Colorado, 2009, DIY, Private Land
As I looked through the rain-soaked lens of my scope, I found the beast in the crosshairs. One shot from my .25- 06 and he collapsed on the spot. I walked up and laid my hands on him, amazed at the mass; I couldn’t get my hand around the base. With an official net score of 82- 2/8 B&C, I was told by many that I would never shoot a bigger antelope.
Fast-forward three years to the 2009 season and move 100 miles south. It was the same type of cold, drizzly, overcast day, only I had a completely different-looking monster on my mind. My wife, Grace, and I spotted him at first light and passed him off as a small buck, but when he turned his head, we instantly recognized him as the drop-horned buck a local rancher had told us about.
His right horn dropped down along his face, but it looked like he didn’t have much of a left horn. He was in constant motion due to the rut and only gave us brief glimpses of his headgear.
We watched him cross a mile of pasture to check out two does and a smaller buck feeding in a wheat field. He milled around for a few minutes and then crossed into a pasture where we couldn’t follow. A sick feeling dropped into my stomach. After having been so close, he now seemed out of reach.
With no sign of the drop-horned buck for a few hours, we decided to go check out the rest of the area. We spotted three small bucks and a hot doe on a ridge top, but we couldn’t tell if anything was in the valley below, so I decided to hike in nearly a mile and check it out. The extra effort was worth it, as I was treated to a front-row seat to an intense five-minute fight between a very dominate little buck and a unique buck we named “Swords.”
As I approached the top of the hill, the buck and doe I had been on earlier appeared to my left. With all his attention on the hot doe, Swords passed within 75 yards of me and never knew it.
At first glance, he was very tempting. He had 14-inch horns that went straight up, with very little mass, making him seem very tall. As he approached the buck and doe, you could feel the tension, and soon, the fight was on. I had the best seat in the house and watched as the two speedsters pushed back and forth and worked each other for position. I couldn’t help but chuckle and hate myself for not bringing my camera. What awesome pictures I would have had.
When I reached the pickup, Swords was standing on a ridge. As we watched him, we noticed another antelope appear on the horizon. It was the drop-horned buck. He disappeared over the top, heading back to the wheat field.
On the way back over, we met a farmer who was working on his planter. We stopped and asked him if he knew who owned that property. He was very helpful and even gave us permission to hunt his ground, which didn’t seem to matter at the time.
After calling and obtaining permission, we headed around to come in from the opposite side. If the stalk didn’t work out, hopefully this buck would stay on property we could hunt. We spotted him moving to the northeast. On his current route, he looked like he was going to go directly through the property of the farmer who was working on his planter.
I knew I had to cover half a mile to get into position for a shot, so I began running. When I reached the spot I had picked out, I crept up to get a visual. Slowly, more of the stubble field became visible and doubt started to set in. On my third look, I saw a black mass of horns looking through the fence row 800 yards across from me.
For a full account of Van's adventure, go to page 42 in the October/November 2010 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.