Re: My First Antelope
Hunt details......I have been too tired from the hunt to add any details. I feel almost human today so here they are.
I got a call last Tuesday morning from a good friend who lives in New Mexico. He informed me he had an extra permit for a buck if I could get there by Friday in time to get the permit issued into a license. I told him I would have to think about it and would let him know Wednesday first thing.
After I got off work I went home and started looking through the safe for a gun I could get ready quick enough for a hunt. I chose my 243AI and drug out my 270AM as my back up gun. I had never been antelope hunting and wanted to take something light enough to walk around with but also something that I had mid range confidence in.
My little 243AI was built for me by Don Geraci three years ago on my usual hunting gun blueprint (rem 700, HS stock, jewel trigger). It has a pac-nor 7.5 twist medium palma barrel that used to be on one of my f-class guns. He cut the entire chamber off and rechambered what was let in 243AI and it still finished at 24 inches. Basically it is just a Sendero clone, but shoots as well as anything I have ever seen short of a benchrest rifle.
I loaded up 3 cases that were already prepped and primed with my usual load of 46gr of vv560. Instead of loading them to the lands as I usually do I loaded them to magazine length. I then dialed in on my 800 yard target and let these fly. the group was not bad but had a little more vertical than I like. I loaded 2 more with .5 gr more powder and let them fly. Less vertical but still too much. .5 more and I counted the load as ready when I the group was perfectly flat with about two inches of windage.
I then did a very similar routine for my 270AM. 169 wildcats at 3380 would have really hammered one of those goats, but the gun is a tad heavy for walking around.
I then chronographed both loads and checked my drop charts. I sighted both guns at 800 yards since I had no wind and dialed them back to zero. I was ready to hunt.....except for packing all the necessities and loading enough rounds for the trip. I was pretty concerned I would not have time. My sweet little wife agreed let me go and also agreed to help load my ammo for me then I knew I could make it.
I called my buddy Wednesday morning and he faxed me the permit and gave me the contact info for the owner of the ranch where I would hunt and for the owner of the ranch where I would stay. I could hardly wait to get off work and get home and pack for the hunt. So I didn't wait, but took off at three to get home. I usually keep my stuff together in a bag since I have to travel to shoot further than 800 yards. I inventoried my bag everything was there range finder, kestral, binos, hearing protection and my soft bag. Into the truck it went along with everything else I could think of to carry including my shooting bench.
I slept late on Thursday morning and did not get on the road until around 10 AM. Once on the road I drove straight through to Roswell New Mexico arriving around 2:30 AM. I got a motel room near the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and crashed. I awoke at 8 AM and headed over to get my license. As usual things went smoothly over at the Wildlife office and I was out of there by 8:30 with time to kill. My rendezvous with the ranch owners was not scheduled until 4 so I killed some time in Roswell and then headed north west to a little town whose name I cannot recall.
I arrived a little early and gave the contact numbers I had been given a try. The ranch owner where I was going to be staying answered and gave me directions to a place I could meet him and follow him back to the ranch. Thirty minutes later I was admiring the beautiful ranch house and socializing with other hunters that would be hunting in our group. It turns out that the ranch owner is an avid shooter and gun nut. He had his reloading stuff set up in the corner of his garage, and when he saw me admiring his setup the conversation turned to shooting loading etc.
He had heard from our mutual friend that I like to shoot long range. I could tell that he was a bit skeptical, if not a little cryptic about the topic. At that point I offered to give him a demonstration if we could put out target. We gathered up some T-posts, a pallet, some corrugated plastic, targets and some targets. then we started riding away from the ranch house stopping to range the house occasionally. When we passed 500 yards I could tell he was skeptical. When we passed 650 I am pretty sure he thought I was crazy. I spotted a little hump that turned out to be 758 yards from the house and proposed we set up there, which we did.
We then drove back to the front yard of his home and I got ready to shoot. I had to shoot elevated because of the terrain so I set up my bench and shot from a bipod off the bench. I dialed in my elevation and just held for the wind and touched a couple off. As we rode out to the target I could see his wheels spinning. It would be my guess he was going through his mind what he was going to say about the misses. He was very very surprised when he saw that not only had I hit the target but I had hit it nearly dead center with both shots. At that point he had to try it.
