Father and Son Antelope Hunt a Huge Experience

By Troy Adams

If there is one lesson I hope all my children will come to understand it is that determination is an absolute key factor to success. This point was brought home by this year’s antelope hunt. I applied for a unit this year with low odds of drawing in hopes of just attaining another preference point for Montana. I never expected to actually draw the tag. In this particular unit I knew antelope numbers were/are super low, so finding any antelope, let alone a buck, was going to be very difficult. Then add the fact that 90% of the land any antelope would be residing on would be private land, and permission is difficult, at best, to obtain. Well, you have your work cut out for you.


I spend a ton of time outdoors hunting coyotes and fishing in antelope country. For the past 3 months I could count all the antelope bucks I have seen on one hand and still have fingers left over. (That is NOT an exaggeration by the way.) There are just darn few around. About a month ago while out killing some problem raccoons for a friend of mine, I spotted a herd of 21 antelope on his ranch. There were 20 does and one buck. While not a really big buck, he's the best I've seen around here all summer.

I often hunt coyotes on my friends place, but I knew he ran the big game hunting super tight, and basically kept it just for family. However, I decided to take a chance and ask for permission for antelope. To my surprise he granted me permission and even said he'd keep an eye out to let me know if any were around. I tried to keep tabs on this little herd of antelope for the entire month prior to opening day. However they disappeared about a week before the hunt. Opening morning my youngest son and I went looking for them, and lo and behold we found them about 10 minutes into the hunt. Could it really be this easy? Only problem, they were on the neighbor’s property. So I drove over to their house and asked for permission to go after the antelope. They were kind enough to give me a green light. So it was game on!

My son and I watched the antelope through binoculars and figured out a route to close the distance. It was relatively difficult due to 21 pairs of eyes always on full alert for danger. However, we were able to get about 230 yards from them. I had forgotten my rangefinder so I wasn't positive of the distance. I did go back later and range it though. Anyway, I laid down, got my rifle steady on the bipod. I looked at the buck, full well realizing he would be one of the smaller bucks I've ever killed, but also realizing beggars can't be choosers this year. Besides, I had my youngest son by my side, and this was his first time hunting big game with me. I steadied the cross hairs on the antelope's closest shoulder as he was quartering towards me. I didn't have any buck fever and wasn't really all that excited. I squeezed the trigger and full well expected to see the buck drop. To my complete amazement, I missed. How or why, I have no idea. I've replayed the shot in my head a zillion times, and I don't know what I would do different. For whatever reason it just wasn't meant to be. I was super disappointed as I really had wanted my son to experience all that goes with successfully harvesting a big game animal. I spent the rest of the morning trying to close the distance and kill the buck. While we made many stalks, we were never able to close the distance to within rifle range again. They were super spooky.

In the middle of opening day I took a break to help a friend put up some firewood for the winter. After finishing splitting and stacking the wood, I asked if I could fish on his place. He has some great fishing. I’m glad I asked as it gave me a minute to try and get over missing that antelope earlier that morning. I only fished for a 1/2 hour as I really wanted to get back out in the field and look for that buck. For only fishing for such a short time I was very pleased with the results.

It’s hard to beat a chunky rainbow like this one:

While the rainbow was tough to beat this brown trout came close. Had this 21 inch plus brown trout had the girth of the rainbow, I might have had a new taxidermy bill:

Father and Son Antelope Hunt a Huge Experience - 2

After my short fishing break I went out and located the buck with his herd again. However, like earlier in the day I could never get close enough for a shot. The day ended with me hiking back to my pickup in the rain after another fruitless stalk. Despite the great fishing I was feeling a lot like Eeyore the donkey with my own little personal rain cloud.

The next day I couldn't hunt for them as I had church obligations, Monday I couldn't find them, but found a tiny buck. He had about 4" horns. I got within 70 yards of him, but couldn't talk myself into pulling the trigger. Plus my son was at football practice and not with me. Tuesday and Wednesday were a repeat of Monday. I was starting to worry the herd had vacated the area completely. I had Thursday off from work and my son didn't have to go to school that day either. So I asked him if he wanted to go look for the antelope. He readily agreed to go. I personally was feeling a little worn down after having spent the better part of a week fruitlessly looking for the buck, and, like many of you, I obsessed over that “miss” the whole time. I didn't know if it was just going to be a waste of time or not, but I knew we had to go, and that persistence usually pays off.

We got to the ranch and I couldn't believe it when I spotted the herd and they were only about a 1/4 mile from where I'd seen them opening morning. We again planned our stalk. However, the antelope kept wandering further and further ahead of us. What should have been a short stalk turned into a 1 1/2 mile hike up and down in some fairly steep hills. I know I was getting tired of all the up and down, well at least all the “up”. My son stayed by my side the whole way never complaining once. Finally the antelope dropped into a low spot and we made our move. We hustled to close the distance. They were headed northwest and when we crested the hill I was looking that direction.

All of the sudden my son says, “right there!” The dirty buggers had doubled back and were actually to our northeast and walking away. We recalculated our stalk, dropped out of sight, ran ahead, then crawled the last 100 yards trying to cut them off. A doe and fawn caught us crawling, but they were way ahead of the rest of the herd so I took a chance and moved forward quickly so I could see the rest of the herd before they got out of range. It was tricky because in order to get in a position to shoot I was exposed and many of the does had spotted me and were getting nervous. However, the buck didn't see me and was too busy posturing and raking his horns on some brush to notice me. I ranged him at 280 yards. This time I really took my time with the shot. I let my 30.06 bark, and dropped the buck in his tracks with a double lung shot.

We commenced to celebrating. I finally got a little redemption for that missed shot as well. My son got to experience the stalk, the shot, and now the gutting and dragging the animal out. He was fascinated by the whole experience. He actually really enjoyed the gutting process and had many questions. I let him hold the heart and explained what each organ was and its purpose.

After loading the buck in the back of the truck we worked our way down the little two track and back to the county road. When we reached the county road and were greeted by this spectacular sunset for our trip home.

My son looks out at the sunset, then at me and says; "Dad I really enjoyed all of that. I want to do this a lot more." He then reached over with his fist for a knuckle bump, which I gladly obliged. Being a dad is one of the toughest things we can ever do as men. However, in that moment when he made his comment about the hunt, I felt like that maybe I had done something right that day. I hope all you fathers can feel that same feeling with your kids. This is far from the biggest antelope buck I've ever killed. In fact, it is one of the smallest, but the size of the overall experience with my son was HUGE! From here on out, every time I look at this buck's horns, I will remember what a great day I had with my youngest son. That means more to me than any trophy set of horns.


An avid big game hunter, Troy Adams has been hunting big game for nearly 30 years. Combining hunting and photography has helped him preserve many great memories. When not hunting, photographing, writing, or spending time with his family, Troy is usually found working on his wildlife art drawings.
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