Just got back late last night from our first Wyoming Antelope Hunt. Gotta say, it was one of the best experiences of my life.
My son (Josh), brother in law (Charles) and life-long friend (Gregg) decided to give this a go nearly a year ago. At first I was looking at going with an outfitter, but after some encouragement and awesome guidance from a fellow 24hourcampfire member, we decided on a public land DIY hunt. His advice was spot on, and without it, I don't think things would have turned out nearly as well.
Charles, Josh and I left home at about 0645, 3 Oct en route to Colorado Springs to pick up Gregg. Driving through New Mexico, just east of Raton, we saw a lot of Antelope, some of them real monsters. We spent the night in Colorado Springs. Picked up Gregg the next morning, and continued up toward Newcastle, Wyoming. Beautiful drive. Started getting mixed rain and snow just Northeast of Cheyenne.
I had picked some potential campsites in the Area 7 Thunder Basin National Grassland via the map and Google Earth. It was getting pretty muddy by the time we arrived, so we used the first one we came to.
The next morning (Monday), we left camp and immediately started glassing along Beaver Creek and Six Mile Basin. Found our first herd within ten minutes. Gregg and Charles nearly sealed the deal on that herd, but they were much closer than anticipated as they peeked over the ridge, and they got busted. Spent the rest of Monday on attempted stalks. As I kinda expected, public land hunting is pretty tough. A lot of competition from other hunters and it was very apparent that the 'lopes had been pushed pretty hard on the opening days. If they spotted you, even as far as 800 or 900 yards, they didn't waste much time putting more ground between you and them. I was impressed with their intelligence too. If we had been spotted by them, and broke line of sight to get closer, they would run, not necessarily away from us, but in a direction that allowed them to maintain line of sight. Well out of range of course...
Tuesday morning, we started the process again, moving farther north along 6 mile ridge. We had a good oportunity on a herd. Stalk was gong well and we had postioned ourselves for a shot. We were just waiting for the bucks to offer a good shot when someone down the valley about 800 yards started shooting at the herd. From my position, it looked as if they had no chance of a good hit, but that didn't deter them. Frustrating, but I guess that's just the way public land hunting is some time...
As we were moving to another site, I noticed that we had a low left front tire, so we elected to drive to Newcastle to get it fixed. On the way, we drove past this Alfalfa field. There were Antelope, Whitetails, and Mulies all in the same field. I suspect it didn't get much hunting pressure. :grin:
After getting the flat fixed, we did a lot of driving, glassing BLM, State, and walk-in areas. Finally, we ended up in the southwest part of Area 7, where spotted a relatively calm herd. We parked the truck in a depression, and started on foot, closing the distance, and keeping out of sight. We peeked over the ridge, and the herd was still there, 250 yards out, and unaware of our presence. Josh got set up on the steady sticks, picked the biggest buck, and made a good shot with his .270 and a 130gr Ballistic tip launched at about 3100. The buck took four steps and fell over.
The herd was spooked, but didn't know where the shot came from. They ran a few yards and hesitated. I took the next buck with my .257 Weatherby and an 80gr TTSX launched at 3700fps. Buck was DRT. Josh's is actually a little bigger than mine, but I did a poor job of having him turn the buck's head so the photo would give a better look of the horns.
After photos and field dressing, it was off to the taxidermist/meat processor, then a celebratory dinner in town.
Wednesday was spent glassing and on attempted stalks. I surprised at how rugged some of the land was. The southwest part of Area 7 has some prime lookin’ Mulie country too.
While in the National Grasslands, we came across a rancher who was checking wells. He offered to let us hunt his place. This really surprised me. In Texas, where 96% of land is private property, that is simply not going to happen. We did check out his place, and no lopes, but the invitation was still greatly appreciated. We always kept a careful eye on the weather forecast. Wednesday night was calling for more snow. Rather than risk not being able to get out later, we decided to pack it up and move to a hotel.
Having had our best luck in the southwest corner of Area 7, we elected to go back there Thursday morning. As we approached the place Josh and I had taken our bucks, we saw another herd in the same area, so we executed the same plan. As we crept up toward the top of the ridge providing cover, I peaked over into the valley with my binos and saw the herd we were stalking coming right towards us. Everybody got set up and waited. It was almost a repeat of the last time. At about 150 to 175 yards, Gregg took one buck with my .257 Wby, and Charles the next with his 30/06:
More photos and field dressing, then off to the meat processor.
With all our tags filled, we decided to spend Friday doing a little sight seeing. We drove over to the Crazy Horse memorial and Mount Rushmore. I had no idea that Mountain Goats were native to the Black Hills. Who woulda thunk it? Between Crazy Horse and Rushmore, we took one of the forest service roads. We came across one small clearing along a stream bed where we saw Whitetails, Turkeys, and Elk all within 100 yards of each other. During the week, we saw quite a few Mulies, something I hadn’t expected that far east. Nothing bigger on a buck than forkhorns though…
It was a really fantastic week. I never would have dreamed that all four of us would fill our tags on a first time hunt on public access lands. No monsters, but that’s not what we expected from the get-go. All we wanted was something representative of the breed, and a great experience. We got that in spades…