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by Kent Jensen a.k.a. punkinslinger Last updated: 2011-10-16 22:17:20
The last time I was Antelope hunting, my only son was about a year old, on that trip I killed a North Dakota buck with 12" horns shooting an XP 100 R in 308. My hair was darker, my waistline thinner, but that is the past. My son Jared turned 19 on October 14th and graduated high school this past spring.
In December of 2010 I sent an e-mail to Gregg Richter quizing him about the 2011 HHI Antelope hunt, stating that I wanted to take my son on an Antelope hunt, before anymore time slips away. It almost broke my heart when Gregg said " The hunt has been cancelled", herd numbers were too low, for the ranch to allow 15 to 20 or more hunters in one group to come in for a hunt. But Gregg did inform me he was trying to set up a similar hunt on a smaller scale, lo and behold the first LGI "Little Gun Invitational" was born. Gregg informed me he had one spot left, I politely stated that I needed two or "Nothing". Several weeks passed when Gregg called and said " I have two spots available, I need to know for sure, are you In?" My reply "Absolutely".
The speciality pistol that I had wanted for years was in the making at this time. A Defiance long action with left hand bolt and left hand port for a right handed shooter, was in Greg Tannels' shop getting fitted with a 7 MM 18" Brux 1 in 9 twist, Hollands Radial brake and chambering in 7 Dakota. The wait to shoot this gun, coupled with the excitement of going on a hunt with my son, was almost more than I could take, but Gre'Tan Rifles delivered as promised, and soon Jared and I were out shooting. He was shooting an older XP converted to rear grip in 7 MM 08, that I picked up a year or two ago from my hunting buddy Mick. A summer full of practice for both of us, me more than him. If,, I could only have the schedule of a teenage boy !
The XP Jared was shooting is fitted with a Burris EER 2.5 X 7 and a short Harris bi-pod, he picked it up quick and was shooting quite well with it to 300 yards. My 7 Dakota is wearing a Sightron SIII 8 X 32 with the new LR MOA-2 reticle, and invloved a summer full of dialing, and ranging using the MOA crosshairs. This is my first speciality pistol and first ever rifle scope on a handgun, that alone took some getting used to. As always things never go as planned and my work schedule gets really hectic in the fall, I reassure my son "We are going regardless, so every minute of your free time should be spent preparing for this hunt". In the evenings prior to the hunt we are busy lining our gear up, packing the trailer and just making sure we have everything we need.
With the hunt being held near Wright Wyoming, we were faced with only a 10-12 hour drive, but allowed for an overnight stay and the Saturday morning before the hunt, should we need time for a vehicle break down or anything else that may come into play. Murphy did come along for the ride and reared his ugly head breifly. We made plans to meet for supper with Ernie (XP Hunter) and Ken (500 WE) in Gillette Friday evening. Right after I got off the phone with Ernie we stopped for a bathroom break in Belle Fourche SD, got in the truck, hit the key, nothing, not even a click ! After a temporary setback, we were on the road once again, we arrived in Gillette just in time, for the rain, some fellowship and the best onion rings in all of Wyoming! We were to meet at the Durham ranch at 1:00 Saturday, so we have all of that morning to get our final supplies and license. The rain we encountered the evening before had not let up and would last all day and night into Sunday. We arrive at the ranch, make the introductions and get oriented with the areas we are to hunt, we are informed of a few do's and dont's. Then get turned loose, my kind of hunt, point us in the right direction and there you go ! At last we are on our father son hunt. Sharkie takes us to the spot in which we are to set up camp, we quickly unhook the trailer, unload all the unneeded items from the truck and head out for the last couple hours of daylight.
