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The Hunt for 'Chopper': A Crazy-Wide, Public-Land Pronghorn

Unique antelope taken by California hunter is "the buck of 100 lifetimes."

The Hunt for 'Chopper': A Crazy-Wide, Public-Land Pronghorn

Hank Osterkamp proudly displays this big antelope taken Aug. 13 in eastern New Mexico, the 'buck of 100 lifetimes,' he said. (Photo courtesy of Hank Osterkamp)

A veteran big-game hunter, Hank Osterkamp first chased pronghorns at the age of 12. In fact, a pronghorn was the first big-game animal he harvested. This year, Osterkamp was fortunate to draw a great antelope tag in eastern New Mexico and enlisted the help of Pronghorn Guide Service and guide David Brown to fill his tag with a giant public-land buck.

Brown already had a buck in mind and sent Osterkamp a photo to get the hunter's thoughts.

"I took one look at the photo and said, 'Stop looking. That's the buck I want to go after,'" Osterkamp said. "We named the buck 'Chopper' because he looks like he's got helicopter blades on his head."

Chopper the Pronghorn Buck
A top view of Hank Osterkamp's unique pronghorn. (Photo courtesy of Hank Osterkamp)

Crazy N.M. Pronghorn

  • Hunter: Hank Osterkamp
  • Score: 84 B&C (rough score)
  • Date: Aug. 13, 2022
  • Location: Eastern New Mexico
  • Method: Gunwerks 28 Nosler

"This buck is the buck of 100 lifetimes," Osterkamp continued. "I've shot about a dozen pronghorns, but I've always been fascinated with the freaks. I just love them because they are so unique. When David sent me a photo of this buck about a month before the hunt, I absolutely lost my mind."

Part of that springs from a hunt from about a decade ago. Osterkamp passed on an opportunity at a smaller but similar buck, and has always experienced some regret because of how rare it was. He decided if he ever got another shot at a buck like that one, he would pull the trigger. Osterkamp arrived in camp on Aug. 12. That afternoon, he and Brown went out to glass the big buck, and watched him feed for about 20 minutes.

"When we went out to locate the buck, we saw five or six other good bucks. They were great—trophies in anyone's book—but nothing I was going to consider after laying eyes on Chopper," Osterkamp said.

Confident they knew where to relocate him the next day, they called it quits and returned to camp. Aug. 13 brought hot, calm, clear skies with no wind. "You could almost feel the temperature getting warmer as the sun came up, and there was a smell of sage in the air," Osterkamp said.

As it got light enough to see, Osterkamp and Brown eased to where they had spotted the buck the afternoon before. Sure enough, there he was. They quickly got to where they wanted to be and set up on the shooting sticks. Osterkamp settled the crosshairs and squeezed off the 250-yard shot. The broadside shot struck true, and the buck dropped in its tracks. The hunt was over in 15 minutes.

Unique Antelope Buck
Few antelopes sport a rack like the buck harvested in August by Hank Osterkamp, who said the buck was nickneamed 'Chopper' because it looked like "he's got helicopter blades on his head." (Photo courtesy of Hank Osterkamp)

The hunter and guide celebrated and started walking toward the downed antelope. Halfway there, and much to their surprise, it jumped up and took off. "He ran about 100 yards and stopped," Osterkamp said. "I put a finishing shot in him at about 100 yards."

Confident the antelope was down for good, they continued with the recovery and were shocked at just how big it was. "I love pronghorn hunting because you get to see a lot of animals and they are so switched on," Osterkamp said. "It really tests you as a hunter to get close enough to make an ethical shot. Sometimes it's nice to have an easy one go your way."

Hank Osterkamp pronghorn
A live look at 'Chopper,' a once-in-a-lifetime public-land antelope harvested in August in New Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Hank Osterkamp)

When asked what is most important thing in a hunt for a buck like this, Osterkamp responded with several things. "Use a good application service," he said. "Hire the best guide. Make sure you have solid shooting sticks. You don't get many opportunities at a trophy like that. You want to put everything in your favor."

Reflecting on the hunt, and his life as a hunter, Osterkamp couldn't help but think about the impact his father has had on him. "I'd like to thank my dad, who's been my hunting partner all my life, for taking me on all those memorable hunting adventures all over the world," Osterkamp said. "He always made time for me, and after 40 years of hunting, I'm still looking forward to our next adventure together."


For now, he continues to think about the greatness of this eastern New Mexico hunt, which led to an 84-inch B&C antelope, and an adventure he won't ever forget.

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