March 03, 2023
A hunt for scimitar oryx in West Texas calls for straight-shooting, long-range cartridges that will possess enough terminal energy and penetration to drop a 350-pound animal reliably at distances out to 500 yards. On this hunt, we were well equipped with Ruger American rifles chambering the still relatively new 6.5 PRC cartridge.
We used Hornady Precision Hunter loads featuring a 143-grain ELD-X bullet that features exceptional aerodynamics due to a design that incorporates flat-trajectory attributes like Heat Shield tip, secant ogive, and boattail. In 6.5 PRC, that pill leaves the muzzle at 2,960 fps, resulting in minimal drop out to 500 yards.
The Hornady 6.5 PRC Precision Hunter load was teamed with Leupold’s excellent VX-5HD 3-15x44 riflescope fitted with a custom CDS-ZL2 turret matched to the Hornady ammo. On the range we checked our zero and then confirmed the accuracy of our turret adjustments (my scope featured MOA adjustments, but MILs are also available). We were ready to dial for ranges out to 500 yards.
The final piece of the puzzle was my Ruger American rifle. Reasonably priced, the Ruger Americans I have used over the years have all proven themselves to be reliable and accurate. The rifle used on this hunt was no exception. The 6.5 PRC is a relatively new chambering for the Ruger American, and the pair make a great choice for the big-game hunter interested in a rifle capable of handling long-range shots. Our rifles had lightweight synthetic stocks in Go Wild camo and a burnt bronze Cerakote finish on the 24-inch barrel. Additional features included a three-round detachable box magazine, user-adjustable Marksman trigger, 70-degree bolt lift, and a factory-installed Picatinny rail for scope mounting.
Native to the deserts and arid grasslands of North Africa, the scimitar-horned oryx, like their East and Southern African cousins, are perfectly adapted to life with little to no water. Most of the moisture they require comes from the plants they consume. Their white coats help reflect the heat of the sun, and they possess special physiological mechanisms that permit them to thrive in high temperatures that would soon kill animals less well adapted. After decades of internecine war, drought, and poaching, scimitar are now listed as extinct within their native range. Hopefully, recent efforts to reintroduce them into the wild in areas of Chad and Niger will in time prove successful. But until then, a hunter’s only option is Texas.
Hunting these beautiful, unique, free-range antelope in West Texas is as close as you will come in the United States to an African plains game safari. It’s a real hunt that will challenge both your stalking and shooting abilities in that magical land west of the Pecos.
My hunt took place on 77,000 bone-dry acres of a ranch whose total breadth was only slightly smaller than Rhode Island—or so it seemed when its boundaries were explained to me by another compadre, Steve Jones of Backcountry Hunts. Jones and his guides Robert Curry and Dave Galloway estimated no fewer than 250 scimitars lived on the spread, but it would prove to be a real challenge finding them on those 77,000 acres.
Our method of hunting was simple. We would drive for hours searching for groups of scimitars. They like to travel in large groups of up to 70 animals. Occasionally, smaller groups were sighted and far less frequently a lone bull, but none proved easy to stalk.
Laying my hands on this beautiful animal so far from its home in North Africa made me both happy and sad. Happy that these animals have been successfully transplanted to Texas and now range freely in the Big Bend country, yet sad they have mostly disappeared from their native Sahara.