Suddenly he just appeared. Caught completely off guard I motioned to Jana, who was running camera, to look to her right. Slowly she hit the record button on the camera and turned to film the antelope buck that had somehow snuck in to the water hole undetected. Ranging the buck with my Vortex Ranger 1000 I quickly acquired the yardage and readied myself for the shot. Adrenaline surged through my veins as I picked a small spot on the side of the antelope’s body at 34 yards. My breathing was erratic as I came to full draw. Jana whispered, “ Take your time”. I settled my pin on the kill zone while the buck quenched his thirst under the hot August sun. I’d practiced all summer for this one moment to play out and now it was happening.
From time to time over the last four years Jana has gone behind the lens to capture my hunt. She’s played it off as if she isn’t very good behind the lens, always more anxious that she’s going to miss the moment on film. I’m here to tell you she’s done a great job over the years filming my adventures, from capturing my “Super Freak” antelope to my largest black bear in 30 years. Now Jana would attempt to film me taking my first antelope buck with a bow.
The previous day I was lucky enough to film Jana take a great buck that ended up in the middle of the small waterhole we’d been sitting on. At one point she turned to the camera while removing her boots and socks and uttered “ Mike Roe where are you? This is a dirty job I think.” Jana waded through the muddy, snake infested water to claim her buck and I remember thinking that I was glad it wasn’t my buck!
With Jana’s buck hanging in the air-conditioned garage back at the ranch, it was my turn to grab my bow and get Jana lined out to capture my hunt on film. The rest of the afternoon we watched several good bucks cruise by without presenting a shot. With the sun sinking over the Wyoming prairie we headed back to the ranch to grab a bite and get some shuteye.
Early the next morning we headed out to a new blind on a different waterhole situated at the bottom of a steep coulee. Around 10:30 am we spotted a nice buck with two does 300 yards out. Jana and I watched the buck feed out on the open prairie through our binoculars in hopes he’d come our way to quench his thirst.
We watched the three antelope graze across the opposing ridge, not interested in coming to the water. Time ticked by slowly as the blind began to warm under the Wyoming sun. Suddenly out of nowhere I spotted a buck drinking at the far end of the pond. “Jana to your right”, I said while I slid my body to face the thirsty buck. Jana began to record while I clipped on my release and tried to calm my heart rate. As the buck dropped his head to drink at 34 yards I came to full draw, aimed small and sent the arrow downrange. Jana and I watched the arrow punch through the buck’s left side and exit his shoulder a bit high on the opposite side as he whirled from a solid hit. He was gone as fast as he appeared, running around the corner of the coulee and out of sight.
Filled with adrenaline we both were speechless from how fast the hunt went down. Exiting the blind I moved to where I last laid eyes on the old buck expecting to see him piled up just around the corner of the long sagebrush draw. Two black horns protruded through the knee-deep grass 100 yards out and they were vertical. The buck was still alive. We watched him through our binoculars for a few minutes hoping to see his head drop. After 5 minutes I knew something had gone terribly wrong. “ Jana give me the camera. Let’s review the footage”, I said.
Jana and I watched the clip intently to see where the shot hit and what we found was astounding. The buck’s reaction time was measured in nanoseconds. At the sound of the arrow being released the buck dropped a solid foot from 34 yards away. The trophy taker slammed behind the buck’s front left shoulder and deflected up and out of the antelope’s body hitting only one lung. Severely injured I knew that now everything I’d ever learned as a hunter over thirty years would come into play on the Wyoming prairie.
Jana and I climbed to the top of the coulee to work the wind and approach the buck from above. With the buck bedded below me I decided to go it alone to create less movement and hopefully get a second arrow in him. Jana would be limited to filming from afar. Removing my Kenetrek boots to limit the crunch of the dry grass, I would attempt to close the distance in my old wool socks. Slipping down the hill took me a solid 15 minutes to get within 60 yards. Jana remained up on top of the hill, unaware of what was happening below. Crawling close to the ground on all fours I tried to get even closer when the buck’s head spun directly towards me. Busted…
The buck was up and blowing at me from 50 yards. I knew I had nothing to loose so I came to full draw, settled my 50-yard pin on his vitals and released the arrow just as he started to run. The arrow hit the dirt bank where he was standing a half a second before and now the chase was on. I took off on a dead run across the bottom of the draw with my bow in tow. I was a sprinter in high school and back in the day could cover 100 yards in 10.81 seconds. Today I’m built more for endurance and I knew this hunt might fall into that category in a hurry. As luck would have it the antelope buck paralleled a small draw that allowed me to close the distance without being seen. I used the sparse cover of the low sage brush and trusted that the Krytpek’s Highlander pattern would do its job to conceal me from the best eyes in the animal kingdom.
After 15 minutes into the stalk and recovery process I closed the distance to 80 yards. Every time the buck would take his eyes off me and walk, I would quickly pick up my pace, trying to stay close behind him. I was out of time and running out of cover. The buck stood broadside for what seemed like an eternity. All summer I practiced shooting out to 60, 70 and even 80 yards. Now it all came down to one shot. There probably wouldn’t be a second chance with this buck and I knew in my heart it was now or never. As the buck turned to look in the opposite direction I slowly stood up, came to full draw and placed my bubble at the bottom of my sight on his kill zone. I kept repeating in my head “ Don’t look for it…just let it go” I held steady and touched off the release.
My arrow arched out of site as the buck took off. I let out a sigh thinking it was over. At that distance it was difficult to see or hear an impact. I watched intently for any sign of a hit from the prairie dweller. He ran out to 70 yards and began to wobble. My heart skipped a beat as I watched him tip over succumbing to a perfect double lung shot. I turned to Jana who was filming on the opposing ridge over 400 yards away and lifted my bow in celebration of the hit.
What turned out to be a routine archery antelope hunt from a blind turned out to be anything but! Everything I’ve ever learned as a hunter came into play on my first archery antelope hunt. The fact that Jana was able to capture “ The Long Shot” was purely icing on the cake. The two of us celebrated an antelope hunt unlike any I’ve witnessed in 30 years of pursuing this majestic creature. As an archer it’s our duty to follow through to the best of our ability on every animal that we pursue. It’s a creed we live by and we’re grateful for every animal that gives its life so that we may live.