Pronghorns, mud and lemon bars

270.Rose

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Dec 12, 2020
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188
There's a certain symbolism, unintentional, but nonetheless present, about frying the last package of breakfast sausage from last year's antelope on opening morning of the season. 2:30am should be too early to make breakfast burritos, but here I am, scrambling eggs and frying potatoes, and grating the last of the smoked mozzarella.
I'm happy we are pretty much on schedule to leave at 3:05. No point in hoping that the kids will go back to sleep once we have them loaded in the truck. They know what snacks we've packed. Candy bars? Nope, wait. Oreos? Not yet. Crackers? You have to eat a burrito first. Let's distribute them while they are still hot. Why is it dark outside? Is that the moon? Where are we going? When will we get there?
I love family hunts. Really, I do. I enjoy the random conversations we have and the feeling of doing something together.
The moon is deceiving. It's visible. It makes me think that the sky is clear.
We're ahead of schedule. Meeting up with the other family we are hunting with while the eastern sky is still dark, filling truck tanks and spare gas tanks. Our hunt won't be cut short to run back to town for fuel. Rain spatters on the windshield.
I wish I'd made a third thermos of coffee instead of rationing sips to make it last. The sky lightens as the spatters turn to rivulets, and it's one of those days where you really want to keep drinking something hot. We see a few antelope at first light, and optimism rises, even though I keep mopping raindrops off the lenses of my binoculars.
The road looks good. But no one else has driven it. We're still in 2 wheel drive. There is a muley buck on the skyline that has me excited for deer season even though it's two weeks away.
We're miles ahead of our friends now. Topping a ridge, we get reception and a text. They are sliding. Badly. We turn around, deciding to look for a better road. A fellow hunter tells us he's been hunting this area all his life and has never seen it this bad. A historical event, then. And we get to experience it. Twix and oreos keep spirits high in the back seat.
........
 

270.Rose

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Joined
Dec 12, 2020
Messages
188
The mud is forming snowshoes on my hiking boots as I walk to check behind hills and ridges. Rain drips off the brim of my hat. Not an antelope in sight. I've earned my tag, I think as I slip and slide back to the truck.
The kids practice plinking empty bottles with their BB guns while they wait for me. We hit it every single time! is a believable claim at seven yards.
Back on the highway to find a different access road. The lemon bars are perfect. Everyone is cheerful except for @220yotekiller who is feeling the pressure of being the guide. I hope he knows how much I appreciate him.
A new access road. I stalk, on elbows and toes. Range. 382 yards. More than what I want to shoot under these conditions. He is grazing, moving at the same speed as I am. Range again, 382 yards. Seriously? I tap the range finder.
Crawl again. He's drifting with the wind and the rain. 383 this time. Cactus thorns in my hip, @220yotekiller warned me to get kneepads but I couldn't find my size. They wouldn't have done me much good anyway. I need my shotgun style leather chaps from riding horses.
People show up. Not going to work out. We move on.
........
 

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270.Rose

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Joined
Dec 12, 2020
Messages
188
There's a good sized buck bedded down in a sheltered valley half a mile or so from the road. My favorite guide spots it when he hikes over the hill to glass without a chorus of what do you see? from the back seat.
I tuck the GPS in one pocket, rangefinder in the other, and grab my pack. I like my new pack. Except that I keep getting lost in the pockets. It has 20 and it's easy to forget which one something is stowed in.
The wind is blowing hard from my left as I walk down a wash directly toward the buck. I'm optimistic he won't catch my scent.
150 yards. I'm checking the GPS. Not convinced that he's definitely on the little blue square shown on the screen. I know I'm on it, but he may not be. I wait. Watch.
Shots from over the hill. Cattle in the pasture get curious. They stream past (almost over!) the buck in a bawling, head tossing parade. He's up and running. No shot as he disappears over the hill. I don't regret not pushing the boundaries. Hike back to the truck.
 

