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lancetkenyon

Another 2020 NM Pronghorn Hunt

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Had another frustrating, feet killing, back aching, hot, cold, rainy, dusty, fun-filled pronghorn hunt with Taylor last week.

Had just about every thing that could go wrong on a hunt (as far as animals) happen.  Had great times and success too. 

Drove out Friday AM early, on the road by 3:30AM.  

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Got out to our hunt area by about 2:00PM.  Drove around, and found a good buck that would be our #1 hit list buck for opening morning for Taylor.  We watched him for a couple hours from about 1.2 miles away, making sure he stayed put.  Met up with Brandon and Kyle (see Zeke's report), they got a look at the buck we were watching, and we went over game plans for each other's hunts.  Hard to tell from the photos, nut he is tall, and pretty wide.  Cutters are average, and so is mass, but a pretty good buck.

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At dusk, we headed for the hotel, and stopped on the way out, and glassed up Brandon's buck "Unicorn". I tested Brandon telling him, "You have got to kill that buck!  He is cool!"

Day 1:

Opening morning found us back in the same spot we put the buck to bed the night before.  And, the buck and his harem of 16 does were nowhere to be found.  

But I glassed up another harem of 18 does.  Figuring there had to be a buck with them, I kept glass on them.   Eventually, a very good buck (better than our #1 hit list buck by quite a bit) appeared briefly @ 1750.  We got a plan together to get within about 400 yards, and were gearing up, when a truck came barreling down the road and spooked them over a couple small rolling hills.  We put together a new plan to go after them, and started our first multi-mile trek of the hunt.  Seemed like every time we closed to 600 or so, the does would be up and feeding over the top of the next hill.  At 3/4 mile into our stalk, Taylor says to me, "I can hear mom talking."  (My wife's voice carries a long way, not loud, just something in the frequency or tone).  I turned around and glassed, and NMGFD was parked behind the 4Runner.  I called her on the cell, and actually talked with the NMGFD officer.  Super nice guy, I texted him photos our licenses, tags, and landowner written permission.  He wished us luck, and back at it.  After about 4 hours, we finally crept to the backside of the last hill, and glassed up does about 200 yards ahead and below us.  Pulses quickened, as we started looking for the big buck.  And looked.  And looked. For about an hour, I glassed everything, the buck was gone.  Eventually, the does spotted us, and trotted off, with one circling us and coming in behind us to 87 yards, before blowing out.  A couple mile hike back to the truck.  Stalk one failed.

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Drove over to the west side of the ranch, and glassed up a couple bucks.  One at about 1300, and one a few miles out.  Passed on the closer, smaller buck.  Drove within a mile of the bigger buck, and got out to start stalk #2.  Dropped down in a small wash, and got within 530 yards of the bedded buck.  He was a good one, a shooter....but was about 100 yards onto public land, and we had private land only tags.  Sat on him for a couple hours, hoping he would get thirsty and come to the water tank behind us on private, and give us a shot when he stepped onto private land at 400 yards.  After a couple hours, he got up, and walked further onto public land to his does.  Stalk #2 failed.  Backed out down the wash so we didn't spook the herd.

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Spotted another smaller buck, and was within 450 for about 10 minutes, and Taylor kept asking if he was good, and since I kept saying "he is OK", she opted to pass on him too.  

Drove down to another spot I have seen good bucks, and spotted this guy just on public, but heading for private.

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Had him at 400ish, and he walked right up to the fence we had crept along for a few hundred yards trying to cut the distance.  He had us pegged, and finally turned and hauled but, just 3' from being legal.  Stalk #3 failed....or is that 4?

Went back to about the only spot that the big buck that disappeared that morning could have gone.  I stopped at a good glassing spot, and glassed miles of flat ground, and saw a bachelor herd of bucks up on the mesa.  The group had 2 good, one average, and two smaller bucks.  They were above where we wanted to check, so we drove around the hills to get closer to the valley they were above.  As I pulled off the 2-track once we got closer to glass, literally, within 3 seconds, I see a puff of dust, and then hear a "boom" from a long ways away.  The big buck is 360 yards away!  And someone who did not want us to get a shot at him took a 1200ish yard shot at him in a desperate attempt at him.  Needless to say, that buck took off with me being close, and some fool shooting at him from the next County.  It would be the last time we saw him during the hunt.  He stopped at 1455 from us, on public land, as the other guy just walked back to his truck.  Probably 2500 yards from him now.  Not really a stalk, but what could have been a great opportunity at the big buck failed.  

