Marfa Lights Pronghorn By Jim 'Killer' Miller
Oct 29, 2009 - 6:37:01 AM
For years I have had the great pleasure to hunt Pronghorn Antelope in the great states of Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming and have taken some really great prairie goats with a bow. In 2005, I had, for the first time, the opportunity to go to West Texas to hunt for pronghorn antelope. If you're a bow hunter you realize that the best way to put a Pope & Young or SCI Pronghorn Antelope in the book is to go to the western states in the hottest part of the year, August or September, dig a hole in the ground, put up a permanent blind, a pop-up blind at a water hole or hang a treestand or platform in the struts of a windmill and wait for a buck to come and get a drink.
If you're not familiar with pronghorn antelope hunting in west Texas, the land owner owns the permits which are issued to the land owner by the State of Texas Parks and Wildlife. And 95% of the hunting is done from a pickup truck driving around the pastures until you find the goat you want. I had met with an outfitter, Alamito Outfitters, out of Marfa, Texas, with owner Wayne Wiemers. Wayne was not very receptive to bow hunters as he had some real issues as Wayne takes mainly rifle/gun hunters and he felt that due to the short season he had only two day hunts for his hunters and that it was not fair or conducive to the bow hunter.
I must say, Wayne has some of the best rifle and gun hunting I have every seen and always takes several antelope bucks annually that either make or get very close to the Boone & Crockett record book.
After much visiting and talking to Wayne, I think I finally broke him down and he agreed to allow me to come and bow hunt. We talked about the date that would be best for me and my schedule. After, much conversation we agreed that the 3rd and 4th of October would be the best time for me to come out as the rut would be in full swing and if the weather stayed dry we would have a really good chance to take a good buck.
This was the middle of July when we had agreed on the hunt and dates and I then sent Wayne a deposit to lock down my dates. I then started to shoot my bow, as always every other day as I want to know my equipment and what it can and cannot do. This is how I start my practice. First I shoot five arrows at 25 yards, then move back to 60 yards and shoot four sets of five arrows. I know you're saying I would never shoot at an animal at 60 yards and nor would I. What this does is make me concentrate more on the spot, on the target and the pin on my sight. I set my bow sight (Montana Black Gold Flashpoint Sight) at 25 yards, 40 yards, 50 yards and 60 yards. My first pin is set at 25 yards and with pin point accuracy from 0 to 35 yards, which is a very doable shot on a waterhole while hunting pronghorn antelope.
On October the 2nd we drove out to Marfa, Texas and stayed at a local motel, the El Piasano. This is a famous motel and was booked solid. This was where Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Gregory Peck had stayed while they were making the famous movie of the 50's, 'Giant'. It was also one of the historical sites of Marfa along with the infamous Marfa lights.
After meeting with Wayne Wiemers we drove out east of Marfa toward the town of Alpine. About ten miles east of Marfa I noticed the new viewing site for the 'Marfa Lights' and we turned left into a huge pasture and Wayne took us to a windmill with a large reservoir tank which drained off into a stock tank and a drain pipe with plenty of green grass around the stock tank.
We took our pop-up blind and set it in next to the large reservoir and the windmill and made sure we had shooting lanes to the stock tank, the green grass and also to a couple of salt blocks. We placed our chairs and made sure everything was exactly the way we wanted it. We then left the pasture and returned to the motel and then on to a local Tex Mex restaurant for a plate of enchiladas and then back to the motel to turn in early, as 5:00 am was going to come quick.
That darn 5:00am alarm was way too early. It had seemed like I had just closed my eyes. I had to chunk a pillow at my cameraman Jason to get him moving. We were up and out to meet with Wayne at the same Tex Mex restaurant. It was noisy with all of the gun hunters already there. They were all pumped to be out and chasing antelope. Wayne made the introductions and everyone was laughing about the fact that some crazy bow hunter was going to go out and film a TV show (Great Southwest Outdoors) at a waterhole. They just could not believe I was going to sit in that hot blind from before daylight to dark! However, I did assure them we would do that and it would be fun.
We arrived at the blind and put all of our gear and my cameraman into the blind and then I drove off to hide the truck in a draw about a mile away. It was a great morning. Clear, calm and 50 degrees. It was actually cold to me, because when we left south Texas it was 95 degrees and that equates to a 45 degree difference in less than 12 hours!
We settled in and Jason was filming away as the setting was unbelievable. High plains, mountains and plenty of cactus of all types, which you would swear was right out of a John Wayne movie! Speaking of 'The Duke' I was reading a great book, 'The Searchers', as I waited for something to happen. This is also one of my favorite movie by John Wayne.
