Great Job Guys…
Stallion Range Oryx for Francisco Cortez Jr.
Last March 09, Francisco Jr. got the news that he had drawn his Once in a Lifetime license to hunt Oryx on the Stallion Range Center of the White Sands Missile Range. The hunt would not occur until January of 2010.
With almost a year to wait, we knew that he had a lot of time to plan and prepare for this hunt. Preparation involved Francisco Jr. shooting his favorite big game rifle a bunch! According my records and pile of empty ammo boxes of brass, Francisco logged approximately 250 shots from a variety of field shooting positions. This also included several sessions of sets of 20, “dry firing” his rifle at pictures of Oryx that we had on every wall in the house. He was asked to squeeze the trigger and call his shot… where the scope cross hairs were when the trigger was released. These sessions were supervised by me for safety reasons. Before each session, we made absolutely sure the rifle was unloaded visually and digitally. We inspected the rifle again and again just to be sure. No ammo was present to make sure we ended up with any bullet holes in the wall. To avoid interruptions that could jeopardize safety, we would do this when nobody else was in the house.
Preparation also included researching Oryx the animal and how to hunt these fabulous creatures. Books were read and contacts were made with several well respected Oryx hunting experts in an effort to learn as much as we could. All the information provided was soaked into our spongy brains. For this entire Oryx hunting insight, we are very much in debt to you all. Many of these individuals may read this someday. You know who you are. THANK YOU very much!
After almost an eternity of waiting, the hunt finally arrived for Francisco Jr. The final week included more shooting and getting all the gear ready for the hunt. Francisco Jr. was very excited. He had to sharpen every knife we had.
The Friday before the hunt came. We loaded up and drove down to meet my brother in law in ABQ. He was the fourth person chosen to join Francisco Jr., Santiago and myself on this hunt. I can remember a conversation I had with Francisco Jr. last March. I told Francisco Jr. that he could take three guests with him on his Oryx hunt and it was going to be up to him to decide who was going. I asked if I was going to get an invite. With a smile on his face he told me “We’ll see” After about a week of thought he came up with the Oryx hunting party. I was included. Yes!!!! I knew he would not forget his dad. I am the only one that knows the combo to the gun safe.
After what seemed to be short drive down to Socorro, NM, we check into the Super 8 and got some needed rest. As darkness was coming Friday evening, we decide to get some dinner. We went into the Denny’s and saw other Oryx hunters there. Francisco Jr. started to get a little nervous. We talked about the final game plan and gulped our food down and headed back to the room. On the way in the lobby we encountered several other Oryx hunters. Francisco Jr. was very nervous now. I’ll have to admit, I could feel something flying in my stomach too. Off to bed we went for a very short night. We had to be up at 3:30 AM the next morning.
3:30 AM seemed to come with a blink of an eye after putting our heads on the pillow. Francisco Jr. said he did not sleep at all. I think he did. I heard him snoring as I tossed and turned. I’m sure he had “Oryx dancing in his head”. At around 4:30 AM, we were on our way to the Stallion Range Center Gate.
At about 5:04 AM we were encountered with a long line of vehicle break lights at the gate. As we inched forward and a rather short wait, we were then greeted by a NMGF conservation officer and were asked to provide our vehicles insurance and registration. Francisco Jr. was asked to furnish his Oryx license that had been kept under lock and key for several months along with his Hunter Education Card. More on Hunter Ed. cards later. We proceeded further and were searched, checked in, and asked to parking area to wait for the hunt orientation.
As the sun, was beginning to peak over the Oscura Mountain Range, the parking lot where the hunt orientation was to occur appeared to glow just as bright with all the blaze orange as hunters and their guests began to filter in. The hunt orientation began. The hunt officials shared their words of wisdom, the do’s, and the don’ts. They said be safe, good luck, and announced the start of the hunt. With that the race was on. Literally, folks were running,….no sprinting to their vehicles to be the first ones down the road. I had been on two other “On Range” Oryx hunts before. Never had I seen the hunters and guests take off like they did that morning. It kind of reminded me of Wal-mart when the doors open for “Black Friday”. Heck the human nature in us almost made us take off running too. However, we took our time, got to the truck and drove out of the parking lot. We were probably one of the last ten trucks left. As we went down the road, everyone seemed to disappear.
