Hunting Big Game Hunting

Texas Scimitar-Horned Oryx Hunt

The scimitar-horned oryx, a species of antelope named for its scimitar-shaped horns, has been extinct in Africa since the mid 1980s. Thanks to hunter-driven conservation efforts, somewhere between 6,000 to 10,000 of the animals are found today in Texas alone. I headed to the Indianhead Ranch along the Texas / Mexico border to hunt this 300-plus pound antelope in a free-range environment, and to find out about a new USFW law that, thanks to a 60 Minutes story a few weeks ago, is a topic of debate, misinformation, confusion and further hope for the survival of the species. Note: Indianhead Ranch oryx shown.
The scimitar-horned oryx first came to Texas in the 1980s when rancher David Bamberger put aside 600 acres of his property for the preservation of the species. His early efforts and those of other ranchers has led to a Texas population of upwards of 10,000 animals. The species has become extinct in the wild. The Texas population of oryx were allowed to be sold, hunted and culled on private ranches because the USFW believed that "hunting programs can provide a benefit to the long-term survival of a species." Now a new change in the law would require ranchers that own oryx, Dama gazelle and Addax to pay a fee and register their animals. Many ranchers began to sell their herds or offer inexpensive "hunts."
Larger ranches, like the 10,000-acre Indianhead, named after this rock formation that resembles a Native American's profile, can afford the time, effort and money to deal with this new bureaucracy. But hunt prices are likely going to go up.
My guide, Darren Carr, and I drove around the property in one of the ranch's modified "mid '80s" four wheel drive Suburbans. "We tried a Hummer but it was too wide for the roads roads. We tried Jeeps but after bending two axels gave up. Trucks weren't balanced enough for the ups and downs," explained Darren. Modified Suburbans? Just right.
Despite my two and a half days driving the ranch, I only saw six species of the 25 or so exotic wildlife found on the ranch. As the ranch is only partially fenced, I asked my guide about what keeps the animals on the property. His answer: terrain. That being said, some animals have left the ranch and others – such as predators and boar – have come on. It's about as free-ranging an environment as it gets.
I never saw any Dama gazelle while on the ranch. I did find Addax, one of the three species the law change deals with. They're possibly extinct in the wild. This one mock charged Darren and I twice.
We also spotted a buffalo chomping down a cactus pad. His mouth and face was full of thorns but that didn't seem to bother him. I, however, found it painful to look at. So I took a picture to remember the event for all time. Makes no sense, I know.
As night began to fall on a great, albeit, unsuccessful day of hunting, I headed back to the lodge. The surrounding "cabins" are clean and comfortable. I enjoyed a huge gourmet meal accompanied with plenty of French wine and topped it off with many cold beers. Photo courtesy of Indianhead Ranch.
One of the many numerous caves on the property. The first inhabitants to the area marked their arrival and existence with paintings in 7,000 B.C.
Despite their cream and rust colored pelage, scimitar-horned oryx are difficult to find in thick brush. Darren and I would often only see a flash of white, or a few black spears rattling above the foliage before the herd hurriedly hoofed it out.
After looking at roughly a dozen herds of oryx, we found this solitary bull. At 350 yards, he was too far away for me to try a shot with my CZ .375 H & H mag. Let me clarify: I'm sure the rifle's capable of making a shot like that. I'm not.
We later found a similarly old bull that had been run from his harem by a younger bull. The animal was well past his prime, with a broken horn from a decade of fighting. I took him at slightly under 100 yards with one shot. Darren estimated the oryx weighed about 350 pounds and was maybe 11 years old. He was a good-sized bull and a great trophy for a wonderful and informative trip.

A new USFW law has become a challenge for Texas ranchers trying to save scimitar-horned oryx and other antelope species.