In talking to an outfitter friend about good places to hunt, my dad learned of a private ranch south of Ashland near the Wyoming border where I might be able to hunt antelope this past year. When Dad called, the rancher said "sure, come on down." This wouldn't be my first hunt ever, but it was a great opportunity to get an antelope and I was ready.
I learned from my Dad to be real careful with guns. Once you pull the trigger, that's it, there's no taking that bullet back. I also took Hunter Safety in seventh grade with all my friends. When I graduated, my Dad bought me a new rifle --a Remington 700 .270 with a detachable clip. My dad thought the clip was a good idea because it would be safer. He could give it to me when I was ready to shoot and we wouldn't have to worry whether the gun was loaded or not until then.
We sighted in the new gun, loaded up the truck with camping gear and headed down to the ranch for opening day. We arrived at the ranch house and the rancher took us out and showed us where the antelope were. We saw a herd with a pretty nice buck, so we were set.
He took us to a neat cabin on his property where we could stay instead of camping out. He was really a nice guy, considering we had never met him before. As excited as I was, I fell asleep pretty easy. The next morning we got up early, started a fire in the stove and cooked breakfast. We were out where we wanted to be before dawn.
It took us a little while to spot the herd. We made a good sneak, using the hills and brush to hide us. Once we got pretty close, Dad gave me the clip that was loaded with bullets. I put it in the gun and chambered a round and put the gun on safety. Then we began the final sneak.
The buck was with some does on a small hill about 100 yards away. I could see him pretty well, but every time I'd sight on him there'd be some brush in the way and I had to get a little closer.
He must have seen us because he got really alert. I was lying down and he was standing broadside looking right at me. My dad kept saying shoot, shoot. I had him in my sights and I squeezed the trigger and the gun went "click." Nothing happened.
The buck heard the misfire and ran away with all the does. Dad reloads my bullets and wouldn't let me open the bolt right away. When we finally did, there wasn't a bullet in the chamber. The clip hadn't gone in far enough for me to chamber a round. I was really disappointed.
We watched the antelope run for a mile or so and let them calm down and then went after them. We got in front of them and this time we got close, real close. We were on top of a small hill and saw a doe coming toward us and we just lay there and waited. Pretty soon the buck came in full view. I put the cross hairs on him and he took up the whole scope. He was only about 25 yards away. This time the gun went off and the buck took off and ran about 100 yards and stopped. Dad told me to shoot again, but before I could the buck toppled over.
We went over there and Dad helped me gut him. It was only a short pull to the road where we loaded him up. He wasn't the biggest one in the world, but did measure 14 inches from the tip of his horn to the base.
On our way out, we went by to thank the rancher again and to say goodbye, hoping we could come back next year. When we finally got home, Mom was pretty impressed.
Dad didn't get much last year, but he said seeing me fill my tags was better than if he had.
Editors Note: Andrew Cifala, 14, is a 9th grader who lives with his family in Big Timber. This story recounts his first antelope hunt, which took place in 2000. Andrew comes from a strong hunting background and has been around guns all his life.