Bowhunter arrows a giant in Nebraska, an underdog antelope state.
Pronghorn antelope are iconic with the Old West. However, they’re actually not “antelope” at all. Rather, they’re of the goat ancestry, and they feature incredible white-and-tan markings that resemble no other North American species. That amazes me since they’re native to our soil.
Now, when I think of abundant pronghorn numbers, I immediately think of Wyoming. And while Wyoming annually produces outstanding bucks, Arizona and New Mexico most regularly produce Boone-&-Crockett contenders. Meanwhile, few think of Nebraska as a trophy antelope state, but that’s exactly where Nebraska’s Colton Micheel nailed back to back “booner” bucks.
In 2015, Micheel arrowed an 83 4/8-inch pronghorn buck, a very rare feat for a bowhunter anywhere. At the time, he had no clue he’d best that buck only a year later.
Before the 2016 season commenced, Micheel had scouted and found several bucks of interest. And while he has permission to hunt private property, cattle were still in the pastures and he couldn’t hunt there when season opened. So, he hunted state lands and had a couple close calls with decent bucks.
On Aug. 25, Micheel was finally able to tap into the private land. “I drove around until noon that day to see what bucks were out there,” he said. “I stalked one buck that we’ve known for three or four years called ‘Twin Towers,’ but his does busted me. Soon after, I found another buck that was pretty cool. His right horn went straight out, while his left horn was normal.”
“Then, I got up on a hill and spotted another buck,” Micheel recalled. “I followed some cattle trails to get within a half-mile of him. He was bedded on the east side of a big draw with a hill in the middle of it, so I worked to the west side. He was about 270 yards away at that point. I took off my boots and binoculars and left my decoy behind. I slowly started walking toward him, checking the wind as I went. I got to the hill in the middle of the draw and ranged him at 70 yards. He was still bedded and looking straight away from me.”
“The next 40 yards of ground were mostly gopher mounds, so my final approach was really quiet,” Micheel noted. “When I got to 45 yards, I drew back on him, but let down because I wasn’t comfortable with the shot. It was breezy and I wasn’t very steady. He had no idea I was there, so I went forward a few more steps, which brought me to 37 yards. I have a 35-yard pin, so I went ahead to make it an even 35-yard shot. I drew back, settled in and shot. He stood up when my arrow struck, and I instantly could see blood pumping out,” Micheel recalled. “I knew I had him. He ran 60 yards and piled up.”
Inevitably, such a high-scoring game animal is liable to get any bowhunter’s blood boiling, but despite the adrenaline rush, Micheel stayed focused throughout the encounter. “When I was approaching him, I wasn’t trying to push it and get too close to where he’d hear me, but I also wasn’t going to fling a hail mary. Most of all, I was trying to stay calm. I knew he was a really good buck, but I honestly had no idea he was bigger than my 2015 buck. When I walked up to him, I realized he was better than I thought. I didn’t have a tape measure on me, so I got out a dollar bill, which is slightly longer than 6 inches. I got nearly three dollar bills on one of his horns. Then I knew he was outstanding.”
Micheel’s buck unofficially green scores 89 2/8 inches, which would make it the new No. 1 Nebraska archery pronghorn if the score holds, except that its deductions lower the unofficial net green score to a smidge over 87 inches, which means it will fall short of the reigning state record. Still, that’s 7 inches over the Boone & Crockett minimum. Two Boone-&-Crockett-class pronghorns with a bow in two years is a feat, even coming from states like Arizona or New Mexico. The fact that both of Micheel’s world-class pronghorns were taken back to back in Nebraska – an underdog antelope state – just makes it that much more special.
Well done, Micheel. Well done.