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Somewhere in a Rifleman's Paradise (Page 2)

Tag along during a spot-and-stalk for a magnificent pronghorn in New Mexico.

It barked and sprinted away and we spent the rest of the day hiking and glassing. Finally, when the sun was setting, giving the plains this orange color that reminded me of classic Westerns shot in Technicolor, we spotted our buck crossing a road, but it was too late to pursue.

Another Day in Paradise
The next morning we started where we’d left off. After an hour we spotted him a mile away. The buck was moving as usual.

We followed, but the ground was wide open. We couldn’t get closer than 600 yards in ankle-high grass. Two hours and a half-mile later we were under the only tree for hundreds of yards. The buck was with 30 or so antelope spread out along a fence line. He was trotting back and forth threatening all the other bucks and sniffing the does.

“I should have brought the decoy,” said Van. “With the Montana Decoy we could have tried to get within 400 yards.”

Then a herd came from behind and almost stampeded us. An estrous doe in this new herd had that jerky, stop-and-go run whitetail does get when they’re going into heat. Two 14-inch bucks started fighting right in front of us.

This got the old boy interested. He trotted closer. It looked like he might come all the way, but then the doe tore down the expanse with the two bucks chasing.

“Come on,” said Van.

We bent over and went single-file right after them. The doe was distracting the antelope, so we just took a chance. At 450 yards, the antelope noticed us. We lay down in the grass. I opened the bipod.

As soon I did that old buck circled our way to keep the two bucks that had been fighting away from the doe.

“Three-eighty … 370 … 360,” called out Van, making me think, good guide.

The buck stopped. The wind was right-to-left at about 5 mph, which gave me a wind drift of about 3-4 inches. At 400 yards the 130-grain Speer Grand Slams I was shooting were dropping a touch over 20 inches (given that the scope was set dead-on at 200 yards). All the guesswork in my calculations was well inside the margin of error (the size of the antelope’s vitals) and I had a solid rest. So I held 15 inches high and 4 inches right and touched off that little CVA.

The antelope didn’t even flinch.

Van hissed, “Shoot again.”

Now, I was holding a single-shot .270 and lying prone in foot-high grass. I could see dust rising from 30-plus antelope running. One of them was the giant buck. Even if I could reload fast enough there was no chance to get on the buck in all that. The thought ran through my mind and I decided that shooting again was so hopeless I might as well be cocky, so I just said, “Why?”

Van scowled at me. When not outfitting in the Southwest he charters out of Mexico for marlin. He has the salty captain’s expression of hard disdain perfected. But before he could back up the frown with some dry retort befitting the landscape, the buck fell.

Van’s expression lightened.

The buck green-scored 86 on the B&C scale—beating the club’s minimum of 80. It takes some luck and time to pull down a tag in this rifleman’s paradise. It takes a discerning eye and patience to hunt down its trophy antelope. And, for some, it’ll take time at the range to increase how far they can ethically shoot. But the B&C bucks are there and tags are drawn each year.

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