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The Crow and the Camo

Fall had arrived and I was eagerly getting my hunting equipment together for the antelope hunt an hour east of Albuquerque. A friend was to join me but had taken sick with a bad case of the flu and didnít feel up to the task. It was a disappointment as we both enjoyed this type of hunting and the camaraderie around the campfire in the cool evenings.

I was rather excited; as this was the second year in a row I was lucky enough to get drawn for an antelope hunt in eastern New Mexico. Last year I drew for an antelope around Fort Sumner and got a nice sized buck at a little over 300 yards. This year the area I was drawn for was rather close to Albuquerque, so I decided to check the place out a week prior to the hunt and see if I could spot some good areas to work over.

When I got out to the designated area I stopped at the home of a small rancher close to where I was going to be hunting. The Hispanic rancher was very gracious and offered me a lot of information including telling about a spot where a large buck always beds down and watches over his domain. I thanked the elderly gentleman for all his information and proceeded to scope out the area I was to be hunting in a week.

As I approached the area where the buck was to be, I stopped the truck and proceeded to the crest of the ridge by foot. Sure enough, as I came up to the fence line atop the ridge I spotted the buck with my field glasses. He was larger than the average buck; it was obvious even though he was bedded down. I watched him for several minutes and then decided to stand up and move along the fence line for a few feet to see what he would do and which direction he would take off in. After a few steps he picked me up and was erect and alert. After a few moments he headed off to the west down the grassy drainage.

There were other antelope in the area and it offered some great hunting. There were a few small rocky outcrops in the area and a few small wooded areas that would all work to my advantage on opening day, otherwise it was typical antelope hunting terrain, rolling grassy hills.

The day before the hunt started I loaded up the Montero with all the camping gear and my Ruger Nr. 1 rifle in 25.06 caliber and headed out to a campsite I had picked out on my earlier trip to the area. I also packed my new two-piece camo clothing with matching hat and gloves, which hadnít been used as yet. It was something new called a Diamondback pattern, which looked interesting. It impressed me, I thought it was unique and did a good job, but I was hoping it would not impress the antelope, that they wouldnít even notice it.

That evening I enjoyed the solitude of the open spaces and had a good bottle of German White Mosel wine with dinner and some classical music playing softly in the background. It was a glorious evening with all the stars dancing in a sea of indigo ink.

Before sunrise I was awake and finishing off a breakfast of bacon and eggs with some strong coffee to get me going. There is nothing like the smell of bacon and coffee brewing in the cool of a morning in the great outdoors.

I chambered a round into the Ruger, put on my Diamondback hat to match the rest of my outfit and headed south to the ridge where I hoped to spot my buck. I walked about a mile and I started up the gentle slope to the top of the ridge where I last saw the buck. It was still too dark to make anything out so I waited at the fence line while the sun got a little higher and illuminated the grassy bowl in front of me. When it was light enough to glass the area I looked over the entire bowl but couldnít spot my buck anywhere in the area. I was a little disappointed to say the least. I decided to check out some other areas close by and walked over several rolling hills and glassed different areas hoping to see my buck or at least some other almost as large. I heard some shooting far to the west a wondered if they were shooting at my buck or some other. I spent a couple of hours walking through some nice country and spotted a couple of antelope a few times at ranges over 600 yards. They didnít look that big, but of course at that distance itís pretty hard to tell as well. I stuck fairly close to where I knew the large buck liked to spend his time bedded down and continued to check out different areas.

After a couple of hours of slowly walking and glassing out different places I decided to sit down, relax and see if some of the other hunters in the area would end up driving something to me. I picked a spot with a small tree behind me, some high brush on either side of me that I could see over. I rested for about twenty minutes and heard some gunshots again in the distance but didnít see anything moving.

I had been sitting perfectly still. I was getting ready to start moving again when I heard this, whoosh, whoosh, and whooshing sound directly about my head. I had no idea what it was. As I tilted by head back slowly to see what was making the noise, I was amazed to see a large raven with itís claws extended about to set down on my head. I donít know who was more surprised, the raven or me. As he realized his error, he tried gaining altitude as fast as possible, but he hung there for a moment before he could really get away. My rifle was being held in the vertical position in my right hand with the butt resting on the ground and was a mere few inches from his breast, but I didnít have the where-with-all at the moment to blast him out of the sky.

Slowly he gained altitude and sped away. Probably, the most surprised and luckiest raven that ever lived. Obviously, I have complete faith in the Diamondback camo, and that it does a real good job if it can fool a raven. It was hard to believe what just happened. I chuckled many times over the event that day.

As I finally got up to leave, I heard more shooting coming from the west again and proceed up to the fence line and headed west along it. I heard more shooting, again to the west and this time a little closer. I decided to hold my position behind one of the fence posts to wait and see what happens. Sure enough, a few minutes later here came the big buck I had been looking for all day. He was the one everyone had been shooting at earlier that morning. When I first spotted him he was still at a full run, but he slowed down, as he got closer to his favorite spot to oversee everything. He was feeling secure. I gave him plenty of time as he was moving in my direction, but he was still to far away to take a shot I felt. He continued coming up the shallow draw into the grassy bowl, but then something caught his eye. I donít know if he spotted me or someone or something else, but he came to an abrupt stop and just looked. I knew then I was going to have to take my shot or loose my chance of ever getting him. The rifle was already resting atop the fence post, and I only had to make a little movement to get my eye to line up with the scope. I found him in the scope and brought the horizontal crosshair to the top of his back as he was still quite far away. Then I decided to put the post to the top of his back and squeezed off the round. When I looked up from the scope I couldnít see anything out there. At first I thought I missed him, but then realized he couldnít have run out of sight that fast, and was pretty sure I got him.

I took over 45 minutes before I could find him in the high grass. I walked past him several times being only feet away. He was a huge buck and a tremendous trophy. When I paced off the yardage from where I dropped him to the point from where I shot him it turned out to be 460 yards. It was a day of unusual and happy experiences that would never be forgotten.

Author:
Jerry Sinkovec
photojournalistjerry@juno.com