Close Search

Antelope Reignites Hunting Passion

October 2018
Story by Dave Mroz
State: Montana
Species: Antelope - Pronghorn

My hunting career had ground to a halt since an African safari back in 2004, and I hadn’t drawn a tag anywhere in the years since, even though I was applying in numerous western states every year. Never give up, and never stop applying!


This hunt was never supposed to happen. The odds were severely against me and a mathematical improbability when I applied to continue building points as per my plan. Fate intervened, and the unexpected tag arrived in the mail one day, inconspicuous and without expectation.


The time between the tag’s arrival and the departure for the hunt elapsed at warp speed, and my efforts were spent contacting successful antelope hunters and devouring literature on the animals and what to expect on a typical hunt for them. The multitude of stories in my library of back issues of the Huntin’ Fool magazine stoked my desire to hunt and fueled my motivation. Although I was primarily focused on stories of antelope, the most inspirational stories were by Huntin' Fool members who had experienced personal injuries and who had overcome great odds to find their way back into the field. Having not pursued any game animals in over a decade and with years of nagging back problems, I found the burning drive to attempt this hunt and knew that no matter the final outcome, just pursuing the opportunity to hunt was going to be all the reward necessary to reignite my dormant passion. I am forever indebted to all those who have overcome life’s obstacles and who have then shared their stories.


Exiting the truck on that Saturday in October was more easily accomplished by sliding across the seat to the passenger’s side and then forcing the driver’s door open in the gale-like winds that had already halted the big-rigs on the highways. Who shoots at the range in 80 mph gusts, let alone hunts antelope in winds that fierce?


In the morning, the rancher had limited time to show me the lay of the land, and he even managed to try to push some antelope my way when he drove to the top of the butte and thought the antelope may try to evade him by coming down the steep ravine toward the safety of the creek bottom. He had to leave to retrieve his father-in-law’s bull elk, so I would hunt alone the rest of the day.


Later in the afternoon, I went in search of the first group of 30 antelope that we had seen in a field near the bottom of his ranch. They were gone, but I had a general idea of the direction they had gone and decided it would be worth the effort to check out the vantage point. As I continued in their direction, I crested a low rise and could see the tips of horns and then the rumps of a couple of antelope. Cautiously moving forward, I could see a small buck and a couple of does, slowly feeding. The wind was howling in my direction and masking any sound as I continued toward them and they slowly fed away from me.


For half an hour, I would gain distance when the ground swelled and obscured them from view. Then, I would slow to a halt when they reappeared. With this game of cat and mouse, I continued the stalk. Suddenly, over the next rise, there were more than one hundred sets of eyes, boring holes through me. Where there had been 3 antelope, now there were close to 50, all milling around, feeding and intently looking directly at me. I immediately went prone and tried to wiggle myself beneath the surface, my heart nearly beating out of my chest in excitement. The adrenaline coursed through my veins, and my mind raced for any possible scenario that wouldn’t have the herd thundering away towards the next county.


The horizontal wind felt scalpel sharp as it assaulted any exposed skin, and the stinging, icy rain abraded like the sandblasting of rotor-wash. With nowhere to hide and inching forward like a grunt under live fire, I kept my face in the dirt and tried to meld my body into the dirt. Far from invisible, the alert antelope must have remained only through innate curiosity or perhaps they found my maneuvers more humorous than lethal. My eyes were locked with my buck’s, separated by less than 100 yards. He looked good to me, easily the largest horned animal I had seen all day. As we both lay on our bellies, staring at one another, I was captivated by his regal beauty and sense of ease. Without speaking to me, his very presence suggested he was at home, secure in his domain, and that I was on his turf, a stranger in his magnificent and wild country, and he had no reason to be alarmed. Lesser bucks and does fed between us, and he lay content, chewing grass, eyes locked on me as I snapped his picture and looked at his fellow bucks, mentally scoring their horns and trying to find a superior buck. He was the alpha male of the group, and his mass and length would make him score well above his peers on this day. I knew immediately upon seeing him, even when was hidden behind a doe, laying on the ground, that he was the buck that I had traveled 2,800 to hunt and harvest.


Words fail to describe the calmness of the moment when I knew I would take him, and although externally the wind was howling and the entire herd was on alert, my movements were fluid and efficient. I was aware that I had my rifle shouldered, a round in the chamber, and my finger resting on the safety. The entire herd was still present, on alert but not alarmed. The Swarovski scope clearly showed the buck's lower teeth, and I remember counting them as I calmly watched him chewing his last meal. After several more minutes passed, the does and smaller bucks fed out from between us, and we still lay in the dirt, looking at one another. There was no reason to get any closer, and when he finally rose, I was ready. He stood and shook his body, water droplets flying from his coat like a dog shedding icy river water after retrieving a downed mallard. It wasn’t a defiant look that he was giving me, but I think he knew, as did I, that his next move would be his last. It was clear to me that he had decided, even before I did, or maybe he decided it for me, but we both understood that his time had come. Turning slightly to his left, the .270 bullet from my Weatherby Alaskan was lethal, and he was dead before his body found the ground again in his same warm spot.


It was exhausting dragging him to the truck, and it was all I could do to get him into the bed by myself. My buck wouldn't ever make a trophy book, but I could not be more proud of my time spent with that buck, watching him and the rest of his herd, content in their majestic home, Mother Nature in her furious splendor, and knowing that this experience would be with me forever. Harvesting that antelope, reliving the hunt with friends and family as we dine on his meat, and looking at his mount and the photos of the hunt will always remind me of how fortunate we all are to enjoy our great sport and the bounty it provides.


As I offered a silent prayer of thanks, the icy drizzle abated, and looking west towards I-90, I could almost sense the rainbow before I saw it. When I looked back towards the field where my buck had last lived, his herd was still visible, slowly working their way over the next hill. The does were busily feeding, the small bucks were still intently watching me, the fog was hugging the mountains in the distance, and the icy rain was growing in intensity, eventually obscuring the herd from my gaze.


My hunt wouldn’t have been possible without the excellent medical and chiropractic care of Troy A. Burns, M.D. and Larry Frazier, M.A., Austin Sandford, D.C., and Bill Jensen, D.C.


I am forever grateful and humbled by the generosity of the fraternal brotherhood of Huntin’ Fools and want to give special thanks for their enthusiastic sharing of invaluable information and tips to ensure my successful hunt. Thanks to Josh Luke, Adam Casagrande, Brian Munis, Dave Irvin, Jim Caddock, and Susana and Mark Pickering.

More info: Montana Pronghorn