Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Back in the late 1960's and after urging by archeologist and frequent African hunter Frank C. Hibben, the NM Dept. of Game and Fish acted on the idea of bringing oryx (pdf link), or gemsbock, into New Mexico to add another species to the Chihuahuan desert lands of the Tularosa Basin, essentially the White Sands Missile Range. The animals did well there, and now you can put in for and draw a tag to hunt them as they range freely on the missile range and beyond. The Dept. of Game and Fish estimates three to six thousand oryx roam south central New Mexico now. Since natural predators aren't doing much to control oryx numbers and Chihuahuan desert is apparently a bit more hospitable than the Namib, population reduction through hunting (and providing another hunting opportunity was the whole purpose of bringing in oryx).

We were lucky enough to draw tags last year for a once-in-a-lifetime hunt on the Missile Range for this past January.

On one hand, I'm tempted to bring out my inner Capstick:

The cerulean sky was marred by a crepuscular smear of cloud, dimming the hard winter sun and we crossed the many dongas leading down from the mountain like fingers and cut our prey's spoor. That spoor was wide and bold and our experienced tracker had no trouble. Past hunts allowed my eye to follow the bright splashes of lifesblood splattered on the hard stone of the unforgiving landscape easily as well- A kept overwatch in case it turned. Where the quarry had paused, viscous lakes of gore slowly filtered into the desert sand....

More realistically (and lacking much of a Capstick), we hunted pretty hard and, as two of a hundred hunters in an area the size of a couple of different states on the eastern seaboard, felt crowded. One stalk was ended when other hunters took an animal out of the bunch we were working, we passed a couple of others and figured we had things scoped for the second day, which turned out to be cut short for some sort of military exercise. That second day produced nothing much early on, except a road I wouldn't quite brave, and, on the way to a high point to eat lunch and glass, we saw a critter that present a shot which was a bit long but do-able. I shot too far back despite repeated warnings to the contrary, and a bit low as well, so A got to see how you follow a blood trail and we found our oryx a bit away in greasewood scrub studded with mesquites and cut by a lot of little draws. Once down, dressing and quartering started. My dad was along as observer, adviser, and factotum and headed off with the first quarter, A followed with a second and I finished dressing the animal and, once Dad made his return trip, we headed off with the rest of the meat, hustling to meet the national security deadline for getting off the range. The truck was visible, but a darned good little hike. Meat for the next year, the subject of a couple more posts.


danontherock said...

Interesting hunt and great story. I am interested in the "Meat for the next year, the subject of a couple more posts." as it is a long winter here yet and am in the midst of the " cooking season"

Scampwalker said...

I didn't realize Oryx were free-range in New Mexico. They are (sorta) in Texas, but only if they can escape a high fence. Good for you! Oryx are fine table fare. I assume you're mounting this once in a lifetime trophy? If for no other reason than to hear non-hunters say, "that's the weirdest whitetail I've ever seen!"

mdmnm said...

Thanks! Next couple of posts on processing, a much smaller job than an elk or, I'm sure, a moose. While we try to take advantage of cooler weather for stews and braises, we don't have so much of a "cooking season", something I really like the idea of.

Yeah, the oryx in NM are so free range that they're working pretty hard to control them. Due to space and other considerations, no full mount, but rather a skull plate and horns, which I imagine will garner a bit of comment all the same.