Tag Archives: pronghorn

Pronghorns and Prodigy Hunting

If you’ve followed me for very long at all, you must know by now that hunting is my greatest passion. Its become a way of life around my house, and sharing it with loved ones brings me the greatest satisfaction. That said, the hunting lifestyle doesn’t always enjoy the positive public reflection it once did. A great fear of mine is the loss of our hunting opportunities due to the growing anti-hunting sentiment around the world.
I have worked diligently over the years to effect what I think is the silver bullet to that argument; getting more new hunters addicted to this incredibly rewarding lifestyle.

Today’s story is about my latest efforts, and how patience and love created both a new hunter, and a whole new family bond.

Watch the video at the end of this article

Pre-season practice

Last year I convinced my wife to get her hunters safety, she grew up in a non-hunting family and environment which made it unnecessary. She made short work of the class, and last fall was her first time to ever go hunting with me carrying a rifle and a tag in her pocket. Unfortunately she never got a shot despite her valiant effort and hard work.

Fast forward to September 2020, and again we prepared for The hunt. This year she was lucky enough to draw a pair of Wyoming doe antelope tags, one of my favorite hunts precisely for new hunters like her.
We prepared all the gear we would need, and set out well before sunrise to get into a good position to spot animals as the sun came up.
Typically from experience, Pronghorn (their proper name) aren’t hard to find in Wyoming, they tend to begin activity after sunrise, keeping their sharp eyes on anything that moves on the wide open plains they inhabit.
After looking over several rolling brush covered valleys, we spotted a small group of antelope on the edge of the next rise. Trying to cover distance quietly and quickly can be a challenge with a new hunter, but Mrs. Coldboremiracle was keen to follow and do all the right things. We soon found ourselves on a windswept rise, looking in the direction the antelope had gone. The wind howled and gusted as we glassed the area, we quickly picked out the bright white sides of the herd. The smaller group had just joined a larger one, probably twenty-five animals. A few bucks, does, and a bunch of fawns.
We hunkered down, out of sight, even though they were nearly half a mile away they would easily spot us and sprint into the next county if we weren’t careful. We surveyed the whole area, and decided to try and put a stalk on the large group. Normally that many eyeballs is not a great choice to try and put a sneak on, but we had a line of cedar trees between us. We discussed the other options, and the idea of using the trees for concealment to get closer seemed like the best option.

The weapon of choice that day was my 257 Blackjack custom, a SAUM based wildcat shooting the Blackjack Bullets 131 grain Ace. It is a ballistic gem, providing extremely flat trajectories, and ignores the wind as much as any bullet can.

The 257 Blackjack aka “The Pitboss” Build details at the bottom

With rifle in her hands, we snuck down into a wash and towards the line of trees. Stopping to look at the herd every few steps to see if we’d been spotted yet. I breathed a sigh of relief as we finally made it behind the first tree, giving us the concealment the open prairie would not. The wind continued to gust, it felt like anywhere between 10 and 25 miles per hour. The noise of the wind gave us plenty of sound cover, all we had to do was stay out of sight within the trees as we worked towards a spot we could get a good shot.
We worked our way south, with the wind blowing hard in our faces. After about four hundred yards of sneaking, the trees began to thin, and we could see the herd slightly above us and four-hundred-fifty yards away. After confirming that we had not been detected, we crawled around to the shady side of the last small cedar that would give us cover. While I watched through the spotter, She crawled out onto her belly on the soft grey dirt behind the Blackjack. With the distance confirmed, and everything in position it was time to get noisy.

The sixth-sense that animals have must have been working hard that morning. First one, then several others looked straight at us, perhaps having seen some of our final movements. Their body language was concerned, but not spooked. So we focused our attention on a mature doe who stood out from the group. She was quickly obscured by the group however, a challenging aspect of these animals. They ball up in a group making it difficult To get a clean shot.
We ended up having to shift focus to another doe, who stepped slightly out of the group facing the opposite direction. It had only been maybe thirty or forty-seconds since we got into position, but the buck in the group began herding them towards the next rise. Clearly they knew something was up, I told Mrs. Miracle that it was now or never. The buck was moving towards her at the back of the group to push them over the hill and out of sight. So with her heart pounding and the wind whistling by, she pressed the trigger.
The 257 Blackjack runs just over 3200 feet per second, its blistering speed matches its flat trajectory. The 131 grain Ace zipped through the doe in less than half a second, with over 2300 pounds of energy the bullet was probably still dry as it hit the powdered dirt behind her.
The whole herd scattered from the impact, but our doe had been pointed the opposite direction from the rest. She ran about fifty-yards, before she slowed down, and began to stumble. She laid down and her head swayed before keeling over in the dry prickly brush. The rest of the herd stood in the distance, apparently waiting for her to catch up.
Back at our shooting position it was all smiles and excitement, we quickly packed up and began the walk towards our prize.

The Ace had passed just behind the shoulders, perhaps a little higher than one might recommend, but it worked out to be perfect. It passed through without even touching a bone, so almost zero meat was lost from the shot, a perfect double lung shot.

We took pictures, and savored the moment before cleaning her up, and transporting her back to the truck. I remember on several occasions during the stalk, as well as in the final moment before the shot, I had to remind myself that this was a new hunter. The perspective of a new hunter is not the same as an old hand, it requires a little bit of discipline.