Found a few other bucks that evening, but nothing we wanted to go after on day #1.  Heard from Brandon that Kyle had killed too.  At the end of the day, we stopped by Brandon's hotel, and I got to lay hands on "Unicorn".  Really unique buck.  I would have shot him in a heartbeat too.  Glad Brandon got the smoke his #1 buck on opening day.  A bit jealous.

Day #2:

Started off passing quite a few bucks, nothing big.  

Went back to look for the #1 hit buck and glassed up 9 of his 16 does in the same valley they were in before opening day.  Thinking the buck and other does might be further up the valley, we drove around and parked about 800 yards to the south.  Geared up, and snuck around the back side to 233 yards of the herd.  Glassed for about 2 hours looking for the buck, to no avail.  Could not locate him, or the other does.  Backed out very slowly, and stalk #1 for the day failed.

Stopped and glassed the area the big buck was last seen, and also looking for the bachelor bucks.  Saw 4 of the bachelors on the edge of the mesa, so we got in closer to within 600ish, and waited.  One of the better ones was coming down to private, and we were ready to take a shot, but he would not quit moving, and eventually went back up top onto public.  3 others were working their way down, so we sat and waited.  One good one, one small one, and the average buck.  They literally got to the property line (according to OnX), and stopped.  I willed them to take 5 more steps, but they turned back around, and eventually went back up top too.  Stalk #2 failed.

A storm was rolling in, and it got really windy.  Windier than I figured.  Driving to another part of the ranch, we saw the herd of does off the road, looking like they really wanted to cross, so we stopped to let them go across.  Well, they eventually turned around and walked back into their valley.  So we drove on........and there he was!  551 yards away.  Jumped out of the truck, and got Taylor behind my 6.5 SS.  I made a terrible wind call, and first shot "Hold .8MIL right......pew.....You are just left!"  "Shoot again, hold 1.2MIL right....pew......just over him, shoot again."  By now, he knew something was up and was moving out.  Flat ground, no features, adrenalin, and shaky hands make ranging difficult. 770, one more shot by Taylor, "just left!".  At this point, Taylor was pissed.  She says, "You shoot him!"  I jump behind the gun, and try and range him.  800?  Pew.  She says, "just under him!"  920 now?  Pew.  "Just left!"  Over a rise he goes.  Now I am pissed....and determined.  Stupid wind, Taylor should have had him in the bag.  I figured 10-15mph.  Was probably more like 35mph.

We run back to the truck, and instead of grabbing ammo, we grabbed Taylor's 6.5SLR.  Drove up to the hill he went over, I jumped out with my 15s, her rifle, and hustled up the hill.  As we topped out, he was standing right there at 200ish?  He bolts L to R like shot from a cannon.  Taylor yells, "Shoot him!!!"  I threw up the rifle (thank goodness the 3-20 was set on 7X) and snapped off a quick shot that I saw kick up dust right in front of him.  Spun him around, and he hit mach 2 instantly.  I think my wingshooting and varmint hunting instincts kicked in.  I worked the bolt while looking through the scope, led him, saw shot #2 kick up dust right behind him, worked the bolt as I followed him, said "this is stupid" as I touched of shot #3, hearing the "whop" and he never broke stride.  Worked the bolt again while keeping him in the scope, touched off shot #4 hoping to anchor him, and saw the puff of dust right in front of him.  Then.......huge cloud of dust as he cartwheeled.  About 10 seconds, 4 shots, and one down pronghorn buck.  I have never be a "shoot at a running big game animal" guy.  Not sure what happened, heat of the moment I think.  But, at 250 yards on a 50mph run, I had a buck down.  I also felt bad about shooting a buck that was supposed to be Taylor's.  But looking at Taylor, she said one of the coolest things I have heard from her.  "I always knew you were an awesome hunter, but I think you may be the best hunter alive!  No one is going to believe that shot."

I think shot placement was spot on.  You can see the entrance below.

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And the 6.5mm 130 AR Hyb sure do work amazingly well.

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The storm was rolling in, and lightning was getting CLOSE.  I quartered him up and caped him out in about 15 minutes, just as the lightning got too close for comfort.  Last strike as I was closing the back hatch was "Flash.....one one thousand, BOOM".  

We drove to the west side of the ranch hoping to get ahead of the storm and maybe get a chance at another buck, but Mother Nature chased us down and off the ranch early, about 4:00PM as the rain started to dump and lightning was closing in again.  We opted to make a run for the hotel.

Day #3:

Taylor has stated, "I am shooting the first mature buck I see, I don't care if it is big, average, or even small."  OK, should be easy, right?   Right???  Wrong.  

First legal light, I stop at a small rise as we approach the ranch to glass.  Taylor says, "There is a buck right there.  I am going to shoot him right now."  Get out, getting set up for a 600 yard shot, and he ducks under the fence and off property.  So we watch him, and he crosses further down the fence line back onto property!  Up and on top of a small hill looking to circle back around.  So we drove up to the property fence, and get out and get ready.  The buck picked up another buck, a bit smaller, and we try and get set up for a shot, but they crossed the road.  So we get up, cross the road, and Taylor is prone, and the bucks stop at 431 yards, staring right at us.  She dials, and I tell her, "the one on the right, wait fr him to turn, and put one in him"  No wind.  Staring contest lasts for about 3 minutes.  Then, the bucks looks behind us as a truck drives down the road.  Now, the 4Runner is stopped in the middle of the road, two doors are wide open, we are laying on a table top flat piece of ground off the road by 10 yards, I am standing behind my 15s on a tripod.  You would think, YOU WOULD THINK, that the truck would have stopped as soon as they saw us.  You would think.  It kept coming.  Bucks bolt and run for 27 miles or so.  The truck drives up to us and stops, "Are you hunting?"  As I turn around, probably with lasers shooting from my eyes as my skin peels back to reveal my bloody skull and flames billowing from my scalp........"Are you kidding me!?!"  Needless to say, the truck left in a hurry without waiting for an answer.....  Opportunity 1 of the day blown.

So we drove up and start glassing at one of our usual spots.  I glass up a herd of goats at 1500, and start to make a plan.....when another truck drives up...."Are you hunting?"  As the herd runs off.......turns out, it was the ranch owner's Mother.  Super nice lady.  We talked for a brief moment, me seething under my smiling face.  But, it is her ranch.  Off she goes.  We headed the same direction.  Opportunity 2 blown.

Drive down to the glassing spot, nothing.  But some great mule deer that we had seen the day before too.  3 shooter bucks for sure, one big boy, one older buck on his way down that I have seen for 3 years in a row.  All bachelored up together.

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One guy must like his own company...

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I drove out to glass the big valley with the bachelor herd of goats, but couldn't find them.  But, I did find a good buck bedded all by himself.  Called Taylor over, and he was 1650 yards out in the middle of a big valley.  We had some cover of a small wash that would put us within about 700.  No wind, doable.  Well, he got up and moved 200 yards, then bedded back down.  New plan, new wash.  He got up again, and moved another 200 yards and bedded back down.  Now, no cover within 100 yards.  Try and form a now plan and come in from a different direction, above him.......and he got up again and started walking, bedded down another 500 or so yards, and totally out in the open, with no cover within 1300+ yards.  Is he worth spending 3+ hours to try and get close without bumping him into the next property?  Chances: Slim to none.  He got a pass.  Opportunity #3 kind of passed.

THink about the big buck that was on the southwest side, and go look for him next.  Glassed up a good buck when we got there.  He was 1588 out, with two big cottonwoods between us and him, and they were 1150 yards away.  Should put us under 400 yards of the bedded buck.  And I mean bedded.  He actually kept laying his head down as I watched him.  Geared up, and started after him, keeping the trees between us to mask our approach.  Halfway there, 500 yards from the trees, 900ish from the buck.........a truck is driving across the meadow he was overlooking.  "Oh crap" I said.......same lady.  Up goes the buck, and he trots off and beds back down, still on private, but almost off the ranch.  So we continued on another 100 yards, and so did the truck........bye bye buck.  Stalk #4 blown.

