In June of 2017 I got word that I had finally drawn an Oregon antelope tag on my 13th year of applying. Anyone who has spent much time around Oregon’s tag draw system knows that antelope tags are not abundant by any stretch of the imagination. Originally I had expected to draw a tag in 2017, but after a rough winter during late 2016 and early 2017, the tag quota for several units was cut in half. Luckily I was still able to pull a tag for the Owyhee canyon lands and desert.
Rifle antelope hunts in SE Oregon aren’t overly difficult, and the success rates are very high on average. So, in other words, this hunt isn’t a harrowing story of perseverance or endurance, but rather a good time hunting with a friend for a couple days in some of the historic country of Southeastern Oregon.
A couple days before the opener, myself and Remington Clark loaded up some gear and headed out for what would be about a 10 hour drive from one corner of the state to the other. The 400 mile drive put us into my unit at about 2 am, when we rolled out a couple of bivy sacks and sleeping bags and called it a night. The next morning the sun rose to reveal the vast expanse of prairie and sagebrush for miles and miles. I had never hunted in anything close to this type of terrain, and for me, the distances were incredibly deceiving. Things that looked two miles away would often take us 5-6 miles of walking to reach and much more time than we would anticipate.
Friday was our first day on the ground, and we spent it driving, hiking and glassing to get a general feel for the area before the season opened on Saturday morning. We found a few antelope, but no bucks really to speak of. The real surprise however was the sheer number of coyotes that were in this country. To see 20 a day in the Owyhee seemed like nothing special, and more of the norm for a day of driving and glassing.
Friday night we set up an actual camp on top of one of the higher hills we could find, which gave us a good vantage of a 6x8mile chunk of flat plateau below us. When Saturday morning came, we woke up and within about 30 minutes we spotted a buck from camp. He was by himself, and he fed up through a chute in some rimrock and onto the flat above it about 5 miles in front of us.
We drove about 3 miles closer to him, and then hiked for the remaining 2 miles to close the distance. When we got where we had last seen the buck, I was able to still hunt and spot the buck bedded in some sage brush. I belly crawled in to 110 yards, and then proceeded to shoot over his back and watch him run off.
The rest of the afternoon we drove, hiked and shot a coyotes. Still I didn’t feel like we were seeing the numbers of antelope that we should have been seeing, so we decided to take a drive and move about 20 miles east in the unit. This turned out to be a good decision as we immediately started seeing a lot more game.
Around 4 pm we got out of the truck again to take a little hike to a high point to glass some taller sage brush country that was much more featured with topography. Immediately we spotted a buck with about 25 does 1800 yards in front of us. The stalk pursued as we weaved our way through draws and dry creek beds to a point where we get in front of the herd. After about 45 minutes, we were in position as the antelope fed by us from left to right at a couple hundred yards. I was able to wait a couple minutes until the buck cleared the surrounding animals and gave me a good, broadside shot.
Remington went and got my pack which was about a mile and a half behind us back in the truck while I quartered the antelope and prepared the cape. I loaded it in my pack and within 2 hours of the shot, we had the meat submerged in ice. I bring this up as a point because I have heard negative things about the taste of antelope meat, but from my one experience it may be the best game meat I have ever had in my freezer.