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Frustration September 2001
Gerhard Schroeder  

There are times when things don't quite work the way we wanted, had hoped, or anticipated. I'm sad to say that it has been documented that on 19 May 2001 I could have made good use of a glass navel.

It was at our HSC Running Boar event that David Stimens had brought the brand new hard copies for the 2001 -2002 Arizona Hunting Regulations. As planned we went right for it, filling out all we wanted to try for. For Glenn Sampson and me, this included the traditional application for antelope. Again, that glass navel might have allowed some visibility when I had my head up my ass. I wrote down Archery hunt numbers.

This, of course, did not get revealed until weeks later when the friendly internet message reported that we had indeed drawn an antelope tag. But what was this? For archery?! No way, I don't even own a bow. How could...?

I dove back into the application book, and with cold sweat realized that I had indeed screwed up royally. The antelope rifle hunts are on page 29, with page 28 showing two nice deer. So, I must have thought that this was all deer stuff, and turned to page 30 for Pronghorn Antelope. Major frustration!

Too late, the damage was done. Sorry, Glenn, hope I can make this up somehow. Immediately more frustration. This was an early hunt, beginning on 24 August. Now I really needed help. This at a price, naturally, because wherever I shared my fate, roaring laughter echoed back from all my friends, and anyone close by who also overheard me. Rightly so, I guess, because some of these guys are experienced bow hunters, and some would not, and have not even attempted to apply for/hunt pronghorns with their bow. Surveys says that of six serious bow hunters I queried for advice, four had hunted antelope, two ace archers had filled their tags, the others never got a shot.

Then finally some highlights: Lynn Kirby offered his bow, and even better, Mark Pennington of target shooting fame committed to show me the proper archery techniques. I accepted. That next Thursday we met at Archery Headquarters. Mega frustration!

I could barely pull the bow back, since this requires activating muscle groups I didn't even know I had, not to mention the arrow falling of the rest, sore finger tips, the string biting my face, not hitting squat at 10 yards. Oh man, I was in trouble. But Mark came through, determining that I needed a different pull length. Then Rob Stephan offered his bow, and it was the one for me. Plus I convinced Mark that using a trigger, oops, release, was right for me. At least I knew what to do with a trigger. Another lesson at Archery Headquarters, some serious shopping for arrows, blades, bow carrier, camo tee-shirts, and finally I returned home with a glimmer of hope. I could hit something with Rob's bow.

Meanwhile, 24 August was approaching quickly. I shot almost every day. David helped me with a final power adjustment to about 68 pounds at Ben Avery's range, followed by sighting in, and then through the field courses. I did OK. We repeated the field courses a week later, where I picked up another helpful tip from Ray Cernansky. Carry the binoculars diagonally over the right shoulder, so they end up below the left arm pit, out of the bow string's way. I would probably do all right with the arrow launching, but that was only one part of the equation. The other parts? Where to go within our hunt unit, and HOW to get within 40, better 20 paces of a prairie goat.

Two overnight scouting trips answered the where question. I found two promising waterholes, with several bucks nearby. Plus several other areas in case hunting pressure should change things completely. I knew where I wanted to be on opening morning. But how to get close?

The frustrating part on those scouting trips was that these pronghorn would simply motor off whenever my Toyota came within 400 yards. That was too much even for a rifle.

More help came From Bob McCain. He offered his "Commandelope", a folding, full-size antelope decoy. However, it had not really done the trick for him on his hunts. He also shared that antelope will readily come to water, but then they may not if the Monsoon is generous. It would all depend.

There is one more chunk of frustration I need to mention. I did all these preparations without Glenn, because he was recovering from a knee operation, and this early hunt robbed even more precious recovery time from him. Plus, he would be severely limited on how much walking he would be able to do, period. It got worse days before the opener, when he experienced complications, and ultimately was forced to stay home. On Thursday afternoon I departed solo to 19B.

