By: Bears Butt

Looking back at 2018, it started like all the rest, with great expectations and hope. Always is the hope to hit a big jackpot in the lottery game so that money is never going to be any kind of issue in the future. To go where we want to go, whenever the mood strikes us. Well, that didn’t happen last year. Maybe it will in 2019.

My bucket list includes a lot of things, but one of those was, and has been for quite some time, to shoot a pronghorn antelope with my muzzleloader. That has been on the list for several years, ever since the DWR approved the antelope hunt in the Randolph area during the muzzleloader deer hunt. A hunt I spearheaded several years back. Well, after the draw results were in from the big game drawing this year (2018), I was awarded one of those coveted tags!

I wasn’t as stoked up as I thought I would be however. Why? I’m not sure, perhaps some of my disappointment in having the tag was that I was the only one with the tag. I spent the summer and early fall, searching for articles on How to hunt Antelope, how to care for the meat once it was on the ground. When NOT to shoot an antelope in order to have the best table faire possible. What to look for in a “large antelope specimen”, trophy book stuff you know.

Once I figured I had researched all I needed to know about what to look for in an antelope and all the other things associated with antelope hunting, I settled into the fact that the hurd in the Randolph area is not as populated as it once was and that I might just be facing a tag that wasn’t attached to an animal at the end of the season. Also, to tag a record buck, would probably not even be possible. After all, they are a very wary animal, capable of seeing you a LONG way off, long before you even know they are in the country. Shooting a muzzleloader meant I would have to be well within 200 yards in order to tag one, and I’m just not that comfortable shooting over 100 yards, especially with open sights.

So, my mind settled on a picture of one, with typical looking antelope horns, maybe even shaped like a heart when viewed straight on from the front. We all dream of the record book, but I settled early on a typical, non-book type, even though I had not scouted the area or anything. I figured I’d just go up, camp with the boys and girls for the muzz deer hunt and do my hunting around those guys and their hunt. Oh sure, I could have made my own camp and done my own thing for the entire season, but that just isn’t my style. I like the camp, the camaraderie, the cutting up and all the other stuff that goes along with hunting. AND, should I not get my tag filled, well, that would be OK too.

My buddy, “Crock” Riley, drew a very nice Limited Entry buck deer tag down in the Book Cliff area of Utah and to go along with a tradition, he had shirts printed up for he and his other lucky draw people, that showed a very nice buck and the words “2018, Book Cliffs..Chosen One”, along with that tradition, I made each of them up a rear view mirror dangle dream catcher with 2018 Book Cliffs written on a bead. Crock saw that my hunt was going to be a solo ordeal and he had a shirt printed for me, showing a nice buck antelope picture and the words Speedgoat Cache 2018, …chosen one. I was extremely pleased and humbled that he would think of me and my hunt the way he did. Thank you Crock.

With the attitude I had, there was no need for me to break up my routine of living, to start a rigorous training program to lose weight, tone up and be ready for a 3 mile, uphill pack out. Antelope, even big ones, seldom top out weighing over 100 pounds, besides my plan was to shoot one close to a road, which is typical of antelope country here in Utah. So, instead, I just got fat.

When the time for the hunt finally arrived, I had already spent a few weeks hunting deer with my bow, during which time I did spot out a pretty nice antelope buck I told Weasel I would shoot in a heart beat, should the opportunity present itself. We had set up our typical muzz deer camp with the usual characters involved, which is a very fun time for all of us. I spent the first few days hunting with them for their deer with an occasional break off to go see about finding an antelope. I saw antelope alright, but I just could not get close enough for a shot.

I also discovered “new to me” hunting country, new water holes and a myriad of other places of opportunity for future hunting, mostly for deer and elk. So, the short hunts I went on were not wasted, even though the antelope were much smarter than me and avoided any close encounters. I discovered where many deer and elk had recently visited a couple of very nice watering holes, but for some reason the “deer hunters” I was hunting with were not interested in a “chance” encounter at any of them, they had their reasons for sticking to their plans and it worked for a couple of them quite well.

By the end of the time allotted for our typical muzz deer season camp and hunt to be over, mostly because the hunting age kids had to return to school, we pulled up the camp and went home. My antelope tag still firmly stuck in my wallet. I had not given up hope of tagging out, but in my own mind, I knew my available hunting time was becoming very limited.

