I’d been invited to West Texas to hunt oryx with an online friend named Chacho Gonzales. I get a lot of invites and can’t do them all, but this one intrigued me because there are only three exotics in Texas I have a burning desire to take with an air rifle; the blackbuck, the aoudad, and the gemsbuck/oryx. In addition, after having several conversations with Chacho by email and over the phone, he seemed like a guy I’d enjoy hunting with. I had a slim window to do this hunt between the new year and Shot Show, because I’m out of the country for a while right after that and then already booked for hunts on my return. We set a schedule, I booked flights out and we planned it all out. I arrived in Dallas and rented a car for the drive out to Odessa to meet up with Chacho, and after our first in person meeting we dropped about two hours south to a ranch outside of Fort Stockton.
We arrived at the ranch taking ranch access road several miles in from the state highway, and passed through a gate of Lone Star Trail Outfitter, which primarily caters to deer hunters, though the owner Trent, has Oryx and a big population of feral Spanish goats on his approximately 7000 acre ranch, though he also hunts adjacent land belonging to other family members. Trent has a very comfortable lodge that he put us up at, and little did I realize at the time his wife Tammi was coming in daily from their hopuse back in town to feed us ….. and this lady can cook. I had some of the toughest stalks I’ve done in years covering literally miles every day, and think I still put on a few pounds from the food I was being served!
I’ll go straight to the point, I didn’t get my Oryx, but have nobody to blame but myself. Trent, Chacho and I hunted hard for three days, and I had a couple opportunities and a couple close calls, but was unable to seal the deal. I should have, but didn’t make it happen. Our approach to hunting differed a bit from what they normally do, which is shooting from a high rack in the back of a ranch truck. This would not work for the airgun ranges we needed, instead we would drive and glass to locate one of the three or four herds roaming the property, and then Chacho and I would jump out and work out an approach to stalk into shooting distance.
We finally had an opportunity when Trent spotted a herd in the distance working its way along the sidfe of a hill quite a ways off. With the wind in our face and sun to our backs, Chacho and i jumped out and climbed a one hill and jogged around another to try to cut the herd off. This is when we discovered that the herd often had one animal well ahead of the herd and another trailing it acting as sentries. We came around the side of the hill to find this l;ead animal grazing head down about 150 yards from us. We both saw the animal at the same time and hit the ground as he looked up. We laid there peering through the grass from behind a frazzled thorn bush watching, and this young bull knew something wasn’t right. But with the sun in its eyes and the rapidity with which we’d dropped, it hadn’t seen us. With the wind in our favor he wasn’t going to wind us either, at the same time he continued to stare for about 15 minutes. Finally he dropped his head and we tried to crawl to a side where a rise in the ground would give us a chance to move. But after only 10 yards he lifted his head again, pinning us in place again, albeit in the cover of a slightly higher bush.
Again I tried to line up a shot, but it was still to far and I didn’t have a clear shooting lane at any rate. As we sat there, pinned just under the ridge of a hill, we saw the rest of the herd trot out behind the sentry and run along a trail just under the ridge of the hill we were sitting on, but on the other side! We sat glued to the spot at we watched 9 sets of the big curved horns and the heads of the animals slowly trot by us withing 30 yards, but without any chance of a shot! This ended our first day, and not wanting to pressure the herd too much we called it a day and returned to the lodge for dinner and then to prepare for a calling session for predators as darkness fell.
The next morning we drove down a road for about a half hour while stopping to glass the distant hills. After seeing no trace of the herds we started driving through a thicket with Trent and Chacho in the front laying out plans while I sat in the back. I was messing with my pack, and glanced up to see the back of a small group of oryx slipping in the patchy thicket less than a hundred yard from us. They weren’t terribly spooked, and were walking not running from us. We jumped off the truck and swung about 200 yards to the side to get the wind and sun in our favor and started to stalk in, going very slowly and very quietly. We’d stop frequently and look high and low across any opening in the scrub. After about a half hour, I caught sight of an animals back through the bush.
We were still a hundred yards away, and came up to a broad expanse with almost no cover between us and the animals. But we could see several oryx, with some starting to bed down. We spent almost the next hour crawling, back tracking, and working the wind, the sun, and the shadows to get inside of 70 yards. But then we came up against a wall, there was absolutely nowhere to move to, and the animals were all bedded behind a jumble of thickets and thorn bushes. I crawled into a sitting position under a mesquite behind a couple of yuccas, and looked for a shooting lane to thread the .452 bullet though. The big bull I wanted stepped behind a tree and started to move away, but a smaller bull stood, partially hidden behind the brush and it looked like they would all move on. I saw a small opening and quickly lined up my shot and let it fly. The report of my rifle was followed by a mesquite branch exploding between us though it looked like the deflected bullet might have impacted the bull high on the shoulder. The herd hightailed it out toward the hills, and I followed slowly looking for blood until they topped the ridge, then I stepped it up following and glassing the herd for a couple of miles. I could not find blood or pick out a wounded animal, and after another hour the herd took off at high gear not to be spotted again after topping the third hill between us.
So of course I was disappointed, we hunted hard and got in a couple world class stalks on a really wary and smart game animal. I had a couple of missed opportunities but could fault nobody but myself. At the same time I had a fantastic time in the field, made a couple of good friends with Chaco and Trent, and did have much more success on the predator hunts ……. but that’s another story for another time!