We just finished our first big game hunt of the year, a SE New Mexico pronghorn hunt. In "The Heart of the Game", Thomas McGuane opines that "Hunting in your own backyard becomes with time, if you love hunting, less and less expeditionary." I love that essay and have considered his idea carefully, but haven't found myself at that place yet. A and I set out with an ice chest with 60 pounds of ice, another small ice chest with drinks and lunch, and a couple of big empties for quarters should things work out. We also each had a rifle, and binos, and our hunting packs minus all the survival gear, for we were within eyesight (not that that means much in the west) of town, about a half hour from our house.Not quite expeditionary, but not exactly traveling light.
The country is grass flats and low ridges and mounds of greasewood and mesquite and there are quite a few antelope on our allotted area. Better still, we only had to share with one other hunter, whom we never saw.
The first day, we had a good stalk on a really nice buck who was busy confronting a little guy. We got to within two hundred yards before getting made and never quite got to where we could get a shot at him. Much later, we saw a nice buck and two does a half-mile out, angling along a low ridge and then over it. We drove ahead, parked, and then snuck up to that ridge ourselves, resulting in A collecting her first big game with a nice shot at the standing buck. Between A's aversion to having her photo appear and the work of trying to get some meat in the box, we didn't take any pictures. Nonetheless, it was a good start to the year. A fair stalk and a good shot, taking him at 240 yards from shooting sticks followed by dressing and quartering on her own, with me holding the odd leg out of the way and offering too much advice.
Today, pressure off, we went back out to see if I could fill my tag. A came to spot, carry, provide moral support, and took a few photos as well. The first stalk was good, getting us to within 200 yards or so of a buck who was a bit small, so we backed out, leaving him bedded with his harem of does, and drove and glassed until we found a bit heavier-headed fellow all by himself. A bit of a ridge provided cover to walk, then walk bent over, then crawl, then slither up until we had closed to about 250. The buck was bedded, so I eased into a sitting position, settled into the sling, then set the rifle across my lap and took up the glasses to wait.
A half hour later, he stood up, walked a little ways, stopped, and I shot him, a bit farther forward than I should have, breaking the shoulder as well as getting lung. Now we've got meat to cut and a couple of nice racks for the mantle.
A few images from the hunt:
Figuring out the first stalk:
and getting down to the low parts:
When you get low and slow, you can bump into all sorts of things:
If I were to caption that, it would be something like "oh, crap!" as Mr. Jackrabbit was frozen upon finding himself way too close to a predator, flight paralyzed by proximity and fight not really an option. On the other hand, this guy inspired a momentary "oh, crap!" from me,
until a second glance registered the narrow head and distinctive shovel nose of a hog- nosed snake. See the shovel snout?
The better to dig out frogs and toads with. Given that we were right on the edge of a prairie dog town, I was on pretty high alert for rattlers. Our walk up the hill became a crawl and, let me assure any readers that don't already know, forty-something knees do not like 80 yard crawls at all. Not one little bit.
Settled into the sling, waiting for the buck to get up:
and then the end of the hunt:
The rifle bears mention. First, it is a .243 Winchester Model 70 featherweight in the "classic" action. The re-construction of the justly vaunted pre-64 model 70, Dad bought this rifle when US Repeating Arms announced it was closing the New Haven plant and it looked like there wouldn't be any more Model 70's. Controlled round feed, big claw extractor, smooth as silk out of the box and with a trigger that, once the glue had been scraped off the adjustment screw to, you know, adjust it, breaks nicely at two pounds. It's been waiting for a hunt for a few years now and Dad brought it out for me to use on this one. It'll hold 100 grain Sierra boat tails in an inch at a hundred and a better pronghorn gun I can't really imagine.