by NRA Staff - Monday, July 16, 2012
New Mexico is known for being won by the United States in the Mexican-American War, where Billy the Kid became famous and for having some of the best antelope hunting in the West. However, to get one, you have to spend a lot of time glassing and moving. A good truck is crucial to covering this open, but rough terrain inhabited by speed goats.
Three days of hunting proved successful for all nine hunters in the group. While no one took a monster, there were several decent bucks shot. The Ram trucks proved comfortable and durable, and they got us back to camp regardless of the terrain required to take a New Mexico antelope.
While there were antelope to be seen everywhere, finding one that we could stalk up on was quite a bit harder. Antelope have excellent eyesight, good noses, fast feet and enough sense to run if something seems wrong.
We made multiple stalks that ended by us watching a buck antelope sprint out of sight. Finally, I was able to get within range of this 14 1/2-inch prong horn. At just under 250 yards, a Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor SST round ended my first antelope hunt with success.
Mornings were cool and clear with daylight extending quickly across the high-desert landscape. Like most hunting for ungulates, early morning is a good time to pursue quarry. While antelope feed throughout the day, and even at night, many bed down during the hotter parts of the day. Often they’re still visible with binoculars, but it is much easier to sneak within range of an antelope that is feeding rather than one that is resting, as they often rest in groups with several acting as sentries.
For four nights, my bed was a cot, my home a teepee, my dining room a tent and my family a bunch of outdoor writers and the staff of Backcountry Hunts. The camaraderie of a hunt camp usually starts slow as people get to know one another, but it quickly heats up as rifles are pulled from cases and the crucial sight tests are conducted, with laughter ringing out over bad shots and congratulations with bullseyes. At the same time, the staff members that will be guiding and feeding us for four days are trying to determine if anyone has any peculiar quirks needing to be handled or questions answered. Providing important information about yourself and your abilities, as well as getting any questions you have answered, makes the whole experience better for everyone.
Do you sometimes think wildlife know when you can’t take them, like when you see that monster buck the day after the season ends? Well, this 15- to 16-inch monster showed itself within easy shooting distance (75 yards) to watch a bunch of outdoor writers stare in awe through binoculars and camera lenses just wishing someone still had an open tag.
Big rocks are everywhere in New Mexico, and sometimes the only way around them is over them. Here we tested the ground clearance of the Power Wagon by rolling it up onto the biggest rock we could find on top of the hill that exhibited the truck’s climbing power. The Power Wagon easily ascended and descended, without hitting the frame.
Binoculars aren’t just useful on an antelope hunt—they’re crucial. Antelope naturally blend into the background and are hard to see against the foliage and rocks, even with optics. Finding one takes careful observation, looking for minute differences in the landscape, such as parallel lines in the brush, by reading the landscape like a book, left to right and up and down.
While the official record shows extremely dry weather—the area was under a drought—strong storms can quickly encompass the area, bringing hard rains and driving winds. For a life-long Easterner, seeing a storm from miles away can be a little disconcerting. Out there, you can watch a storm go around you, head the other way or come right over your camp to turn the ground into a mess. At least this let us put the Ram trucks into some mud, but lightweight rain gear should be carried on hunts.
The point of this hunt was to find out how Ram Trucks could handle the rigors of antelope hunting, where the roads can be rough, rocky and hard to see. I started off in the Ram Power Wagon, which required a big step when climbing in, offering plenthy of ground clearance for climbing rocks and bouncing over ruts.
Aptly named, the Power Wagon was big and bulky and could probably have hauled any wagon in the country. It was also it was fun to drive with comfortable seats and easy to reach controls. However, it averaged 14 mpg, according to the in-dash gauges, during our three-hour drive from Amarillo, so this is not your typical cross-country vehicle.
Driving from Texas to New Mexico, the scenery through the windshield of a big 4x4 doesn’t change much. The terrain looks flat, but the road gently rises and falls through the sun-scorched fields and pastures as our convoy of Ram trucks turn highway dashes into long blurs on the way to my first antelope hunt.
While the landscape of New Mexico looks smooth at a distance, it is actually covered by knolls, hills and multitudes of rocks. Because of this, it takes a vehicle with high ground clearance and four-wheel drive to navigate the terrain and reach the backcountry that big antelope seem to prefer. The Ram trucks we were testing had no issues handling everything that we tried, including this hill that is much steeper than it looks.
New Mexico is currently suffering a significant drought. From a distance, the grass looks green and abundant, but when going over it, one can see large sections of dirt and that the grass is sparse and suffering. Because of this, wild game, such as antelope, are having problems getting sufficient nutrition and have dropped some in population. However, the Land of Enchantment still contains large antelope populations, providing ample opportunities to bag a speed goat.
The Rambox is rugged and waterproof, and with its optional attachments made an excellent place for carrying rifles. Of course, the attachments can also be swapped around for carrying fishing rods or removed to fit clothes, survival gear or drinks for a bunch of outdoor writers fresh off a plane.
The Ram Truck Outdoorsman was designed around the needs of hunters and anglers, while still keeping the significant other comfortable. The crew-cab 1500’s 17-inch tires handled the back roads we were traversing while glassing for antelope quite well. The controls functioned well, including the air conditioning, which is important as the temperature fluctuates greatly at 6,000 feet above sea level in the high desert. The Outdoorsman really beat the Power Wagon when it came to gas mileage.
Some of the features I liked on the Outdoorsman were the smooth ride, the front tow hooks and the Ram Box, located in the back quarter-panel.
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