Jim's Outdoor Blog

Hunting, RVing and Great Escapes – Everything Outdoors

Two Firearms Antelope Tags in Two Years, in Oregon!


Wagontire  Pronghorn  Double

The wind had been raging in anger throughout the long desert night.  Upon waking, Trace felt lucky to have all four tires of his camp trailer still resting upright on the ground.  In less than eight hours, the dusty topsoil of the Wagontire hunting unit had been transformed into a sloppy, putty-like, gooey mess.  Now, each step secured additional weight to the bottom and sides of his new boots.   

By all available odds, Trace Schreiner should not have been there traipsing through the sagebrush with an antelope tag.  He had drawn a coveted Wagontire pronghorn buck tag in 2003 and according to the keeper of Oregon’s tag statistics; he should expect to wait approximately one-bazillion years for his name to be drawn again.  But, with a smile from fate or lady-luck, he was legally hunting Antelope just twelve months later.   

Oregon’s Wagontire hunting unit is divided into North and South halves for the purpose of antelope hunting.  If you combine both units, there were sixty-seven tags available for 2003.  That year there were a total of 1,819 – “1st Choice Applicants”, meaning one in twenty-seven hunters were selected or drawn and awarded a tag.   

When standing alone, the odds were far worse for persons attempting to hunt in the North Wagontire unit.  With fingers tightly crossed, 731 applicants vied for one of sixteen available tags.  This meant only one in forty-six hunters would be making plans for this August hunting excursion.  In the South Wagontire unit, 1,088 persons competed for fifty-one tags, leaving a likelihood of success at one person drawn for each twenty-one applicants. 

In Oregon, it can take decades to receive an Antelope buck tag.  Thankfully, a certain percentage of tags are removed from the preference point system.  These are simply pooled together into a “luck of the draw” lottery.  Which explains how Trace acquired tags in subsequent years. 

Oregon is not blessed with an overabundance of pronghorn antelope and up-to-date population numbers are as hard to come by as buck tags.  In 1999, Oregon’s department of fish and wildlife (www.dfw.state.or.us) reported there was a statewide total of 8,303 individual pronghorns.  Through good management and cooperative weather, these numbers have increased each year.   

In 2004, ODF&W made 1,736 tags available for center fire rifle hunting within thirty-seven management units.  An additional several hundred tags were provided for separate archery and muzzleloader seasons.  Just over 2,000 antelope tags were sold in 2004 and for those using modern rifles, hunter success rates approached 100%.  Mr. Schreiner added to that percentage by taking each of his bucks on opening morning. 

Returning to Trace’s 2004 hunt – walking, slipping and sliding along, he located a lone buck on a ridge nearly 1,000 yards ahead.  Reviewing the landscape, he knew he would have to cautiously weave his way through shallow canyons and gullies, attempting to shorten the distance.  With superb eye sight and the fastest feet in North America, if the antelope spied him, it wouldn’t stick around for the show.   

Several minutes later Trace slowly crested the top of a shallow swale.  A laser rangefinder read 558 yards between them, with a fairly strong left to right wind.  Trace had spent a great deal of time and a significant amount of dollars preparing for this type of shot.  He was carrying a Browning A-bolt .300 Win Mag rifle with a McMillan A-5 composite stock.  The 3-to-14-power Springfield scope was designed for long range shooting, as were the home loaded 180-grain Nosler ballistic tipped bullets.  Removing a plastic covered shooting data card from his shirt pocket, Trace knew this distance and wind-age adjustment information would be invaluable.   

He extended the bipod on the fore stock, made required elevation and wind allowance adjustments via oversized scope knobs and carefully centered the cross hairs on the buck’s shoulder.  Being mindful of his breathing and compression of the trigger, he was somewhat surprised when the cartridge fired.  Anxiously calming the rifle to gain a view through the scope, Trace saw the antelope lying motionless atop the ridge.  His 2004 Wagontire pronghorn tag had been filled.  After a few moments spent reliving and relishing the morning’s events, he retrieved his ATV and recovered the buck.  With an official measurement of 77-6/8”, he missed a qualifying Boone and Crockett score by only 2-¼ inches.   

The taking of Trace’s 2003 antelope is another example of his finely tuned shooting abilities and clearly demonstrates the results one can attain with serious shooting practice throughout the year. 

Opening morning found him trekking toward an area in which he had spotted a large herd of antelope the previous afternoon.  As luck would have it, he found the herd in nearly the same location as they had been only twelve to fourteen hours earlier.  Looking through his spotting scope he discovered there were two decent bucks amongst a group of approximately twenty-five does and youngsters.  He estimated they were 1,500 yards ahead of him, so the ‘sneak’ would be a long one.

As he closed the distance Trace steered his way through every piece of available cover.  This meant zigzagging between islands of taller sagebrush, ducking through shallow gullies and swales and sometimes literally crawling with his head held low.  About half way to the herd, he guardedly peered over the crest of a gully.  He detected a glimpse of movement to his right.  Less than two hundred yards away, a pronghorn buck was nervously watching his every move. 

When he began swinging his rifle toward the animal, the buck bolted and was instantly at full speed.  Trace instinctively shouldered his gun and acquired a sight picture through the scope.  With fractions of time in which to make a shot decision, he led the animal by several feet and pulled the trigger.  The buck’s legs crumpled beneath him.  Trace told me the event was kind of a vague – slow motion blur. 

There are two valuable lessons to be considered in this story.  Trace shoots his hunting rifles throughout the year.  He participates in long range shooting competitions, in which target distance varies from as close as 100 yards, to an incredible 800 yards.  For practical hunting experience, he will drive to canyons and select targets at a variety of ranges.  And, he purchases the absolute best equipment he can afford. 

The second lesson is one of persistence and optimism.  Although the chances of obtaining your ‘dream tag’ may be stacked against you, with dogged determination and a bit of luck, you just might be successful.  Mr. Schreiner continues to apply for an antelope tag every year.  He knows he will succeed in being drawn at some point in the future, but I seriously doubt he’ll acquire another Wagontire Pronghorn Double.


March 12, 2008 - Posted by | Deer, Elk, Antelope, Big Horns and Such

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