We went back to the house and he drug a 243 out of the safe. He gave me his load information and I ran it through exbal. He dialed everything as directed and settled in and took two shots. You guessed it, he was very close to center and his group was pretty darn tight. From that point on he got a little excited. We went back tot he house and I let him shoot the 270AM a few times, he loved that. We then assisted the other hunters getting zeroed in at 100 yards. After everyone was sighted in it was time to eat.
I always thought Mississippi was the hospitality state, boy was I wrong. Those guys put out a spread. The brisket was about as good as I have ever tried. After Pie and Ice cream we sat around and socialized until I fell asleep in a chair, at which point I was shown to my room. I slept like a baby until my alarm went off at 5 AM Central time....you guessed it, 4 AM in that time zone. I went ahead and grabbed a shower and went out to see if I could help with breakfast. Everything was well in hand so we just waited around for everyone else to arise.
We all ate and loaded up into several trucks and headed over to the ranch where we would be hunting. Almost as soon as we crossed onto the ranch property we saw a truck heading toward us at a good clip. It was one of the guides for the day and he had a good antelope spotted in an area that would make for an easy hunt. He asked us to send one of the young hunters with him so he could fill his first tag. They left us sitting in the trucks and went back down the road. Within ten minutes we heard the report of a rifle and went to see what transpired. sure enough the twelve year old who had volunteered to go had taken his first antelope. There were high fives all around, I have never seen a happier kid. As an aside, this kid was the ranch owners nephew and was just an all around great kid, good family upbringing would be my guess.
After we celebrated the guide who had spotted the downed goat jumped in the truck with me and we took off in search of a goat. We started spotting them immediately, but they were mostly small or very wary. The terrain was pretty flat and spot and stalk opportunities were pretty rare. The bucks were gathering up does so they were constantly moving. You would spot them from a distance, when you tried to close the distance they were no longer there when you arrived.
This went on for a couple hours. We then spotted an antelope at about 1200 yards that was a shooter. The guide had heard from the other ranch owner that I liked to shoot long range. ( Let me clear that up a bit, this was not actually a guide, just a friend of the owner of the ranch where I stayed Friday night friends, who was acting as guide for the day. He owned a ranch just South of the ranch where we were hunting. Turns out he was also a great guy.) He said, "You should shoot that one" with a little bit of challenge in his voice. I told him okay. So i kept driving down the road that paralleled the animal until we were able to close the distance to about 900 yards. I got all my stuff ready and exited the truck. I started trying to get a range on the animal when all of a sudden he started running a doe in our direction.
He stopped dead still at 558 or was it 556 yards and locked in on the truck. He just stood there staring at me while I went through my pre shot checklist. When I was sure I had everything perfect I settled behind the gun to wait for him to turn broadside. He stood there so long that I started to get nervous. So I went back tot he truck and retrieved my snuff. Sure enough he was still standing there with his eyes fixed on the truck when I got back behind the gun. I was almost ready to give up and take a frontal shot when he suddenly turned. I settled the cross hairs and let the shot fly. I lost my sight picture due to recoil and when I got back on him he was running full out along with two does.
This happened to be one of those times when I wished that someone had been videoing. I replayed the shot in my head and knew everything had been perfect. I heard the guide almost laugh, "you missed him" when I yelled, "fall over." As if on cue he started to slow, his rear started to drop, and then he fell over and skidded to a halt. He raised his head once then it fell back. My guide jumped up and ran over to me shouting congratulations. For a second I thought I was gonna get hugged but he settled for a high five. His reaction was priceless. Instantly he went from BS debunking mode to a firm believer in long range shooting.
We took care of the animal, loaded him up and took him back to the headquarters. Then we spent the rest of the day helping others fill their tags. The best thing about the whole day was that every half hour or so throughout the day the guide would bust into a fit of laughter and yell, "that was a hell of a shot" then high five me. I had a great time hanging out with the "guide" for the rest of the day.
I answered a lot of his questions about long range shooting and urged him to log on Long Range Hunting to ask more questions. hopefully he will see this post and introduce himself. Maybe the ranch owner who is already a great shooter will show up to expand his knowledge. If yall do show up on this site, I want to say thanks again, I had a great time and I will stay in touch....oh yea Wayne I will bring that cooler you loaned me back to you on my way to my Nov.1 cow elk hunt.
I can not wait to go back for another antelope, but for now I have to get all of the work done, that I back burnered so I could go on this short noticed adventure. Man that was a blast.
I admit that I know just enough to be dangerous.....but dangerous at ever extending distances.