Frustrated beyond belief, and having covered most of the ranch, I opt to try the one part of the ranch I have never hunted.  It is seriously as flat as a table for MILES.  Grass is 3-4" tall.  But, I know there are two tanks on the corner of the property out there.  OnX shows a 2-track on public land that crosses onto another ranch but runs along the fence line.  So, we try it.  I don't think a prairie dog can hide out there, and we actually find a small dog town.  And a burrowing owl standing on a dog mound.  That was cool.  So anyway, we keep driving, and my wife is saying, "Do you think there will actually be any antelope up here?"  Well, it is above where the bachelor herd was, and I have glassed up pronghorn up here 2 years ago, might as well check it out.

I noticed a skull off the road, and got out to check it.....halfway to it, I look over, and a decent buck is staring at me from 300 yards, but on the wrong side of the fence.  I say, "Taylor.....(whistle)".  She looks over, and I point.  She slinks out of the truck with my 25SST.  Comes over to me, and I say, "He needs to cross that fence, and he is legal."  No kidding, he ducks under the fence, and I see a 2nd decent buck standing looking at me, like he emerged from the dust.  They walk off, and over about a 18" high swell.  We follow, cross the fence and onto private ranch property.  I can see the two bucks right in front of me, Taylor following me as we duck walk towards them in single file.  She goes prone, but can only see the horns.  I ask, "Do you think you can shoot off my shoulder?  They are only 189 yards away."  I get on my knees, and she rests the rifle on my shoulder.  She says, "Quit breathing and I think I can get a shot."  I hold my breath......and the bucks bolt.  The bigger of the two never stops.  Just off to the races.  The other buck runs to 600ish, where a third buck stands up.  Last ditch effort, I take my tan/white hat and start to flag him.  Holy crap......here they come.  I am checking my phone and compass, they are on private, but only by about 50'.  Taylor is prone and on him.  I am ranging....."Let them keep coming......500.......400......350.....331......they stopped, wait for the one on the right to turn........"  3 minutes of him just standing staring at us....."Shoot him right in the neck.  You on him?"  Pew (suppressed, so no more BOOM).  He books, but I can see blood like pouring out a 5 gallon bucket of red paint pouring out of him.  He went about 50 yards, stopped, teetered over without a kick.  Blood trail that Helen Keller could have followed.  

I don't think the hole is actually an exit.  I think that 131 Blackjack @ 3238fps MV just hit him so hard, the thin chest cavity could not contain the hydrostatic shock of the temporary wound channel.  Blew out 3 separate ribs, hole right through the top of the heart, lungs were liquid, even had stomach content at the hole in his side.   Devastating performance.

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Thank you to my wife for keeping us company, to God for allowing us the opportunity and health to pursue these amazing animals, and to Taylor, for keeping me hard at work.  She kept me going, seriously.  She is a tough kid (not really a kid anymore), and kept a good attitude, and worked hard for this buck.  Couldn't be more proud of the young lady she has become.  Thanks to Brandon too.  

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Thanks so much Lance for sharing your hunt!  Read every word and felt as if I was right there.

"...she said one of the coolest things I have heard from her.  "I always knew you were an awesome hunter, but I think you may be the best hunter alive!..."

That was the best part and I bet was totally worth the price of admission for you.

 

Love seeing Taylor grow up here.  She looks so proud with her hard earned buck  Go girl!

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Great writing up Lance , congratulations to all involved.  Them exit holes though.... dang 👍

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Good stuff, Lance!!!  Those pronghorn are some skittish critters!  So awesome to have that time chasing them with your family!!

S.

 

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What a great hunt you all had. I'll tell you I only know a few people who can pull off a running shot and they all are also great at varmint hunting. And I thought the 168 Bergers in 7mm left big holes.

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Wow! Great story and hunt! Congrats to all. I love these hunts shared with family. I am surprised at the amount of traffic on a private ranch hunt. That must be very frustrating.

We don't read many good, detailed hunt stories on here anymore...thanks!

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heck ya buddy!  If I was an animal I would be seriously concerned for my safety if I knew you and Taylor were looking for me.  You are both serious sharp shooters!!!!  Great job!

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