Outdoor Journal: Success comes quickly in hunt for antelopes
Last Sunday at dawn, when Steve Zahurak of Schenectady and I should’ve been in a tree stand for the opening of Southern Zone bowhunting season, we were starting our flight to Casper, Wyo., for a five-day antelope hunt.
I won the hunt in an out-of-the-hat drawing during the Wyoming Business Council dinner at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas. The guided hunt for two was in one of Wyoming’s best zones — Area 25 — and the prize included all licenses. Steve was the obvious choice to accompany me because he attends the SHOT Show with me every year, but first, I called my wife from the show, invited her and she refused.
Three planes and seven hours later, we touched down in Casper, and as promised, Kelly Glause, proprietor of Cole Creek Outfitters, was there to greet us and take us to our hotel. Kelly guides for antelope, whitetail and mule deer, prairie dogs and pheasants. His clients often include various shooting sports manufacturing companies such as Swarovski Optics, Bushnell Optics, Horton Archery and Hornady Ammunition, which would be hunting there later this week. I just happened to be using their 130-grain GMX Superperformance bullet in my Century Arms 270 rifle. This bullet leaves the barrel at 3,190 feet per second with muzzle energy of 2,976 foot-pounds.
Kelly has been managing this 80,000-plus-acres of prime hunting land for over 23 years, and we found out just how good it really was the next day. Since I was going to be in Wyoming, I arranged a Merriam turkey hunt, which, if successful, would help me to qualify for my seventh National Wild Turkey Federation Grand Slam. Kelly said he would set me up with the best turkey guide in the area, his son Kody, the owner of Heart Spear Outfitters (www.heartspear.-com). Kody also guides for elk, mule and whitetail deer, bear and mountain lions. Kelly also said if I didn’t want to bring a turkey gun, he could set me up with a special one. I accepted.
It was only a short ride from the hotel to the hunting grounds, and I don’t think the gate was fully closed before we saw our first buck antelope. It quickly disappeared over a hill. The pronghorn antelope is the fastest land animal in the Western Hemisphere and capable of reaching speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour. Equally amazing is its 320-degree field of vision and eyesight that sees what humans do when they look through eight-power binoculars. Definitely a challenging animal to hunt.
Our plan was to ride the range. Kelly would stop and glass boss bucks in each group, looking for the biggest horns. If he found a “keeper,” he would tell us it was a good one and then ask us: “What do you think?” This is something I have never had a guide do before.
We had glassed about 20 groups with bucks that I had thought were good, but Kelly just smiled and said: “We can do better.” And later, we were glad he did. It’s hard to describe how big this ranch really is. In terms of miles, it was roughly 25 by 20.
About 7:45 a.m., Kelly spotted and glassed a buck lying down and said it was definitely a good one, but had a small piece missing from his left cutter horn. What I saw was a mature antelope buck that had been fighting to keep the young bucks away from his harem, and his big swollen neck was definitely a sign of the rut. It was my call, and I didn’t hesitate: “I’ll take him,” I said.
As quietly as I could, I slid out of the truck, and before my feet hit the ground, I could feel the adrenalin rising as I chambered a round into my rifle. Slowly, I readied for the shot and was glad I had added the Caldwell bipod to give me a steady, level rest.
The buck was lying down in the grass which covered several inches of its lower body, but I had enough to shoot at as I sighted him in. He moved, but did not get up. The only thing I remember after I pulled the trigger was the chill that ran up my spine — I missed! Prior to the trip, I spent time sighting in the rifle with its new Lucid L5 scope and the Hornady ammo. When I finished, I could cover my three-shot group with a penny 2 1⁄2 inches high of center at 100 yards. This was the proper setting for this gun. Therefore, the miss was not the gun’s fault.
As I chambered another round, the buck jumped up and started to trot uphill, but he made the mistake of stopping at the top and looking back. Shot No. 2 put him right down where he stood. Wow! I did my best impression of a Tiger Woods victory pump and accepted the handshakes of Kelly and Steve. It was just 8:17 a.m. on the first day.