My hunt really began that Thursday night. Not that I was carrying a weapon. But I spent over two hours at a slightly elevated position, intensely spying on all the antelope activity. They were all familiar, nothing had changed since my last scouting visit. When it was too dark to see any tail, I retired to my Toyota villa. I knew where I wanted to be in the morning.

The alarm did its horrible thing at 3:45 AM. That gave me enough time to get dressed, have a serious bite (elk salami sandwich) to eat, put on hunting makeup (like in one of those TNN commercials, using the truck's mirror and light), and gather all this gear I had deemed necessary.

I did go back to the Toy once, slightly frustrated, because after about 20 steps I shuddered when I realized that I had forgotten that damn release. It was still dark when I set up the decoy about 18 paces to my left.

My chosen ambush site turned out better than expected. It was at the tip of a point, basically at level ground with view into the prairie for about 270 degrees. I was under small trees that had no low branches and allowed pretty much unobstructed viewing, except for the tree trunks themselves. Backed against a juniper, this was an almost perfect natural blind. Behind me the junipers thickened slightly as the terrain turned hilly. About 300 yards to my left was the waterhole, which none of the antelope had visited last night. There was water in some wash pockets, and I had seen three antelope visit a two-foot water puddle, in a depression with no view to anywhere but Interstate 40.

The only problem with my hiding place was that I would look right into the sun once she conquered the hill 300 steps ahead of me. I settled down, glassed into the faint predawn silence, and immediately got excited. There, antelope! OK, they were still at least 500 meters out, but surely when the sun peaks over, lighting up the decoys, those antelope would come charging in to confront this intruder.

Yeah, right. An hour later the first rays did hit plastic, and the antelope kept feeding, not giving that decoy a second look. The sun wasn't a problem, I always managed to keep a section of tree between us. I can't deny that this hunt reminded me of roe deer in the old country. There are similarities, such as the shape of their head gear, their gait, the fact that you can see them out there in the meadow.

I pick up the bow, with arrow already nocked, and clip on the release. Because the bigger of the two smallish bucks, having inadvertently closed the distance while feeding, all of the sudden picks up the pace, steadily loping in now! Right by me, by the decoy, at about 90 yards, on over to the waterhole. Frustration, I should have chosen the primitive blind at the edge of the tank I had established during my first scouting . . .

Hello, there's the big boy I saw again last night. He's intently studying this small buck, but not my decoy. Then he moves on over to the salt lick, and works it for what seemed like 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Smally returns, now on the far side of the wash (150 yards from me), then crosses and returns to where I had seen him first.

All right, big boy is eyeing in my direction. Has he discovered the decoy? Oh man, he's going for it. He's coming in. Frustration, almost. He's 80 yards to my left, and what he responded to is Mr. Medium, emerging from the junipers, and parading past me at no more than 70 paces, but never stopping, and simply moving out into the flat.

That was close. I catch myself breathing heavier, while maintaining watch for big boy, who decides to enter the junipers behind me. If he keeps his course, I may head him off. I decide to sneak out of hiding, angling right and uphill, breathing like a subdued heart attack. I manage to close the distance to an estimate 50 to 60 paces, but there's still a tree between us. No chance to range him, to draw on him. Then he senses me, snorts, and head out into flat land. Frustration, but the fun kind this time. I return to my hiding spot.

Only minutes pass, and at the salt lick stands what looks like big boy's twin brother. A word here about these bucks. None are record material, and I don't care, don't want a record, actually, because I don't think I deserve one, not the way I got this tag. No, I'm a meat hunter anyway, and I'll be happy to just get a decent archery shot. I made up my mind the minute I faced having to learn archery that I would take any buck, no matter its size within the regulations.

Twin also enjoys the salt forever. I have no idea where he came from, but appreciate being able to watch him. Maybe he's more interested in Mr. Plastic. Then he moves out, on about the same trail that Smally had used about 30 minutes ago. But hey, what a neat morning, have seen five pronghorn bucks, 4 within a hundred steps. Well, I've spied on twin so long, time to check the other directions.

