As a kid we would gather at my uncles house every year to pack up the trailers and trucks and get gear ready for the men in my family to make the trip to Colorado for a deer and elk hunt. They did this for 13 straight years and I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to go with them. That day never came. Things happen, life changes, people move, people die, but my desire to have a tradition like that never left.
As a nearing forty year old adult I feel like we have started our own sort of tradition in our annual Antelope hunt. We aren’t up to 13 years yet but this trip has become as close to what I remember as a kid as we can get.
No matter what is going on or where in life I am I will make the trip to Tucumcari and this year was no different. Thanks to the state of New Mexico our amount of tags has dwindled each year but that doesn’t change my enjoyment of the trip.
Like most years I drove half the night to get there for opening day. I made a few stops along the way and wasn’t in a huge hurry but also was anxious to be there at the same time. First stop was at my cousin Shaynes to see his great family. We don’t get together near enough and I make it a point when I’m in the area to stop by if only for an hour. I love to visit with him and sweet Abbey who always has some kind of treat for me to take on the road. Shayne has been instrumental in keeping this site going and encouraging me to continue writing it. I love seeing him and the family and talking about old times but I have to get on the road so we said our good byes and I was off.
I had gotten a text from my brother who was ahead of me that a bad storm was approaching but honestly I didn’t pay it much mind, I should’ve.
Look I grew up in a mobile home in Texas, tornadoes really don’t concern me. I’ve lived through some pretty bad storms in a trailer and I guess this has taken most of my fear of weather away, that’s not a good thing just the way it is.
After seeing several overturned semis and cars in ditches I admittedly became concerned about this one. The winds picked up enough that semis would just blow over and more than once I considered turning around. I pulled over to check my radar and I thought by easing along I could cut down my time in the storm since it was coming at me. Looking back this may not have been the best idea.
The hail came down harder and the lighting struck brighter but I poked along. Truck after overturned truck was in the highway and at one point lead to a detour. I think I was most concerned when at one point I passed a storm chaser, I was just happy my old Land Cruiser passed somebody, but as I passed I seen his truck was wired with multiple cameras and thought to myself, these guys go into the heart of the storms on purpose and I just passed him going the same direction. May not have been my best idea but after an hour delay I was back up to speed and heading as fast as the old rust bucket would take me, which ain’t real fast.
As expected Hoss was up waiting for me at 1:00 am when I arrived. We had exchanged several text through the storm as him and Nate could see by the radar that I was in the middle of it but I made it safe and all was set for an exciting opening day.
The usual suspects were in camp, my brother Nate, life long friends Hoss and Cory who have both been on the trip about 7 years now, my nephew Cason who is on his second trip now and my friend Scooter who was the rookie. It’s great to have guys that have been multiple times for logistical purposes but I really enjoyed having Scooter, who had never killed an antelope, along. Seeing the excitement of the new guy getting to be there and see these sites helps the veterans of the hunt to realize how lucky they are. I don’t take for granted what I get to do but will admit at times I forget how lucky I am. Scooters excitement made me realize that not everyone has what we have, not everyone gets to experience what we do, we are blessed and I was happy to have Scooter along.
Plans were made after breakfast for the attack. Since it was in the 30s and a little windy it was an easy decision for Cason and I to take the Cruiser so we could listen to the radio and have a heater. I’m here to hunt and have fun but somebody has to keep the kid warm and entertained right? We may not be the best team out there for spotting critters but I bet we can sing songs and shoot sling shots with the best of them.
The sun was just coming up when we hit the road and by the time we got to the gate we were going in it was starting to make long shadows. We hadn’t driven 400 yards into the pasture when I spotted a few doe. I assumed a buck would be with them but didn’t see him. Cason and I exchanged the binoculars several times before he got bored with that so I took over. I looked hard all around until a horn came into focus. I moved the truck up 50 yards and right there bedded was a real nice buck that I knew would be wearing one of our tags soon.
I did not have a tag this year and Cason was struggling to understand why we were just watching this buck and not shooting it. His exact quote was, “are you about to shoot?” I said “no I don’t have a tag” he said ” then what are we doing let’s go”. This a reasonable response from an eight year old. I sent word out that someone should come over and check this guy out.
An hour passed and no one had arrived. Keeping a kid entertained and convinced that we would go drive around soon but we really needed to keep an eye on this buck was not all that easy but I had lots of things for him to mess with in the truck so he stayed occupied.
