Laden with Rolin’s first antelope buck, we steadily marched our way up and out of the corridor. We reached the top and scanned the deepest reaches of the looming sage prairie in search of a sign of the rest of our group. After loading the antelope into our rig, we turned down the road that made a direct course into the middle of the flats. Quickly, the trucks of our buddies became visible in the distance and we hurried that way. Before reaching them it became obvious that they had also been successful in catching up with the pronghorn. They had already quartered and loaded two antelope and were finishing up the third. We jumped out excitedly and the stories started circling the group of hunters like Elmer Fudd around a rabbit hole. The energy in the group was obvious and the smiles abundant. With the buck tags in the group filled and two doe tags as well, Tristan and I were left with the last remaining tags. One of the hunters in the group, I’ll call him John, told us that his buck came out of a larger herd and he believed the rest of them had holed up in a ravine not far from where we were standing. He offered to show us where they went and we quickly gathered up our gear.
We started off zig-zagging through the sage with our eyes piercing the horizon trying to catch a glimpse of the pronghorn before they saw us. We were unsure of their location so we took it slow. The sage on the prairie is so dense that you are forced to walk around it and it grows so sporadically that you find yourself on a distorted path probably resembling a mouse in a maze, from above. One never walks a straight line through the sage. As it annoys with its constant redirection it also tantalizes the senses with its sweet and earthy aroma, calmly connecting you with nature. We stalked the flats in the direction of a ravine and as we neared the edge we spotted a doe antelope standing stark and bold in the sunlight. She was on the far side of the ravine and she was looking at us too. Knowing we had been spotted caused us to freeze and hold our position. We knew she would probably move off and we hoped it would be slowly as the rest of the herd was probably below her and still out of sight. She did take off and angled to the left. John and I decided to follow her and see if we could cut her off and get a shot. My husband stayed back to watch and figured if we ended up turning her back the other way she would run within range of him. Instead, she turned directly away and we watched her disappear over the far ridge almost as if she was a mirage. At this point my husband spotted a few antelope working the same ridge at a lower elevation and heading his way. They ran past John and I without even slowing down and Tristan started working his way farther right to try to head them off. My attention was quickly diverted when another small group of pronghorn came up along the same ridge. They were moving a little slower and I dropped into prone position with my AR resting on the bipod. The grasses were so tall that I was having a hard time getting an opening where I could shoot over the top of them.
After a few tries and readjustments I was finally able to get my sights on one of the antelope without the grass interfering. John was constantly calling out yardage readjustments and finally I dialed the Vortex scope to 370 and settled myself comfortably into the gun. The antelope was standing broadside and I zipped a round perfectly through the vitals. I watched him a moment in my scope and he didn’t fall so I put another round through him in the same spot. This one hit him perfectly as well and spun him around to where he was directly facing me. I knew he was basically dead in his hooves but I center punched his chest with my third round and he fell in his tracks. My adrenalin started up and the excitement got me shaking. John stated,” Great shooting!” as I searched around the grass for my brass and plopped it into my pocket. He decided to stay in that spot and keep an eye on the grassy area where the antelope had fallen while I ran back to the trucks to get the pack frame. The countryside is so similar that it is very easy to lose track of where an animal fell. Tristan had made it so far to the right that he was out of sight when I shot and had no idea I had an antelope down. When I reached the truck I radioed him and told him. He gave up the chase on the other antelope and headed back our way. I made it to the truck, grabbed the gear we needed and headed back out. I relived what happened with every quick and crunchy step. All three of us met together in the sea of sage and headed down the ravine and back up the other side. It took a little wandering through the grasses to locate my antelope but we soon found it.
Pictures and high fives broke the otherwise quiet surroundings. We started field dressing but were repeatedly distracted by antelope appearing on the horizon for a moment here and there before disappearing again. It was reminiscent of the Serengeti with animals roaming everywhere. We decided that I would continue the work while Tristan and John headed back down the ridge to see if they could get close enough to the pronghorn. I made quick work of my task and bagged the quarters. When I was tying the last one onto my pack frame the guys came back.
They hadn’t been able to get close enough and we headed back to the truck. It was late in the morning and we had some antelope meat to get cooled off so we decided to go back to camp and have lunch before attempting to fill our one lonely tag left burning a hole in Tristan’s pocket. To be continued…