23 October 2010

AJ's Antelope Hunt

"Little Brother" AJ found a day to hunt pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) in his busy schedule. He is working hard to complete high school classes and a 300-hour job training program with a local animal shelter. I greatly enjoy my days afield with him, and was happy for the chance to hunt. It was a beautiful day--frosty morning, cloudless sky, far enough into the season so that the roadhunters ("hunters" that drive around hoping to shoot something from their truck) stayed home on the couch to watch TV.

For us, antelope hunting is all about spot & stalk: using binoculars to locate a herd at long range, then planning & executing the stalk. We typically spot them 2 or 3 miles away in the open country of the lower Big Hole River valley (a half-hour south of where we live in Butte, Montana) and try to drive within a mile or so before beginning the stalk.

As so often happens, the first stalk of the morning fizzled. After hiking well over a mile along a circuitous route, AJ peeked around a rocky ledge to find that the antelope had moved. They were, in fact, watching him from a half-mile down the broad, tilting valley--sort of like Roadrunner sneaking up behind Wile E. Coyote. I watched this from my vantage point on a small hill where I stayed behind, and it was hard not to laugh aloud (image from cartoonspot.net):

We hiked back to the truck, ate our well-earned sandwiches, and sharp-eyed AJ spotted another herd far up and across the sagebrush plain. We drove to a point within a mile or so but on the opposite side of a ridge from them. Again, a long circuitous route with a climb up the back of a butte to get above the bedded pronghorns:

Then a careful stalk around the butte to within range of where they were bedded below. Here is AJ, ready to shoot (good stalking technique: he's keeping his silhouette lower than the sagebrush):

Success this time thanks to a good stalk, a good shot, and the prey staying put. Thank you antelope. Thank you prairie. Thank you sky:

And then the work begins. With the antelope slung across his shoulders, it was steep carry up a wash:

A long hump over the ridge:

And then (finally) down to the truck:

Gramps said, "A deer tastes better with every step as you drag it back to the truck." Packing an antelope over this rugged terrain gives new meaning to that phrase.

6 comments:

Janie said...

I like the Gramps quote.
After all the walking, stalking and carrying, I'm sure A.J. had a gread appreciation for the antelope's precious meat.

Terry Scoville said...

What a great hunt and congratulations AJ on a well executed spot and stalk!

sandy said...

How the heck can you sneak up on anything out there?

Maria said...

Hi!
I enjoyed your description of this day with AJ. It looks like you had a very rewarding day in many ways.

I checked out the Outdoor Blogger Network. Looks great! Are you submitting your blog? It would be an excellent contribution to their list!

*Maria

~ Sheepheads said...

31 Oct 2010

ER,

This is a fine post. Super happy for AJ. I watched my son crawl on his belly for two football fields almost trying to put the sneak on two 'lope near White Sulphur and it had to be one of the most memorable days I will ever experience. I should have written about it. Heart was going full blast he said on first shot and missed resting on his pack. Then the buck and doe ran and he missed again. It was a slow walk back to dad as they ran to a private section.

Saw lots of birds this year - the huns and sage grouse are back. A friend saw prarie chickens too. First time in a LONG TIME! I could have shot a few coyotes, but was napping!

Nice work, Cheers!

Merri said...

the closest I've been to antelope around here is about a whole ridge away. and soon as they see me they are GONE!
- The Equestrian Vagabond