Arrival at cousin Jimmy’s land was starlit over the snow-capped mountains yet painted colorful in the far-off distance as the morning began in the high desert prairies of southern Colorado. With Grandpa riding shotgun, my husband, Anthony, drove the pickup as our son Nick, kept his forehead pressed against the window in hopes of spotting the first antelope of the day. I enjoyed sitting in the back watching the morning unfold.
For Anthony, this day of anticipation began in August when he learned that he, our 15-year-old son Nick and Grandpa had all drawn pronghorn tags. Anthony knew chances of drawing were good, but not necessarily for all three of them. Anthony and Nick drew doe tags and Grandpa drew for buck. The hunt would commence on the family ranch in Walsenburg, Colo.
From the age of 2, Nick has been a part of the annual antelope hunt here at cousin Jimmy’s. Eager to become one of the men and wield his own rifle, Nick completed his hunter’s safety at age 12—outscoring a few grown men on his testing, a feat that still makes him proud. At age 13, Nick took his first doe with his Dad, Grandpa and uncle, becoming the youngest Pace to bring down a big game animal. At age 14, Nick drew a buck tag for this same ranch but passed on the opportunity to bring down either of the two small bucks he’d seen, saying, “I want my first buck to be a mature animal. I will be back next year.”
While empty handed of a harvest that year, my husband surprised him with a trip to the 2018 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Dallas where he gifted Nick an NRA Life membership. Excited about being a Life member of the NRA, he immediately called me to share the treasure my husband had just bestowed. I could hear the pride in his voice. Nick was and is so proud of the NRA Life membership bond he and his dad share. He takes great pride in belonging to the NRA, which protects the Second Amendment and the American freedoms so treasured by our family.
Nick was excited as he’d headed out with Dad and Grandpa—a special trip he values each year. The uninterrupted time with Grandpa and Dad is the only time life pauses long enough and work does not compete for family time.
Rising sun at their backs, the men stepped out of the truck to glass the prairies in hopes of seeing grazing antelope.
“Look for white spots,” Grandpa reminds.
For much of the first hour they glassed and waited, watching over the thousands of acres. The ranch is split by a public road and surrounded by BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. The hunting party grew concerned with the amount of hunter traffic as shoots echoed in the distance and down the valley just behind them.
Disappointment silently penetrated Nick’s young heart as his coveted time and once very private hunting ground was surrounded by other rightful hunters. Nick spoke what everyone was thinking.
“Mom, I don’t think we are going to get anything this year. Too many people. They are just going to scare away anything that could be here.”
I heard the disappointment in his voice and assured him that the traffic could work in their favor. “Be patient,” I said, “and wait for the herds to be driven our way.”
Silently I knew how important this particular year was to Nick. Cousin Jimmy speaks of selling off the ranch, a ranch rich with decades of hunting memories. And for Nick, Grandpa is getting older and there are no guarantees of next year for hunting this property or with Grandpa.
Changing locations, the men traveled to the western end of the ranch and set up another position to glass the high prairie. It did not take long for hope to explode as two does moved in the distance. My husband let Nick have the first shot and coached him as the moment unfolded. Placing the shooting stick under his rifle, Nick steadied his eye behind the scope and focused on the doe at 200 yards. He pulled the trigger and the shot brought down the doe. Without hesitation, Nick handed his rifle to his dad, who then placed the rifle in the crook of his shoulder. Anthony brought down the second doe. Grandpa embraced and congratulated them as they packed up to retrieve their harvests.
Within an hour the men were back on the hunt for Grandpa’s buck. They were determined to get three for three, a feat no season had ever granted them. Grandpa and Nick hiked across the prairie while Anthony circled out to the ranch edge in hopes of seeing a buck to drive back toward them. Within an hour, they jumped a buck. Grandpa drew his rifle to take the required quick shot, but his rifle jammed so no shot was fired. Adrenaline mixed with frustration drove the guys to quickly formulate a new plan.
The three regrouped and drove to the eastern edge of the ranch. This time switching rifles, Grandpa took Nick’s gun and laid it over his back as all three men began another hike. Walking, glassing, waiting, the men hunted together. Sitting near a cluster of pinon trees they grazed on the snacks Grandpa always packed in his jacket pockets. Grandpa was proud in the feat of both boys shooting their does, content if that was all their day held in store. Reminiscing quietly about adventures in years past, they lay warmed by the sun. Three men, three generations all loving nature as God created it to be enjoyed, all bonding in manhood.
Voices faded as movement was spotted in the distance. Grazing just a hundred yards out, a solo buck sauntered without notice of the men near the pinion trees. Slowly Grandpa grabbed Nick’s rifle and placed it on his shoulder. No one seemed to breathe as anticipation and adrenaline surged through each of them. The silence broke as Nick’s rifle rang and the buck dropped instantly. Enthusiasm erupted as the men jumped to their feet in awe of what had just happened. Three antelope, by three generations, before 3 p.m. with one lucky rifle.
The ranch may or may not be there next season and Grandpa’s time is limited, but this year brought about a special and unprecedented seven-hour hunt—a hunt perfect in every way that will never be forgotten. A young man with his Dad, his Grandpa, and a beloved rifle that harvested each generation’s antelope. The day is forever ingrained as spectacular and perfectly special in Nick’s heart and in the hearts of the two other men who hunted that day.
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About the Author Lori Pace resides in Colorado with her family. She is a high school teacher and is married to Anthony N. Pace, founder of Freedom Hunters. Lori enjoys a multitude of outdoor opportunities with her favorites being pheasant and antelope hunting. When not teaching, being a mom or hunting, Lori enjoys reading, writing and print design for various professional platforms.