After hour two he had had enough. I wasn’t sure what the hold up was on my hunters but I reread the text and thought maybe I didn’t stress how big this guy was so I again said, somebody get over here.
Finally Hoss and Cory arrived. I lined them out on the direction of the herd and the hunt was on.
Here’s where things went south. I’m not sure when or where but apparently somewhere along the way Cory bumped his rifle and let’s just say that after a few tries at the antelope things didn’t work out. No need to harp on it, we’ve all done it and it sucks.
After the herd left Nate and Scooter came over. We talked about what happened and what to do and it was decided Scooter would now pursue this buck IF we could find him again.
I told Nate where I seen them headed and what to look for and they were off. Cason and I spent the next couple hours “exploring”, by now I know every inch of the ranch but he wanted to explore so we did.
I had started to feel a migraine coming on about an hour after daylight but I tried to fight it off. Anyone who has them knows if you get one there’s not a lot you can do about it but I was hoping it would go away.
I wanted to catch a few innings of the Texas Rangers playoff game but I needed service for the Sling TV so I had to climb a windmill and figured what the hell, may as well fly the Lone Star while I’m here. That didn’t last long, the game was horrible and the migraine was getting worse.
Cory and Hoss left in search of another likely prospect, Cason and I continued exploring. We didn’t find much but a few cows but I was starting to get a little fuzzy vision so I headed toward the house.
I hated to do that to Cason but the migraine had arrived and I was done for awhile. I let everyone know so they came back to get Cason and I went to bed.
The main reason I go is to see other people take their antelope. I love being involved in the spotting and planning but there was no way that day I was gonna make it.
Scooter and Nate found the herd again and after a little sneak they came out about 210 yards and Scooter did the wet work with the .264 win mag. I hate that I wasn’t there but I’ve learned after several of these headaches that it’s not worth the fight just go down and come back later.
I had spent several hours in bed when I heard a commotion outside so I looked out and Denny, the ranch owner, was driving a herd of cows along the fence. I felt better so I thought I’d better go see if he needed help, of course he didn’t he’s a life long rancher but it’s nice to offer.
I yelled out to him “where you taking them?” He says “across the highway, get that gate for me”. I thought well you’re the cowboy so I’ll do it but across the highway sounds sketchy. I should’ve known with three cowboys and a dog this was gonna be a breeze and it was. The cows crossed the road and into the pens without any incident what so ever.
I awoke at dark and no one had returned to camp yet so I started supper. When the gang arrived I listened to the stories of what I had missed and we ate. I was happy for everyone but sad that I missed it.
Day two was cooler and windier and I had lost my riding partner. Cason decided to ride on the Ranger instead of with me and I didn’t blame him a single bit. I mean I made him sit in the truck for two hours watching an antelope then I went back and went to bed, I would’ve made the same decision, poor guy.
I decided the pasture I would go to and I would call coyotes as I looked for antelope. I felt better but no where near 100%, this was the worst I had felt from a migraine before but I was going to do something. I came too far to sit at the camp house.
Most readers will know the curse I have on me when dealing with New Mexico coyotes. This curse does not apply to any other state for some reason, only this place so I didn’t expect much.
First stand was a good looking place but I was gonna have to be fast because the grass was tall and the coyotes would be on me quick. After switching sounds on the caller a few times I landed on “canine pups”. Two minutes later a young coyote was at 50 yards and moving fast. I made all the right mistakes and managed to miss him at about 75 yards. I can’t explain what happens to me when I get here. I can kill coyotes anywhere else, but here I fall part. I played out the call for another minute and walked back to the truck defeated yet again.
I blamed part of it on my foggy head as I still wasn’t exactly 100% but we all know that’s not the case. You can read back on previous trips and see all the ways I messed it up when I was 100%.
I drove along laughing on the inside at how of all the places I’ve been and things I’ve hunted that a little desert coyote had become my nemesis.
The next stand was tricky, the wind was across from right to left but that was ok because that meant a coyote would have to cross an opening to get down wind I should be able to miss him there so that I can get a good look at far off I was.
