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Hurteau's Texas Nilgai Hunt, Part 2

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April 10, 2013

Hurteau's Texas Nilgai Hunt, Part 2

By Dave Hurteau

Two quick notes before we get stared: first you can click here if you missed Part 1, and second, for anyone who’d like to flatly call me a hypocrite or anything else, I invite you to do so in the comment section below, and don’t feel like you have to read the story first. 
Okay. Here we go.

A Real Hunt

Taking several shots to check the zero on the .45-70, I threw one way high. On a Texas nilgai hunt, you shoot standing off sticks in the African tradition (even though nilgai are Asian). Noticing the flyer, Sports Afield Editor Diana Rupp, with whom I was hunting and who shoots standing off sticks far more often than I do, pointed out that with this method there’s a tendency to shoot high if you’re not careful to hold the fore-end down on the sticks. "Okay," I said, and we went hunting.

Nilgai were introduced on the King Ranch in the 1920s as a game species and supplemental food source for the cowboys. But the ranch’s low fence, designed to keep cattle in, does not prevent wildlife from getting out, and today about 30,000 free-ranging, wild nilgai roam various portions of south Texas, including about 10,000 of them on the King Ranch. What’s striking is how these huge, exotic beasts vanish so naturally into the scraggly branches of mesquite and live oaks—almost like they evolved here.

Our guide Clay drove us from camp a few miles to where the road narrowed to a sandy ribbon threading thick banks of mesquite. We parked and got out—a good sign. We were told we would do some “spot and stalk” hunting, which in some places is a euphemism for “drive around in the truck.” Not here. Clay led Diana and I slipping through groves of low-growing live oaks and Guinea grass. This was not even spot and stalk; this was honest-to-goodness still-hunting.

And the nilgai, we learned, were not going to fall into line like carnival ducks. After agreeing that Diana would take the first shot unless there was a good close opportunity for the .45-70, we hunted hard that first morning. We blew several stalks. While bringing up the rear, I could see plainly when Clay was onto a bull; he’d stop, peer, and glass. So I’d stop, peer, and glass, too, in the same spot—but I’ll be damned if I could see anything. Finally, toward the end of the morning, I spotted four jet-black legs swishing though the Guinea grass, and then barely made out a gray body hidden in the gray branches. Then he bolted.

Before arriving, I knew I’d be hunting a wild critter; the question was, "How wild?" I was guessing not especially. Most people who go nilgai hunting, after all, get a nilgai. That’s why I chose the open-sighted .45-70—to make things interesting. But on that first morning, we’d had the wind and a damp, almost-silent forest floor; yet we never came close to getting a shot. On the way back to the truck, a big-rumped bull shot to its feet not 15 yards away and plunged into the brush. He’d let us walk right past him, just like a whitetail.

The afternoon hunt was more of the same—quite a bit more. Slipping along a sandy trail, we were spotting bulls left and right, and blowing one stalk after another. It become obvious why most hunters get their nilgai: because while each one is fabulously wary, every bit the equal of a whitetail from what I could see, there are a whole lot of ‘em here. Sooner or later, you’re going to get your chance.

Diana got hers late that first afternoon, when, miracle of miracles, while still bringing up the rear I spotted a bull she and Clay had walked past. He was slinking, head down, through the low oak branches at a little over 100 yards, no idea we were there, for a change. Quickly on the sticks, Diana, shooting the Model 70 in .264 Win Mag loaded with (I believe) a 140-grain Nosler Partition bullet, hit him perfectly with the first shot, and gave him another for good measure.

Driving the dusty road back to camp with Diana’s bull in the back, roadside whitetails lifting lazily from their chewing to amble into the mesquite, I felt like this had already been a more challenging and rewarding hunt than I expected. And that getting within open-sighted-.45-70 range of a nilgai tomorrow would not be easy.

Look for Part 3 next week.

Comments (16)

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from Douglas wrote 1 year 1 week ago

Awesome looking animal. What do they weigh in at? 300#?
How are they for table fare?

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from buckhunter wrote 1 year 1 week ago

Goodluck, Dave.

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from Dave Hurteau wrote 1 year 1 week ago

A really big bull can go over 600, Douglas. The meat is fantastic; I was hunting primarily for the freezer.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 1 year 1 week ago

They seem to be colored perfectly to blend in with that environment. That looks like a heavy animal!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Drover1 wrote 1 year 1 week ago

Sounds like a great hunt – big, elusive animal in free-range conditions – what’s not to like? I’ve always been skeptical of states such as Texas allowing exotic animals to become established because it so often leads to destruction of habitat and/or negative impacts on native species. Seems like that might not be the case here, and King Ranch always has been a leader in game management.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 1 year 1 week ago

Great hunt. Everything is bigger in Texas, obviously. I thought this was just a whitetail blog, but now I discover cartridge tournaments and nilgai hunting down south. How much did that critter cost is what I am really wondering.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 1 year 1 week ago

Dr. Ralph,
Relatively speaking, it's a surprisingly affordable hunt. I'll be sure to include some details on that in Part III.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dtownley wrote 1 year 1 week ago

Pleased the young lady put the nightmare on her bull, I only say nightmare as this cartridge was so far ahead of its time, it was almost lost. Bullets blowing up, barrels burnt out, owners crying out in their sleep...mercy !
The reloader on the other hand found it a dream when stirring the cauldron of recipes in manuals & manfactures of fine projectiles, I am a fan of the .264 WM and one day will ask my family to buy me one and if there is no response...I will spend their inheritance and leave them nothing but a photo of us together. Now Dave...get your bull

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 1 year 1 week ago

I was going to say my neighbor had an old .264 Win Mag Model 70 that he hunted with. He had a collection of Winchesters and that was the one he always used. It is a classic gun.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 1 year 1 week ago

As I recall, Diana sort of likes the 280 Ackley Improved. Wonder if this is a new caliber for her, or was she, like you, given the opportunity to choose an available Cabela rifle? I will be borrowing a rifle to use in the jungle about a month from now, as Cameroon is not issuing rifle permits to U.S. citizens. Bet a nickle it will be an 06 or a 375.

