Our anticipation was high on the trip out and the weather was cooler than normal but still looked to be good for our stay. Nick had heard all of my stories on how many antelope were in this area. As we were nearing the ranch he was certainly not disappointed in the numbers of antelope roaming the prairie. As we arrived during the late morning hours, we quickly decided to scout a few of the ponds I knew generally had antelope sign. Due to the amount of water we not only had to look for antelope tracks, but we had to find a piece of water that was small enough to hunt well. Some of the ponds were close to 5 acres in size, that traditionally one could shoot every corner of the pond.
The first water hole we pulled up to, was about the perfect size. With the proper blind positioning one could should the entire pond. A quick walk around the pond quickly revealed many tracks, indicating the antelope were using this pond. We decided to get Nick's blind set and for him to start hunting. From here I continued to scouting for a place to set me own blind.
As I scouted the next few hours, I found little antelope sign on specific ponds, though there were antelope everywhere. One thing In common with these ponds was that the cattle had access to them. I knew I had to find a pond where the cattle were not at. There was one pond I needed to go at yet, it was in the same pasture Nick was set up in but about a half mile apart. So I headed that direction.
On the way there I spotted two bucks just off the road on the neighbors. As I got closer I quickly realized one of the bucks fit the criteria of the type of buck I was after on this trip. The pond I was headed to would only be about a quarter mile, as the crow flies, from these two bucks. However they were near another pond on the neighbors also. I could only hope there were tracks on the pond I was headed to and that maybe sometime in the next 3 days they would visit.
The pond was larger than I wanted, but there were a lot of tracks on the waters edge. The majority of the tracks were on the west ends where the water runs into the pond. The water in this area is longer and narrow. So I set my blind between these two tails, and hunkered in for the rest of the afternoon hunt.
I had no visitors to the water that afternoon. Nick and I had decided we would stop hunting about an hour before dark so we could go get the tent and camp set up in the daylight. After I picked him up I told him about these two bucks and I again wanted to go scout them to see what was going on. They were still in the same place I had seen them. My gut told me they were not going to leave this area on the neighbors.
As we headed towards setting up camp, We decided to stop into the neighbors and ask permission. After a little visiting, we learned those two bucks have been there all summer. He granted us permission to hunt those two bucks. As we left to set the tent up, we both decided we would continue hunting were we were due to all the sign, especially considering these two bucks were not too far from either pond. With the rut approaching you never know where they could go. After all Nick had antelope walk by him they just never came in to water.
The next morning we both had high hopes for the day. I dropped Nick off at his blind as I headed to my blind. We had both planned to sit all day. However by 1pm neither of us had any action at all. This was a big surprise to me. The sun was hot, it was windy and there were a lot of antelope in the area. But there was also a lot of water in the area. I still could not stop thinking about the bucks on the neighbors. I decided to make a quick scout trip to see what they were doing. They were still in the same spot as the day before.
I returned to my blind thinking about what my next move was. I was going to sit the rest of the day to see what happened at this water hole. The hours creeped by and all I observed were the blue winged teal that had been dabbling in the pond all day. My gut was telling me we had to make a move.
We both decided to pull our blind about 45 minutes before dark and move both of them to the neighbors pond. Why both blinds? This pond was big, and with both blinds we could then cover the entire pond. This way, hopefully, at least one of us could get a shot at the bucks if they watered. We went in and set the blinds close to dark. As we finished setting them we had a group of does want to come water. With one and a half days left to hunt, and temps in the low 90's, we were both excited and anxious for the next day's hunt.
We headed out early and got settled into the blinds in the dark. We both were hoping today was the day. As the morning went on I found myself observing the teal, mallards and gadwalls on the pond again. There were no antelope in site but I still had high hopes. I continued to read my magazines to help pass the time. About 9:30 I was going to take a quick nap, so I took a quick look around to be sure nothing was nearby. There they were on the backside of the blind and heading towards me!
I got the camera tuned on, arrow knocked and range finder ready. They were both slightly hesitant to come to the water and kept a close eye on the blind. As they approached I didn't know if it would happen. They were hanging up about 70 yards out with full attention on my blind. Finally, the target buck came forward and approached the water. As he bent down to drink I ranged him at 56 yards. I clipped the release and drew back. As he was still drinking I split the 50 and 60 yard pins, settled it behind the shoulder and squeezed the trigger.
As the arrow impacted he he wheeled to the right, I saw the arrow stick into the ground in front of him and immediately nothing the white and yellow fletchings were now crimson colored! I couldn't be more excited! The buck ran about 15 yards and stood there. I could see the wound and the blood flowing from it. I didn't think it would be long. He walked another 15 yards and laid down. It was all over and the plan had come together! This is my biggest antelope to date and to top it off I got him with my bow!
After we gutted and hauled him out of there, Nick settled back into his blind to finish out the day in hopes another would come by him. Although he had antelope come near him, nothing ever did present a shot. There are a few tips I want to share with you that will hopefully help you on your next hunt.
First with the water holes. In an instance like we had, with lots of water and the ponds were big, find the smallest pond possible. If they are still too big focus on the narrow tails of the pond. That is where these bucks came to water. Most of the tracks on other ponds were also near these tails. The second tip is to always follow your gut. This hunt and last years mule deer hunt, on the same ranch, I had gut feelings on what to do. Both time's I went with the feeling and the plan worked out. The last tip is to not be shy to ask for permission. On this hunt I watched a truck from Minnesota drive by these antelope many times. I assume he was hoping they would cross the fence onto some BLM ground. Luckily for me he didn't, but if he had just went and knocked on the door, it may have been him not me wrapping a tag around that antelope buck.
Good luck out there this fall! Remember to Hunt Hard, Hunt Smart and to Hunt Safe!
You can watch the entire hunt right HERE!