2013 Wyoming Antelope Adventure

My Father, Uncle and I all had Wyoming Antelope tags. In addition I also had a limited unit deer tag, 80 miles from the Antelope unit.  Our Antelope hunt was scheduled for the last weekend in September, before my Deer rifle season opened.

One complicating factor was the fact that a freak Fall snowstorm blew in and made travelling the roads challenging.

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We spent a couple days enjoying the warm fire, and hot coffee of Big Sandy Lodge while we waited for the weather to break.

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When it finally cleared we drove down to the desert on Saturday with our good buddy Tony, to find some speed goats.  Tony is a long time Wyoming resident who was getting ready to go in for a hip replacement surgery.  He couldn’t run the hills with us hunting for deer, but he was able to help us navigate the maze of two tracks on the High Desert.

2013-09-28 13.23.48We were happy that the lower elevations did not have as much snow accumulation.

2013-09-28 17.48.43After some adventures that involved a large flock of sheep, some slimy two track, a couple groups of antelope we passed on, and an arroyo that tried its best to capture us, we were driving towards some distant antelope that held promise.  Another large herd diverted our attention, and I got out and got ready to shoot if the buck met our standards.

Now, remember, I’d been bowhunting deer for 3 of the 5 prior days.  I was feeling a little uncertain about whether I was going to leave Wyoming empty handed.  While it was a far cry from “Last Call”, I was not holding out for a Booner buck.   While Tony, my father and uncle debated the merits of the buck, I saw prongs above the ears, good mass, a nice curl and decided I could look at him for the next few years.

I announced:  “I like the buck with the herd”

No response, and no objection from the rest of the crew, so I took up the slack in the trigger, and the shot broke to my surprise.  I re-centered the scope at 7x and saw him run off with the herd, slowing and stumbling and finally cartwheeling as the 25 does ran off over the horizon. My 150 grain bullet had passed through both shoulders and the heart from 350 yards.  the bullet hit a good 6 inches from my point of aim, confirming the distance estimation.

My uncle and I took care of field dressing and photography chores as my father and Tony tried to make a play on the original buck we’d sighted, to no avail.  We returned to the Big Sandy Lodge that evening to finish the skinning. A rough taping measured his horns to be 14 inches over the curl, with 5 1/2 inch bases.  We estimated my first pronghorn to be about 70 inches total.

2013-09-28 16.41.36The next day we dropped down into the desert to see if we could fill a couple more tags.  We had narrowed down our search area to an area around an artesian well head that irrigated a patch of desert and attracted numerous groups of antelope.  Almost immediately we saw a heavy lone buck  my father was intrigued by.   This buck was very wary, moving out the moment our truck stopped.  My father got out to try to stalk into range as we backed off to watch from afar.  From the movements of the buck we decided to put my uncle Colby in a flanking  position to the East that would give him an opportunity at the buck if he did not pass in range of my father.

As it happened, the buck spotted Colby and spooked off in a North by  Northwestern direction.  We collected Colby to try a play on a group of three antelope further East.  Meanwhile my father is still pursuing the original buck on foot.

We were able to get Colby into position 287 yards from the buck in the group.  He fired once hitting the buck, but he refused to go down.  Shortly after we heard multiple shots to the West.  The sheer volume made us think it was Sage Grouse hunters we had seen earlier.  While Tony and Colby watched his buck, I drove back to where I’d left my father earlier.

I arrived back at the spring, and did not see my father in the immediate vicinity.  Then on the farthest Northern Horizon, I saw him waving his blaze orange hat.

I navigated the two tracks until a slick clay bottomed creek stopped my progress.  I continued on foot to find him deboning an antelope.

It turns out that he had doggedly pursued that original buck, and Colby’s shot had actually turned the buck into his direction.  The multiple shots we had heard, were indeed from him, and although lighter in the ammo department, he did collect his buck, all the while on foot.  It was a real testament to commitment, as he was over a mile and a half from the original drop off point and had zig-zagged all throughout the coulees in pursuit.  Not bad for a 71 year-old Californian.

With Dad and his Antelope in the truck we drove back to where Colby had his buck bedded.  A quick followup shot (through a shoulder) ended the chase, and like that we had filled 3 antelope tags in less than 24 hours.

2013-09-29 15.06.41This was our first Antelope hunt as a family, and I’ve gained a new appreciation for this style of hunting.  It gave us a chance to get out and pursue big game animals with our good friend Tony, but was not a grueling backcountry ordeal, as some other adventures have been.  We saw lots of animals, lots of country, and had plenty of opportunity to fill tags.  If you are considering a first time Western hunt for a youngster or mobility limited individual, I think antelope hunting provides an alternative to a traditional “Stand” hunt.   However if you want to “walk one down” , like my father that is always an option as well!

We all three took our antelope to Steve Fetzner, of Cora Wyoming to be made into European mounts.  I will share those results when they arrive.

We took the meat to Hog Island Meat Co.’s mobile facility in Pinedale.  After hanging for a few days, Bill had it in Cryovac packages the next Saturday, ready for our trip home.

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