Oh damn, to my very right is what looks like a just legal young buck. Staring right at me, from only 60 yards away. He's barely past the tree I had ranged at 58 yards when I mapped out the surrounding terrain with the Bushnell 600 at first light. From his position, I might be silhouetted against the prairie. Yep, there he moves on, before I have a chance to slowly turn on my chair towards him.

I begin that muffled hyperventilating when this youngster stops, turns back for another look, and shows severe interest in . . . the decoy! Here he comes, he's within forty! I pull the bow back. MASSIVE FRUSTRATION!!! The way I sit, I can't pull it all the way back, seeing stars from sheer straining, almost moaning out loud.

No success, I let up. The buck notices something going on in the trees in front of him, but then makes a few more steps. I straighten my upper body, and the same damn frustrating choking happens. I can't get that bow back.

Then I remember, almost in cold blood, as I just about figure that this is a lost opportunity, that I had tried this 'from the chair shooting', and it would only work towards my very left (where the decoy was). Youngster, however, was right in front of me now. So, what the heck, I slowly swing my left leg way out left, then back so I end up in the kneeling position. Even now I wave around with this bow, left and high to finally get it fully drawn back. This must have stopped Youngster in his tracks, staring at this commotion in those trees.

Exhausted from wrestling with the bow, and still having to aim straight ahead, me and the sight picture are nothing but massive shakes. Somehow I force the 30-yard crosshair onto Youngster's shoulder. The release itself must have been semi subconscious. I hear the hissing of the bow, and immediately the thud of impact. I did not see the arrow in flight.

Youngster explodes into a panicked full-bore circlic run. When his off-side shows, the arrow sticks out, kinda far back. "Frustration", I think, "looks like a bad shot." But then Youngster completes a full circle of about 100 yards diameter, coming back to within 40 yards of me, still at full throttle. That side looked much better to me, showing lots of blood. Then he heads almost straight away from me, right at Twin, who watched all this in disbelief, still 150 yards out. Half way there, the arrow falls out. Youngster blasts right by Twin, and into the wash. He does not re-emerge.

"This hunt is over," I think to myself, finally settling down, slowly catching my breath. The scene replays countless times in my mind. I go over, take down the decoy, and hide it under a tree.

Mark was right. Shoot often, but not too much and compromise 'the form'. When I made the shot, I only concentrated on the sights, and can't remember how my 'form' was.

Still believing that it wasn't the best shot, I wait what seems like forever. In the mean time, Twin slowly motors off. Problem is that I was watching Twin, to see what direction he was looking at, if he could indicate where Youngster had gone. By doing so I failed both to mark where the arrow fell, and where Youngster had entered the wash.

I spent another chunk of minutes looking for the arrow, unsuccessfully. It was time to find my antelope. I headed way past where I suspected him, such that the sun would be at my back. Then I approached the wash, another arrow nocked, and cautiously followed it back. It took only a few yards, and there was my antelope, in the shade of a juniper, long expired. It had run along the bottom of the wash for some 60 yards. Rob was right, his Browning Mirage Hunter 90 Nimrod was not (at all) the latest and greatest. But as his many fine trophies testify, this bow has the "killer genes." Older as it is, it is not for sale. I've already asked.

My pronghorn is barely legal, and I am thrilled. I actually got an antelope, with a bow. He's resting on the off side, allowing me to see that the arrow had hit perfectly behind the shoulder. He must have been turned towards me some, such that the arrow exited through the second to last rib on the off side.

This was August, so I gutted him immediately, kept him in the shade, rushed back to get the 4Runner, and transported him to a nearby I-40 underpass I had discovered during scouting. The tunnel provided constant shade, a little draft, perfect for cooling the prime young meat. I skinned him, cut him in eight pieces (legs, ribs, back and neck) for even better cooling. Once cool, the meat went in the ice chest. Then I returned to the field, retrieved the chair, decoy, and found that arrow, after another 30 minutes of crisscrossing the prairie.

The hunt replayed countless times on the way home, accompanied by a fat smile. Frustration? What frustration?

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