Rachel’s Ping-Pong Ball Antelope

Running off of about 2 hours of sleep and “Little Debbie” Snacks, my dad and I were sneaking our way through the mud, sage, and cactus toward what we thought was one lone pronghorn antelope buck.

We had driven all night that Friday night in October from Moorhead, Minn., to Southeast Montana through a down-pour and thunderstorms. Upon arriving at our hunting spot we were both lacking sleep, but we knew we had to get busy right away because we only had a weekend to hunt. I am 14 and my parents won’t let me skip school for hunting. 

My dad has been hunting in this same place for over 30 years and has never been skunked. That made me feel confident because I have never taken an antelope.

There were many more hunters than usual this year and much more traffic on the small, dirt road because there was a new cross-country pipeline being put in. The big area of public land is off-limits to driving, so most hunters stay in their trucks or don’t stray far from the few trails.

Spot Antelope Right Away!
Despite all the hunters, we spotted a group of about 10 antelope almost right away! There was one buck for sure and they were slowly making their way away from us. We suited up and decided to try to intercept them around a hill, but this plan didn’t work. Next, we followed them over a few hills and through a few creekbeds, but they’re such elusive animals that we lost them.

We continued wandering around in the hopes of seeing more and that’s exactly what we did! I spotted a white dot next to a pond about 700 yards away. My dad glassed it and determined that it was a buck and that there were at least two other bucks with him. As soon as we began in their direction they got up and walked over a ridge! We followed them and just as we peeked over the ridge, we spotted two other hunters sneaking up the other side so we backed off. By now the truck was about two miles away so we circled around to it, had a bite to eat, and took a short nap.

It was still drizzling by 2 p.m., but we were warm and dry in the truck! I didn’t want to go out walking, scouting again, and was ready to quit and come back when the weather was better! My dad told me, "The antelope are like a ping-pong ball in a gym full of mousetraps, eventually they end up where there are no traps."

He convinced me to go back out one last time before we headed for home.

This time we headed away from all the other vehicles and decided to make a five-mile loop around a few big hills. We had walked about two miles when I saw a tiny white dot down along a creekbed. My dad glassed it and told me it was a lone buck just ambling around eating, not alarmed at all. We decided to get closer to try and get a shot. 

We crouched our way until we got to the hill when we could no longer see him. Just as we began crawling I noticed another buck to our right at about 400 yards. Thank goodness he didn’t spook and run off, he just walked over the hill. These antelope had not yet been chased by hunters.

We continued belly-crawling until we could just see down into the small valley. I had the .243 and shooting sticks ready while my dad looked for him. He saw his horns about 40 yards away! We had gotten closer than we thought! The vegetation was much higher and thicker than normal, so we couldn’t see that there were actually several antelope right in front of us concealed in the tall grass.

Shoot, Rachel, Shoot!
As the “lone” buck stood up, so did a doe, then another! I had the crosshairs on the buck, but there was too much sage brush in the way for a clear shot. My dad kept saying "shoot, Rachel! SHOOT!" When I shot, I missed. I missed at 40 yards with a rifle! How embarrassing! As the sound of the shot echoed through the hills, 15 other antelope stood up that we hadn’t seen before! All of them started running away from us and they slowing turned at about 200 yards, running broadside to us.  I picked the buck out at the end of the herd and put my crosshairs a body in front of him, and an inch above him and squeezed the trigger with my shaking hands.

He jerked backwards and went bonkers! He ran around like crazy and began coming in our direction! I put another bullet in the chamber and fired away, it was a miss! I shoved another bullet in and fired, finally dropping him in his tracks at 100 yards. What a rush! My persistence had finally paid off and even though I had to miss my high school homecoming events, I was more excited than ever!

The author with her first antelope — a fine buck with 14-inch long horns.

I gutted him out with some assistance from my dad. We were two miles from the pickup so we left him there and went back for the wheel barrow because trying to drag him back would be way too difficult. We wheeled him to the truck, taking occasional breaks, and loaded him up in the pickup. We washed up, called home, and headed East.

We stopped in Wibaux, Mont., for supper at the Shamrock Club where we shared hunting stories with another group of hunters. It was an amazing weekend and I am very thankful to my dad who has put in much of his time to take me hunting; he’s the best!

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