Gerald Almy

Gerald Almy

Many people associate spring with hunting turkeys, but if you travel to Texas or a few other states you can also hunt exotic big game animals at this time of year. In fact, a turkey-exotic hunt is a favorite combination trip in Texas in spring. Axis deer and blackbuck antelope are the two main species sought. Here’s a story about a blackbuck antelope hunt I took a while back in the Lone Star State.

By the fourth hour of hunting on the sprawling west Texas ranch, we had seen nearly 20 blackbuck antelope bucks. I was beginning to wonder if I was being too picky. Then, as we sat on a knoll glassing, we saw a superb blackbuck with long, sweeping horns under a live oak. We studied him carefully and decided he was worth a stalk.

Working downwind on foot, we approached several hundred yards, only to find there were actually two bucks. One was heavier, but the first one we saw had longer horns. Both were bigger than any we’d seen that day, and I racked my brains trying to decide which one to try for.

But that decision would have to wait…we were still too far for a shot.

Blackbuck antelope hunting is a terrific sport for the offseason when whitetails are closed. It makes a great species to combine with spring gobbler hunting, bass fishing, or pursuing other exotics such as axis deer, fallow deer or aoudad sheep.

Exotic game animals can be pursued in free range or very large fenced ranches in several states including Florida and Hawaii. But some of the most easily accessible and moderately priced hunts take place in Texas.

Some 67 species of non-native game animals numbering more than 160,000 strong have been identified in the Lone Star State by wildlife biologists. About half of these are free-ranging animals and the other half live on fenced properties. Both can offer quality hunts as long as the property is large enough that the animals can move freely and the hunt is challenging with thousands of acres for the quarry to roam.

Blackbucks are natives of India and Pakistan. The spiral-horned quarry is shy and wary and hangs out in open terrain where stalking is effective but challenging.

I’ve hunted blackbucks a number of times on ranches as big as 20,000 acres in the Hill Country, but the trip described earlier took place near Sonora on a 12,000-acre unfenced ranch. In spite of having no game-proof fences around it, that particular ranch holds a population of about 1,500 blackbuck antelope in an average year.

With that many antelope, it’s no surprise that my guide, Mike Chain, and I were able to look over so many animals in a single morning. After glassing nine bucks, the 10th blackbuck we saw at around 8 o’clock was very intriguing.

Bedded in an open pasture just 150 yards away, his black body shone in the morning sunlight streaking through scattered cumulus clouds. One horn spiraled four times and would tape 18 or 19 inches. But the other only spiraled three times and was about 17 inches. It was an impressive animal, but I held off.

We saw another large blackbuck a half hour after passing up the asymmetrical one, this time about 275 yards away. He stared at us briefly while we looked him over. Then he slowly disappeared in cedars before I could take the shot.

We saw a number of whitetail bucks and does next, then after lunch more blackbucks. One 16-incher ran in front of us at just 75 yards. It was tempting — a chip shot. But I held off. This was far different behavior from most of the bucks, which were extremely wild and ran the split second they saw us from hundreds of yards away.

This was the point where we came upon the two big bucks mentioned at the beginning of this article — one with longer horns, the other heavier ones. The animals were moving slowly, feeding into the wind, and we had to loop wide to stay ahead of them, yet out of sight and downwind.

Finally we snuck within 125 yards of the biggest buck and I decided to try a shot. Unfortunately, just then a cow stepped in between us!

Moving sideways and forward, I eventually was able to take a prone position with a clear view. Just then the buck suddenly got up and started running.

Finding him quickly in the scope I heard Mike whisper “he’s a good one. Take him.” A split second later I squeezed the .30-06 trigger. The boattail bullet found its mark and my blackbuck hunt was finished.

The animal’s black, brown and white hide was gorgeous and his horns were impressive, taping 18 inches with three long spirals. And the way we took this buck with a long, cautious stalk on foot, made it a particularly memorable hunt.

You can find lots of information on guided hunts for blackbuck antelope on the internet or by contacting chambers of commerce and game departments in the area you’d like to hunt or researching on the web. But be sure to pack a cooler or insulated duffel when you head out. Blackbuck antelope offer perhaps the most delicious meat of all game animals.

You can reach Mike Chain at mike.chain@aol.com. He owns Backwoods Taxidermy in Oklahoma City and outfits hunts for many species.

Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.