I finally drew a Nevada antelope tag, and in a good unit. I found an excellent local guide (Bill Gibson of Elko Guide Service) who knew where all the water holes were, and I proceeded to get ready.
I took three rifles with me, not knowing quite what the conditions would be. I took a Blaser R-93 .243 Match loaded with 87 gr Berger VLDs, which seemed more than adequate for most conditions out to 300 yards. I practiced with it at the steel range out to 550 yards extensively. Given the little bullet, I thought I should probably limit shots to 350 yards. I also took a custom Remington 7mm RSAUM (built by Marc Soulie at Spartan) loaded with 180 gr Berger VLDs, with which I have practiced out to 1000 yards in wind. I figured my personal limit (100% of shots in practice within kill zone) was 900 yards, or 600 yards with winds over 10 mph. And then I had my .308 because, well, it's always in the truck.
We saw an incredible number of antelope for such an arid place. One day, we saw 28 legal bucks, probably half of which were 12-inch or more. They seemed to pattern well, but each of our sneaks ended up finding a buck not quite big enough or they moved off. We were careful not to spook them too badly and send them into the next county.
One morning at 4am I set up 200 yards away from a water hole in some bushes, and placed a raggedy decoy about 100 yards to the side. I had sightlines out 600 yards, but I really didn't expect to have to reach that far, and there was no wind, so I set up the Blaser .243 with a tripod, sitting.
At about 7am, four does came in to water, and wandered about 500 yards off. Two more joined them. They were the audience for what followed.
At 8:30 five bucks came in, really rushed in past the water hole right up to the decoy. One was clearly dominant, and proceeded to "challenge" the decoy, pawing the ground, shaking his head, charging the decoy. The rest of the gang pranced around, presumably cheering him on. All would occasionally flush to the other side of the decoy. Finally the dominant buck started coming right up to the decoy, clearly puzzled at the lack of response from the interloper. So he proceeded to butt and kick the decoy. Still getting no response, he started to withdraw.
One shot, 118 yards, quartering on, entered in front of the front leg (clipping the bone) and demolishing the heart. There was no exit wound. The antelope measured out to 12+ inches (though not square on the head), and probably 120+ pounds on the hoof. A beautiful creature. And what a great show.
The Bergers were loaded to 3000 fps at 70 degrees F sea level. My guess is they were travelling a bit faster. The Berger went off like a grenade in the chest cavity. Interestingly, there was considerable blood-shot damage to the fascia right under the fur. Then it seemed the bullet separated when it clipped the leg bone, as there was a clear wound track straight up from the leg, and then the clear evidence of trauma to the heart. But it could also have been bone fragments, I suppose, that went up. I almost want to say that there was too much expansion and hydrostatic shock (if that's the right term), but it was pretty close and travelling really fast... I've heard (from non-experts) that the Bergers really perform best below 3000 fps.
Many thanks to Bill Gibson for his hospitality and getting me to the right place at the right time.
I need to spend more time in Nevada. I've had only two hunts there over the years, but they were both excellent.