By 9:30 am we had not seen a prairie goat anywhere! Thanks for a great book to keep my mind occupied as I watched for pronghorns to come to the waterhole. At 10:30am, we spotted a big herd of antelope feeding, but not any of interest. By now we had settled into the blind for the day with a cooler full of food, water, soft drinks, a good book and still camera. Around 10:40 am we saw a herd of goats feeding toward us, but they then turned off and were not seen again.
As the day progressed we could hear trains crossing the countryside and vehicles traveling Highway 90. Without those sounds I could easily have put myself back in history 130 years. This was the Comanche's stomping grounds and travel corridor as they traveled to Chihuahua to steal horses, mules and slaves and other than the windmill, stock tank, and the sounds of today, this country has not changed.
By 2:00pm we had two bucks coming toward the stock tank but hung up about 70 yards. The older buck was really a great buck, a real shooter but the younger buck had seen something that he did not like, maybe the camera lens sticking out of the blind, or the blind just had not been there long enough. At any rate, they didn't come closer to us.
As the day progressed we saw large numbers of pronghorn antelope, but nothing close to the waterhole and stock tank. However, we did see all kinds of birds, field larks, ravens, hawks and many other small birds. All of this kept the afternoon going.
Dark came quickly, 13 hours of hunting time in a ground blind is a long time, enjoyable, but still a long time. We returned to town and met all of the other hunters and outfitter at the Tex Mex restaurant. They were very loud and a lot happier than that morning. Everyone wanted to know what we had seen. I said, "We saw several antelope, but nothing real exciting." I just did not want these folks to know what we had seen and especially the outfitter. Everyone was giving us a hard time about sitting in a ground blind in 90+ temperatures with a bow and arrow. My outfitter wanted to know if we wanted to move and I said, "NO! We'll give it another day." My outfitter stated "Remember tomorrow is your last day." No problem. After another great Tex Mex meal we returned to the motel. I called my wife and visited with her and then early to bed.
October 4th we arrived early and it will be a day that will always live with me. It began with a short trip to the local convenience store where we picked up some breakfast tacos, coffee and more water, soft drink and sandwich material. We drove back out to the hunting area and as we drove toward the waterhole we saw several really good bucks lying down along the Sendero that took us to the blind. We dropped off everything we had and I returned my truck to the same area of the previous day. As I walked back to the blind I had the feeling that this was going to be a good day. Especially after seeing several good bucks lying down near the waterhole.
As the sun started its approach over the eastern rim and drove all of the night creatures away, I thought, "I should have brought my coat with me". The early October morning was very brisk and clear. It had to be in the 40's. As it got lighter we had our binoculars working very hard trying to find a real shooter buck this morning. We had antelope all around us. At one time I counted eight mature bucks feeding within 100 yards of the waterhole and a couple of them were really boomer bucks.
Around 8:30am we had a 12" inch buck to come to the water and then go to a salt block. He offered beautiful shots, but not what I wanted to shoot an arrow toward. By 8:45 am, we had two really good bucks to come toward the waterhole, but veered off. We could see antelope everywhere but too far for a bow shot. By 9:15am we had goats again all around us. Then Jason, my cameraman, stated "Here comes a buck." However, he went to a salt block, then back to the water, again not a shooter. Now we had antelope coming to us fast and furious and all of them wanted a drink of water. By 10:00am we had two more bucks and eight does come to the stock tank. The does came first and were all around the tank and drinking water as if it was the last water on earth.
The first buck was standing broadside to me facing the herd of does and was 30 yards from the blind by my rangefinder. I was getting ready to draw my Mathews Legacy and Jason said, "No, No look at that monster to the right". I turned my bow to the Monster Pronghorn and put my 25 yard sight pin on the spot right behind the front shoulder and before I knew it the Carbon Tech Whitetail Hunter shaft was on the way and through the buck like hot butter. There was an explosion of antelope bodies going in every direction, but the old monarch was running in slow motion away from us. He made a semi circle and was down not 50 yards in a straight line from the blind.
Let the gun hunters take a look at this monster buck. Taken with a bow.
Let me tell you, there was a lot of emotion in that blind! I knew I had shot the biggest pronghorn buck in my life. As we walked up to the pronghorn buck it was obvious the ole warrior had fought many a battles to hold his harem together but today he lost. After a short thanks to our Lord, I let out a great shout of joy. After the photos and back patting, out came the measuring tape. He scored 82 & 4/8", a Boone & Crockett trophy. What a thrill. But the best was still to come.
We loaded the monster buck into the back of the truck and off to town we went and pulled into the Tex Mex restaurant and waited for the noon day hunters. I still remember the look on the outfitters face and a couple of hunters as they looked in the back of my pickup and just stared at the buck. What a day of hunting. A Boone & Crockett pronghorn antelope with a bow. What a thrill.