Editor's Note: For this #ThrowbackThursday, we're republishing this January 2008 article from Alexa Lewis, who was then 15 years old. Almost nine years later, we think this suspenseful tale is just as fascinating today as it was then. Alexa, if you read this, we'd love to hear how you're doing!
My dad and I were planning to hunt antelope in October, but it seemed that October would never come! I had wondered, thought and even dreamed about the trip to Montana for months until my family was finally packed up and loaded in the truck. It took a long time to get to Montana from New Mexico, but the closer we got, the more excited I became. At last, we arrived in Big Sky country.
On day one of the hunt my dad, my older brother Colt and I walked for about five hours straight and didn’t even see one antelope. My rifle felt heavier by the hour—I was so tired! After dinner, we headed out again but still no antelope.
The second day, my grandpa, a long-time Montana resident and expert hunter, joined us. We walked even farther than the day before and did spot a few antelope, but they were grazing on private land. I was pretty tired again, my gun swinging like a heavy pendulum on my shoulder. Eventually, the sunset forced us to call it a day. That night, I prayed that I would get a buck the next day.
By day three I had built up stamina and wasn’t so tired anymore. At about 3:00 p.m., we saw an antelope herd with one buck on BLM land. My hopes began to soar. We decided that my brother and grandpa would flush them out of the draw while my dad and I walked toward the herd. When we were closer, I got into the prone position. My heart pounded in my ears; my palms were sweaty and my breathing rapid. I aimed at the buck through my scope and slowly squeezed the trigger. When I looked downrange, my heart sank. I missed!
The herd was now on the run. Back on our feet, Dad and I followed them once more. We walked past a small pile of rocks and then froze. The herd! We backtracked behind the rockpile and I got right back into my shooting position. I’d better not mess it up again, I thought. My scope displayed the same big buck. My finger was twitching and almost instinctively pulled the trigger. Suddenly my dad said, “Skyline.” I knew that meant I couldn’t shoot.
Nightfall came all too quickly and I thought of the buck that got away. I decided to pray again.
The next day, I had a long-distance opportunity on a buck, but it was just too far. I missed, and the frightened herd took off. As we climbed over a ridge, we heard Colt scream, “Antelope!” Then we heard his gunshot, followed by another one from Grandpa, and then a final shot from Colt. Colt got his antelope. I was actually jealous; it just didn’t seem fair. I wanted to cry. What if I never got anything? The days were passing and I felt time running out.
That night I prayed harder than ever. I told God I wasn’t picky anymore. Sure, I wanted a buck, but I’d be happy with a doe, too.
The next evening, Dad and I were after a new herd. We were good and close this time. I sat with my rifle on the slope of a hill. As I raised it to my shoulder, Dad whispered, “This one is your buck.” Sure enough, through my scope I spied the most handsome buck. He had a good set of horns, too! After admiring him for about five seconds, I squeezed the trigger. I heard a loud thud and knew I hit him. I saw him rear like a horse and lower his head. My dad hollered, “You got him!” The buck ran about 30 yards and fell. I wrapped my arms around my dad and cried a few tears of joy.
Dad said, “I’ll go get the buck while you run to the top of the hill and give Grandpa the victory sign. He knows what that means.” When I reached the top of the hill, my arms were flailing and I danced a jig that was sure to deliver a victorious message.
It’s hard to believe that we walked over forty miles to get that antelope, but he was worth every step. I remembered to tell God “thank you,” over and over again. That night I fell asleep knowing that my dad was the best hunting partner in the world, and that my first hunt was one event I would never forget!