First off hunting is about networking and in this case it surely is. Justin use to work with or my son worked with Justin in the days of Sportsman’s Warehouse in Portland. I had seen pictures of Bulls that Justin and his group had taken along the John Day River some years back… He knew what he was doing for sure when it came to hunting.
In the early part of 2010 once Justin knew his group had tags for Lopes in the Malheur he got a hold of me and asked if I knew any areas for the Malheur. I knew a few spots and shared the information with him.
As you can see his group was very successful with a couple of good bucks for that area.
This year I had some other hunters in the unit for both deer, elk and lopes. Justin shared his information on his hunt, which I have past along to the new group of hunters. Those hunters last year got information from me on the Steens Mtns. for deer.
Early on in 2010 after Brandon drew his Archery Antelope Tag for West Beatys Butte with one preference point, he contacted me via email about possilbe Lope hunting sights in the unit. He and his dad were willing to spend some time to scout the area. I worked up some waypoints from the old days and since he had a Garmin Mapping GPS, it made it easy for him to utilize the waypoints.
I thought I would share the pictures from his hunt and a short story about the hunt. The big thing he was successful on this bow hunt and harvested a very good Antelope.
In the above attachment you will find the 2010’ Archery Antelope that I got which you helped me on with the GPS coordinates. You will also see a picture of a really nice Lope that we saw during our scouting trip we did 1 month prior to opening day.
I got the smaller lope at the same hole as we saw the larger lope at. There was an average of 20 to 40 lopes using the water hole we found. I shot my lope at 40 yards out of a Primos double bull blind while he was drinking water from the hole. Last year was extremely dry and any hole that had water had antelope around.
The water hole that I hunted which I found while scouting is coordinates:
Top Secret Spot
Thanks again for all the help you were. Your help with the GPS let me find the above water hole which brought me success. There were a lot of antelope around this water hole.
As I have said before many people come into our lives. In the outdoor world of hunting and fishing, I feel that we connect with the land and those that are part of the land…
For me there have been many Ranchers that I have come in contact in regards to hunting, especially in the state of Oregon…
In the 80’s. 90’s, 2000’s, much of my time was spent in Central Oregon mostly on the west side of the John Day River in pursuit of deer, elk and free ranging exotics. Through the years one might become infamous or notorious in relationship of the owners of the rimrock, sage and junipers. This past summer my son and I visited one of the ranchers that I have known through others, as well as how he knew me, yet we have never sat down and had a fireside chat… During the 4 or so hours we spent in a tent on his property, setting life straight and becoming friends of the mind, a common bond was made. Life is not easy for Ranchers, especially in the hostile land of the John Day River.
So the following was able to happen because of the gathering of the past summer!
“I found your website after sending you a private message on Ifish after you responded to my post about my son needing a place to hunt for cow elk in the North Grizzly Unit. If you have any contacts that would be great the season ends on November 30 and I am running out of options. Any help you could provide for a 14 year old kid would be greatly appreciated!” Jeff
Being able to come up with an area and the Rancher’s phone number, Jeff was able to get permission to hunt on this land.
Hey Frank-“Look at what we found! Ha-Ha….
Great hunting experience for my son we put in a long stalk in on Saturday morning after putting the elk to bed Friday night. We ended up walking the rim rock all the way to the end. We crawled to the edge where my son touched one off from the top clear down to the bottom. He hit her in the back leg with a stiff wind coming from left to right, very tough shot!
The Wind always blows in the area!
They took off running she was hurt yet still ran for an extended period. We caught up to her a couple of times but she ran off before he could settle in to shoot. I finally spotted her bed down in front of a tree at a high vantage point. This time we cut a limb off a tree after he missed twice so he could get a good shot. He connected while she was laying down right in the neck and died immediately… Took us all day to finally get her out with the use of a 4 wheeler but we were both still beat after coming in and out of that Canyon a couple of times! Finished skinning her out then cut her in half and headed for home about 6PM last night.”
Hey Frank-Happy Black Friday!
We ended up on Dave’s property….he really took to the “kid” as he called him…..Ha-Ha.
He let us use his 4 wheeler to haul that thing out which really helped the cause!
He also enjoyed the whiskey, salmon, beer and tuna that I brought to him as Thanks.
Hell of a memory for a 14 yr old kid, made it even more special that we were able to do it together….
Thanks again for the connection, Max is very thankful and wanted me to say Thanks as well….