We follow the map we were given at orientation and pass thru the final gate to our designated hunt area, titled Goodman Flats. I suggested to Jared we leave the truck and walk to the first knoll to glass, if we see nothing we go to the next and so on, he agreed. We made it to the third knoll when an Antelope buck caught sight of us, but did not know what we were and started quartering around to wind us, when he disapeared behind one of the rolling hills, we ran across the bottom and started up the slope of the next hill to a little rock out cropping. Jared got in position behind a rock, I was several yards away in the sage, then I saw the buck coming right across the top of the ridges toward us. The buck knew something was up at this point, but the wind was still in our favor, he starts to move to our right getting closer and closer to our downwind side. He stops several times but never provides a decent shot, then he stops at 150 yards, turns broad side, snorts and starts to puff out his rump, I say to myself "Son if it is gonna happen it needs to happen ( KABOOM ! ) soon " At the shot I hear the hit, he stumbles slightly, as he runs up the slope of the hill behind us, he stumbles again as he crests the hill. Jared wants to get over that hill to see where he is, I try to calm him, "Take a deep breath, we need to give it some time" I say " And tell me about the shot, it sounded solid son " Jared said " Crosshairs right behind his front shoulder, I think it was a good shot" I agreed, we slowly crest the hill, Jared is looking too far away and doesn't see his buck piled up in the sage twenty yards in front of us, but when he did, man was he excited! His first handgun kill and a very nice first Antelope that he took with his own handloads, that he developed. After tagging and photos, light is fading fast, we decide to get it loaded in the truck and field dress it back at camp. Once we are back at camp, Jared makes short work of the field dressing process and soon his buck is hanging from one of the cottonwood trees in the old creek bed. I told Jared "There is just something about hanging a critter in the trees while you're out hunting" his reply " It is that good kind of feeling". We retire to the trailer for a hot meal and a somewhat restless night, the constant sound of rain hitting the roof, means the morning will be muddy and sloppy.
Sunday morning comes and the rain is still falling, lighter and not as steady, but still wet. We follow the map to the West pasture, our designated hunt area for the day, we spot several small groups on the way in but nothing catches my eye. We follow the Scoria covered road a bit farther when Jared says. " Hey, there is a lone buck", we both glass him and decide he is a shooter, after a short stalk I am set up for the shot. This is where a good quality range finder would be nice, we have a range finder but it just does not want to pick this buck up, Jared said " I can't range him must be more than 400 yards", as I line up the cross hairs on him, I say "It just doesn't look that far". I never even thought of using the reticle to range him, just dialed in the MOA for 400 yards and squeezed the trigger, at the shot Jared say's "Man, that was way high" I then realized my novice mistake, atleast it was a clean miss. I lie on the cold wet prairie, watching the buck amble off over the hills, as he picks up a companion, then another, the three of them make their way to my left, back in the direction of the road, "May as well follow them, I need to get to the road also", I watched them cross the road, one at a time, I let my guard down thinking I'll not see an Antelope anytime soon, after this screw up. I crest the hill and walk up to the edge of the road and look in the direction those three headed and I not only see those, but a herd of about 35 and some nice bucks too. Jared makes his way to me with the range finder, as I watch them through the scope, they are just milling around, bucks, does and kids. The mature bucks are very active, the does and kids feeding, there is alot of competition atleast 5 mature bucks in this group. Then I see him, the one they have nicknamed flathead or hammerhead, his horns come almost straight out the side of his head, like a longhorn steer. He is very active, chasing does and is soon out of sight over the hill, maybe next time. There is another buck just as active, my attention is now focused on him as he weaves his way in and out of the rest of the herd. I ask Jared to range him, he say's "Can't pick him up" this time I range him with my reticle, depending upon where he is on the hill top, I'm thinking 400 to 450 max. I dial in 5.25 MOA from my 200 yard zero and wait for him to present the shot, he stops several times but is always surrounded by other animals. Then he makes a wide loop, and is alone, I mutter "Now stop, just stop for a damn second, will ya", the whole time following him in the scope, then he stops for the perfect broadside shot. I lose sight of him at the recoil, Jared shouts " He's hit, he's hit" I find him in the scope again, just in time to see him fall, I watch for a little while, with no movement. I get the range finder from Jared and have him stand where I took the shot and I start walking toward the downed buck, when it picks him up, it shows 296 yards, I turn around and range Jared it shows 106 yards, for easy math I'll just call it 400 yards. The 180 grain Berger VLD at 2855 MV did its job and nearly split the heart completely in two, dead on his feet and never knew what hit him. We complete the tagging, photo, field dressing process and drag him to the truck, it is only 10 A.M. We head back to camp fairly wet and cold, we contemplate quartering and packing the two antelope in ice, when Jared say's " I'm cold and sure those two are getting colder, can't we just put'em in the pick up and head out?" A quick call home to see what the weather is, confirms it, cool and cloudy, we will stop several times on the way home to pack chest cavities with ice. We call Sharkie and he takes the measurements he needs and ages both bucks at 4 1/2 years plus, we break camp and leave for the long ride home, hopefully, with the bond between father and son closer and our next tag team event, even closer.
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