Daughter's last oryx?

Posted by: DesertRam

Daughter's last oryx? - 03/10/20 01:42 AM

Warning - lots of text first, but there ARE pictures at the bottom. Scroll down if you want to get right to the good stuff.

When it comes to drawing good big game tags, my eldest daughter is one of the luckiest I know. The odds of drawing a tag to hunt New Mexico oryx are pretty slim, but out of four tries, she has managed it three times. Her first attempt to draw a tag in 2016 didn't pan out, but in 2017, she got to hunt trophy oryx as a youth hunter in a really good area. She filled that tag with a nice cow. In 2018 she pulled a tag for a January 2019 hunt outside of the "trophy" range of oryx. She filled that tag with a fine bull! In last year's draw, she pulled her third tag in a row, this time getting a tag to hunt a great area as her "once-in-a-lifetime" tag, meaning she will not be eligible to hunt the premier hunts/areas again. So, that begs the question - was this her last oryx hunt? I sure hope not, because I'm getting used to eating her oryx! grin

As many of you know, I like to tell hunting stories with pictures. However, this hunt was, like two described in the links above, on the White Sands Missile Range, a military installation upon which photography is extremely limited. A successful hunter is allowed a few close-cropped photos of their trophy. No pictures of the countryside, animals, or action during the hunt. In other words, all the pictures I use to weave a long tale of the hunt. So, with that in mind, this story will include far fewer photos than I would prefer.

As with all hunts on the range, hunters and their guests must attend a mandatory safety briefing. This was held late Friday morning, after which we (Regan, my dad, and I) were released for the afternoon hunt. The oryx population on the range is in good shape, and within a few minutes we had found oryx. (I actually glassed four of them from the briefing!) With two oryx under her belt, Regan was on the prowl for a big bull on this hunt. We were not able to get within good rifle range of the first group because of their keen eyes and open terrain. No worries, there weren't any monsters in the bunch anyway. Before nightfall, we made three more stalks, two of which put us in easy range of bulls. She deemed them both too small for the first day.

The next morning we headed into a new area. We covered a lot of ground before we found the first group of four, which included a bull with potential. They had seen us before we saw them, but we tried a stalk anyway. The oryx stayed just out of range, so we finally gave up. In midmorning, we spotted a great bull running way out ahead of us, so we ditched the truck in a low spot and tried to get closer. It was a valiant effort, but we just couldn't close the deal. Later, we bumped into a game warden who had spotted a group of three with a nice bull. He pointed them out and we formulated a plan for a stalk. Regan and I took off towards them. Like most, they saw us before we got into range in the fairly open country. We closed to about 250 yards, but the bull Regan wanted would not turn broadside. He stood facing us for several minutes, staring us down before whirling to run into a restricted area into which we could not follow. Just after lunch, we found a pair in really thick brush - a very nice cow and a what I assume was last year's calf. We sneaked through the brush and got "almost there" several times, but could never get a clear shot through the heavy brush. Then the wind kicked up and oryx became harder to find.

Finally, right before dark, we stumbled onto a decent bull hiding from the high wind in a shallow draw. He stood around long enough to let us get within easy range and for Regan to get on the sticks. Just as I said "kill him," he started to turn, but the trigger finger was already in motion and a bullet was on its way. The bull turned inside out, making Regan and my dad think that she had hit him. I doubted though, having not heard the typical thump of a bullet on oryx. I was also watching through the bino and saw no indication of a hit at the shot or after. Time for our due diligence. The bull's fresh tracks were easy to find and follow. We trailed him for about a half mile, crossing several wide open dirt patches in which any speck of blood would have been easily spotted. Nothing. He stayed at a run the whole time. As far as I know he's still running. smile After so many opportunities that didn't quite pan out, Regan was starting to get a little disappointed. We headed back to the camper, and after a couple pep talks and a good dinner, she started to feel a little better. She did vow to be a little less picky on Sunday, the last day of the hunt.