Having just recieved the story fresh off the press from Doug, it seems Doug has found the honey spot in Oregon for Coastal Elk. Two years in a row he has gotten his bull and they seem to be getting bigger each year. I am putting the story out for all you to enjoy, plus his pictures. Even the Bwana does not know his secret spot, should have loaned him one of my GPS’s. Hmm!
“The day had started off like most game days. Driving into hunting area, we were really hoping that no one would want to hunt our favorite elk area. We had gotten through the gate and had not seen anyone; I was hoping we would still have it all to ourselves, in that no one walked into the area. For unknown reasons my lucky star was shining on Tod and me. We got to the first clear cut that we wanted to look at. It was about 10 minutes before daylight. My hunting partner Tod and I went to the edge of the rim to listen for elk talking. We had only been standing there for about two minutes when we could hear elk below us and they were really talking. After daylight we spotted six cows and one dandy bull. We thought that they were going to feed out to the right to the timber. There was a road that came into the bottom on the cut. So we decided that I would go down the timber line on the right, and Tod would get in the bottom on the road so if they ran out he might get a shot. I got down to the first bench, and was in front of all the elk. I had great cover and it look like they were going to feed right across a bench below me. I got to the stump that I thought would give me the best shot and setup to wait. I had only been there for about 5 min when one of the cows must have seen something because she was on the alert. She wanted to go out to the middle of the cut, but she was not the LEAD COW. So they all started looking around, trying to figure out what was going on with the cow being on alert. The LEAD COW decided that she was going to lead them all to the timber. She stared coming just as I had hoped they would. When they were almost straight down the hill from me, she then started to climb the hill a little toward me. Finally they turned broadside again and the bull was the 6th in line. So I pick my spot that I was going to try to get him stopped for the shot. At this time I thought that the shot was going to be about 35 yards. He went behind a stump and I drew my Mathews back and waited for him to move into my lane of shooting. When he was where I wanted him I Cow Called and he stopped just right! I pull in right behind the shoulder and let it fly. The bull took off down the hill. I got my glasses on him and my arrow was sticking high in the shoulder. I watch him go to the timber line and stand for about five minutes. The mortally wound bull than just walk into the trees out of our line of sight. Tod and I decided that we had better give him two hours before we start looking. That was the longest two hours of my life. We went to the road that went into the bottom of the draw. We checked the banks to make sure the bull had not crossed on us. We found the trail that he had went in on with a good blood trail. We had just got in the trees about 30 yards when he jumped up. He ran about 40 yards and that was all he had left in him. My G5s went clear threw the front shoulder and got into the lungs. The best part he was only 40 yards above the road and we got him out whole.”
David and I had many email contacts, he bought a Garmin GPS, came by and I marked maps. He made the trips to South Wagontire to scout all the hotspots and said he had a great time and lots of buck lopes. I feel that David made it one of the great hunts, with friends and family.
First a confession: I read a lot of hunting magazines, Easton’s Hunting Journal, stuff like that. Those articles are about umber-hunters, alpha predators who know their game and their craft. Every season for them is the kind of adventure guys like me dream about. Average Joes like me respect and admire those hunters, but even though we would sometimes like to, we are never going to be those guys. This year I wanted to see if an Average Joe could have an adventure like that, but home-grown, without guides or out-of-state tags.
I had enough points to draw for Antelope and this appealed to me for family reasons. 35 years ago during one of the Boeing busts my father had to leave the family behind and go work in Ohio because there were no jobs in Seattle where we lived. Two years later things got better and he came home. On the way back he stopped in Wyoming to hunt Antelope. For a farm boy from Pennsylvania, this was a real adventure. He shot a small buck (about 8 or 9 inch) with Grandfather’s Savage 99 in 358 Winchester and was totally thrilled. The picture is still on the wall of his home in Naches, Washington. The horns and hide went into the basement chest freezer till there was enough money to pay a taxidermist. 4 months later the freezer croaked and everything in it was ruined.
Dad was never one to complain and these things can and do happen. Five years later he drew a goat tag and shot a Billy with 10 inch horns which made an impressive mount. Still, I very much wanted to see a Lope hang on his wall.
My first step was to search for some advice from somebody who knew what they were doing and I was fortunate enough to find Frank’s website. After I explained what I wanted to do he helped me figure out
1. What unit to put in for
2. GPS model suitable for a novice
3. Choice of rifle and round
Frank also shot me some GPS data on areas in that unit that he knew would be good bets. He even took a lunch hour from work to sit down with me a go over maps and talk about tactics and how to judge horns. I was advised repeatedly to hold out for a mature animal and not settle for the equivalent of a spike or fork-horn, which is what most hunters do. Franks info was gold and his advice was dead-nuts-accurate. Thanks Frank.
