Guns and Gear

Pronghorns on Sunday

Sitting in the truck, glassing and discussing each animal as it was spotted, I was reminded of duck hunting. Our truck was a roving blind, complete with snacks and a collection of fine humor that would make even my diehard ducking pals back home blush. Yeah, it was just like duck hunting, only the “X” was the 80,000-plus-acre Tillard Ranch, and I wasn’t slinging steel with a maximum 45-yard range. Did I mention it was Sunday? I was going to enjoy this hunt.

While 375-yard shots are not uncommon, as it turned out my longest poke would be a hair less than 100. It wasn’t overly stimulating; there were no dangers lurking behind the sage brush to fear and the 70-degree temps kept me from battling the elements. So as we trekked the 200 yards to get a better look at this animal my nerves were calm. But when Casey said, “You’re gonna want to shoot this buck,” then quickly set up the sticks that all went out with the breeze. I could tell by his voice he was excited. And when a man who guides pronghorn for a living gets excited you don’t question him. The calm, easy feeling that had been governing my thoughts departed faster than Road Runner escaping a falling anvil. I was a mess in a hurry. Firmly planting my butt on some cacti, I peered through the scope and, for the first time, was up close and personal with a pronghorn antelope. Had Casey thought I was nervous before, he must now have thought I was about to keel over. The trembles in my heavy breathing could be heard from back at the truck. Taking my head off the rifle for a moment allowed me to regroup and avoid hitting the dirt. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Casey staring at me, a not so subtle hint that my trophy wasn’t going to literally stand around forever. I took the hint, came down on the rifle once more and whispered, “I’m gonna take him.” My 100-yard shot dropped the animal instantly.

By noon the first day, our gang of misfits had taken an impressive five antelope. As we finished lunch, knowing I had another day to hunt and a management tag left to fill, my plan was to glass and spot for my fellow hunters. But bumping along the dirt roads in this cowboy’s paradise, noticing the abundant game all around, it was an easy decision to make when the possibility of a second Sunday goat was floated my way. Three hours later in the fading Sunday sun, I pressed my rifle to the sticks, watched my second buck show himself then laid it low with a single shot at 62 yards. The family name was safe.

Until now, I really had no idea what I was missing. It’s not as though the sun shines differently on Sunday, but it felt… I don’t know… satisfying. I was given the opportunity to do something that until now was off limits. It’s like a 21-year-old’s first legal drink—nothing different about it, just satisfaction to the core. It was as if they had lifted the ban on Cuban cigars and I had the first box. Cubans are by no means the only top quality cigar but for some reason, when possessing the prohibited stogies we tell ourselves they taste better. The truth is, while growing up where Sunday hunting was not an option I just assumed it was the same across the country. It never crossed my mind that I was being deprived of something the rest of the country was allowed to do. I have spent many a good Sunday playing ball, going to church or hanging treestands and scouting duck holes. But a trip out West, where the deer and the antelope roam, gave this Virginia boy the greatest Sunday of his life. Ignorance was bliss. Football never really did it for me anyway.