After a very good nights rest, I was catching up on a week away from Facebook, when one of my friends made a comment about seeing a nice buck antelope out his window. He has a female friend in the Randolph area that he visits on occasion and he just happened to be visiting her this particular morning. I messaged him and he invited me up to give it a shot at trying to bag it. No guarantees. I quickly took him up on the offer and then I contacted Weasel and asked if he would like to go with me. Of course, he did.

We jumped in the truck and high balled it for the area. Arriving at his ranch about 1 1/2 hours later! A faster trip I don’t think is possible in a pickup truck. Pulling into his yard, he came out, we greeted, as we had never officially met until this moment. Facebook friends most often never meet, just call each other friends on the social media pages. This guy is a genuine guy, kind, caring and down to earth. He pointed out the buck laying in a field a few hundred yards away. A very nice typical antelope, one that would look good on my wall at home! He had devised a game plan for us to get the buck and the plan had Weasel and I hiking to a spot above the field the buck was in, but it would not be easy for us to stay hidden from the animal as it lay in the field. In fact, by the time Weasel and I were in position, I’m certain the buck had already seen us working our way to the ambush spot. My friend, rode a 4 wheeler out and around the buck. Even though the buck had become accustomed to humans on tractors, 4 wheelers, horses and even on foot, it was still very nervous to have a human get very close to it. Besides there were also some doe antelope in that same field as short distance from where the buck was laying and they jumped up and proceeded to get “out of Dodge” as quickly as they could. The buck tried to keep up with them, but they out maneuvered him to a point he lost contact with the direction they had gone.

His search for them and his avoidance of my friend on the 4 wheeler, caused him to travel in our direction. We had some hope he would continue toward us and give me a shot. He was too wise and circled around us. With that plan not working in our favor, Weasel and I decided we should go to another spot we had seen a buck antelope during the muzz deer hunt. Maybe we could get on him. We said our Thank You’s and Good Bye’s to my friend and headed out. It took us awhile to get over to where we had last seen him, with very little hope that we would actually see the buck and that the buck would not be on private property, where it liked to hang out.

Well, low and behold, we did spot the antelope with a couple of does, up on the hill side, in an area I could actually shoot it, if I could get close enough. A trick that had not proved to be an easy one in the recent past, but if you don’t try, you will never succeed.

My first attempt was to “go straight at him” and hope he stuck around, after all, I only had to go about 200 yards and I’d be within 150 yards of him. The does had other plans for their male friend and lead him up and over the ridge! Back at the truck, we decided to continue our drive along the dirt two track that followed the private property fence and hope to cut him off as he came down to jump over the fence and onto safety. Well, we didn’t really know where the antelope had gone, so we took another side road that lead to the top of the hill a bit South of where we had last seen them going. Sure enough, there they were. Still too far for a shot, so we continued up the two track to the top of the hill. Meanwhile the antelope went down the other side, heading in the direction of the private property.

My thoughts were that maybe with them being down in a “safe zone”, in the sage and out of our sight, they would settle down and maybe, just maybe, I could sneak over the ridge, spot them before they spotted me and I’d get a longer than I like shot at him. It would be worth a try.

Leaving the truck up on top, I slowly made my way over to the edge of the ridge line, where I could look over and down the hill, hoping I’d see him before he saw me. I went as slowly and quietly as I knew how to do. Meanwhile, Weasel, headed in a different direction hoping to see a buck deer we had seen on the same hill we spotted the antelope on when we first arrived in this area.

As my footsteps lead me to the edge, I was trying my best to see below me, hoping to catch the slightest of movement, shape, or anything that would mean I was looking at an antelope, buck or doe did not matter to me, as right now I was just trying to see where they were. I was getting quite close to the edge, where I would be able to see the entire hillside below me, when I finally spotted the tan and white body of an antelope. It was broadside to me, looking off to my right. The way it was standing was as if it was focused on some far off object to the south of us. It had no idea I was just above it on the ridge. Through my 12X50 binocs I could easily see it was my buck, the same buck I had seen during the bow hunt and the muzz deer hunt, the one I had told Weasel I would shoot in a heartbeat should I get the chance. I put my rangefinder on him and hit the button….180 yards! Oh my heck! That is a LOT farther than I am used to shooting! In fact, I don’t think I have ever taken a shot that far on a big game animal, with my muzzleloader.

