I’ve spent many years trying to get the most out of my kit, one of the ways I’ve tried to do it, is by sticking to basics. And by basics, I mean the stuff that dreams are made of; fast, and flat-shooting shoulder artillery that would make guys like Weatherby and Lazzeroni covetous…
But seriously, those who really know me, know that is both nonsense, and not representative of my perspective. I have a very white bread interpretation when it comes to cartridge selection, that is; use what (1) works best (2) the longest life (3) for the cheapest amount possible. The only time I venture beyond this moderate and some would say mundane recipe, is when the speed is worth the cheese. This years Wyoming Pronghorn hunt would bring just such excitement.
Hunting Pronghorn Antelope
Many of you may remember the Winchester Model 70 that I had rebuilt for my father some years ago, chambered in a cartridge some say was born before its time, the 264Winchester Magnum. While the 264 breaks away from my conservative tendencies, my father had always wanted it, and it was chambered thus.
Dad was the only one with a tag this year, the game and fish seem to see fit with just teasing the rest of us, and playing with our money for six months before they give it back. Dad isn’t as big a fan of eating antelope as my young and foolish dog, but I have been known to cook the stink out of even the fowlest duck, so I convinced him to put in. So between all the other things we had planned this fall, a trip with my two brothers, my Father, and I was planned.
One of the benefits of hunting antelope in Wyoming is apparent to anyone who has done it, the beautiful badlands harbor so many of these animals it is at times astonishing how they can smell so bad…(ok last joke). Dad had a doe tag, so it immediately threw out having to judge horn size and length. All we had to do, was find a good doe.
At times you can sneak up on an antelope, with surprising ease. Other times, it seems like if you open the truck door in the same county, they will bolt for ten miles, or at least to the unit boundaries. On this day, it seemed there was a healthy mix of both types. We spent the morning putting a spectacular stalk on a small herd, it worked exactly as I had planned, except for the antelope. After sneaking across a shallow canyon with a bed of Wyoming’s gray moon dirt and dry yellow grass, we crested over a small drop off. There we sat, waiting for our prey to come up the draw before us. The always present winds were blowing in our favor, concealing our scent, much like the shadow that was cast over us. As we sat there waiting, Dad lay his old Model 70 down, pointing into the draw where I had suspected our small herd was headed. Almost perfectly on time, we spotted a nice buck making his way up, and right behind him, was a doe. Unfortunately, the rest of the does had broken off, and gone elsewhere. And the doe we were looking at seemed quite small. Already somewhat disconcerted with having to shoot a doe, Dad was not going to shoot a little one. So we let her walk.
After a couple more tries, we found a better quarry to pursue. We spotted a small herd hiding out in a little valley below a steep drop off from a stony plateau. With the wind blowing straight up the hill, it was a good spot for a sneak. All four of us made our way to the top of the plateau, and hunkered like savages as we hustled towards the point we had anticipated to give us the best shot. The wind was getting out of hand, but I couldn’t help but think that it was helping conceal us.
We peeked over the edge of the drop off, and spotted ears and eyes. My heart stopped as it looked as though they were looking right at us, so I froze. The one buck in the group began pestering the ladies, chasing them around in circles, I knew then that we were safe, with him distracting them. Now on our bellies, we crawled closer and closer to the edge, gently pushing the rifle over it. Dad and I were next to each other, him on the rifle, and me running a camera. The wind kept howling, and the antelope were still playing around, making a shot somewhat difficult. They kept standing in a group, so we had to wait until one of the does had stepped out, exposing herself. After a few moments, the suspense was driving me crazy. It seemed like every time they moved, they were going to run from us, the mere hundred and fifty yards between us made them feel dangerously close to discovering us.
Finally, after a minute or two, one of the does stepped out to a safe distance from the others. I knew I didn’t even have to say anything, I could almost feel Dad’s trigger press. It was in that moment, that the 264 Winchester brought out the speed, break neck speed. The howl of the wind was suddenly put to shame by the hiss of the suppressed 264, and the 140 grain match burner was there directly. The impact was spectacular, if the impact of the bullet didn’t snap her neck, her recoiling head surely did. She hit the ground as a spray of blood erupted from her throat. The other antelope fled, as her lifeless body settled on the dry and dusty ground.
Upon close inspection, the devastating power of the 264 on the antelope was very impressive. She had bled out, leaving a bright red puddle conflicting with bleak and color free landscape. We cleaned her up, and got her on ice, and began gathering our stuff up to head home. We may have taken a few shots at some over inquisitive prairie dogs, because it’s Wyoming.
Standardization of common cartridges surely has its place for economic minded shooters. But every now and then, a bright and contrasting prospect brings a little spice into life, and today it was head-stamped Super Speed.