This journey started when I was 12 years old and my dad told me I had drawn an antelope tag in Southeastern Idaho. Up until then, I had only hunted wild boar in California and could only dream of a real big game hunt. Well, the dream became a reality, and on that quick one-day hunt, I shot my first big game animal, which quickly turned into a lifelong obsession with hunting.
Fast forward 40 years, and I’ve hunted antelope at least a dozen times and shot some impressive trophies, but for some reason, I’m always drawn to the freaks. Maybe it’s because freaky antelope can come in any shape you can imagine, but they are so unique and rare that if the opportunity presented itself, I would choose the freaks over a perfect typical antelope.
In the winter of 2021, my dad decided he wanted to take my new brother-in-law on an antelope hunt in New Mexico, so I booked a hunt for all of us on a private ranch in Northern New Mexico that we had hunted a bunch of times and had great success at. However, all that changed in the spring of 2022 when I got a call from my buddy, Austin Atkinson at Huntin’ Fool, telling me that I’d drawn a great tag in Eastern New Mexico in the guide draw with Pronghorn Guide Service. Excitement was an understatement, and then I realized I had ironically already booked an antelope hunt for the same year. One call to the ranch manager and we had everything straightened out. We would have another buddy of ours take my spot.
I immediately got on the phone with Eli Grimmett, owner of Pronghorn Guide Service, and after congratulations, we talked details. I was happy to hear that their head guide, David Brown, would be guiding me because back in 2017, David guided me to the biggest antelope of my life, an 86" monster! David is such a great guy. He’s super mellow and easy going, but he’s also a great hunter and knows antelope (which can be really hard to judge) like nobody I’ve ever seen.
A few months went by, and then the phone rang. It was David calling about the hunt. After catching up a bit, he asked me what I was looking for in an antelope on this hunt because although he had looked around a little and found a few bucks, he was going to start serious scouting soon. I told him I’d like to try for something bigger than I’d shot with him before if the area held that type of trophy potential, and if not, look for a freak because I love the freaks. At that point, there was long silence, and then he told me to look at the photo he had sent me. I opened up the photo and almost fell over. It was the most incredible antelope I’d ever seen. His horns lay completely flat on his head, and the amazing thing was that he was big! He also had double prongs on one side. He was just amazing. I told David to not even bother looking for another buck because that was the one I wanted. David told me we were going to call him “Chopper” because it looked like he had helicopter blades on his head. He also said he was still going to do some scouting, but he was happy I liked Chopper because he thought he might be bigger than the photos even looked. I told him that on a buck like that, score doesn’t matter. He was a once-in-a-lifetime buck no matter the score.
As the hunt got closer, I’d call David occasionally to make sure he was still keeping an eye on Chopper. Thankfully, Chopper lived in a small area far from the main road, which was hopefully far enough away that other hunters wouldn’t find him.
The time finally came to leave for the hunt, and I was so excited I couldn’t stand it. I flew to New Mexico on August 12th, the day before the opener, and David picked me up at the airport. I asked him what our plan was, and he told me we were going to drop off luggage at the hotel, grab a bite to eat, and go check on Chopper. He also told me that there were a few other bucks he wanted to get a closer look at, and I asked him why. He just laughed and said they might be 90 inchers. I told him that unless they were the new world record, I didn’t care, and even then, I would have to think about it.
We looked around and found all the bucks he wanted to look at. There was no question that Chopper was the buck we would be after first thing in the morning. As a matter of fact, David took me out to meet Chopper in person, and he was right where he’d been living all summer, just like it was destiny. We didn’t stay long. We just got a quick look at him and slowly drove off, leaving him undisturbed.
After a great dinner and a restless night thinking of Chopper, 4 a.m. came early as David said he wanted to be out there at first light just in case someone else had their eye on him. We stopped by the gas station for a coffee and some ice and then drove out to hopefully pay one last visit to Chopper. It was a tension-filled drive, and we were so early that we had to stop at one point for about 20 minutes and wait for it to get light enough so we didn’t drive past him in the dark.
Daybreak came, and we cruised down the dirt road at idle speed so as not to spook anything between us and Chopper. We came over a little rise and there he was not 100 yards from where we’d left him the night before. All of a sudden, it was go time, and like any true hunter, my heart started pounding and a bit of nerves kicked in. I slipped out of the truck with my rifle and got set up on the shooting sticks. David slipped out and set up the Phone Skope right behind me. Chopper was aware of us but not nervous. As a matter of fact, he started feeding a bit. I got my nerves in check, got steady, and David told me he was at 250 yards. I squeezed the trigger on the Gunwerks 28 Nosler, and Chopper fell in his tracks! I was so excited and relieved all at once. The buck I’d been dreaming of was finally mine.
After some celebratory hugs and high fives, we walked up to Chopper. He was everything we thought he was and more. He was a true giant in every way with over 15" on each horn, great mass, and good prongs. The most amazing thing was that although it doesn’t count toward the final score, he was 29 3/4" wide! After a lengthy photo session, we got him all taken care of and packed back to the truck. We decided to do a rough green score on him, and after coming up with a score of 84", it looked like he might make the B&C all-time record book. It’s pretty rare to find a freak that will make the record book. It’s usually one or the other.
It was a very quick but incredible hunt for the antelope-of-a-lifetime, I’ve got to give a big thanks to Pronghorn Guide Service for being truly the best in the business and to David Brown for being such a great guide and so much fun to hunt with. The hunt didn’t end there as I was able to jump on a plane that afternoon and make it to the ranch my dad, brother-in-law, and buddy were hunting in time to join them for the afternoon hunt. Lucky for me, they didn’t shoot that morning, so that afternoon, I was able to be there and video my new brother-in-law and then our buddy both shooting beautiful bucks. The next afternoon, my dad was able to connect on an awesome buck of his own. We had quite a celebration that night!