270.Rose

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Joined
Dec 12, 2020
Messages
188
Decisions, decisions. Lemon bars or homemade chocolate brownie. Let's have both. Drowning my sorrows in sugar and chocolate. We're not very far down the road from the last stalk when we stop and glass.
See his horns? He's bedded down to the right of that telephone pole. Squarely on public land. 220 yards. I think you could make that stalk.
There's no cover. Just a slight swell in the ground. I'll give it a try.
Don't bother with a pack, I'll bring it to you when you get him down, he tells me. His confidence in me makes me feel like I need to live up to it. I can do this.
Rifle in hand, I cross the bar ditch and get low. Look over my shoulder and get the thumbs up from the truck.
The grass is long and wet. On elbows and toes, I can't even see the horns. My rifle is out in front of me, inches from the sand.
One hundred yards covered. I raise up. Barely see the top of his head. He's down behind a small rise. Still bedded.
Drop. Crawl. Aim for the telephone pole. If I get to it, I have a semblance of cover plus a stable brace for whenever I get to take the shot.
I'm almost to the pole. He's fifty yards from me. The wind shifts.
He stands. He's not spooked, just getting up to look around. I roll, coming up into a sitting position and the rifle is braced as my thumb pushes the safety. Breath and squeeze smoothly.
He staggers and can't run, but he's still on his feet, swaying, angled directly away from me. Keep shooting til he's not moving, my husband's voice says calmly in my head as though he was right beside me. I run sideways in a crouch a few steps to try and get an angle on his side and he turns toward me as I do. The next shot drops him.
........
 

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270.Rose

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Dec 12, 2020
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He's mature. Happy and healthy til the last moments. Everything I said I wanted him to be.
I realize I have cactus in the other hip. The rain starts up again.
The kids arrive, running all the way from the truck. @220yotekiller has my pack. What were you trying to do, bayonet him? he teases.
I laugh. 50 yards is a respectable stalk on an antelope, I retort.
We take pictures. The boys are thrilled. They are much braver this year about getting in and helping with the quartering and skinning. They know the anatomy and feel important discussing the different cuts.
I find a bullet, penetrated all the way through to the opposite side where it stopped against the skin. It performed exactly as intended.
Our friends head down the road as we pack back to the truck. They hope to find another pronghorn before the weather and the road gets any worse.
........
 

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270.Rose

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Joined
Dec 12, 2020
Messages
188
The truck smells of wet animal hair. Water is seeping up around my ankles inside my hiking boots. They've lasted me five years, even my thrifty side is saying that a new pair might be in order. Pull them off. Dry my socks in front of the truck heater.
We catch up with our friends. He's making a stalk. Chat quietly at the truck til it's clear he's unsuccessful.
The road looks good. We push on. Another stalk, blown by another group of hunters coming over the hill. I'm sure they are mad at us, but the buck was looking at them when he spooked.
A corner. A steep hill. The road looks dry but it isn't. Ditch on one side and valley on the other. We make it down in 2 wheel drive but it's been churned up by other trucks. Stop at the bottom to switch to 4 wheel drive. No one is behind us.
They call. They have wheels over the edge and sliding. We turn around. Wet boots back on.
I walk with the kids down the valley to play in the stream and play gold miners, cowboys and Indians, practice tracking the puppy, hunt for fossils. Up the hill, both trucks are sliding. The tow strap is tight.
They call AAA.
An hour's wait, we are told.
Our friend waits with his truck while everyone else heads to town to find supper. The kids are good sports but they are rapidly tiring and we want to keep it fun.
Light is fading. My truck has never been so filthy in its life. I know the next users of that road are going to hate us.
Our friend gets his truck towed out and they stay overnight so that they can hunt first thing in the morning. I'm thrilled when I hear that he got a nice buck.
Next morning, we process my buck and do the math on what it would cost to buy that much meat. Roasts and backstraps and blueberry maple syrup breakfast sausage. Gourmet meals from mud and hard work.
So much fun.
I can't wait for next year.
I'm so thankful.
 

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