I made my mind up to take the shot and settled into a kneeling position, being especially careful not to kneel on a cactus or to make any unnecessary noises. I did not want him to look up in my direction. In fact his posture was perfect for a shot like this. Taking as careful aim as I could, I settled the sights on his shoulder, he was facing to my right. I took a deep breath, then exhaled, I was calm, not anxious at all. My mind raced through the aiming/shooting sequence I have been through thousands of times in the past and even though it was nearly a 200 yard shot, I rationalized it was quite a steep downhill shot and the bullet should naturally climb higher than my aim point. I should aim as if he was 30 yards away, no compensation what so ever. As the sights settled on his shoulder, I clicked the set trigger, and then moved my finger up to the front trigger, once again the sight picture was very clearly settled on his shoulder and with ever so slight pressure on the trigger the roar of the powder sent the bullet racing toward the buck. I heard the bullet strike the buck, but I wasn’t sure just where it hit him. The smoke was still hanging over the edge of the ridge below me when the buck took off running in the direction it had been looking. I could see its rear leg bouncing to the side as it ran. My shot was not a good one, as it hit the rear leg, breaking it just below the hip. The buck ran like that for about 50 yards and then settled into a pocket of sage, where it laid down. I was not happy with the shot, but I was pleased to think I had hit it and for sure would recover it, it would be just a matter of time before it died where it was laying in the sage. I didn’t reload until after I saw it lay down, then I stood up and reloaded. By then Weasel had made it to where I was, he heard the shot and came as quickly as he could. I pointed out where the buck was laying and he verified it in his binocs.

Weasel was quick to say, he would take the truck down to the two track that followed the private property fence and that I should carefully and quietly sneak down off the ridge and over to where the antelope was laying. All the while being ready for a kill shot should it jump up. The main issue here was not that I wouldn’t harvest this wounded animal, but that I needed to make sure it didn’t get across the fence and onto the private ground. We had our plan and so we separated. The truck parked along side the fence should deter any thoughts by the antelope to go in that direction should it decide to try and escape.

I worked slowly and quietly down off the ridge keeping a very close eye on where the buck was laying. About 50 yards away from the buck, it got up and took a couple of bounds away from me. I had no shot. It laid down again in a place I could not see it, and I get closer the terrain forced me into a depression where I could not see the sage brush anywhere near the animal. I would be hidden from the animal, but also, unable to see the animal should it get up and run. 5 steps is about what it took to be back up high enough to see where the animal was laying, however when I came up to this point, I wasn’t exactly sure where that spot was. I knew the “general” area is all, and to me that is not a good feeling.

Knowing the antelope was not stiffened up, was also a little un-nerving to me, as it could move quickly and get across the fence probably before I could get a shot off and should that happen, my shot would have to be perfectly placed.

Weasel and the truck came down the two track off the side of the hill and down to the fence. He turned the truck in my direction and slowly came in the direction of the antelope. He did not know the animal had moved from its original position. As he got closer, I stopped him by raising my hand when I figured he was in a spot closest to the antelope and between the antelope and the fence.

Weasel and I have been hunting long enough to almost think alike. He got out of the truck, carefully and quietly closed the door and started a slow and deliberate hike in the direction of the antelope, even though he did not know the exact location. Suddenly the antelope was up and coming directly at me! I raised my rifle and the animal stopped, showing me only its face. At about 50 yards that was all I could see and I settled the sights on it and pulled the trigger! The animal was down and very much dead.

My bucket list animal was tagged, in the cooler and on its way home in less than an hour! Thank you Weasel for the support, and to Jeremy Holm for convincing me to get up there and try one more time!

The buck is close to a heart shape, and somewhat like the picture on my shirt! I want to thank everyone for the support I was given in scratching this one off my bucket list. Oh, and by the way, it tastes VERY GOOD! I’d shoot another for the meat ANY DAY!

Written on January 1st, 2019 , Hunting Stories

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Just some of my old stories, new stories, and in general what is going on in my life.