The next morning we were at the gate ready for action before check-in time. At check-in, we were told that they had opened a new hunt area on the far north end of the range. (This was actually the area we applied for, but had been relocated from because of heavy military operations.) We were pleased to get this news and decided right away to head directly to this new area. We were the fifth or sixth vehicle to turn north towards the new area, all headed up the road at 55 mph. Although I never really stop looking for game, I was more focused on covering ground quickly, and didn't expect to see much given the traffic ahead of us. So color me surprised when I glanced out the driver's window and saw a pretty darn good oryx standing in a relatively open area. I let off the throttle and coasted to a stop behind a small hill. Regan and Dad asked what I was doing, to which I replied, "Checking out that oryx!" Regan and I bailed out and started a quick sneak. We popped over the first hill and I could just see the oryx, a bit far off. However, I got the chance to glass him up good and we decided he was a shooter, particularly on the last day. So we planned a "real" stalk and started to close the distance. With continued traffic, he had started to move away from the road, but we kept after him. We stayed high to cover him in the bottom of the drainage, and once he got into some brush that hid him from the road, he slowed, then stopped. Regan dropped into the prone position and steadied the rifle on the bipod. Too much grass! We had to relocate to the next little hill, which afforded her a better shooting position. I didn't even measure the range, knowing that he was less than 200 yards. When he turned mostly broadside (a bit towards us), she fired and I heard the comforting thump of a solid hit. As I watched him through the bino, I noted that she had hit him a bit far back. A perfect lung shot on an elk, but back in the liver area on an oryx. I told her this, so when he stopped again, I spun the scope's dial up to 300 and she thumped him again. He staggered off into a thick copse of mesquite. We watched for several minutes and didn't see him come out. By this time, Dad had caught up to us and confirmed that from his angle, the bull had not left the brush. Regan and I set out to locate him while Dad agreed to watch from above to make sure he didn't sneak out ahead of us.

We easily found his tracks in the soft, moist soil of the arroyo and took up the trail. At first there was limited blood sign, but soon it picked up, with droplets well out away from the tracks. Eventually we noted a steady stream of blood in the middle of trail, telling me that he was drooling it out from a lung shot. Less than 40 yards later, Regan found her bull, stone dead. The "once-in-a-lifetime" tag was filled. On the range, you are allowed to drive to a downed animal for recovery, so Dad drove the truck out across the desert to meet us for pictures and to help tend to the meat.

Posted by: crapshoot

Re: Daughter's last oryx? - 03/10/20 08:17 AM

Super cool! Especially cool because dad and grandpa were there! Lifetime memories for sure.
Posted by: AWS

Re: Daughter's last oryx? - 03/10/20 10:40 AM

That's great, thanks for the write up.
Posted by: crittr gittr

Re: Daughter's last oryx? - 03/10/20 11:40 AM

Tell your daughter congrats on a great trophy, and thanks for the story! thumbup
Posted by: Matt1953

Re: Daughter's last oryx? - 03/10/20 03:53 PM

Awesome job! Congrats to all.
Posted by: hm1996

Re: Daughter's last oryx? - 03/10/20 06:13 PM

Congratulations Regan, good job! Troy, you better take her with you next time you go to buy a lottery ticket! thumbup

Posted by: Lazerus

Re: Daughter's last oryx? - 03/10/20 11:18 PM

Dang it Troy, I had forgot all about this. Now I gotta relive the jealousy all over again! Regan is awesome.
Posted by: GC

Re: Daughter's last oryx? - 03/11/20 08:54 AM

As ALWAYS, great hunt and story! You do things first class Troy, congrats.
Posted by: atd

Re: Daughter's last oryx? - 03/11/20 02:37 PM

Dang the "Great White Huntress" Bwana Regan strikes again.
Big congrats to all.
Posted by: lockrotor

Re: Daughter's last oryx? - 03/11/20 05:58 PM

Great story and pictures. Congrats to the young lady.
Posted by: songdog

Re: Daughter's last oryx? - 03/27/20 10:50 AM

awesome read. Congrats to your daughter. Pretty cool that dad and grandpa were along and got to add the hunt to the ol memory bank.