I kept pretty good notes on the scouting and hunting trip both. If this was an article for Eastman’s Hunting Journal it would be titled “Average Joe Hunts Antelope”.
Scouting Trip July 30 –
Got up VERY early. Waterhole 1.0 is about 1 ½ mile from the road and waterhole 1.2 is another mile further past that. Since we suspected the wind would come in from the north again, we fumbled around in the dark till we found a good hide on the top of the rimrock to the south of the waterhole. There were a few high puffy clouds so we should not get stupid hot like yesterday. Got up early and got on 1.0 before light. The GPS is a huge help and got us to our hide in total dark without a problem. I was too pumped to sleep last night and was very tired.. Met Brian and Dad in Madras and headed south again. First stop was the waterhole the satellite picture showed near our core area. This turned out to be a near perfect setup with high ground and cover overlooking it. Only trouble was there appeared to be zero Lope tracks at the water, just a few coyote prints. This hole was surrounded by sage and I wonder if the lopes don’t hang out in the sage unless pressured on the open grasslands. In the morning there was a buck watching us from about 600 yards out. He is probably 10 or 11 inches but not much mass and skinny cutters. This is the kind of buck most hunters take but Frank says to pass on. In the morning as we were munching granola bars and Costco muffins and getting ready to explore some of Franks waypoints the packrat hops out onto the top of the truck engine (the hood was still up from the prior night rat hazing attempts). He is about the size of a big squirrel with very hand-like front paws and a furry tail, but otherwise looks just like a very big rat. He jumps onto the left fender, from the fender to the left side view mirror, from the mirror to the dash, runs across the dash, jumps to the right side view mirror, from the right mirror to the right fender, and, I swear, flips us off before diving back into the engine compartment. Dad and my brother Brian drove south from Naches to scout with me and I met them in Madras. Dad is pushing 80 now and won’t be doing much hiking, but will drive and glass from the high points while Brian and I do the walking. Brian is a biologist and worked for a few years studying coyotes and sage grouse at Hart Mountain. He has never hunted Antelope but is familiar with their habitat and is better at spotting distant animals than anybody I know.We stopped in Silver Lake for gas and lunch. A couple guys at the diner heard us talking about Lope hunting and mentioned they had seen animals over near P—– Basin.
We drove east through Christmas Valley and saw 8 does in the irrigation pivots with a small buck. Past the town we went south on P—– Basin Rd. There is lots of country, but not much water this time of year; at least that we could see. Just south of V—– Butte there were some stock pond by the road and a very heavy horned buck jumped off one of the holes, crossed the road in front of us and raced through the sage up and over the shoulder of the butte. It is absolutely amazing how fast they run without seeming to make any effort.
Joining up with Hwy 395 we went south and then cut west to the area Frank had given me GPS data on. We drove through the Seeding that Frank had marked and saw two young bucks (the bigger one probably 9 inches) feeding in a dry lake bed maybe 400 yards from the road.
Further south we met two coyote hunters coming back to camp. They were using small (and very quiet) dirt bikes to cover long distances and rough roads. They said they had seen two nice bucks a few miles further south but the road there was a real goat path. They had been seeing the same two animals almost every day and thought they bedded in the seeding above and went to the lake for water. The maps show no springs or even topography that would lead to them so this makes sense.
As it got toward evening the Jackrabbits came out. We must have counted a hundred in just the hour before dark. They seem to frequent the border between the sage and the crested wheat grass in the seeding areas. They must be feeding in the grass at night and taking cover in the sage during the day.
We found a place to camp for the night near a gate with a couple of rock jacks holding up the wire fence. Pulled out cots and sleeping bags and slept out. Great to fall asleep to clear sky and lots of shooting stars.
About midnight Brian woke up to the sound of something scrabbling around the engine compartment of the truck. Looks like we had attracted a packrat that had taken home. He popped the hood and hunted around with a flashlight and the noise stopped. 5 minutes after he got back in the bag it started up again. This went on all night.
July 31 –
Driving back toward the main road we saw the two small bucks from yesterday watching us from 800 yards or so out in the sage. They were not far from where we saw them the night before. According to everything I have been reading, lopes are creatures of habit and don’t move far if not pushed.
Going west we saw 10 lopes in a dry lake bed maybe ¾ mile away. We thought one was a buck but it is hard to tell. One thing I am learning is that when you combine flat(ish) land, long distances, and hot weather, the high powered spotting scopes are not much good – everything is blurred by heat mirage. They saw us though. They got nervous being watched and headed out over a ridge to the west.
