By Mike Burnside
When you dream about a hunt for so long, you hope that your dream meets your expectations when it finally arrives. That was the case for a pronghorn antelope hunt that my brother and I took in north central Colorado. We had built up preference points for this particular unit and when the time was right, drew our tags for the unit.
With all of the typical excitement of the months of preparation for a hunt, I found myself ready for this hunt far in advance of the opening date, with gear placed in an extra room at my house in anticipation for weeks in advance. Driving from Oklahoma, I met up with my brother in Colorado Springs, where he lives, and we convoyed to our hunt area.
We arrived there the afternoon before the opening day of our hunt to check our rifles and set up camp. As typically happens, we had enough time to shoot the rifles before evening came, leaving the fast-approaching evening to find a spot to set up camp. A person at the range told us of a good antelope he had been seeing at a local lake on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land so we figured that would be as good as any area to begin our hunt in the morning.
We arrived at the lake and set up the wall tent around 150 yards from the water’s edge and got camp in ship shape as darkness set in. As we enjoyed our supper, we were amazed at how good the trout fishing must be at the lake as vehicles kept piling into the area and set up their camps around the lake well into the night. As we had not had time to scout the area, we decided we would wake up without an alarm since we would look at the area after the sun rose.
Our plans were well intentioned to wake up without the use of an alarm; however, what we did not know was that those weren’t trout fishermen piling into the lake well into the night. The opening day of duck season coincided with the opening day of antelope season in our unit! As the first hints of light began, a barrage of shotguns firing filled the early morning; the firing was continuous and the sound was deafening. We laughed and decided that we would begin our hunt that day earlier than we planned.
As we drove away from our camp after daybreak, we were greeted by a nice antelope buck trotting along the BLM road. Our excitement could hardly be contained as we were already seeing decent bucks at our camp. As we had put in for preference points for this unit for many years based upon the quality of bucks that were in this unit, we had decided to allow four days of hunting so that we could look over many antelope and find the “right” one for each of us.
The morning drive was filled with seeing bucks everywhere we looked. The rutting season was going along at a fast pace and looked like it had aligned perfectly with the opening of antelope season. We stopped and glassed many bucks pawing and raking sagebrush within view of other bucks that were with an antelope doe; the bucks might stop and look at us as we stopped the pickup to glass them from a distance but couldn’t care less that we were even in their part of the country. By 11:00 a.m., we estimated that we had seen 25 different antelope bucks in our morning drive.
It was antelope buck number 26 that showed tremendous promise! We spotted him with a herd of twelve does at a distance of approximately 800 yards. After looking him over with a spotting scope I decided that this buck was my trophy; however, between he and I was relatively flat ground with some small washes and sagebrush that was going to make sneaking close enough for a shot a challenging task with he and all of his harem keeping a watch over the landscape. I bade my brother goodbye and set off for the hunt with my brother staying at the pickup to watch the hunt unfold.
I got into a ditch and duck-walked or crawled on my belly for the next 2 hours and 15 minutes. I crawled by many areas where the antelope had been that morning judging by the faintly wet areas where they had urinated. Periodically I would get to a location to check on their location and my progress. Two different times I was able to watch the buck spot an intruder buck coming towards the harem and he would take off after him in a cloud of dust. As fast as he was gone, he appeared again in another cloud of dust to check that another intruder was not getting close to his harem. It was a fun sight to see but this meant that the group continued to move back and forth into different locations and I would have to continually adjust my plans as to where I was going to try to intercept them.
As I finally reached a point where the group of does were approximately 250 yards away, the buck trotted into view at about 200 yards away and began pawing the dirt and raking sagebrush. I knew he must have spotted an intruder in the distance and was pre-occupied with him. This was the distraction that finally allowed me to have a clear shot. I was shooting a Savage rifle chambered in .257 Roberts; at the shot, he showed no signs of a hit. I fired again and he began running to my left behind a small hill. I was astonished that I had missed at that distance and began the walk over to where he had been. I found blood and knew the shot was true so I began tracking him across the sagebrush. He jumped up out of the sagebrush 150 yards away as I closed in and a final shot finished the hunt. I had hit him with both shots but he did not show signs of a hit with the first shot; being rut crazed had kept him from realizing that he had been hit!
Planning on a four-day hunt and finishing up in a half day was not what I had planned; but I also hadn’t planned to get to see so many quality bucks and see a good representation of the quality for the area. And I also hadn’t planned to have to belly crawl for a couple of hours to get to him; but sometimes those sorts of things are what makes the best sort of memories!