The time finally came after some months of planning and waiting. The hunt was put on by The Bears Den in northern New Mexico.
Camp was about 200 miles or so North of Albuquerque in a desolate area, perfect for antelope. It was about a 600 mile drive for me from Arizona. No trees just miles and miles of flat land with a few rolling hills.
Camp set up was reasonably comfortable and the grub was great. We slept in tents with cots which was fine. The weather was warm for that time of the year and altitude which was about 7000 feet above sea level. It was August and the day temperatures were in the low 90’s which was warm for my taste.
Oh, well you don’t go hunting to be comfortable. I have frozen on more than one occasion. Fred Seeds the outfitter has hunts for other game such as elk, bison, deer and bear. From what I saw the hunts are well-organized and successful. There were two fellows that were coming from one of his bear hunts and both bagged nice animals. They also scored with antelope.
The hunt started bright and early next morning after having a chance to check the zero on out rifles the night before. Right away we started seeing them but the king of eyesight was spooky and non cooperative. They can see as good as we can with 8 X binoculars but they don’t have to carry any glass around. If you see one up close their eyes are big in proportion to their head. The eyes are located in such a way that they can see a large area without moving their head. Their other defense is someone put a V-8 engine in them.
They can flat-out run up to about 60 miles per hour. It’s amazing to watch one going flat-out. An African Cheetah would have to put everything he has to out run the American Antelope. Having a good day wouldn’t hurt the cheetah either. Sometimes you can take advantage of the fact that they are curious. Waving a white hat or other such bright object may cause them to stop long enough for a decent shot. I have seen them stand alongside a road many times during hunting season. Go figure.
They seldom weigh over 120 pounds and frequently somewhat less. Shots are frequently taken over 250 yards with some being much more. That would suggest a flat shooting rifle of 30 caliber or less. Some excellent choices are the 25-06,270.280 and 30-06. Magnums are a bit over powered but sure are nice past 300 yards especially if it’s windy.
They are not particularly hard to kill but as with all hunting shot placement is very important for a clean kill. Soft expanding bullets generally will give the best results.
I sat down thankful for the bi-pod as the antelope was over 300 yards away and had no intentions of getting closer.
One way to hunt than is to ride around until one or more is spotted lying in a field. They do this during the day but in such a way that they can see anything coming from any direction. In open country forget about sneaking up on them unless you are the invisible man. They will see you; the only issue is how close they are going to let you approach before firing up that V-8 and booking for parts unknown. This is when a rifle needs a bi-pod so the shooter can have a decent rest and hopefully get a shot. There are places where a blind can be set up and a closer shot taken. That would be particularly interesting to a handgun, muzzle-loading or bow and arrow hunter.
We drove around for a while and saw any number of Antelope. Some were too small, does and fawns or unable to get a decent shot for some reason. Of course there were a couple of misses. We saw my antelope after some riding around for some time. He was laying down in the middle of a field with no cover for us. We stalked about a quarter of a mile or so before he had enough and got up.
The guide suggested I take a shot as it was getting ready to take off. I sat down thankful for the bi-pod as the antelope was over 300 yards away and had no intentions of getting closer. I was using a 300 Winchester magnum with a 180 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip. The 300 is overpowered but with the 300 plus yards and a 15 mile per hour crosswind the power came in handy. One well placed shot and it was over except the celebration. The range was 360 yards according to the range finder, He was an average size animal and it turned out that the meat is excellent ranking right up there with elk as my favorite game animal meat. Properly cooked the meat is both tender & juicy.
There were an even dozen hunters and 11 scored. The other fellow had a couple of chances but missed which is easy enough to do with these animals. Ranges were from 150 to one at 475 yards which is a typical spread.
As with all hunts it was over all too soon and it was time to come back to civilization and the mundane things in life.