Next we checked out one of Frank’s marked waterholes (call this one #2). There was still water in it at the end of July. Brian says these big holes are dozed out and lined with Bentonite clay to prevent the water from seeping away into the ground. The dry part of the lake bed had green forbs and dry Pepperweed that the lopes like to feed on. The waterhole had seen lots of lopes based on the tracks, and wild horses as well. 12 of them were watching us form about 600 yard out, a group led by a big black male. They won’t come to water with us there and eventually headed off to the southeast. This must mean that the “possible” waterhole the map shows in that direction still has water. From the image on Google Earth it looks much like #2 and is to the southwest of Frank’s other marked waterhole (we marked Frank’s second waterhole waypoint #1.0 and the possible #1.1 and #1.2.
#1.0 is our next stop. It is about 1.5 miles from the road and appeared to have water still (though it is hard to tell due to the shallow angle and heat mirage. The terrain hides #1.1 and #1.2 from view. It was starting to get warm so we decided to head down toward the head of the lake and see if the lakeshore road was passable. We got about 4 miles down the road before it got bad. Very deep erosion ruts and patches of soft loose sand. We decided getting stuck was not worth it and we were running short on gas anyway. We headed back to hwy 395 and went south down the lake shore. At the end of the lake in a pivot there were 15 lopes with one nice buck. Heavy horns but one of them was deformed and cocked to the side. I don’t know who owns these farms or where you would ask permission to hunt. There seem to be no farmhouses, just barns and tractor garages.
We drove north to Paisley for gas and Gatorade. Late July here can get seriously warm in the afternoon. Does anybody know what the ODFW was thinking when they set the season at the third week of August? Other states do not do this.
They guy at the gas station said to try up near the “Paisley Airport”. There is BLM land that borders the pivots and the lopes move back and forth. We took a drive out to the border between the BLM and pivots. We saw three bucks in the pivots; two of them looked fair to decent. Whether they go up into the sage on the BLM land I don’t know. We decided to ask at one of the ranch buildings on the land.
The lady at the cafeteria building told us the AG land here is all owned by the XLZ Ranch which is owned by Simplot Corp and their HQ is in Boise. We are free to ask for permission to hunt but we won’t get it. The company gets Landowner Preference tags which they reserve for their executives and executives of companies they do business with. “Figures”. We decided to pass on hunting anywhere near the pivots. The maps are not real precise and I don’t need a trespass issue. Anyhow, hunting in a hay field does not seem near wild and adventurous enough, even for an Average Joe.
On the way back to camp we saw two animals in the far distance north of the dry lake bed we saw the animals at in the morning. Think they were bucks but they were way out there. Also as we approached camp we saw 10 does on the ridge top to the east.
Brian and I took a walk down to the dry waterhole where we saw the two bucks the other night. There are several scrapes and they seem to have been eating the Pepperweed and bunchgrass. In the sand at my feet I noticed a scattering of obsidian flakes. I have done some flint knapping (Brian is really good at it) and the bulbs, waves, and ridges on these flakes are unmistakable – 500 or 1000 or 5000 years ago another hunter stopped here to make a stone knife to dress his kill or maybe replace a broken arrowhead and then continued on with his hunt. “Very cool.”
We found a place to park away from any rimrock or rockjacks (which we suspect are packrat havens) and got out the cots and bags for the night. The place we picked has a distant view down to waterhole #1.0.
August 1 –
Brian and I took a walk cross country to a distant ridge that we hoped would give us a view from above down to waterholes 1.1 and 1.2. 1.1 looked to be dry but still a lot of green vegetation so it has not been dry long. 1.2 still had water (at least we think so) and we saw 5 animals watering there but could not see much detail due to distance and heat mirage. Hiking back to the truck we saw 8 lopes had come in to water at 1.0
We think we have a game plan now. We will come back the Friday before the opener and walk in to 1.0 and 1.2 and locate good hides. Before dawn on opening day we will walk in and set up. It is getting warm now and Brian and Dad have a long drive home so we headed out.
On the way out we met another truck out scouting Antelope. This guy turns out to be a guide named Brian Dewey. He told us our plan seemed to be a sound one. He had a blind set up on another waterhole about 5 miles to the east and planned to be on it with a client opening day. He said after the opener the lope bands will be pushed and move about and may be hard to approach, but will still need to go to water. After being pushed some, they will settle into their old routines in a few days. With fewer than 40 tags for the whole 1200 square mile unit they will not be pushed too hard. He said the mature animals this year seemed to be running 13 to 14 inches with only fair mass.
