Lucky draw for New Mexico hunt
Last spring, shortly before my last back surgery, my friend Randy Newberg called me with an unusual suggestion: apply for a disabled hunter’s permit for pronghorn antelope in New Mexico.
“You’ll have to obtain the disabled card first, though,” he said.
“I already have it!” I replied. “I’ve been applying for an elk license for several years with no success, and had to get the permit as a prerequisite. But, are you sure you want to go through with this? With all my maladies, I am a lousy partner these days.”
Randy just laughed at that. He came over to the house a couple days later and submitted my application via computer. A few weeks ago an e-mail from New Mexico showed up, telling me I had drawn a pronghorn antelope permit in Unit 13, my second choice!
Randy, who is an antelope nut of the first order, and who has hunted all three of the units I applied for, said that I had beaten 7-to-1 odds in drawing a disabled hunter’s permit. He said the odds in that area for “normal” hunters is 80-to-1!
“You just have to promise me you won’t shoot until I tell you too,” he said. “We have a decent chance of getting you a shot at an 85-point buck.”
Since my best pronghorn bucks are in the 80-point range, I happily agreed to heed his advice.
Initially, the plan was for us to drive from Montana to New Mexico, scout for a few days, then hunt (it is only a three-day season.) But then Randy got the bright idea to have his crew film the hunt for his hunting show, Fresh Tracks, on the Sportsman’s Channel. So instead of using my old custom-stocked Sako .25/06, I’ll be using a Howa .270 that Randy will supply. It is equipped with a Leupold variable scope. (Howa and Leupold are two sponsors of Randy’s program.)
Now, if you remember the last time I was on Randy’s show was following a fall 2009 hunt for elk in Nevada where I managed to shoot half-an-inch beneath a modest bull elk from some 340 yards. I hope not to screw up again.
I am not exactly new to antelope hunting, having pursued them in North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming over the decades but never in New Mexico. My records show that I have taken 39 pronghorns since the early 1960s, mostly with my .243 and .25/06 but I also shot a number with my old 7mm Weatherby Magnum, my custom-built Sako .280 Rem., and one with Jake’s old custom Sako chambered for the .257 Weatherby cartridge.
I have enjoyed decent antelope hunting in Montana but the very best I have witnessed has been in Wyoming where I hunted many times in Shirley Basin and Bates Hole. In 1999 I had a wonderful hunt near Pathfinder Reservoir with friends John Baughman and Greg Bos. Greg, who has lived in Alaska since the 1960s, took his first antelope ever and it was a dandy! We didn’t have it scored but each horn measured over 15 inches. The last time I was in Anchorage I saw that he had the head mounted and displayed in his home.
In any case, during that 1999 hunt of several days there was only a period of a few hours one afternoon when we were not in sight of antelope. It was an experience I will never forget.
In any case, this New Mexico antelope hunt will take place in mid-August, which promises to be hot weather. I’ll let you know later this summer how it all turns out.
Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an Outdoors columnist for the Sun since 1974