulder and lodged under the hide of the off side saying a lot for the bone size and density of these animals . It still weighed 108 grs. and the jacket was still with the core .
However , the oryx did not stay down . It quickly regained its feet and headed off down the mountain towards the creosote flats . It was out of sight around the shoulder of the draw so quickly Scott had no chance for a close follow up shot . I watched as the oryx worked its way deeper and deeper into the cover below , completely out of sight of Scott.
Then began a long period , three hours or so of directing Scott to the animal and him taking long shots for the conditions , remember the 35 mph winds ? None of them connected but the oryx was bleeding out slowly and would bed down for loger periods .
Then came the time that it would not get up as Scott approached and he was able to finish the job at close range . A beautiful animal , 37.5 inch horns and I'm guessing 550 lbs . We could not lift it on the back of the 4 wheeler even after field dressing ( they let you use 4 wheelers to retreive ) I had to use ratchet straps as " come-a -longs" a very tedious procedure but it worked . [image]
Anyone drawing this hunt feel free to contact me for info on the ins and outs of getting ready for it . Among other things you have to attend a ATV safety institute course to be allowed a 4 wheeler on the base. And there a re many more " details " none tough to fufill but but absolutely necessary .
Then on the way back to Arkansas we had to stop at the taxidermist to pickup Scotts bighorn ram from the previous years hunt in New Mexico . While their we mentioned that the people at the NM G&F office in Roswell told us that Barbary sheep (Aoudad ) tags were available over the counter ( 364$) and were free ranging on many ranches in the area as well as the Lincoln National forest.
Scotts taxidermist said " I know a rancher that has 50 square miles and allows sheep hunting for 400 dollars " . Scott looked at me ...............and that is another story if my two pointing fingers ever recover from the beating they took typing this .