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Old 09-07-2017, 12:28 PM   #1
HankH
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Default Rookie Rita Blanca Pronghorn tag holder

Howdy all,

New member here; enthusiastic to be part of the group and hoping to resource some of your experience in/around the Rita Blanca Grasslands.

Background: I am originally from Houston and grew up hunting in the San Saba area, but have been gallivanting around the globe as an active duty Marine and gone from TX for the better part of 15 years now. Earlier this summer, I thought I was moving back to TX prior to hunting season and I conducted a crash course/self-education on the TPWD draw system, ultimately applying for about 25 hunts as the San Saba opportunities of my childhood are no more. It turns out that my orders have been delayed and I won't move until around Christmas. However, as a first time applicant, I drew one of the 12 Rita Blanca pronghorn tags this year on the second draw.

I will be making the drive from the Kansas City area. I know I am incredibly fortunate and I am prepared to accept your spears and jeers, deservedly. For those of you who are wondering, I did pick up a few powerball tickets after notification from TPWD but I am not related to the lady that won the ~$750 million jackpot a few weeks ago.

So, I will proceed southwest to erect my tent camp there near Texline on 28 September for a dedicated Friday of scouting before the opener on Saturday. I have leave approved for the entire week through 8 October as required. I will have my truck, rifle, binos/spotting scope and a seasoned pack plus boot leather to expend. What I do not have is any experience with pronghorn, the Rita Blanca, or hunting in that region of the state at all. I am excited to learn solo, but also want to make the most out of this incredible opportunity.

I am humbly requesting any gracious contributions from members with experience in any of the above, particularly recommendations on where to start/focus in the massive expanse of huntable area in Rita Blanca. Also, is anyone familiar with a better map than the 8-1/2 x 11" PDF that is provided?

Thanks all,

Hank
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Old 09-07-2017, 12:29 PM   #2
systemnt
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Welcome to the fire.
Do you know Keegles?
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Old 09-07-2017, 01:22 PM   #3
HankH
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Thank you.

Is Keegles a person? No, I do not know Keegles.

-Hank
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Old 09-07-2017, 01:34 PM   #4
Hawkpuppy 1
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As far as hunting Pronghorn, binos and boots are your two best friends. I'd get real comfy with shots out to 300 yards as well. You may not need to shoot that far, but then again, you might and you better be practiced and prepared for it. As for judging size, if that's important, try and find one with the "prong" that is higher up than the top of the ear tips for starters.
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Old 09-07-2017, 02:07 PM   #5
Mr. Whiskers
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hawkpuppy 1 View Post
As far as hunting Pronghorn, binos and boots are your two best friends. I'd get real comfy with shots out to 300 yards as well. You may not need to shoot that far, but then again, you might and you better be practiced and prepared for it. As for judging size, if that's important, try and find one with the "prong" that is higher up than the top of the ear tips for starters.
He's an active duty Marine, I'm certain he's comfortable at that distance. Semper Fi and good luck brother
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Old 09-07-2017, 02:10 PM   #6
systemnt
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HankH View Post
Thank you.

Is Keegles a person? No, I do not know Keegles.

