Barbs and Backlashes

Where I’ve Been, September 22, 2010 by whitetips
September 22, 2010, 3:05 pm
Filed under: Fishing, Hunting | Tags: , ,

It was tough coming back to work again, but here I am.  I left a few hints about the “adventure” I would be on for a few days and now it is time to give you a full report.

My son drew a muzzleloader pronghorn tag this year.  Now let me digress and tell you how we ended up hunting antelope in the Nebraska sandhills this past weekend.  I have had a couple of rifle antelope tags in years gone by.  I never managed to punch either one of those tags.  The last of those I took my young son out of school for a couple of days and hauled him with my dad and I to the Nebraska panhandle.  Now please do not take what I am going to say as an indictment of all hunters during the rifle antelope season, but on that occasion opening day was a circus.  The only hunters we saw on foot that entire day were my son, my dad, and I.  Everyone else was driving around chasing and shooting at antelope.  By noon on opening day every pronghorn had dropped into a hole in the ground somewhere and our hunt was pretty much toast.  At that time I made the decision to invest in a muzzleloader so we could hunt during seasons when there was less competition and more emphasis on the actual HUNT.

And that brings us to September 18, 2010, the opening day of muzzleloader antelope season.  My son and I have tried to stagger our applications for muzzleloader antelope tags so we did not both have a tag in the same year.  Daniel is no longer my “young son” and finally he drew a tag for the prairie unit this year.  I have a cousin who lives in north-central Nebraska and absolutely loves to hunt antelope out in the Nebraska sandhills.  Robin did not draw a muzzleloader tag this year and when he found out that Daniel had, I do not know who was more excited–my cousin or my son.  We were really blessed to have my cousin do all the hard work of scouting and obtaining permission to hunt.  THANK YOU ROBIN!

Saturday dawned gloomy, cloudy, cold and wet.  It was drizzling and the visibility was not very good (it was even worse after our binoculars had a chance to get wet and foggy).  We started out someplace WAY in the middle of the Nebraska sandhills where my cousin had scouted a couple of big pronghorn bucks.  We hiked up into a range of hills where we could see for quite a distance and by some miracle I managed to spot one of those big bucks, through the fog and drizzle, about a half mile away.  We started towards the buck and as it happened the buck was also moving towards us.  Somehow we passed each other by a couple hundred yards and ended up with a big pronghorn buck standing on a hillside we had just passed.  He was watching us and that was the end of that.  He never spooked bad and eventually eased off to the west of us, but with the lack of visibility we were never able to find him again.

From there we covered some ground looking for more pronghorns.  We found a couple of small bucks but decided to let them walk.  We drove through some rough country and saw some sights.

Did I mention it was cold and wet? This 'hopper was not moving.

Eventually we found another pair of antelope and tried to make a play on them.  They ended up being a little too far away and eventually saw us and disappeared around the corner, down the valley.  So, we made another move and headed for some prairie hay meadows where we were again back in the “goats”.  The first two there were small bucks that we happened to drive into.  We bailed out of the vehicle and showed them the decoy.  They would spook away 50 yards or so, but then turn right around and come back to look at the decoy.  We played that game for a little bit, but they never would get close enough for a good shot and eventually the antelope got bored and so did we.

We immediately spotted a bigger buck to the west and started working towards him.  Now, here the three of us are trying to sneak across a hay meadow.  We would sneak from one big round bale to the next by getting in a single file line behind the antelope decoy.  We all got to giggling at the thought of that; if an antelope buck had seen us he might have wandered over just to see the show!  Anyway, we eventually spotted that buck working our way and when he went out of sight we took off to try to get in front of him.  We were just easing into position when I look over the rise and spot a couple of black horns coming our way.  I immediately hit the ground, but I am afraid he had already peaked over the rise far enough to see us.

Oh well, we just went and found more antelope.  This time we found a nice buck herding a doe and a couple of fawns and there were three smaller bucks that kept circling around the same meadow.  We thought we could get in front of that bigger buck and if he saw the decoy he would likely come over to chase it off (we watched him do that to the three smaller bucks).  We took our guess on where the big buck would show up, set out the decoy and sat down on a fence line.  I do not know where the big buck, doe and two fawns went too, because we never saw them, but the three little bucks eventually ended up feeding just over a low ridge in front of us.  To make a long story a little shorter, my son snuck up to the rise, got into position and eventually shot his first pronghorn at 45 yards!

Our guide, my cousin, with Daniel and his first antelope.

Yes, you will notice that we are not hunting with any kind of a primitive muzzleloader, in fact it is a Thompson/Center Encore in .45 caliber.  Yep, we are using the powder pellets and sabot bullets, even put a 4x scope on top last year.  But even with the modern muzzleloader I still believe the emphasis is more on the “hunt” and less on the “shoot” or harvest.  We had a quality hunt, enjoyed every minute of it, and would not have done it any other way.  In my mind the hunt is more about getting as close as possible to make a clean, quick kill.  Daniel’s antelope never knew what hit him and I am way more excited about him stalking within 45 yards of that buck than I would have been if he had made a fabulous 150-yard shot!

Nope, not a big antelope by any means, just a couple of gnarly horns, but it was the first pronghorn for my son and that makes it a trophy.

I had a little “Flip” video camera that I took along on our hunt.  What follows is some of the video I shot.  Now, I am still playing around with this new “toy”, so take it for what it is worth.  It is not going to be on one of the outdoor channels, but it very much shows how our hunt went.  Take a look (the sound track is not matched up with the video at the end; I do not know how that happened; I said I was still playing with this).

We actually were shivering and cold until the drizzle quit coming down, but it was a perfect cool day for harvesting an antelope.  Of course we field-dressed it right away, and then skinned it Saturday night.  Sunday morning we boned it out and got the meat into coolers.  Now, I have talked to folks who hate antelope meat and folks who love it.  We are going to try it out, but I will tell you this–there was absolutely NO odor to the meat as we cut it.  I am guessing that antelope is going to taste darn good!

Never fear, I am always preaching the possibility of hunt/fish combinations in Nebraska.  We did not get a chance to fish while we were in the sandhills, but we slipped out to do some fishing when we got home.

A pronghorn buck and then a 34-inch flattie, what a great way to start the fall!  I cannot wait for more!

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