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February 2022
Story by Tim Rushing
State: New Mexico
Species: Antelope - Pronghorn

My first antelope hunt was alongside my dad over 50 years ago, and there’s rarely been a year when I haven’t had an antelope hunt or two planned. In those early years hunting with my dad, I learned to appreciate the scenic landscape, the huge variety of wildlife in antelope country, and the opportunity to upsize my most recent buck from prior hunts.

Antelope hunting in New Mexico had always intrigued me, but in 15+ years of applying, I was never successful drawing a tag there. Last year while hunting elk with G3 Outfitters and guide Bobby Holder, I asked him if he thought we could find a Boone and Crockett antelope buck on one of their New Mexico ranches. When I looked at photos of past hunts Bobby had guided, I knew that it was time to get serious about New Mexico antelope hunting. We made plans for the first rifle hunt in August of 2021.

Bobby and his son, Tommy Holder, started scouting the ranch in July, and they forwarded videos and photos of some of the bigger bucks on the expansive ranch. On their second trip to the ranch, Bobby forwarded me a video of a mega-wide, heavy buck and asked if I’d shoot that one. I about gagged and let him know that I most definitely would!

Bobby shared an abundance of photos with me, and we decided to name the wide buck “Pancho Via” because he reminded us of an outsized and famously named Texas Longhorn bull. Pancho Via was seen on several more scouting trips and was not difficult to locate. He had a well-defined territory that he defended regularly by chasing off all the other bucks. While scouting, Bobby saw him chase another big buck and end up over two miles away, but the next day, he was right back in the same home-zone of tall sage and cactus.

When my hunting partner, Galen, and I arrived for the hunt, Bobby sent me a pin location to go find Pancho while he went to a local rodeo to watch his young daughter compete. Within a few minutes of getting to the spot, I found Pancho and we enjoyed the last hours of the day watching those big, wide, black horns. As the sun faded in the sky and the good glassing light quickly vanished, Pancho disappeared over a small ridge and left me feeling optimistic for the upcoming opener in two days.

The next day, we cruised around the ranch to locate a buck for Galen and to keep tabs on Pancho. We found a steep, rocky hillside at midday and checked our long-range rifle accuracy setups on the local jackrabbit population.

An hour before dark the night before the opener, Bobby and I went to find Pancho and make sure he was still in his usual territory. Excitement was building, and we were both a bit giddy at the thought of the next morning and to finally be able to pursue one of the most stunning looking bucks either of us had ever seen.

Rain and patchy fog rolled in the next morning, and after an hour of careful searching, we couldn’t find Pancho. I was swabbing my rain-spotted riflescope with my sleeve when Bobby poked me in the ribs and said he could see him. He was moving west in a sage-choked draw, and then he leisurely walked up on a small ridge about 330 yards away. I had my MPA 6.5 PRC rifle locked into my carbon tripod and shot Pancho right behind the point of the shoulder. His legs folded under him, and he dropped where he stood.

Bobby, also known as the smiling assassin, looked over at me and with misty eyes came over for a celebration hug. We both knew I had just taken the best antelope of my long antelope hunting career. Our smiles were wide and content, and soon, the rest of the outfitting crew joined us.

We snapped a lot of video and photos and then the crew dispersed to find Galen a buck we had seen the day before. We were almost finished caping and cutting up my buck when the guys came back with another long, heavy-horned buck loaded up in the Can-Am. Galen had taken a top-tier buck as well!

I really can’t say enough good things about G3 Outfitters and the way they continually pursue quality animals via the top-end properties they hunt. Bobby and Tommy Holder have helped me take the biggest antelope and elk of my life. Next year, we plan to do it all over again because you can never get enough of the hunting opportunities in New Mexico.