A friend invited me on my Nilgai hunt which for me was a meat hunt, and agree it was delicious. Cannot remember the price, which sort of indicates it was not too onerous.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 1 year 1 week ago

Meant to ask if the 264 was a new caliber for her, not a 280 improved.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 1 year 6 days ago

Happy,
Not sure about Diana's experience with the .264. But yes, she was given her choice of Cabela's Classic rifles to use.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from SD Bob wrote 1 year 6 days ago

Parts one and two are a good read but I'm at a loss where part one was posted? I was sure I didn't miss it last March so I hit the Whitetail 365 archives and sure enough it wasn't there. I checked others to no avail. There have been other times when inner posts have given access to stories I hadn't seen. So where are these hidden gems posted?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MaxPower wrote 1 year 6 days ago

Good luck Dave, I told you you should have gone with the .264 WM...

Any chance you'll be sharing some of your Nilgai with David Draper so he can show us a recipe or two with it?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 357 wrote 1 year 6 days ago

This is looking like a hunt i might want to go on with my iron sighted 300 savage.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 1 year 6 days ago

$750.00 per gun per day and +1000.00 if you shoot a bull.
Not too crazy expensive compared to say an elk hunt if you are non-resident. Sounds like fun.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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from dtownley wrote 1 year 1 week ago

Pleased the young lady put the nightmare on her bull, I only say nightmare as this cartridge was so far ahead of its time, it was almost lost. Bullets blowing up, barrels burnt out, owners crying out in their sleep...mercy !
The reloader on the other hand found it a dream when stirring the cauldron of recipes in manuals & manfactures of fine projectiles, I am a fan of the .264 WM and one day will ask my family to buy me one and if there is no response...I will spend their inheritance and leave them nothing but a photo of us together. Now Dave...get your bull

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Douglas wrote 1 year 1 week ago

Awesome looking animal. What do they weigh in at? 300#?
How are they for table fare?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 1 week ago

Goodluck, Dave.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 1 year 1 week ago

A really big bull can go over 600, Douglas. The meat is fantastic; I was hunting primarily for the freezer.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 1 year 1 week ago

They seem to be colored perfectly to blend in with that environment. That looks like a heavy animal!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Drover1 wrote 1 year 1 week ago

Sounds like a great hunt – big, elusive animal in free-range conditions – what’s not to like? I’ve always been skeptical of states such as Texas allowing exotic animals to become established because it so often leads to destruction of habitat and/or negative impacts on native species. Seems like that might not be the case here, and King Ranch always has been a leader in game management.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 1 year 1 week ago

Great hunt. Everything is bigger in Texas, obviously. I thought this was just a whitetail blog, but now I discover cartridge tournaments and nilgai hunting down south. How much did that critter cost is what I am really wondering.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 1 year 1 week ago

Dr. Ralph,
Relatively speaking, it's a surprisingly affordable hunt. I'll be sure to include some details on that in Part III.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 1 year 1 week ago

I was going to say my neighbor had an old .264 Win Mag Model 70 that he hunted with. He had a collection of Winchesters and that was the one he always used. It is a classic gun.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 1 year 1 week ago

As I recall, Diana sort of likes the 280 Ackley Improved. Wonder if this is a new caliber for her, or was she, like you, given the opportunity to choose an available Cabela rifle? I will be borrowing a rifle to use in the jungle about a month from now, as Cameroon is not issuing rifle permits to U.S. citizens. Bet a nickle it will be an 06 or a 375.

A friend invited me on my Nilgai hunt which for me was a meat hunt, and agree it was delicious. Cannot remember the price, which sort of indicates it was not too onerous.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 1 year 1 week ago

Meant to ask if the 264 was a new caliber for her, not a 280 improved.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 1 year 6 days ago

Happy,
Not sure about Diana's experience with the .264. But yes, she was given her choice of Cabela's Classic rifles to use.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from SD Bob wrote 1 year 6 days ago

Parts one and two are a good read but I'm at a loss where part one was posted? I was sure I didn't miss it last March so I hit the Whitetail 365 archives and sure enough it wasn't there. I checked others to no avail. There have been other times when inner posts have given access to stories I hadn't seen. So where are these hidden gems posted?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MaxPower wrote 1 year 6 days ago

Good luck Dave, I told you you should have gone with the .264 WM...

Any chance you'll be sharing some of your Nilgai with David Draper so he can show us a recipe or two with it?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 357 wrote 1 year 6 days ago

This is looking like a hunt i might want to go on with my iron sighted 300 savage.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 1 year 6 days ago

$750.00 per gun per day and +1000.00 if you shoot a bull.
Not too crazy expensive compared to say an elk hunt if you are non-resident. Sounds like fun.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment