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I’ve made the annual pilgrimage to hunt antelope in Eastern Montana since I was a toddler. It’s always been a family affair. I’ve hunted with both of my grandfathers, grandmothers, my parents, and my siblings. Many of my friends have harvested their first Antelope with me on the same piece of ground my family has been hunting for over 30 years. Returning from the 16 day Dall Sheep hunt, I was looking forward to something with a little flatter ground, and some country I knew by heart.
We met my Dad and John Armstrong out at our usual camping spot not far from Jordan Montana and just south of the famed Missouri River Breaks. I double checked my rifle’s accuracy that evening and we ate a quick dinner excited about getting out and hunting hard the next day. The guys had scouted the property already and didn’t see as many antelope as we have in past years, so we wouldn’t be very selective when it came to looking for Mr. Big, we were just going to try to fill our tags.
We woke in the morning to a fog layer that didn’t allow for us to see for more than 50 yards from camp. I had caught the flu from ol’ Stryder Kronberger in Alaska and the chance to sleep for a few more hours was quickly welcomed. After what seemed like only a few minutes, Katie woke me up at half past noon. The fog had lifted and I was feeling better, ready to go after the antelope. We drove the truck around the far perimeter of one of the areas on the ranch. After only 45 minutes, we had Antelope in the Leicas about a mile off the road to the north. From our vantage point, we could only see one doe and three bucks… perfect, I had two doe tags and an either sex tag, so we planned a stalk!
Using the contours of the plains to our advantage, we criss-crossed in the direction of the herd. Careful not to advance too far into the prevailing winds we made our way closer and closer. I had pinpointed a few different landmarks amongst the open country and knew we were getting close. This was the first Antelope hunt Katie and I had been on together, so giving her a great first experience was really important. I wanted her to see the process of a successful stalk with a quick and peaceful end for the antelope.
We belly crawled for about 75 yards to reach a vantage point over the antelope. When I reached the final piece of sage that would provide us cover I stopped to look back at Katie who was taking photos of the stalk. I told her it was about to happen, she smiled and I turned my attention to the antelope. The lead doe was still bedded. I could make out a few nice bucks in the herd but didn’t have a clear shot at them through the grass and sage. I decided to set up on the doe bedded 106 yards away, not worrying about what the bucks would do… I’d get a chance to hunt them later I thought. I flipped off the safety on my Weatherby, settled the crosshairs on doe’s neck, slowly exhaled, and sent a bullet true to it’s mark. Thuuuwhump! The doe never left her bed. The herd immediately jumped up and began to run up and to my right. I could now clearly make out the nine different bucks in the herd and quickly glassed them all through my binos. There was one definite shooter buck and I immediately ranged the herd… 225 yards. This was well in my effective rifle range but the buck was moving in and out of the does in the herd, so getting a solid shot wasn’t possible. By now I had removed my Longbow pack and was resting the Weatherby ontop of the pack while in a seated position. The herd was reacting as if I’d harvested the lead doe, they didn’t know which direction to go and couldn’t make us out amongst the sage and grasses in our Optifade. A younger doe took the lead and began to bring the herd right back by the fallen doe. I looked back to Katie who was watching the herd get closer and told her I was going to take another shot. The herd kept getting closer and closer and the biggest buck was following directly behind the young doe. I hit the rangefinder… 125 yards. The buck stopped to look in our direction and I immediately dropped him in his tracks with another well placed bullet.
I was thankful that Katie was able to witness what I would consider a perfect hunt. We made one stalk, harvesting two great animals with one well placed shot apiece.
I’ve got a few friends who also have that same either sex tag as I do who I’ll probably head back out east with after I return from the New Mexico Rifle Elk hunt… so keep checking back, there could be some more Montana Antelope hunting updates soon!