2001 - Nevada Antelope Hunt

 

This hunting season marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new one for both my son and myself. When I applied this year for my big-game tags, I had a feeling that this year things would be better than in the past. If you are from Nevada then you will understand my frustration with trying to draw a big-game tag here in the silver state. In eleven years I have drawn two antelope and three buck, Mule deer, tags.

I drew my first antelope tag back in 1990, shortly after returning home from my enlistment in the Army. I thought it was strange to draw a highly sought after antelope tag the first time I applied and not a buck, Mule deer, tag. After filling my tag I waited the mandatory five years between antelope tags and started applying again in 1996. This year I thought for sure I would draw a buck Mule deer tag, but was pleasantly surprised to find that I had drawn another antelope tag for area 5, but again no deer tag.

This antelope hunt is the first big-game hunt that my son has been able to participate in. Barry is eleven years old and has been bird hunting with me for two years, last year he started duck hunting as well. He is eagerly waiting to apply next year for his first deer and antelope tags. This is the last year I will apply as a single hunter, from now on all my applications will be for party hunts with my son.

My friend Joe did not draw any tags this year despite applying for every hunt available, so he asked if he could join my son and me on my hunt. The more eyes the better when hunting for trophy antelope. I had never been to area 5 before and none of my friends had ever hunted antelope there either. So when Joe offered to drive and help spot I naturally accepted.

After attending the antelope seminar put on by the Department of Wild Life and talking to several hunters in attendance about area 5, I decided to scout out the central portion of the area around Chimney Creek Reservoir. Two weeks before the hunt we were able to spot some nice bucks east of the reservoir, but found the majority of animals in the alfalfa fields, south along the Eden Valley Road. We glassed a heard of about forty animals and found three really good bucks with one that would score better than the minimum 82 B&C. We contacted a local rancher and received permission to rid his fields of one antelope buck. For those folks not familiar with area 5 it is located north of Winnemucca, three and a half hours from Reno. The boundaries are north of I-80 to the Idaho border, and east of Highway 95 to the Elko county line. The area we have been concentrating on is near Paradise and is full of wild life. We were able to watch a very large fork horned buck Mulie cross main street in town and feed across the front yard of a house before he made his way to the alfalfa fields in the back.

Three years ago I bought a new Savage 111NFS chambered in .25-06 and topped it with a Tasco World Class Plus 4x-16x range finding scope with a stadia reticle. I was skeptical when the salesman at my local gun shop suggested the scope, but after shooting numerous three and five shot groups within an inch, I am sold on this scope. I hand load all of my ammo, and this rifle has never had factory ammunition fired through it. The load I worked up for this hunt is made up of the following: Winchester brass, Nosler 100 grain Ballistic Tip bullets, 50 grains of IMR 4350 powder and a CCI 200 large rifle primer.

Joe and I took the Friday before opening day off so we could get out and speak with the rancher and get an idea of where the antelope were feeding and bedding down. Not surprising the antelope were basically right where we left them. The large buck was in the heard and we new that we had a good chance of getting him in the morning. I decided to make my way into the fields around 3 am under the cover of darkness and lay down in the alfalfa about 200 yards west of the heard. I felt confident that if I could get within 200 yards of the heard, without spooking them, then I would be able to get a shot at one of the bucks at sunrise.

I started into the fields at 4 am and had a great experience moving in and amongst the antelope in the pitch black. I stepped into one of the trenches left by the tires of the pivot arm that waters the field and fell down twisting my right wrist but I was able to break my fall and not bump the scope on my rifle. After collecting myself I made my way to the nearby haystacks. As I was waiting for day light three bucks moved by my position not more than 30 yards in front of me. It was too dark to see their horns but I could make out the dark patches on the side of their faces. The antelope kept moving past my position and into the field just east of me. As I observed their movement I realized that I was in the wrong position, I got disoriented in the dark and was about six hundred yards south of the position were the heard was bedded down. I was afraid to move because it was now getting light and I had no cover to conceal my movement. There were antelope all around me but none of them were big mature bucks. I decided I would have to move out and try to get closer to the heard.

After 100 yards I stopped and went prone in the alfalfa, glassing the heard, I saw the big buck looking right at me. I started low crawling to make up some distance, at about six hundred yards the buck started moving towards me. I couldn't believe it, my luck was turning around. The buck was actually helping to close the distance between it and my 100-grain Nosler ballistic tip. After closing about fifty more yards the buck stopped, I knew my hunt for him was over because a young stupid kid in his pick up was driving right down the middle of the fields towards my buck. The young hunter never saw me in the alfalfa because he just kept going even after I stood up. That buck didn't let that kid get out of the truck, he went from zero to 60 mph in 2.2 seconds and the heard was gone. I was so mad, I never looked back at the kid or acknowledged his presence. I just turned and walked away toward camp.

Joe called me on the radio to tell me about a good buck about 800 yards north west of my position. I went prone and glassed the area but the buck was on the other side of the pivot arm that was watering the field. I could barely make out the form of two bucks through the water. I figured the water would give me cover and that I could make up the distance if I moved quickly. As I got up to run I saw some movement on my left. I went prone once again and spotted a nice mature buck moving along the edge of the field. I had no cover to get in close to the buck and my range indicator on the Tasco indicated a range of over 450 yards. I knew that my .25-06 was very capable of making the shot so I adjusted the bullet drop compensator on the scope to 500 yards and waited for the buck to present me with a good target. The buck never knew I was hunting him. He was sniffing the air and flicking his tongue at the scent of the does just north of him. The buck stopped and squatted down to mark the ground with urine. I held dead on his back and sent the little .25 caliber missile 500 yards to the small of the bucks back. The buck's front legs gave out and the buck went down on his chin.

I couldn't believe it, I had made the longest shot in my life and the buck was down and not moving. I reached for the radio to call Joe and my son but I had lost the radio in the alfalfa when I was low crawling. I quickly glassed back at the buck to make sure he was down and after my confirmation I went searching for the radio. Luckily the radio was only about 15 feet from my position and I quickly radioed the good news to Joe and Barry. They could hardly believe I had shot the buck at the edge of the field because they knew how far away from the buck I had been. I started moving towards the buck when Joe suggested that I give it some time to die as he had observed its head moving. I got 300 yards from the buck and went prone again, finding the downed buck in my scope. To my astonishment the buck was rising to its feet. Joe again suggested that I wait but the buck was starting to walk north. I waited to see what the buck was going to do and after five or six steps I sent another round down range, this time the Nosler found the bucks liver and lungs. The buck immediately went down and never moved again. We discovered that the first bullet hit the buck in the small of the back but did not hit the backbone or any vital organs as it passed through the body cavity. The bullet knocked the animal down and out, but had not caused enough trauma to cleanly kill it. The second shot was necessary, as the buck could have gotten out of the fields and died with out leaving a substantial blood trail.

The buck turned out to be a great buck, 16 inch, heavy horns, with three-inch prongs and 16 inches wide. He won't make the record books with a green score of 75 but he definitely holds my record for distance shot. The buck is bigger than my last antelope and my son's smile when he finally got down to the animal really made the hunt a memorable and satisfying experience. I cant imagine ever going to the field with out my son, next year I will be the one smiling proudly when Barry fills his first tag.

I recommend area 5 to everyone considering an antelope hunt. The antelope are the large head and longhaired variety found in northern Nevada. These are truly trophy animals that make beautiful mounts. Good luck and keep your powder dry.

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