You’re waking up tomorrow morning and you’re killing an antelope.
This wasn’t a pep talk, this wasn’t what I hoped I would do, this is what I was going to do.
I’m not cocky when it comes to killing animals. Far from it. I usually know it will take the whole season, praying to every god and deity that comes to mind and knowledge that a heaping portion of luck will be needed in order to walk out of the woods successful.
Not this year. Not on this hunt.
As my head hit the pillow in the back of my truck the night before the opener, I knew with complete certainty that an antelope would be dead before noon the next day.
How it would happen I did not know. But now being now and then being then I’m here to tell you how and when (I think I just made Dr. Seuss proud right there).
During the drive in all the typical spots are loaded up with pronghorn. I take this to be a good sign. Slowing down, I put the truck in park to see if they are still skittish after nine months of R & R.
As I sit back with glass to my eyes, they momentarily look up at me with a fading interest and then go back to feeding.
They don’t know my intent, this was very good. That or the ranchers have been doing me a solid and brake checking them throughout the off season to dull their senses.
I cruise the dirt roads like a teenager on main street and find similar results. With everything being just how I had hoped, I pull into my camp spot.
The Block target comes out and the bow does the same. Some last minute carbon confidence boosters are set into motion as I slam home arrow after arrow from various distances and contorted positions.
Everything seems to easy, almost effortless. I run through my game plan as
I pack my bag with gear for the morning.
I have a feeling that it would almost be absurd if I didn’t kill on my first stalk tomorrow. Like all these years I had been telling myself that bow hunting was hard was just something that I had made up in my head. That tomorrow would prove all that to be wrong.
My head hits the pillow and my eyes weigh heavy as the dry lightning off in the distance lulls me to sleep.
My eyes open a minute before the alarm jars the silence of pre-dawn.
I sip coffee that causes the roof of my mouth to peel as I wait for the sun to creep up enough to make my spotter an effective extension of my eyes.
Nothing in the immediate vicinity.
A short stroll turns up nothing. Foot leather was out, tire rubber was in.
I hop in the truck and make my way around the predetermined circuit I have in mind.
After a few coffee spills and numerous head bounces off the windshield later, I spot two antelope sky-lined in the distance.
I don’t slow down as I know this was a dead giveaway to me being a hunter. One watches me while the other feeds.
The truck eases to a stop behind a hill. Out of sight, out of mind seems to be the thought process behind speed goats.
After a short walk I belly crawl up a rounded hill and use a yucca bush to conceal my final approach. As I look over I see the second of the two bed down just in time before he conceals all but his horns.
There is no play from this side, but after looking at my map the contours appear to be just enough for a concealed backside approach. The wind will suck, but these aren’t mule deer or elk. With eyesight as good as it is, they often become overconfident and don’t place as much weight in their other senses.
The bigger of the two will die.
This is the last thought I have as I lift myself into the truck and circle my final approach to the landing zone.
I take my bow and the decoy, knowing that at this time of year a bachelor group of bucks can often be curious to an uninvited arrival.
I use what few landmarks I saw to get me in close and then depend on my glass to do the rest.
At about 120 yards out I see the tips of two separate horns. In a rare event, I am able to see them before they see me.
Never has a hunt worked out this smooth before.
Before my luck changes I decide to prep the decoy. As I am doing this I feel the wind shift and bite into the back of my neck.
I’m not the only one who notices it. One of the bucks is up. Not running, just up.
I slam the decoy’s legs into the dirt and keep low.
The sequence begins.
Nock arrow. Twist peep. Engage the release and get your rangefinder ready.
The bucks are up and I notice a third decided to join the party.
They walk towards me, wanting to properly introduce themselves to the newcomer. Through a yucca I spot the one I’m after. He’s considerably larger than the other two and the one that will be dying momentarily.
They come in and halt on a dime. I peer over the back of the decoy that is rocking in the breeze.
Sixty yards, broadside and looking to die.
I draw back under concealment and thump into the wall as I pull through the valley.
I settle into a kneeling position and all three are staring at me like they are seeing a long lost relative.
The vanes catch a hold of air and start the arrows rotation during the approach. It buries deep into the antelope.
He proceeds into a death spin, running three full laps around an imaginary race track only to pile up fifty yards away in a cloud of dust. His friends stroll away giving me the notion that this wasn’t the first time something like this has happened in front of them.
In a world where you’re always the prey, friends are often a disposable commodity.
I made the FaceTime call home. The woman and kids are still in our bed as we walk up to the antelope.
My son is ecstatic about seeing the animal only previously described to him now materializing before his eyes. He’s happy that I’m happy, but mostly he’s happy that I’ll be coming home.
“Well that was quick,” came the response from Hazel. “What do you plan on doing with the rest of the week?”
“I don’t know,” comes my honest response.
Killing on opening day doesn’t happen to me so I hadn’t prepared another plan. With elk season only a week and a half away, maybe it was time to start visualizing another opening day success story.
Or maybe I would start praying to the hunting gods to allow for a repeat.
// Fred Bohm