-Hank
Keegles is THE person.
Thought everyone in Kansas knew keegles.. he's not San Saba though.
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Old 09-07-2017, 02:14 PM   #7
BackwoodzHank
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Congrats on the draw and good luck!
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Old 09-07-2017, 02:32 PM   #8
red-fin
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I have a really good friend and his wife who got drawn also. He is no antelope expert but knows his way around killing some critters. I will tell him to contact you thru here. Always good to have contacts when in those hunt situations. Yall can compare notes.
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Old 09-07-2017, 02:44 PM   #9
44mAG
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I just completed my first pronghorn hunt in New Mexico last week. Here is my advice with the little experience I have. Have some good glass with you, at least a pair of good binoculars. Having a good spotting scope in the truck is not a bad idea also if you plan on scouting out multiple bucks and deciding which one to go after. You will most likely be spotting them from very long distances. Pronghorn have some of the best eyesight in the world so don't expect to remain hidden from them. Use the terrain to your advantage (allowing them to disappear into a saddle before closing the distance, etc). Also, be patient when stalking. Their good eyesight also makes them very curious animals. On my hunt, I was at 350 yds, and wanted to get closer but I was patient. When my buck locked onto me, he actually walked 150 straight at me trying to figure out what I was. I ended up taking him around 200 yds. I learned that they are very inconsistent in their behavior as well. One second they will see a truck and run, and other times you can drive right by them without them moving. Also, keep a good eye out for pronghorns that are bedded down next to some cover. Just because you don't see any goats for the next half mile around you, that doesn't mean that a buck won't stand up and appear when you get closer to him. If you see a doe by herself, there is a decent chance there is a buck laying down somewhere around her since they are rutting now. Good luck!!
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Old 09-07-2017, 02:51 PM   #10
BIGTERRY75
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Welcome to the Green Screen, and good luck with your hunt. I only wish I could give you some advice.
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Old 09-07-2017, 02:52 PM   #11
Shane
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I'd recommend you take some shooting sticks as well. Try to locate water holes. You don't have to just sit next to a water hole all day like you might want to do if you were bowhunting. But they're going to want a drink every day, so hunt within a mile of water as much as you can. They will let you get within the longer end of rifle range before spooking usually, but if you get within their comfort zone, they'll run. You shouldn't have much trouble seeing antelope and getting a shot opportunity or two with a rifle. The biggest challenge is field judging and trying to decide to take the shot or not.

Look for horns that have the prongs higher up than the ear tips, as stated above. Look for tips that curve back down toward the head (adds length). Look for wide bases (from the side view) and thick hooks above the prong. Look for prongs that stick out and appear to be at least as long as the base is wide. All of that adds up on the score, if that matters to you.

Other than that, just find a buck that trips your trigger and knock him down! Good luck! Post pics and stories. I've got 22 preference points for that hunt. Someday I'm gonna draw it too, I hope.
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Old 09-07-2017, 02:55 PM   #12
Shake N' Bake
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Welcome! Good luck! And be sure to do a Live Thread!

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Old 09-07-2017, 02:56 PM   #13
Hawkins
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Congrats on drawing. If I remember right last year was a 98% success rate? Shouldn't be too much trouble killing one?

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Old 09-07-2017, 03:02 PM   #14
Clintk
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Good luck!
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Old 09-07-2017, 03:10 PM   #15
Michael
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Welcome to the fire and good luck!
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Old 09-07-2017, 04:04 PM   #16
pilar
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I think I remember some of the better units for hunting
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Old 09-07-2017, 04:23 PM   #17
mhunter6
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let your spotting scope do the walking.
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Old 09-07-2017, 04:36 PM   #18
jimmy o
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My son got drawn on the youth hunt program several years back. We hunted the same area you are going to be hunting. Don't worry the pronhorn were plentiful. We hit the grass lands at day light and the hunt was over at 10:30 am. I don't remember the score but I think it was 78 or so.
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Old 09-07-2017, 04:56 PM   #19
Texans42
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Glassing and covering country. From a scoring stand point good goat(prongs above the ear, side mass should exceed corners of the eye and length min of two ears tall. Although my last goat was 77" and only 12" tall.
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Old 09-07-2017, 05:16 PM   #20
Top Of Texas
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Lucky dude! I've put in for 22 years. That doesn't mean much from a drawing standpoint when 5,000 people put in, 10 get drawn, and the other 4,990 all have 20 preference points. Congrats!

Anyway, before stretching boot leather, stretch tire rubber. Panhandle antelope see lots of vehicles and are accustomed to them, but a guy out walking around looks like trouble. The RB Grassland is a patchwork of properties intermingled with private (watch where you're at), not a big contiguous block though some pieces are bigger than others, and pretty scattered, and there's not much topography. So, I would suggest staying in vehicle and cover as much country as possible until you find one you like. Then stretch leather.

Spotting scope is very important for judging.

I wouldn't worry too much about water in that area, not as big a deal as in large expanses of rangeland like in NM, AZ, or WY. There's water everywhere.

If you haven't already, holler at the ranger office in Clayton, NM for detailed map of units.

For judging quality, that's tough especially if you haven't done it as differences between nice buck and good buck can be subtle. On your scout day, you should get a feel for the average buck, 12-13" scoring 65-70. Those are a-dime-a-dozen. Shane gave some good pointers. I'll add, that generally there will be 1 buck with a harem of doe. Ordinarily those are the more dominant bucks in the immediate area, and odds are, the better buck in the area. Not always, just a rule of thumb.