We had gone south about half a mile or so on one of the main roads when we saw our first Oryx. It was a double broken horned bull. He was high tailing it away from the road. He probably had seen all the traffic. He was knew what was going on and did not want any part of it. We decided to let him run. If we would have decided to play this one, it would have been tough. So on we went to find a high spot to glass.
The game plan was to go to an area that I had been before on previous hunt that would lend itself to some good glassing opportunities. When we got to the spot we began to glass. Almost immediately we saw a 30 inch plus bull and two ugly broken horned Oryx. We decided to try to stalk the mature bull but were interrupted by three other Oryx that running behind us, parallel to our location. One of the Oryx caught our attention as it looked to be a very long horned cow. We decided to move on them to cut them off as they began to slow down. We confirmed that the cow had one very long horn on one side and broken horn on the other. I asked Francisco Jr. if he wanted to try to get a shot at that Oryx. It was confirmed as he turned away from me and chambered a round and put the safety on. The new stalk was on. As we angled closer to their location, it looked like the plan was going to work out. I asked Francisco Jr. again if he would be happy with a large broken horned cow. He said yes as we inched closer. It seemed like the Oryx were paralleling us when all of a sudden
they started angling toward us at a pretty good gallop. The big cow was second in line, quartering away from us. It seemed like they had not seen us. All of a sudden they stopped to look back to the direction that they were running from. I lasered ranged the long cow at a distance of 154 yards. The Bog Pods shooting sticks were deployed immediately. Francisco Jr. got his rifle on pods to get ready for a shot. Instantly, the Oryx caught our movement, flickered their long tails and began to take off moderately quartering away from us. Little did they know that Francisco Jr. was already locked on the large horned cow. Suddenly the roar of the .300 Short Action Ultra Mag. interrupted my words as I said “shoot”. Next was the unmistakable thumping sound when a bullet hits home. As Francisco Jr. chambered another round, I kept my eyes on the Oryx, we noticed it was hit pretty hard and began to slow down. The Oryx covered about 50 yards or so and stopped. Francisco Jr. was about shoot again, when all of a sudden the Oryx slightly reared up and fell over backward. We marked the spot the Oryx went down and cautiously approached the downed animal from the rear, ready to shoot again if it decided to get up. A second shot was not necessary. The first shot counted. From an ever so slightly downhill shot angle, the first 165 gr. Speer Grand Slam bullet had entered high just behind the last rib, traversing diagonally and downward to the top third of the lungs and exited in front of the far shoulder. The Grand Slam held together pretty good as indicated by the quarter size exit hole.
Francisco Jr. was very excited and hugged his dad. So was I so I hugged him back. You should have seen the way he was admiring his Oryx. He would not take his eyes off it the whole time. We could not believe the length of the good horn. Without putting a tap on it, we thought it might go 40 inches. Later at the gate, it was confirmed at 39″. I think it might have been the second or third biggest to come out that weekend out of 80 plus Oryx taken. As for the other side, no worries, we might get it fixed to match the other side. If not, that broken side gives character. We will probably do a European mount for now and maybe do a shoulder mount at a later date. We are very happy with how this hunt played out. I am very proud of Francisco Jr. How he prepared for this hunt both physically and mentally. This hunt could is tough. Francisco Jr. could not be happier with his Oryx. We have some great meat to share too. We hope to be out there again someday. It will start out by us applying now in February. Santiago wants to hunt Oryx now and wants to draw like his older brother.
Here is a funny little story and learning experience for Santiago that happened on this hunt while on the Stallion Range. While hunting, he temporarily lost his wallet. In his wallet he had $240.00 (Christmas $$), Cabela’s and Sportsman’s Gift Cards, and his newly acquired Hunter Education Card. Well anyways, after we loaded the Oryx and started driving back to the gate, he noticed he was missing his wallet. He had set it inside the door handle pocket of the rear truck door, where he was sitting. For sure we thought it had to fall out of the truck at the gate when being checked it, at the parking area, or when we are got out to glass while hunting. We both were freaking out. I asked what the heck he was thinking of by carrying all his money and so on. He told me he wanted to buy some stuff at Sportsman’s. I asked when he had seen it last. He told me “the second spot where we all got out to glass”. We were headed to that spot see if it was there, when all of sudden, out of the blue he tells me…….”Dad, I really don’t need the money. I need my Hunter Ed. Card.” I could not believe he said that, but I guess I can relate. Anyways, we drove back to one of glassing spots and found his wallet with tire tracks on it. The first thing he looked for in his wallet was his Hunter Ed. Card.