In they next two weeks I updated my paper maps and went over the area in Google Earth looking for water holes that were of the size and shape of the ones that we had found still held water. Found one additional one near the core area we planned to hunt and several others between 5 and 10 miles away. These would be backup if we did not see good bucks in the core area.
Also made a final trip to Douglas Ridge rifle range and verified the ballistic hash marks on my scope are correct. 200 yards is dead on, 300 is the first mark and 400 are the second. Everything looks good.August 13 – Day before opener
We then walked in to waterhole 1.0. Tracks showed heavy use. Lopes approach this hole from all directions based on the trails. Wind is from the southwest, which is typical, so we located a spot about 175 yards east of the water that had a good shot position and marked it on the GPS.
Headed for waterhole 1.1 next! We came in sight of it over a gentle rise in the prairie and Brian spotted a lope there. We got low and crawled in another 50 yards or so to take a look as it was a buck and he had not seen us. We got to within maybe 250 yards, close enough to get a good look. Nice buck. Not a lot of height, but very heavy horns. We backed out without ever getting close enough to see whether there was water.
Next we headed for 1.2 since we had seen animals there while scouting but never got in to take a close look. There is a shallow swale leading down to 1.2 from the west and we tried to keep low and approach from the nearby sage to break up our outlines in case there were lopes there. We see a herd coming west up the swale. I think they winded us but are not really panicked and did not see us. There are about 15 does and one buck. The buck is a lot like the lone animal we saw on 1.1, but maybe not as heavy.
We waited till the herd moved off and was well out of sight over the next ridge and walked down to 1.2. It is smaller than 1.0 but well used and has lots of tracks. Approach is limited to the east and west as it is walled by steep rocky slopes on the north and south. We find what looks like a good hide in the rimrock to the north and mark it on GPS.
We circled wide to the east of 1.0 so as not to spook the herd from 1.2 if they had gone there. Brian spotted 5 lopes to the east of us in some sage pockets among the wheat grass. Too far to see if any are bucks. Also saw a coyote headed for 1.0. He crossed in front of us at 100 yards. We got back to the truck 30 minutes before sunset.
Plan is to be hidden on 1.0 before daylight. If nothing comes in, we will wait till about 11:00 and try and sneak in on 1.2 and see if there are animals bedded there. Dad is going to drive to a high vantage point nearby and watch through the spotting scope. We have a two way radio (which we set to vibrate on call) so if he sees anything coming he can give us a heads up.
August 14 –
Ranges to various spots near the water are from 150 to 350 with the water’s edge being about 200. I saw something moving at the water’s edge as the light improved and dialed my scope down to 5X to get a look (can’t see much at 16X in very low light). It was a flock of mallards. There is no water plants in the waterhole for them to eat so they must have been traveling between Albert Lake and Summer Lake when night fell and got caught here. They headed out when the light gets good enough.
Dad called at 9:45 on the radio to tell us a herd is headed in from the east. Unfortunately, the wind was then blowing from north to south. At 10:00 they came in but winded us as they passed on the trail to the south. There were about 15 does and one decent buck. The does took off to the south, not panicked, but they didn’t want to stay there. Except for two does who headed down toward the water. The buck did not want to let his harem break up and followed the two does trying to turn them back with the rest of the herd. They were not coming in on any of the main trails now and getting a clear shot at them from prone in the sage was a problem. They stopped briefly on the flats south and west of the waterhole. Based on the ranges I took earlier, this should be about 300 yards. I sighted on the 300 yard mark on the ballistic hash marks on the scope and fired.
All three animals took off after the main group of does in the general direction of 1.2. They were going too fast to get a second shot off. The buck did not look to have been touched and we watched them run about half a mile till they got over a rise. I don’t get it. I know I was dead on and steady when the shot touched off.
I walked down to where he was standing when I fired to look for blood or hair with Brian directing me in. Nothing! I can’t see how I could have missed. Going in to 1.2 didn’t make much sense any more. If the herd was there, we didn’t want to push them and our odds of getting a good sneak on spooked animals was low. We headed back for the truck, after marking on the GPS a spot on the OTHER side of the waterhole in case the wind direction stayed like this and we wanted to hunt this hole another day.
