“Are you ready for this?”
Wes, my hunting partner and husband, asked before we locked up the truck and crossed the ditch to begin my first Colorado pronghorn antelope hunt. As I donned my safety orange vest and hat, I thought back to all my shooting practice. I had never shot over 100 yards before moving to Colorado. But, thanks to one of our new Coloradan friends I had the opportunity to practice shooting out to 400 yards. I was ready for this hunt!
Stalking our Prey
Running through my dope chart in my head, we set out in hopes of finding an antelope buck. Little did we know just how quickly we would find some of these creatures. Within the first half-mile, a doe popped up over a distant ridge to our left. Deeming this moment perfect to take a short break, we took a few moments to watch her through the binoculars.
What kind of binoculars was I packing for this particular hunt, you ask? I had the opportunity to carry Leupold Optics BX-2 Alpine binoculars in the Pro Guide binocular harness. These binoculars are so clear out to 600+ yards that I could very easily see her – and anything beyond her – in remarkable detail. Just watching the doe through these binos was rewarding, so instead of spooking the her, we watched as she continued her journey.
As we came to the top of the next ridge, a decent looking buck stood at the bottom of two ridges several hundred yards away. Wes pulled out the Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W rangefinder to see just how far he was. Would we need to close distance on him in order to attempt making a shot? It didn’t matter. This buck was wise, and even though we dropped down in an attempt to hide he took off without a second glance, gone in a matter of seconds. If you’re a hunter, you know. That’s just part of the challenge, you win some, you lose some. But we weren’t done playing.
Complications on the Horizon
Keeping our eyes on where the buck disappeared, we stood up and hiked in further before glassing the entire field from the top of the ridge. In the distance sat a herd of does with two bucks that anyone would deem shooters. A third smaller buck was there seemingly as playing the tag-along role. Looking beyond the herd, we spotted two pairs of hunters, both headed for the same herd. These hunters clearly had not checked the wind direction. The wind blew their scent directly towards the antelope, pushing them right towards us! I don’t want to shoot at them, nor do I care to be their backstop.
Glassing the ridge to our left, Wes tells me there is a buck up on the ridge and is headed straight for us. Flipping down the magnetic top of the Pro Guide harness, I pull out my binoculars and take a closer look at the buck making his way to us. Something must have spooked this buck on the other side of the ridge. We watched as he started walking faster. Suddenly, he stopped and looked back at what had spooked him.
I took this moment to consider shooting him. I looked at his horns through my binoculars, and then through the scope on my Remington Model 783. He was indeed worthy of my tag. I flipped down the legs of my bipod and laid as flat as I could in the dirt, my prominent baby bump making it uncomfortable to lie on my stomach for too long.
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention I’m 5.5 months pregnant packing a mile in and a mile out? It’s my unborn daughter’s first hunt!
Wes called out the range as I got set up for the shot. 275 yards. While that distance would have made me nervous under any other circumstances, I was ready this time. That 400-yard target practice had prepared me for this, and more. I dialed in my scope and lined up the reticle right where it needed to be to make that shot.
The buck, totally unaware of what I was doing, continued looking over the ridge from where he’d come. He gave me a perfectly still, slightly quartering away shot. Settling onto my custom Boyds’ gunstock and taking a few deep breathes, I switched off my safety and slowly squeezed the trigger. The .270 WIN chambered rifle barked, sending the Barnes TTSX bullet towards its mark. Strangely, I don’t remember the rifle going off, but the next thing I saw was that buck running towards us with everything he had before stopping, then falling over.
Loading another round, just in case, I watched him fall, kicking at the air around him. Watching his last few moments of nerves and adrenaline leave his body, I sat, waiting patiently. Then the strangest thing happened. As we were walking towards my buck, another buck popped up over the same ridge and ran right by us! If only Wes had drawn that same tag, he would have been able to shoot that buck no more than 5 minutes after I shot mine.
Walking over to my downed buck, I smiled from ear to ear and said a quiet prayer, thankful for him for helping to feed our growing family. I bent over my rifle using the stock as a desk on which I could notch and sign my tag before attaching it to my harvest. Then the real work began. We quartered up my buck, separated it into game bags, and loaded most of it up on Wes’ Mystery Ranch Beartooth pack for the mile-long trek back to the truck.
What a great hunt! Remember, I’d never shot beyond 100 yards before moving to Colorado, and now I’ve taken my first ever antelope at the longest range I’ve ever taken anything! The rifle did its job, along with the ammo. The optics, both scope and binos, gave me crystal clear visuals and thus the confidence to squeeze the trigger without hesitation. And Wes carried most of the meat. After all, he can’t really carry our daughter yet!