Good luck! There are some 80" bucks in that country. And please do follow up with us.
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Old 09-07-2017, 09:49 PM   #21
HankH
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Many thanks for all of the good gouge above and Semper Fi Mr. Whiskers.

Thanks also for the PMs gents, however I am not able to reply via PM as I have not reached a 15 post minimum yet. I have attached a photo of the single sheet map that TPWD sent me in the packet. The hunt units are easy to read but figuring out which roads form the boundaries is a bit difficult and it would be nice to have some starting places picked out. The packet said that the "Best units for hunting pronghorn are 7-14, 16-36, 51-52." That may be good info, but I wonder how well the units are marked. The USFS website does say that the units are marked with signs so one can hope.

I am in the process of contacting the rangers in Clayton for the better maps y'all are talking about. That is good info. Also, great pointers particularly on all the rules of thumb for judging. I'm not expecting to break any records but it will me nice to have a clue what I am looking at. Thanks!

-Hank
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Old 09-07-2017, 09:56 PM   #22
HankH
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Disregard on the attachment referenced above. I cant get the file any smaller than 729K (jpeg) where the unit numbers are still legible.
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Old 10-04-2017, 01:39 PM   #23
HankH
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All,

I managed to find an unlucky buck there in the Rita Blanca. The pics are not the best to show his rack and he is not going to the record books, but my freezer and wall will be quite pleased with this buck. I didn't have him scored, maybe after the taxidermist is finished, but one side was a bit over 14" and the other a little shorter with a broken tip. Mass and prongs were not anything exceptional.

There is no shortage of animals out there although I will double down on the groups assessment that these critters are hard to field judge. I set up camp and scouted in the rain following a mid-afternoon arrival at Thompson Grove on Thursday, 2 days prior to the Saturday opener. The rain made a real mess out of all of the dirt roads which constitute most of your thoroughfare through the Rita Blanca. Friday was another day of rain and High Lonesome Road, which cuts through most of the huntable area West to East was all but impassable. 4wd was a necessity, but still didn't grant me full mobility on Friday. Saturday dried out considerably and most was reasonably accessible.

I got glass on a good number of bucks during my scouting time such that I think I had a feeling for small, average and "nice". Differentiating one nice buck from another was a challenge. I never saw one that was a clear standout and that assessment was identical to the stories of 5 other hunters in camp.

Although I didn't necessarily plan to tag out on the first day of hunting.....that is what happened. Saturday brought eyes/glass on at least 18 more bucks, several of which I stalked for variable distances. With winds nearing 20 knots, the 400 +/- yards that most animals allowed me was off the table for a shot I was willing to take. At this stage, I was mostly experimenting with stalking methods, terrain, decoy employment and animal behavior. That behavior was quite variable by the way. Some other guys in camp had does within 40 yards and bucks within 60 while the hunters were standing in the wide open. Others would be intolerant of a hunter or even a truck on the horizon.

While trying to figure out how I would approach a distant herd at about 3/4 of a mile, I noticed another herd on my opposite side, at about 700 yards. With no cover, I approached them head-on behind my Montana decoys buck pronghorn. As I neared them (500 yds), part of the same herd which had broken off out of sight became visible again at about 300 yards. They were eyeing me so I planted myself right there to see if they would settle down. Of the 4 bucks in that group, 1 was junior, 2 appeared mature and decent, and one was the clear winner. I could make out their heads and the top of their backs. The best of the bucks was interested in me and slowly closed ground, step by step between bites of grass. Eventually, I decided that if he cleared the small crest he was behind and gave me a good shot above the grass line, I would take it. After about 10 min, he had closed to 240yds and when he turned broadside, he fell at my rifle shot. I was able to field dress him and stuff a 10lb bag of ice into the chest cavity immediately, then hang, cape and quarter quickly thereafter.

Many thanks to all in the group that helped to provide me with information, much of which directly contributed to my success. Thank you.

