When Kody Baker came home from work early on Sept. 15, his neighbor called to say some antelope in a field near their East Helena homes were acting kind of funny. So Baker, who had a hunting blind nearby, grabbed his bow and went to check them out.
By the time he got home a few hours later, Baker had scratches from belly-crawling 400 yards through a newly cut wheat field and what he believes is the new state record for a pronghorn antelope shot with a bow.
“I was still in my dry-wall clothes,” he said on Friday, sporting a big grin and carrying the buck’s horns. “I’ve only been bow-hunting for three years, though I’ve hunted all of my life.”
He had taken his son to the dentist that fall day when the neighbor mentioned that the antelope weren’t paying a lot of attention to what was going on around them, since they were in the midst of the rut. Baker saw about 15 does and the buck cross the road, paying little attention to traffic, and then they dropped into the field.
He followed them into the field, fell to his belly, and the stalk was on.
Antelope are difficult to get close enough to for a good shot, especially for bow hunters, since the animal’s eyesight is comparable to eight-to-10-power binoculars. Adding to the challenge is they’re the fastest North American land animal, with recorded speeds of up to 55 mph, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service — hence their nickname, “speed goats.”
“It was a flat field, but there was enough of a roller that he was on the downhill side of and couldn’t see me,” Baker said. “I was on the ground, crawling, for one-and-a half, maybe two hours — he kept looking up and I would go flat to the ground.”
He crawled to within 85 yards of the buck, which suddenly stood up, showing Baker his broad side. The buck walked about 60 yards and Baker took his shot, felling the antelope with one arrow.
“Another big buck saw it going down. He circled two times around my buck, and took off with my buck’s does,” Baker added, laughing.
He took the antelope to taxidermist Josh Pallister, who measured the horns after the mandatory 60-day drying period, and they scored an 86. That includes the tip-to-tip spread, the inside spread, the length of the horn, the circumference of the horn at various points, and the length of the prong.
“The paperwork hasn’t been sent in yet so it will not be official until Pope and Young accepts the score and sends back the certificate,” Pallister said. “But it’s a pretty large animal and I think it’s one for the record book.”
The old state record of 84 2/8 was set in 1989.
“That held for 21 years,” Baker said.
Reporter Eve Byron: 447-4076 or firstname.lastname@example.org