13 October 2010

Guest Post: The Antelope Hunt (a friend's view)

My friend Matt Hamon sent me an account of our recent antelope hunt from this perspective, along with some great pics. Matt recently moved back to Montana after several years absence. Here is his story, as a (slightly edited) guest blog:

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Hello all,

Thought I'd report in from the wild frontier. [Warning: dead animal photos and anatomy below.]

I was over visiting my beloved Butte the other day and stopped in the local pub to enjoy a pint with my good friend Pat Munday [aka EcoRover]. Everything I know about hunting comes from Pat, as he introduced me to hunting and the Big Hole River valley. Pat wasn't planning to hunt that Saturday but made an exception when I inquired about it. I've been lamenting the fact that I can't legally hunt or fish in Montana until February. I really enjoy these adventures and was happy that Pat was up for it.

I got up at six--generally late by traditional hunting standards, but Pat knows his antelope. I couldn't find oatmeal at Cam's so I settled for a bowl of grits before Pat came by to get me at 7:00. We drove down into the Big Hole valley, a majestic and largely pristine expanse of land with barren sage brush hills leading to timbered peaks. The coffee colored Big Hole River meandered below. After venturing a ways off the beaten path (along a BLM road), we set out on foot, glassing (looking through binoculars) the hills for antelope:

We each immediately spotted two separate herds. Considering topography, wind direction, and antelope behavior, Pat established a strategy that would get us close enough for a clean, sure shot. These animals are quite fast, skittish, and have vision that is suggested to be the equivalent of 10 power binoculars. In order to take one swiftly and humanely, it's important to get at least within 200 yards of them... easier said than done:

Pat's intended route was almost immediately foiled when the herd we were approaching suddenly spooked and darted uphill. Shortly after we noticed the problem, as two pumpkin orange clad hunters, practically stumbled over this herd as they ambled over the hill behind them. As we turned our attention to another herd further north and higher up, we were reminded that this was opening day as a massive, red Suburban (driving illegally off trail) made an effort to drive right up to the herd as though the hunters were expecting a take-out meal. Shortly after, the bullets started to fly... take your pick, battle, or western, it's nearly comedy to listen to folks blindly shooting at unreasonably long distances... hopefully missing cleanly rather than wounding.

One of the first lessons I learned from Pat is to move slow and be patient. We continued to listen to the fireworks for awhile as the antelope scattered and moved over the landscape like flowing water. Eventually it was time to move to another spot, albeit slowly and quietly. As I noticed a small group rounding the knoll below and to our left, Pat had already crouched out of sight, silently encouraging me to follow. I guess we were lucky not to be seen. The rest is illustrated in the photos below.

Pat patiently moving within sight and shooting distance of the animals (about 200 yards):

Steadying his rifle with shooting sticks and swiftly taking the animal with a single and immediately lethal shot:

Pat always spends some quiet moments with the animal after he shoots:

Offering a last bite of sage and thanking the antelope and the landscape for providing food:

It really is a blessing to have this relationship to the food we eat. It does take a moment to rationalize, but there seems to be more integrity in this relationship than in simply selecting a plastic wrapped portion in styrofoam from the market. Plus, I'm pretty sure this is organic and free range.

In this case, Pat's tag was for a doe. The season allows for the mother antelope to get their young off to a good start (apparently they often have two, with an evolved strategy to sacrifice one to coyotes or eagles which then move off to hunt elsewhere). Wildlife biologists believe the hunting or "harvesting" of game animals is an effort at conservation, preventing over population, starvation, and disease, as much of the range land that used to be available has been encroached on by all of us [e.g. ranches and housing subdivisions].

Pat field dressed the antelope, removing the innards, saving the heart, and allowing the meat to cool:

It was a short walk back to the truck where we ate a bite of lunch as the day started to warm, then we returned to the animal and loaded it for the drive home.  Pat was generous enough to bring a hind-quarter around for Cam and me:

We deboned and wrapped the meat before depositing it in the freezer. I'm excited to be meeting Jennifer in Tonasket in a week for her deer hunt. We'll have antelope on the dinner table:

- Matt

8 comments:

Sean E said...

Great story Matt. Welcome back to Montana.

troutbirder said...

Two very interesting perspectives on the antelope hunt. Opening day crazies sounds familiar to me. I even apply it to flyfishing here. Also hunting antelope was a new concept to me for Montana, as in my limited experience in talking to hunters out there I was of the impression that only elk were considered worthy to hunt or eat. Well done guys.

Mica DuBois said...

Welcome back, Matt! Excellent commentary on a good hunt. Beautiful animals, great meat, glorious country. Avoiding the nutty/lazy/sometimes unethical road hunters is the biggest downside. Mark & I hope to fill our antelope tags this weekend. If not, it'll still be a day well-spent.

Merri said...

this is the kind of hunting I like - respecting and thanking the animal.
- The Equestrian Vagabond

Matt said...

Nice post on an ethical and respectful hunt.

Janie said...

We see a lot of road hunters here in Utah. I think of them as a disgrace to hunting - and very unlikely that they'd have success anyway.
I can respect the time-honored method of a careful, methodical hunt, and it's good to see respect for the beast that provides food.

Elizabeth said...

I love your respect for the animals and the land on which you hunt and the tactical methods you use. It is great to see proper hunters like yourselves, well done on a wonderful story.

Alex Get said...

Hello,

I hope this email finds you well.

My names Alex and I'm a blogger. I'm writing because I'd love to contribute a guest post to your site.

I've got some great ideas for some articles that I think your readers would really love that I would love to discuss with you. I'd also be more than happy to hear any suggestions if there is anything you're after?

I would ensure that the post is brimming with information your readership will love. I can also link internally to one of your older posts if you'd like me to.

I'm currently working on the title - 'How to choose best binoculars for hunting Ultimate Guide'

I look forward to hearing back from you,

Thank you for your time!

Kind Regards,
Alex Martin
Founder-http://binocularsview.com/