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The Longest Night – A B&C Audio Adventure



By Michael J. O’Haco, Jr.
19th Big Game Awards Program | From Legendary Hunts

It was the first weekend in August 1985, and I was out of town. I called home because I knew the Arizona hunting permits should be in the mail. My wife Linda said there was good news and bad news: I said I wanted the bad news first. She said that I had not received an elk permit. However, the good news was that I had received a deer and pronghorn permit. Already having a mule deer in the Arizona state records book, I was pleased at having drawn a deer permit, but not half as pleased as I was with the pronghorn permit. This was the twentieth time I had applied for an pronghorn permit; the 19 previous times I had been rejected. The computer finally came through.

After getting home, I called my hunting partner Phil Donnelly. We got together to plan how we were going to scout the unit for which we had been drawn. Being a rancher in that same area, I would scout the top half of the unit, while Phil would scout the lower half. The top half was closer to where I was working cattle, and the lower half was closer to Winslow, where Phil lives. We got together after a couple of weeks and discussed what we had seen. He seemed to think that he had two records-book bucks in the lower half of the unit, and I thought I had three records-book bucks in the top half, but one buck was exceptional.

I tried to get a look at the bucks Phil had spotted, but I was unable to find them. I kept track of two of the bucks I had spotted, but I couldn’t find the big buck. I almost panicked! After a little research on pronghorn, I found that during early September in Arizona, a buck will be looking for his harem, but will return to his own territory after putting them together. The big buck did, and I found him again the week before the hunt. I explained to Phil where I had seen the buck the day before, and asked him to take a look. Phil came by the ranch that night and told me this definitely was the biggest buck he had ever seen. We agreed the buck would go high in the Boone and Crockett records book, but we didn’t realize how high.

The afternoon and evening before the hunt, we decided to watch the big buck until he bedded down for the night. Phil watched until he couldn’t see him in the spotting scope anymore, then he returned to the ranch. After supper, he explained to me exactly where the buck had bedded down. My family has ranched in this area for years, so I knew exactly where the buck was. We talked about using horses, or going in on foot, and if we should come in from the north or from the northeast. We decided that hiking would be better, and that the northeast route would be the best. This way, we would have everything working for us, with the wind and the most cover, and also the sun at our backs.

Since this was my first pronghorn permit, I would get the first shot. If I missed, it was anybody’s ball game. I had worked up a super accurate load of a Sierra 85-grain, hollow-point bullet, a Remington case and primer, and 41.5 grains of IMR 4350 powder. This load would be used in a Sako .243 rifle, with a 2-7x Leupold scope. I didn’t intend to miss!

Finally, about 3:00 a.m., I couldn’t take it any longer. I got up and put the coffee on.

That night was one of the longest of my life, as my mind was filled with thoughts of the day’s hunt on my mind. Would the buck be there in the morning? Would we spook them before I could get a shot? Would I miss? Finally, about 3:00 a.m., I couldn’t take it any longer. I got up and put the coffee on. Phil got up and asked how I felt. I said that as many times as I had shot that pronghorn in my dreams, we should be able to drive out there and load him up.

We drove to within a mile of where the buck and his does had bedded down for the night. It was still an hour before daylight. We discussed how we would make our stalk, and tried to visualize all aspects of the stalk so there would be no mistakes.



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Finally, it was light enough to make a move. We had to crawl over a fence and then use the scattered cedar trees for cover. We moved slowly. When we were about 300 yards from where we had seen them the night before, I spotted the does, but couldn’t see the buck. We continued crawling slowly and easily. When we were about 200 yards from the pronghorn, something caught my eye to the left. It was a buck. Phil was about 20 yards to my left. The buck was looking straight at me, with a slight right turn, and I could see just part of a shoulder. Not being able to tell if it was the big one, I whispered to Phil, “Is that him?” I knew the buck was big, but I couldn’t see the prong from my angle.

Phil said, “That’s him.” I shot. The buck broke and ran. I thought I had missed.

I jammed another shell into my rifle. I hollered at Phil to shoot. He said, “No, he’s hit hard.” The buck slowed down, then stopped and looked back. I shot again, nothing. The adrenalin was really pumping through my body and I couldn’t hold the crosshairs steady. Phil said to use his shoulder for a rest, but he was shaking worse than I was. I took a deep breath, got my composure, and squeezed. The buck finally went down and didn’t get up.

When we got to the buck, we were awed his size. Two days later, I had Jerry Walters, an official Arizona state measurer, measure the buck and he came up with a 95-2/8 green score. After the 60-day drying period, the buck was officially scored by Mike Cuppell, a Boone and Crockett measurer, at 94-6/8 for entry into the records program.

Note: This trophy, and the fine, fair chase hunt for it, received special recognition at the 19th Awards with the Sagamore Hill Award, the highest trophy award made by the Club. This was the first time ever that the Sagamore Hill Award was given to a pronghorn trophy. It was only the 13th time this award was given, and it was the first time the award had been handed out since 1976.




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-Theodore Roosevelt