My long-time hunting partner and manager for Cabela's T.A.G.S., Eric Pawlak, has me apply for licenses to pursue game of all shapes and sizes. In March of 2006, persistence finally paid off when I drew a coveted oryx tag. That December, Eric and I met up in El Paso, Texas, for the short drive north to Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Over the years, Eric and I have spent hundreds of hours perched 25 feet in the air waiting on giant Illinois whitetails during the archery rut. We have chased spring turkeys across the country in our quest to complete our slams. We have flown into the wilderness of northern Alberta in pursuit of huge black bears. We once took horses deep into New Mexico's backcountry and came up empty after seven exciting days of chasing bugling bull elk with our bows. However, this oryx hunt in southern New Mexico was one of the most unique and exciting hunts I have ever experienced. You don't have to fly 18 hours to Africa to hunt this awesome species. Actually, if you're planning an African Safari for plains game, substituting a different animal for gemsbuck isn't a bad idea. Everyone should experience southern New Mexico's free-range oryx hunt. With draw odds of around 10% to 25%, you're eventually going to draw this magnificent tag.
On the second and final day of our hunt, the sun was getting lower and lower in the beautiful New Mexico sky and it was down to the wire. This was a once-in-a-lifetime tag, and I was wondering if I should have been a little less selective on the thirty or so oryx we'd glassed. Just as I began to doubt whether I'd fill my tag on a good oryx, we spotted one from the truck walking hard into the sun. We put the spotting scope on him and could immediately see the heavy bases, and good length of his horns. He also had an enormous body and was obviously a mature, heavy-horned, unbroken bull - exactly what I had been waiting for.
Oryx hunting is a lot like antelope hunting. These animals have incredible vision, making a stalk through the desert floor extremely difficult. We watched him bed, then got around downwind and began our approach. We had less than two hours to make it all come together. Inside 20 minutes we were on our hands and knees and within 300 yards. With so much brush in the way, the shot was impossible. We both realized, with time running out that we'd only get one chance at this monster. If this bull blew out, our hunt would be over. I slowly backed out leaving Eric with the bull. I set up in a saddle where it was obvious he would run if pushed from Eric's direction. After settling in and getting a good rest on my pack, Eric walked right at him. We anticipated correctly - he was on his way and running full out. It would be a 100-yard chip shot. While watching him close the distance, my heart was pumping hard. I couldn't believe my eyes. It was insane. When he got to where I wanted him, I yelled to get him to stop. I quickly realized this magnificent animal wasn't going to stop for anything and I would have to shoot him on the run. I smoked him on the first shot.
I could hear Eric whooping and hollering from the distance. When he got up to me, he called me lucky. I retorted with the old but true adage, "Yeah, the harder I practice, the luckier I get!!"