Keeping the moment fun, and trying to suspend the pressure as much as you can, will make the experience more fun for those that are new to it. Keeping calm is tough for me, I get wound up pretty tight in the heat of a hunt. But I found that staying calm, and ensuring that she was comfortable and ready made it a better experience for everyone.
As we returned home with her prize, we spoke about it. She is already excited for our Mule Deer hunt that starts in a few weeks, and next years antelope hunt. It is possible, that I’ve hooked her for life now, all according to my plan…

-CBM

Pit Boss Build Specs
-Remington 700 SA
-Proof Research Carbon 7.5 Twist 25 cal 24″
-US Optics Foundation 25X JVCR
-IOTA Carbon Fiber Stock
-Hawkins Precision Bottom Metal SA AI
-Trigger Tech Diamond Flat Shoe
-Blackjack Bullets 131 Grain Ace
-Machine Work done at ES-Tactical

Speed, Cutters, and a Flash of Hooks

The fresh smell of smoke was hanging in the cool but dry air, but the early morning chill wasn’t enough to keep the sweat from running down my brow. I struggled to focus through the eyepiece of my spotting scope, breathing heavily and feeling the hard pumping of my heart.
And there he was, walking slowly along a line of the last green vegetation in the valley. He seldom held still, he hadn’t stopped since sunrise, I whispered quietly out the distance as my voice pounded in unison with my heart. His dark black horns stood out from the bright white of his rump as the sun just now reached him.
The safety was off, and my little Brother rested his finger on the trigger as the buck stopped for the last time to survey the dry desert landscape.


Watch the video at the end of the story
We had been preparing for this hunt for the last couple weeks, prepping gear, scoping out the terrain. It was early September, and the August sun had beaten nearly every plant in Utah’s West Desert into dry submission. The raging wildfires across the west had yellowed the skies and stained the sunlight.
It was the opening morning of the buck Pronghorn Antelope hunt that my Brother had beaten me to in the draw. We had spent the night listening to the distant howling of coyotes while poking at the fire.

We had spent the previous afternoon watching the inhabitants of this parched valley, several good bucks, as well as a bunch of lesser bucks roamed around.

To us their wandering seems aimless, but surely there is a reason to their constant motion. One of the several good bucks we had seen made his way to an area with a few trees and sand dunes just before night fall. And as the morning broke, we watched the dunes for signs of life.
Within minutes of observable light, we spotted one of his does standing. And as the next few minutes passed, several more appeared. As I had hoped, it was only a matter of time before he too appeared from his sandy bed.

Despite my Brothers shooting prowess, we decided to close the distance, mainly because we could. With rifle, binos, and the spotting scope, we dashed in the most covered direction towards a high point between us and the group of antelope. But perhaps to challenge our stalk, just as we reached our predetermined position, they worked over the hill.
We kicked into high gear and moved as quick as possible another six hundred yards to the top of the hill they previously occupied. Knowing they could easily make a half a mile without even having been spooked, we wanted to get them back in sight before they made it too far away.
Time passes excruciatingly slow, when your prey is out of sight. This can cloud your judgement when cresting the next hill, so we took our time, slowly glassing to make sure that we saw them before they saw us.

When we did spot them, they had made it nearly four-hundred and fifty yards further. As usual, the buck was at the back keeping the ladies moving. It was time to turn up the heat on this hunt, my Brother quickly found a good shooting position while I steadied the spotter and ranged the buck. He worked his way away from us moving to our left, as I whispered the range to my Brother. He had just chambered a round in his custom Remington, a 23” Bartlein barrel that had been chambered in 260 Remington. With Hornady 140 grain BTHP match bullets we had hand-loaded just a day prior. The rifle sat in a KRG Whiskey 3 chassis, and wore a Vortex Gen 1 Razor for a scope.
His finger rested on the Trigger Tech shoe, and we all held our stifled breathing as the buck stopped and checked his surroundings. It was a perfect broadside shot, I barely breathed as I focused hard through the spotter.
Everything came together perfectly as the trigger broke, and the near silent desert was suddenly woken by the crack of the bullet. We watched as the bullet impacted the buck, passed through, and hit the dirt behind him making a puff of grey dust envelop him as he slowly reared back. He stumbled a step or two, then made a brave effort to run forward, his offside leg clearly broken. The terrain between us quickly blocked him from our view as he ran.

The impact of the bullet

We both felt the shot was good, and confident he was down just out of sight. The suppressed report of the rifle had startled the rest of the antelope, who now stood attentive to the actions of their patriarch. We watched for a few minutes to ensure he didn’t appear elsewhere, and the attitude of the does told us everything we needed to know, they stood motionless, fixated on the last known position of the buck. They watched curiously, as if waiting for him, even as we began to close the distance, they watched on.
We quietly approached the spot we’d last seen him, and looked for blood and sign. To our delight, none of it was necessary. The buck had hardly made it 50 yards, and he left a crimson trail against the moon-like dirt.
From the first sight, it was clear he had succumbed to the acute shot, hitting him low in the brisket and destroying his heart.
We quietly approached the beautiful animal, giving both space and time for the reverence due at such a moment.

We accessed the results of the shot, and took pictures. There was an overwhelming sense of satisfaction, that we had done right by this beautiful buck.

We played the deadly game of predator and prey, and we had won. And his demise had been judicious and quick, sparing him the suffering that is the fate of many natural casualties.

Above: what was left of the heart Below: impact and exit wounds


We cleaned him up, and took him back to camp. He was skinned and prepped to be butchered after some time in the fridge. The meat harvested will surely be turned into various meals, and tasty projects that we will remember for years to come.

The next hunt for us is just days away, we’ll do it all over again. Time to resharpen knives, oil a few bolts, and re-stock my pack, the next hunt will be savored every bit the same.
-CBM

Break Neck Speed

 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.

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.
-CBM