Back at the truck we decided to take a drive to check out another waterhole to the west. It had a fair number of tracks, some of which looked fresh, but is pretty close to the road. This would not be my first choice, but might be worth setting up on later in the week. We saw a lone buck on a knob to the north about a mile out. He did not look very big, but hard to tell at this range. He saw us so a sneak was probably not going to work. It was getting really warm by then, probably 95+ and not a cloud in the sky.
On the way back to camp I called a stop to check zero on my rifle. I couldn’t get over the miss earlier and wondered if the bouncing over bad roads in the back of the truck on the way here knocked the scope off zero. When I set up to take a sighting shot the reason for the miss was obvious – I still had the scope dialed to 5X. The ballistic hash marks are calibrated for full magnification of 16X. At 5X the 300 yard hash mark is more like a 900 yard holdover. I had sent that round sailing two feet over his back.
On the one hand, I’m kicking myself for making such a dumb mistake. On the other hand, it is a relief to know for sure that the shot was a clean miss and not a wound. Still, I can’t recall every reading of a bonehead move like that in any of the hunting magazines; Alpha predators just don’t screw up like that.
On the way back to camp Brian and I took a hike out on a ridgeline hoping to get a look down on 1.2. We got a good view from about a mile and a half out and there were lopes feeing nearby, at least 5 of them.
The heat was just brutal by 4:00. We try glassing the benches above Lake Albert in the evening but nothing seems to want to move in this heat. We decided to set up on 1.2 in the morning.
Back at camp, it cooled off quickly and I got a good night’s sleep. Dad did not. He heard a packrat in the cooking boxes and was in and out of bed all night trying to chase it off.
August 15 –
About dawn, a family of coyotes came in – a mated pair and 3 pups. The wind was dead calm and the rimrock to the north and south sort of captured and magnified the sounds. I could hear the coyotes lapping up the water from 175 yards out. Very cool. We watched them through binoculars for 30 minutes or so. I was sorely tempted when the two adult coyotes line up at the water’s edge, giving me a potential two for one shot, but stayed focused on lopes. There was a little stilt legged wading bird foraging around in the water, but the coyotes left it alone. Brian and I were bracketed by sage, wearing face mesh, and covered up with Camo burlap. We were so hard to spot that birds foraging in the sage often landed on us.
About 8:00 a pair of does came from down the draw to the east of us headed toward the water. Timing was lousy as I was up getting a bottle of sunscreen out of my daypack. The guys in Eastman’s Hunting Journal never have that happen to them. The does spooked and headed back up the draw but didn’t seem to alarmed, I don’t think they knew exactly what they saw.
At 9:00 a group of does came in to water, down the same draw the other two used earlier. 10 of them drank, browsed a little on the Pepperweed and green forbs in the lake bed and started to head out. Suddenly the lead doe got all tense and moved out in front of the herd. One of the coyotes was trying to pull a sneak on them and was hiding in the sage near the mouth of the draw. The lead doe stamped her hooves and the coyote tried to circle around and get a run at a fawn in the back of the herd. The lead doe ran back toward the waterhole and the whole herd moved with her making a big noise of pounding hooves and kicking up dust. The coyote was right behind them. At the lake bed the whole herd stopped and pivoted as one to face the coyote and they all started stamping their hooves just daring him to try it. The coyote ran off up the draw. That was one of the coolest things I have ever seen.
Apparently the lead doe was not convinced the coyote has given up. The herd grazed around the waterhole and bedded down in the dry lake bed. We watched them though binoculars for the next hour.
About 10:30 the bedded lopes started to get nervous. I wondered if the coyotes were back, but it looks like a family of wild horses was coming in to water from the east. The lopes spooked and went running west up the swale toward 1.1
The mare came in first followed by her colt and a stallion and they all tanked up at the waterhole. The horses waded out in the water to drink, where the lopes had stood on the bank. The coyotes came back and tried to pull a sneak on the colt. The mare took major offense at this and chased one of the coyotes through the sage around the waterhole while the colt stuck close to dad. They drank again, browsed a bit, and headed back out the way the came in.
The coyotes decided that this is about all the action they are going to see at this waterhole today and headed out due south. This was going to take them straight at us. We held still and they got within 10 yards of Brian before they spotted him.
By then the clouds had burned off and it was starting to warm up. We headed back to the truck. We did not see any bucks come to water, but I would not have traded the circus we got to watch at the waterhole for a big set of horns. That was just too much fun.