Kelly estimated the antelope to be about 3 1⁄2 years old and weigh about 140 pounds. The horns measured 131⁄2 inches. Earlier that morning, I presented Kelly with the Viscerator knife by FieldTorg Knives which I asked him to use to field-dress the antelopes. Later that day, he commented that he was very impressed with the knife’s performance and its construction.
Looking back at my miss, I believe what happened was that I had incorrectly used one of the BDC (ballistic drop calculator) lines in my scope, rather than the center of the crosshairs, causing the shot to go even higher than the 21⁄2 inches. I’m not used to the BDC drop lines in my new Lucid L5 scope, but I will be with a few days at the long range, practicing and rolling over a few coyotes.
Back in the truck, Steve told Kelly that he needed to shoot an antelope with horns that measured at least 13 5⁄8 inches. This is typical of the competition we’ve developed over the years. We didn’t have to go far to find more antelopes. I guess we’d already seen at least 80 or 90, and we hadn’t seen half of the ranch yet.
I don’t think we traveled more than a few miles and glassed a dozen more groups when Kelly spotted a “shooter” lying down, but as we approached, he got up and started moving. Kelly and Steve exited the truck and started their sneak and peek. They’d gone about 50 yards when Kelly set up the shooting sticks for Steve’s shot. At about 150 yards, he fired, but it was too low, and his second shot at 200 yards was high. The buck disappeared over the hill and into a gorge.
About 20 minutes later, we spotted another which we believe was the same one Steve had missed earlier. Quickly, he set up and at 250 yards he was again high, but we were not done with him yet.
Watching his hasty retreat, we jumped back in the truck. Kelly’s sharp eyes and knowledge of the ranch enabled him to guess where the buck was going, and he knew how to get in front of him. When we spotted the buck again, he was 250 yards out, and Steve’s shot was horizontally perfect, but he believes he jerked the shot off to the left. We got to see how fast an antelope really is, and how good Steve really is.
Following the flying buck in his scope, Steve pulled off what was the best shot I’d ever seen. We heard the bullet impact on what turned out to be a perfect heart shot. I think it died of fright, but Steve says he always takes a few practice shots at the “range” before he shoots anything.
Lots of hoots, congratulations and photos followed. It was truly a great day, except that I sat on a cactus when having my photo taken with Steve. He generously offered to take a photo of me removing all those needle-like prickers from my backside. As for the horn measurements, I rounded them up to 131⁄2 inches. It was noon, on the first day of the hunt. This is one good guide.
We did do a little more shooting at a few prairie dogs before leaving the ranch, and these little pests are fun, especially when you do it with a .270.
After I got my turkey license, Kelly said he had arranged a meeting for me with Robert Stone of RGS Custom Rifles (www.rgsllc2010.com) where I picked up my turkey gun. Robert’s guns are outstanding, and the one I used was the first one he had made — a single-shot .22-250 that, if he had to replace it, would cost around $6,000. At the range, I put two rounds through the same hole and figured the turkeys were in trouble.
Kody had definitely done his homework for my turkey hunt because the river bottom he had chosen had plenty of Merriam turkeys, most of which were mingling with cattle. This was definitely going to be a spot-and-stalk hunt, something I don’t do a lot of when hunting for turkeys. Kody glassed the flocks, looking for a good tom and found several feeding closely with the cattle. It was obvious that with all the cattle activity, the shooting window would not be open long and the shot would have to be threaded carefully. To say I was a bit nervous would be an understatement. Not only did I feel nervous about scratching his beautiful rifle, but also in not hitting a cow.
But the gun was definitely up to the task, and at 5:30 that afternoon, I shot through an opening in a hedgerow and toppled a Wyoming Merriam tom that carried a five-inch beard and tipped the scales at over 20 pounds. All this on our first day of hunting!
Thank you, Kelly, Kody, Robert and a special thanks to the Wyoming Business Council from Steve and me. For photos of our antelopes and turkey, go to my blog at, www.noonanpics.blogspot.com.