By Mike Deming
The northwestern portion of Colorado is known for some of the very best antelope hunting in the west. However, it can take a non-resident hunter nearly twenty years to draw a premium tag. Most people think that anything that would come so hard would have a trophy class animal around each and every tree. It isn’t until you have waited for a few tags of this caliber and went home disappointed that you realize that hunting is truly the same regardless of where you have a tag. You need to know where those big animals live, know their habits, know where they rut, what they do with pressure and a multitude of other things to be successful.
Paul Harris from Denver, Colorado, knows this old story all too well. He has worked long and hard on many successful and unsuccessful hunts, but Paul is also one of the luckiest guys I’ve ever met. His luck was no different with this hunt. First off, he didn’t have to wait the twenty years to draw this premium tag as most would do. Paul has been a long-time friend and when I told him about the Pro Membership Sweepstakes and all the hunts, guns and gear we would be giving away, he was one of the first to sign up.
The odds were extremely good for those first few drawings and as luck would have it, Paul’s name was drawn out of the drum for our second grand prize ever. He would be awarded a Savage long range rifle set up with a Nikon scope dialed in for over 1,000 yards and also be the primary hunt winner on one of Colorado’s Ranching for Wildlife units, which is operated by John Papierski and Papierski’s Big Game Hunts. I’ve had years of experience with John and was able to harvest a huge 87 4/8” antelope with him on one of these exact hunts half a dozen years earlier.
The hunt would take place in early October, which would be at the tail end of the rut for this particular hunt. However, when we arrived in Craig, Colorado, John informed us that the rut was still in full swing and we would have a lot of good bucks to choose from.
I presented the rifle to Paul at the lodge and he was excited to send some rounds down range. He had never owned a long range setup and was excited to see what ‘it’ would do as well as how ‘he’ would perform. We checked the 200 yard zero with the first few rounds and immediately swung onto the steel at 500 yards. The heavy bull barrel on this rifle and the crisp 2-pound trigger made staying on target a breeze. The 6.5 Creedmoor barked at his first long range shot and soon after, the gong made a loud ring of a direct hit. Nearly a box of shells later and without a miss, Paul was grinning from ear to ear. He could hardly wait to hit the field the next morning.
Sportsman’s News Pro Membership Sweepstakes winner Paul Harris takes aim with his brand new long range Savage 6.5 Creedmoor.
As the sun crested the horizon of the Rockies, we were already in position to spot one of the many shooter bucks John had identified. Bucks were chasing does everywhere. Each rolling hill and each pasture was filled with rut crazed antelope. Judging the difference between a 75” and an 80” antelope when you have twenty plus in your scope can be an extremely difficult task, but John is the best I’ve ever seen at doing this. We wanted to find a buck in the 80” or bigger area, but our first stop didn’t yield anything John felt would make that mark. By the time we had taken a break for lunch, I had stopped counting the number of bucks we had seen, but I know it was well over a hundred because that’s where I quit counting for the day.
After 30+ years of hunting, Paul Harris finally puts the smack down on a nice mature goat.
As we headed out for the afternoon hunt, the northwestern Colorado wind was giving us its’ all. We had little hope of finding and making a long range shot in this type of wind, but Paul’s luck was right back at it again and we found what looked like a really good buck holding onto twenty plus does. He was running other bucks off and looked to be exactly what we were looking for. He was over 1000 yards away, but the topography allowed for us to close the gap significantly.
In less than thirty minutes, we had closed the gap to about 400 yards, but one of the does caught our movement. We figured the stalk was over when the buck started pushing the does our direction. Paul set up on shooting sticks and if things went as planned, the buck would pop out at about 250 yards across the canyon. One by one the does started to come into sight. We had a 20-mph, full value cross wind when the buck stepped over the hill broadside. I whispered to Paul that I was filming and to shoot when ready. The speed of that 6.5 and the 250 yards would only need a couple inches of drift and with one slow squeeze of the trigger, the buck dropped in his tracks.
With nearly forty years of hunting under Paul’s belt and a 3/4 slam of sheep to his credit, surprisingly this was his very first antelope and we at the Sportsman’s News Pro Membership Sweepstakes got the pleasure of bringing it to him as well as being part of the action. We look forward to many more great hunts with Papierski’s Big Game Hunts for future Pro Member winners. You can’t win if you don’t play. Become a member at www.promembersweepstakes.com