Back at camp we discovered we were just about out of ice and the packrat had gotten into the cook boxes while we were gone. He opened a box off granola bars, took a few bites from each bar, and stole the wrappers from all of them. Dad was taking this personal now. We headed in to Paisley to get gas, Gatorade, Ice, and rat traps. On the way in we saw a big herd of lopes in the pivots where they know you can’t touch them. We made our supply run, had lunch at the café, and headed back toward camp.
On the way back to camp we passed a shallow canyon where there is a waterhole about ¾ mile from the road. This is one of the waterholes Frank liked (#2). Brian spotted lopes grazing the edges of the lake bed. They saw us too. Didn’t’ see any bucks in the group, but we might not have seen all of the animals that were there. Couldn’t tell how many as the knob that overlooks the waterhole might have been blocking some of them from view. They were getting very nervous about us watching them. Brian thought we could make a sneak on them.
Dad drove on, and when we were hidden from the waterhole by a slight rise in the land where the road went into a shallow cut, Brian and I bailed out and Dad continued driving. He drove on and over the hill and we were pretty sure the lopes watched him go. It was about 3:00 by then and 85 degrees or so. Not miserable hot, but no cloud cover. Wind was quartering from us past the waterhole, but frequently swirled and changed direction. Our plan was to sneak out to where we could come up the back side of the knob and peak down on the lake bed and waterhole and hopefully get a shot at any decent buck that happened to be in the group.
Unfortunately we had a half mile of sage flats to cross to get behind the knob. Nothing for it but to crawl on hands and knees through the sage. If we stood up we’d be visible to the herd. The sand had been in the sun all day and was seriously HOT. We crawled fast over the sandy spots and stopped on the occasional patch of dry grass to prevent burns on our knees. Our hands were getting scorched too so we grabbed handfuls of rabbit brush and grass to protect them from the heat. The knee pads and gloves were in the truck. This stuff never happens to the Eastman’s Hunting Journal guys.
As we reached the back side of the knob we saw a cloud of dust rise from the area of the waterhole on the other side. The wind had been swirling and shifting so we figured we were busted. Not sure though, so we started crawling up the backside of the knob. As we reached the top, we saw a herd of wild horses heading out toward the east, which must have been what raised the dust. We backed down from the top and headed slowly through the tall sage around the north shoulder of the knob. The lopes were still there.
We stayed low and glassed from the sage. There looked to be a single buck in the group, with about 15 does. Horns were not real tall but looked like they had some mass. This was definitely a mature animal, but I didn’t have a shot from that position, the sage was too high for the bipod (25″ fully extended) to give me a clean shot over the brush and the distance to too far for an offhand or kneeling shot. I’m just not that good at distance shots without a solid rest.
I scooted forward through the sage on my behind looking for a position where I had clearance over the sage and a solid place to anchor the bi-pod legs. The herd was grazing the dry lake bottom and the edges of the sage. The truck had left an hour and a half ago and they had forgotten all about it and seemed to have no idea we were there. Finally I had a solid rest (not a prone shot which I would have liked but a decent sitting position) with a couple inches clearance over the sage. I estimated the distance is close to 300 yards. The range finder, naturally, was in the daypack back in the truck, along with our canteens. The Eastman’s Hunting Journal guys don’t get excited and forget critical equipment, but Average Joes do.
By now though, the buck had bedded down. He was facing us, with a doe bedded crosswise about 10 feet in front of him. No shot. We settled down to wait.
We watched the herd browse and walk about for half an hour and finally the buck got up. He grazed toward the sage line and I finally had a shot broadside and clear of the does. I jerked the shot. I knew what I did as soon as the trigger broke. When I miss big, this is always the reason and the bullet always goes way low. Brian had been watching through his binoculars and whispered that I hit the dirt in front of him. The lopes were just standing there looking around, and it dawned on me that down in this bowl the sound of the shot probably seems to come from everywhere and they still had not seen us hidden in the sage and wearing Camo.
I jacked another round in and settled in for another shot, holding on the 300 yard hash mark and being careful to get a slow squeeze of the trigger. I lost the sight picture at the shot but Brian whispered that he was down. I chambered another round and got the crosshairs back on him anyway. After about 5 seconds he got up, but stumbled around looking dazed. One more shot put him down for good. It was 5:00.
When we were convinced he was really down, we headed down out of the sage on the knob. The does finally saw us and bolt off to the east. This was a nice buck, not a record book or even close, but a mature animal with good mass and cutters. Both hits were high. The shot distance was more like 225 than 300. Note: Lopes are small; they are usually closer than they look. We called Dad on the radio and he headed back in the truck.