For any future tag holders reading, 2-12 animal groups were widespread throughout the huntable expanse of the Rita Blanca. There was seemingly a greater abundance in the units numbered in the 30's off of Shirley Rd. 35 and 36 held several 8-12 animal herds and I ultimately killed my buck in unit 38. Feel free to contact me at h1hortenstine@gmail.com in the future as I am happy to provide any assistance that I might be able to.

-Hank
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Old 10-04-2017, 01:44 PM   #24
Shane
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Nice buck! Congrats! He'll make a beautiful mount.
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Old 10-04-2017, 02:00 PM   #25
pafdrn
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Congrats! I would love to make a hunt for one of those. I really wish i wouldn't forget to register for the drawing every year.
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Old 10-04-2017, 02:07 PM   #26
Texans42
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Great goat!! Congrats
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Old 10-04-2017, 02:32 PM   #27
pilar
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Great detailed hunt ! That is a pretty goat nice dark face will make a good mount

Last edited by pilar; 10-04-2017 at 02:34 PM..
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Old 10-04-2017, 02:48 PM   #28
quarterback
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Dang Hank! You got yourself a good one. Congratulations to you on your successful hunt way out there on the big prairie. Oh and welcome to the Green Screen. Feel free to come on back and hang out here any time. Thank you so much for serving our country.
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Old 10-04-2017, 02:55 PM   #29
scoutman
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Congrats
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Old 10-04-2017, 03:00 PM   #30
ken
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Congratulations.

I am just now seeing this thread. I hunted there in 2005 and would have given you some advice if I had seen this earlier but it looks like you didn't need it.
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Old 10-04-2017, 03:00 PM   #31
mhunter6
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Congrats!!


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Old 10-04-2017, 03:06 PM   #32
100%TtId
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Old 10-04-2017, 03:15 PM   #33
WBT
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Congrats!
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Old 10-04-2017, 03:19 PM   #34
lovemylegacy
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Congrats on a nice Speed Goat
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Old 10-04-2017, 03:21 PM   #35
DUKFVR
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CONGRATS on a Great goat and Thanks for your service!
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Old 10-04-2017, 04:30 PM   #36
flinger
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That's awesome, congratulations!!
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Old 10-04-2017, 04:57 PM   #37
outlook8
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I have no clue how to score a pronghorn, but he looks great to me...congrats!
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Old 10-04-2017, 05:19 PM   #38
red-fin
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Great buck!! Way to get it done.
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Old 10-04-2017, 05:19 PM   #39
wloftis
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Looks like a good representation of the species to me. Congrats on a nice buck, and thank you for your services.
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Old 10-04-2017, 05:27 PM   #40
DJM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HankH View Post
However, as a first time applicant, I drew one of the 12 Rita Blanca pronghorn tags this year on the second draw.


Hank
I hate you.








Congrats

DJ
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Old 10-04-2017, 05:27 PM   #41
NotJose
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Way to get it done!! Congrats and welcome


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Old 10-04-2017, 10:06 PM   #42
Raleigh
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Congrats Hank
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Old 10-05-2017, 10:52 AM   #43
Kolpin10
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Congrats on the hunt, one you won't forget
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Old 10-05-2017, 11:05 AM   #44
HankH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DJM View Post
I hate you.








Congrats

DJ
I know.....I deserve that, but I sure don't feel bad about it! Thanks
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Old 10-05-2017, 11:08 AM   #45
mhunter6
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Two years ago I was hunting near dalhart and met a guy hunting the Rita. It had taken him 18 years to draw. It's about like drawing a sheep tag.


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Old 10-05-2017, 11:25 AM   #46
HankH
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I was incredibly lucky, no doubt.

I met several other hunters out there. Two of them were on year 21, two on year 13 and one drew a private land tag nearby on year 23.
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Old 10-05-2017, 11:52 AM   #47
coop2564
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Man I have been putting in for 12years and never drawn. Good luck!
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Old 10-05-2017, 12:03 PM   #48
dac6933
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Very nice, congrats
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Old 10-05-2017, 06:29 PM   #49
twdjr
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Congrats!
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Old 10-05-2017, 11:56 PM   #50
uttlc
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Nice looking goat! I ran into a guy last week at the Midland airport that also got drawn for RB this past weekend. If he's on here, maybe he can chime in about his hunt as well.
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