Well, our Wyoming antelope hunt ended up being a pretty successful trip in many ways. This was a hunt that Mal picked when she was about 7 years old. I was about to leave on a trip to North Dakota for pheasant, and she was a little sad about not being able to go, so I told her that when she got a little older, I’d take her on a hunt like that. I asked what she wanted to hunt for, and after a little thought, she said antelope. I asked “pronghorn antelope?”, Yup. Don’t know exactly why she picked it, but the girl said antelope, so antelope it was going to be. I’d put in for points in Wyoming for antelope, and as soon as she turned 12, I started to put her in also. This past winter we put in for a drawing hunt in a unit just south of Casper. I was pretty sure we’d draw with our points, and in July, we found antelope tags in the mail. So, after a bit of planning, researching and getting ready, we found ourselves at the airport heading that way. We flew down to Seattle, where we met my parents who live just south of there. We went to their house and began to repack our gear, and pack his camping gear. We were able to borrow all the camp gear, truck and other items, which made this hunt so much comfortable and much less expensive. So, the next day, we begin our 14 hour drive to Billings, where we get a hotel and stay for the night. The next morning, we are back on the road, headed south of Casper to our hunt unit. We had no idea on where we were going to camp, but after some driving, found a nice little grassy meadow with a few trees in it. We pick a spot with a tree that was able to block wind hitting the tent. This became a very important thing later on.
After we set up camp, we went to a nearby ranch that I had contacted earlier about getting permission to hunt the property. We found the ranch manager and got writing permission to hunt the ranch, and asked some questions about the ranch, rules to follow, antelope hangouts…..He was very helpful and basically showed us on a map, the area that made up the 160,000 acre ranch. That’s a pretty dang big ranch. We thanked him for the access, and then went back to camp to eat some dinner. After dinner, we drove around a little bit to get familiar with the area, and quickly ran into antelope all around. We actually passed on several bucks the first evening not wanting to end it so quickly. We went to bed with great expectations. Well, we woke up the next morning to some “breezy” conditions. Actually, the wind was blowing about 35-40 mph sustained, with gusts to 50. I thought to myself, that I’m going to have to get the girl close 100-150 yds. max with this wind as she would never be able to shoot any longer distances in that kind of wind. Well, we begin our first stalk
And quickly found out just how good antelope vision is. They have an amazing ability to spot anything that is not sage brush. They would see us from over a thousand yards away, and actually get concerned about it. Well, needless to say, we made about 7 or 8 stalks on different antelope bucks during the morning and into the evening, with a couple of almost shots, but just couldn’t close the deal. Finally, in the evening, we spot several bucks chasing each other around some does. As we glass them, we spot another buck with about 3 does moving in their direction, but travelling parallel to us and moving through some small waddis. Figuring this would be a good area to set up an ambush, we quickly gather our stuff and move to head them off. We get to a location that I figured they would pass by and set up. Just as I began seeing them coming out of the waddis, I tell Mal to make sure she “leads” for the wind as it was almost a dead cross. I told her to hold about 5 inches to the left of where she wants to hit. This advice would cost later. So, the antelope continue to move our way and actually get way closer than I thought they would. At about 80 yards, I told her shoot when he gives you a good shot. He stops, then turns broadside, and I hear the shot, and see the impact about 5 inches in front of the buck. Well, they begin running like antelope do, and I track the buck with my scope. He runs up a small hill, and then, as we found they typically do, stops to look back at us. I guess he’s at 350 or better, and hold high and left for the wind. At the shot, his legs drop out from underneath him, and he’s done. Antelope number one. After we get him back to the truck, I draw a pic of an antelope in the dirt and ask where she aimed. You guessed it, 5” to the left of the buck. Miss number one was dad’s fault. She’d of nailed him if I’d have left it alone. Oh well, I was pretty sure it was just a matter of time given the number of opportunities we had in one day.
As its getting dark, we make quick work of getting some pics, then getting him taken apart and into bags to cool. We get back to camp where we cook some dinner, and get ready for day number two. The wind that night was amazing. I was very happy we put the tree up wind of us, as I’m sure the tent never would have survived had we not done that. At about 0630, the wind just died. Completely. Weird. I get up, get some coffee going, and watch as the light brightens the eastern sky. Figuring it’s time to get things going, I wake Mal up, or attempt to. Teenage girls……..difficult little things to get moving in the morning. But after some mild threats, she’s up and eating some breakfast. We begin driving toward our area for the day, and run right into a group of about 6 antelope, which included one nice buck. We make a perfect stalk along the back side of a small rise, then lie down and wait for them to move into sight. The does began moving into our site at about 125 yards and gave her a very nice target. Just waiting for Mr. Buck to move with the does. Then all eyes are upon us. Nobody moves, the buck is glued to his spot. I can see him, but Mal can’t, due to the rise in front of us. Well, after about 3 minutes of stare down, the does decide it’s time to run to the next county, and Mr. Buck follows. They stopped at about 300 yards, and give her a broadside shot. No wind, long shot….she squeezes, and the gun goes off. I watch him duck and then run off. Shot right over his back. Went to confirm no hit, and seen him chasing his does around about a mile off…perfectly healthy. Mal’s first miss of a big game animal. This was the first of three misses on day number two. Well, about 0900, the wind cranks back up, and really blows. I was guessing that gusts were hitting beyond 50. Another day for close shots. We probably stalked at least half a dozen bucks by noon, with none panning out for a good shot. Her bipod had broke the front molded sling stud of the rifle, and she was having difficulty holding steady using the shooting sticks I had brought, especially due to the wind. So, we made a quick trip back into Casper, to see if we can get a new sling stud put on. Found a small sporting goods store, and the old timer who owned it got us all fixed up and back in business. We head back to the camp and eat dinner, hoping that the evening would cause a little easing of the wind. The wind did subside a bit after dinner, so we went back out and made a few more attempts at some bucks, but just couldn’t get a decent shot. So, as the sun begins to get low, I tell her, “hey, let’s drive down the two track that we had made a stalk on a group earlier in the day, and see if they are still around”. So, we head down the two track, and holy smokes, there they are. Almost in the same spot as in the morning. So, I continue to drive past them, then once out of site, turn around and drive past them again, never stopping. We get out of site again, and I tell her..”Ok, here’s what we are gonna do. I’ll drive by them again, and once we get behind the slight rise in the ground, you bail out and I’ll keep driving like nothing happened. So, that’s what we do. I go down the two track about a mile, then turn around. As I turn around, I can see a group of antelope hauling butt out of the country. I thought to myself Uh oh, that don’t look good. I drive back toward Mal, and see her standing on the small hill, with her rifle cradled in her arms. No expression to tell if success or failure so I pull down the window and just say “well?!”. A big smile pops out and she raises an arm and says “I got him”. Huge relief comes off of dad’s shoulders at that point and I run up and give her a big hug. We walk over to him and find him down at about the 200 yard mark. Great shot.