The temperature inside the blind must have been about 95 degrees, and I had only been inside roughly 30 minutes. This was day five and the third blind location I had set up on in hopes of closing the deal on one of the beautiful antelope bucks I’d been seeing all week. I had just finished removing a small prickly pear cactus using the heel of my boot and placed it outside the blind by sliding it under the side that lay directly against the barbed wire fence on my left. Then I started removing the hundred or so “hitchhikers” from my camo pants that I somehow managed to pick up while helping set up the blind. After filling the palm of my hand with a tidy little pile of these pesky, barbed weed seeds and then placing them next to the cactus removed earlier, I decided I’d better get some more air moving through this blind or I was going to melt. As quietly as possible I slowly unzipped the camo window on my right and using two fingers, just barely parted it enough to peek outside before committing to pulling it all the way open. Through this crack of daylight I’d created in the window, I could see a mature antelope buck frozen in its tracks about 35 yards out—looking directly at the blind. He had come in silently and was standing just off the two-track road leading to a fence opening directly in front of the blind. Clearly this buck was planning to pass through this fence opening in front of me, but I suppose he had held up wondering; where the heck did this strange-looking camo blob come from?
I slowly eased off the pressure I was applying to the camo window flap, once again sealing out the daylight from this side of the blind, and reached for my bow. I always have a nocked arrow on my bow while blind hunting, and I find this speeds up my ability to silently get ready for the shot when it finally arrives. I shifted my weight on the tripod seat I was sitting on and leaned over to peer out the corner of the front window of the blind. And there he was, still standing just off the two-track staring in my direction. I clipped the release on the string loop and mentally began to prepare myself for the shot opportunity that was about to unfold.
As the tense moments passed after spotting this buck out the side window of the blind, I studied his horns and was sure this was not “crooked horn.” Crooked horn was the name Keith and I had given one of the largest bucks we had seen this year in this particular area and although he was a big buck, his horns had a strange misalignment that made him a very interesting trophy animal. On day two, crooked horn narrowly escaped getting arrowed by me while I sat in the “Spaghetti Blind,” which is another favorite blind location of mine not far from where I was sitting now. This blind got its name from a left-over bowl of Betty’s spaghetti that Keith had brought me one day while I was sitting this particular spot. When crooked horn came in with two of his girl friends, they were very nervous and would not pass in front of the blind or go through the fence opening. Instead, they ran behind the blind and down along the barbed wire fence a few hundred yards below me searching for another way to get to the other side. It’s funny how these lightening-fast animals will do everything possible to avoid jumping a barbed wire fence. They’ll go under them or around them, but rarely do they ever jump over them! When crooked horn and his girl friends returned by retracing their steps following the fence line, they passed within 10 yards of the blind on my right side. And as luck would have it, they held up for only a few moments before racing through the fence opening, giving me only a blurred goat-ghost image to aim at as they ran by at high speed. I had drawn back my bow, but figured they’d ease up like last year, and give me a slow walking shot at point-blank range. Had I had the presence of mind to simply open one of the side windows of the blind while they were still behind me and a few hundred yards away, I would have had a short-range chip shot at crooked horn as this group slowed to a stop just before dashing through the fence opening to get to the other side. Although I was bummed a shot opportunity did not materialize in this situation, I felt I was doing the right thing by being patient and waiting for a clean shot on a broadside animal as they passed directly in front of me heading for the fence opening.
The situation was now almost exactly the same. I had another mature antelope buck to the right and slightly in front of the blind—about to come in! As the sun beat down on both of us, the buck started to move toward the fence opening. Not running this time, but that slow gait that indicates they are relaxed and are in no particular hurry. I knew the shot was imminent now, and as my heart raced, I silently drew my bow in the darkness afforded me by the blind’s concealment. I could hear the hoof steps now, plodding one after the other, and then silence! My heart rate increased, and the silence was deafening. I was at full draw with a good anchor, and my finger was resting on the release trigger. My bow sight ring was perfectly aligned within the peep sight aperture, and I was focused on the 20-yard pin while I stared through the camo window netting, but the buck had not entered the shooting lane. It was happening again! I was certain this buck was about to bolt through the fence opening, just like crooked horn had done a few days earlier, and leave me with only a hot, dusty memory of our close encounter. NO WAY my mind screamed! At that moment, I leaned to my left on the tripod chair and looked to my right, still at full draw, and there was the buck, now standing in the two-track about 17 yards out, slightly angling toward the blind. I picked a spot just behind the front shoulder, settled in the 20-yard pin and touched off the shot.
The arrow passed completely through the buck, exiting near the last rib on the far side, and he attained top speed in just a short distance before crashing just out of sight in a small drainage a mere 80 yards from the blind. Because of the long summer days, I had spent nearly 60 hour’s time inside the blind in just five days leading up to this moment. I had endured the hot, dry conditions common in Montana this time of year, had seen hundreds of antelope interacting at the peak of the rut, and had just delivered a deadly blow to another beautiful pronghorn buck. And that’s a rewarding feeling only another fellow bowhunter can understand and relate to!
The antelope buck I described taking with my bow in this story is the second pronghorn I have harvested in two year’s time hunting with Keith Miller of Montana Whitetails. With Bill Pohl’s guiding help and Betty’s awesome cooking, I plan to return as often as possible to do the same each and every year.