We took lots of pictures, did the gutting, and washed up at the water hole. Once we got the lope to the road and into the truck we stuffed the body cavity with ice (which we just picked up in town) to cool the meat and head back to camp. By the time the sun went down we had the quarters and blackstrap in game bags and in the cooler.
The hunt was not quite over though. Dad wrapped a dab of cream cheese in a piece of tin foil and set his rat trap. About 1:00AM the packrat got what he deserved.
In the morning we got camp broken down in a couple of hours and head out, still early. On Red House Road there were a couple of ODFW guys who checked my tag and taped the horns. 13-1/2, with 4″ cutters. One of the better ones they had seen that season.
So, summary: The hunt ended with a long and difficult stalk under nasty conditions and ending in a difficult (for me anyway) shot. If I left out the blown shot at waterhole 1.0, getting busted by the two does, leaving critical gear in the truck, and of course the packrat, you could almost put this in one of those magazines. I guess there are adventures out there for all us Average Joes after all.
This is a great story with father and son hunting. Randy is also very good with a camera and has shared many pictures of monster Blacktails from his home state… I am sure Randy and his son Travis will both hunt for Lopes here again in about 12-13 years… Thanks Randy for the story and the hunt! Cobra
Hi! Frank, here’s the end result of my antelope hunt. We did have a dandy buck all set up for the opener but I botched the shot. We did see one other shooter buck but couldn’t get a clean shot. We did use your info and did hunt your special spot, but didn’t put that info in the story. I have pasted a little story my son Travis wrote about the hunt.
Man this was a tough hunt, both physically and mentally. My dad had thirteen points built up for Antelope-Pronghorn in Oregon. He was ready to cash in guaranteeing a draw, but giving up on one of the other top Oregon Antelope Units. This hunt we went on was the Beulah Unit. Let me start by saying this unit is not at all your typical Antelope country. It was steep, rocky, and brushy and did I mention STEEP! After previously talking with the local biologist for the area and making notes of the areas he suggested, obviously that is where we started when we arrived two days before the season. We glassed and glassed until dark and were not seeing a thing, no Deer, Antelope, Elk, nothing. He started to get that regretful feeling for choosing a lesser unit with that many points earned. All we could do is put up with the long days of getting up at 4 and getting back to camp at 10 in search of a shooter. You’d think hunting in August would be great… It is but has just as many downfalls as hunting in November. First off you really don’t prepare yourself for the LONG days. Light at 6, dark at 9, that makes for a long day. Eventually we scrapped any info from the Biologist and went out on our own. Ended up stumbling on the only flat Lopey looking area we could find within a 30 mile radius of our camp. That night before the opener we glassed a nice buck that had 15 does with him. This was exciting, first to actually finally see some lopes, but also to find a shooter for the next morning. Seemed too easy! That opening morning we were up at 4 and up in our area by 5:30AM, 6 AM it was light enough to glass and I spotted the herd about a mile away. Time for the big stalk! Eventually after an hour of stalking cautiously, we ended at the last Juniper cover on the edge of the flats where they were. I ranged the buck at 450 yards. My dad shoots a 270 Weatherby Magnum and has ethically killed game at those distances in the past. Just after I ranged him, he decided it was a good time to bed down. After building a makeshift bench rest out of rocks and a backpack, he got comfy and ready for him to stand, 45 minutes later he stood. I told my dad whenever you are ready! I watched through my Swaroski and thirty seconds later BOOM! I watched as he shot literally two inches over the buck. End of that stalk! They were gone like lightning. Now since this is getting long, I am going to speed things up a bit. Over the next two days, we only saw Lopes in that exclusive area. Sunday night we managed a perfect stalk from another mile plus away. Three bucks but when finally we were fifty yards from them, my dad decided to hold off, they were not all that great. Fun stalk none the less! Monday morning we slept in until 5:30, got a late start, hunting hard the last three or four days in 100 degree weather was starting to take a toll on us. We weren’t seeing the quality bucks we were hoping for and the one that got away was exactly that. So that morning we weren’t expecting much heading into our “area”. Put up the spotters and within 5 minutes he spotted the buck he eventually ended up taking. We made another great stalk from over a mile away up to a rocky outlook just behind them. Once he found a good rest he set up for the shot. BOOM! I heard the “smack” and then there were smiles. My dads killed bigger lopes and was hoping for that magical 17 Incher, but I don’t think we would have found him. It made for a great end to a hunt with lots of ups and downs with my dad, but more importantly good memories. By the way, my dad is 54 and could out hike any of my buddies! We definitely came home with blisters and missing boot lugs. By Travis