A New Mexico Pronghorn Hunt Using Sig Sauer’s Elite Hunter Ammunition
Eve Flanigan 02.03.20
Growing up in the northeastern U.S., hunting was a way of life in the rural area which I call home. Since moving to New Mexico, though, I noticed big differences in the way hunting is approached, both legally and practically speaking. There’s not much difference where varmint pursuit is concerned, though the quarry changes from raccoons to coyotes, with dogs not being in the picture. Upland bird hunting is similar between the regions, though the species and subspecies aren’t the same.
Major differences exist with big game, though. Because a single county in the west can be as large as multiple states in the east, there is no one-size-fits-all licensing structure. At least in New Mexico, purchasing a big game license is a complicated process that requires study. Public land hunts are mostly lottery-based, with some people waiting a lifetime for the good fortune to simply draw a license. Private land hunts are also deeply regulated, with various possibilities for state/landowner partnerships and ways to obtain a license. Big game hunting is also more costly here, at least for the lottery hunts. Thus, hunting New Mexico requires a certain degree of financial well-being.
I am fortunate to have a generous friend who knows the ropes and helped me secure a tag for a late-season immature buck or doe pronghorn on private land. We set out one exceptionally foggy November morning for a ranch in the southeastern region of the state where my friend had previously obtained the landowner’s blessing both legally and socially.
The vast open prairies of the region hold more game-hiding crevices than one would think. Here again is a difference from hunting in the northeast, where a tree stand creates both a visual and stealth advantage, or hunters use terrain features and known travel routes to push game to a waiting hunter. The sheer acreage of pronghorn habitat, as well as the treeless terrain, call for a spot-and-stalk approach.
A duo of does was all that was initially visible in the thick fog. The chilly temps had given the animals an apparent desire to lay low and hidden in some of the numerous small ravines. We took a pass for the time being on the does, continuing on the first of two slow loops to scan the ranch.
With such poor visibility, it began to feel like this might not be the day.
But an hour later, a bit of sun burnt off the worst of the fog. Soon we spotted a large herd of about 60 antelope, quite close to the farm road. Already traveling in a direction away from the road, they quickened their casual walking pace to a trot and soon disappeared over the immediate knoll.
My competent friend took a previously-scouted route back to where we’d been 30 minutes prior.
On arrival at this new lookout, I realized it was also the direction in which the herd was now slowly heading, each animal pausing for a bite or two of forage before walking a few paces. My partner remarked that herds of this size hadn’t been seen in earlier hunts, rather those encounters were with lone or 2-3 animals. But now a true herd moved slowly past as I slipped out of the truck and crept to a shooting position away from it, chambering a round into the Savage 110 Hunter as I moved.
Through the glass of a Bushnell Elite Tactical LRTS, I watched a couple pronghorns pass by. A very nice buck came into view. He stopped for a bite of grass, and from behind him stepped a lovely doe. The animals were close enough to not worry about holdovers. With the crosshairs at the rear of her left shoulder, I slowly gave the trigger a squeeze. The doe lurched, ran with the now-alarmed herd for 37 yards, and crashed.
On field dressing, it quickly became apparent why there was no need for a finishing shot.. Sig Sauer’s Elite Hunter ammunition, .243 Winchester 90 grain in this case, with its “controlled expansion” synthetic tip, had worked as promised.
The top 1/3 or so of the heart was obliterated – a perfectly clean kill.
It was an abundantly satisfying day, and I remain sort of amazed that, even after skinning and quartering, there was time to warm up indoors with a nice lunch on the way home, with a stop at the local processor’s shop. After many years of living in the west, I finally got to take a native game animal, and will forever cherish the experience.
And if anyone asks, pronghorn summer sausage with red chile is flat-out delicious!