My friend Chandler called on a lazy Sunday, August afternoon.
We hunted pronghorn antelope together last year after I drew a once-in-a-lifetime Oklahoma rifle tag. I had a great hunt with Chandler and we’d been exchanging text messages and trail camera photos ever since. So it didn’t surprise me that he was calling. The reason he was calling, though, was sure enough a surprise.
“Hey Kyle, one of my neighbors offered me a landowner tag for an antelope buck.”
“Congrats, man! That’s awesome!”
“Yeah, and I’d like your dad to come up here and fill it.”
I sat down. Hard.
Dad was riding shotgun when my brother drew a tag and killed an antelope with Chandler and he was there when I shot mine, too. Now he was being offered the chance to trade out his spotting scope for a rifle.
One problem. Dad wasn’t in good shape. He’d wrenched his shoulder loading limbs into the bed of his pickup and was dealing with what he described as the worst pain of his life. I told Chandler that I’d call dad and relay the offer but I mentioned that there was at least a chance he’d respectfully decline due to the pain in his shoulder.
Dad was hopped up on painkillers and muscle relaxers when I called. He told me that he wasn’t feeling a bit better and that he intended to make another visit to the doctor as soon as the office opened. I tried to ease into talk of the offered antelope tag. I wanted desperately for him to be excited about the opportunity and I was afraid if I caught him at the wrong time he’d pass. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. In fact, the second he understood what he was being offered can only be described as a miraculous healing. Conversation quickly shifted from which pill to take to which bullet to shoot.
Six hours in the truck didn’t do his shoulder any favors but we made it to the Oklahoma panhandle in time to do a little scouting before dark. Dad grabbed his rifle just in case but none of us gave much thought to shooting an antelope on that first afternoon.
We’d seen half a dozen bucks before Chandler spotted a nice goat grazing a couple of hundred yards from the road. We watched the antelope from the truck, fully expecting him to race away at any minute, strategizing as to how we could get on him in the morning. When he didn’t take off, we started talking about where we might intercept him before the sun set. The longer we talked, the better the buck looked. Finally, dad asked for his rifle. He stepped out of the truck, crossed over onto the private land we had permission to hunt, and braced up on a fencepost. The antelope continued not to worry.
The first shot buckled the old goat. Both of them. The second shot put the pronghorn down for keeps, and the high fiving began.
“Did I hit him good on that first shot?”
“What are you talking about? Did you not see him practically drop to his knees?”
“No, I pulled off him as soon as I shot.”
“Cause that danged fence is hot!”
That’s right, my old man, bum shoulder and all, braced up on an electrified, barbed wire fence and made a 250 yard kill shot on an antelope. For a moment at least, that shoulder didn’t hurt a bit.