I went straight to “canine pups”, seven minutes in we have a player. I turned my gun to where he would come out and he never did come out. I thought well I was winded already but looking at the grass I shouldn’t be, just then an ear moved. He had stopped for a look at only 60 yards out. This dog seemed real cautious so I thought he was either an old dog or maybe one I had been shooting at for a couple years. He moved back and forth for several minutes looking toward the call and although I never had a clear shot I could tell he was an old male coyote and likely way way smarter than me. And then for whatever reason I felt like I’m gonna kill this old male and I’m gonna break this damned curse that’s been haunting me for five years on this ranch. The coyote had had enough and was making his exit when I barked loudly at him and he pulled up at 80 yards for a look back. The rest was just instincts I guess. The gun slid over, my finger squeezed as the crosshairs found his shoulder and in a split second he had done a somersault.
I really don’t believe in curses but I do believe that your own brain can defeat you and I had allowed mine to convince myself I couldn’t do it. I’m sure glad my mind changed because it felt good to get that done.
As the excitement settled I realized how bad I felt and needed to return back to the camp house. I was getting real tired of this but I just couldn’t shake it. The migraine was gone but my head was sore and foggy.
Day two of the three day season and we had one tag left. Now I won’t go on and on about how he’s always the last guy, or how he spent two days chasing them with a bow one year, or how even when he tries to not be last he misses and still is the last guy every year to fill his tag but Cory is the last guy every year to fill his tag.
Nate and Scooter and Cason had to leave out early Sunday morning so that left me, Hoss, and last day Cory. We decided to split up at daylight but quickly ended up together after not seeing much in the two pastures we covered. It didn’t take long to find a buck and he was shooter. Actually it was about the easiest hunt you could have. We drove awhile I spotted him and Cory got out got his rest and made the shot. Sometimes things come together fast, sometimes it takes years like my coyote hunt. The best part about Cory having his tagged filled was that we could go to the “bad lands”.
The bad lands are just that, bad land. This place is rough, doesn’t have much grass, and a guy could disappear there. A few years back I took a fall out there and busted some ribs and likely would’ve been coyote bait if I had been alone. It’s a ten mile drive across the entire place to get to the back so you need time and since Cory had tagged out we had a half day to run around.
I was starting to feel pretty good and we spent hours just driving around taking pictures, shooting a little, and basically just seeing the country. There’s always something there that amazes me. This place is basically untouched in some areas and you feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you are standing there. We found an old truck that we had never seen and the reminents of an old building of some kind. We spent the rest of the day there and it may have been because I just felt better but I enjoyed that little outing as much as anything we did on the whole trip.
I could spend days down in there but I was getting hungry and I had talked the boys into a trip to town for a meal. I was sure that some gravy and a chicken fried steak would cure all my ailments.
Over much discussion we ended up at The Branding Iron mostly because they had chicken fried steak. The food was great, the waitress was great, the beer seemed to be going down easy so I guess it was great too, I stuck with tea. I had to laugh at Cory when half way through his fajaitas he said, I’m sorry I questioned your choice on where to eat I will trust you from now on. I will go back here anytime for sure. As soon as the waitress brought our meal and I seen the gravy I stood up and did a gravy dance, I was that excited, from the looks on their faces they were not as excited to see my dance. It’s gravy man we’ve been without it for like four days, let’s dance. The other patrons of the place didn’t seem to enjoy it either. What is wrong with these people?
I didn’t sleep as usual so I was up and gone early but had plans to stop for breakfast and stop for a photo at the Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo.
I stopped at the Cadillac Ranch which if you don’t know is nothing more than 10 Cadillacs buried front down with the read ends sticking up but people stop and paint their name or whatever they want and take pics, it’s pretty cool. As I approached the gate two nice ladies told me they had left some paint down there if I wanted it. I had no intentions of painting anything but I was there and the paint was there so I left my mark, only to be painted over in hours by the next person who arrived.
Next stop was The Big Texan. I’ve written about it before, it’s not the greatest food but is good and the place itself is a huge tourist attraction and there’s nothing wrong at all with that. I enjoy walking around there and they usually get about $40 from me in suvenouirs and this time was no different.
With nothing else to look forward to but home I was ready to give the old Cruiser all it had for about six hours.
Another successful trip full of memories and good times. It’s a great group we have going every year and they don’t know it but it’s this group that makes my childhood dream happen. I couldn’t do it with my family when they went to Colorado all those years ago but I’ve done it with these guys and I hope we have years and years more to come.
This year I did something a little different and decided to make a highlights video to go along with the story so hope you enjoy.