I have been looking forward to my first Western hunt for quite a long time. My hunting partner Tom and I started these plans way back in '04 but got sidetracked by an offer to hunt hogs for free in Texas. Samuel and I had practiced all summer in a hayfield south of town and I was reasonably confident out to 400 yards with my 257 AI... not terribly "long" by some standards, but by those of this Michigan whitetail hunter plenty. My son learned to use the LRF and spot my shots, and the cost of the tags was worth all the time we had together this summer even if we'd not have shot anything.
My son Samuel and I met my gunsmith and friend Mike McCabe and his 8 yo son Kili out in Newcastle, Wy for the pronghorn opener this past Thursday, making camp on the northern edge of 6 mile basin. We did a fair bit of scouting Thursday night and saw many very eligible bucks and more does than we could count. Samuel proved very able at judging trophy potential proving that our time online learning the tricks had paid off.
I had a rather sleepless night in rough ground and there were MANY coyote singing throughout the night as if they were anticipating the feast that would come the following night.
We awoke in time to be out in the field for an incredible sunrise Friday morning. We found a spot about 3/4 mile from camp where we could glass and as the eastern horizon glowed red we awaited the action we were sure would come.
There were a great many hunters around, two on a knoll behind the hill on which we were seated, and countless trucks circling the area.
It wasn't long before I spotted a buck trotting on the other side of a small rise and motioned to Mike and Kili to join Samuel and me in walking over to investigate.
As we walked south the hills to our right glowed brightly and the eastern sky was filled with sunlight that made seeing anything to our left difficult. I lead with Samuel to my left and a bit behind as we'd gone over in practice, and Mike and Kili were behind me and to my right. We had nearly crested the rise when a nice buck was spooked by the hunters to our left and ran in front of us. He stopped a moment right in front of us to get his bearings and looked back at the hunter who'd spooked him. I'd followed him in my scope which I'd fortunately remembered to turn down to 4.5x after verifying zero and judged him worthy of a first time trophy.
My 100 gr Interlock entered behind his right shoulder and exited his brisket on a heavily quartering-away shot, DRT. His lungs were liquified and Samuel and I were happy with a quick, humane kill, even though Samuel wasn't able to do "his thing". I'm a terrible judge of distance in this terrain but Mike, who lives and shoots out West, judged this offhand shot at 150-200 yards.
Sadly Mike got a call saying that his step dad, who has been suffering with cancer for a while and was expected to go sooner rather than later, had passed so he and Kili had to take off after that first morning. With Mike & Kili taking off Samuel and I decided to head to Rushmore and do some sight seeing. This trip was all about my son and I having a great time together, and that we did, hiking Hell Canyon, a fair bit of Custer State Park, and just enjoying one another.
I think my son will remember this first success I think Samuel is hooked and will remember this trip long after he has taken many, many heads of big game himself.
I still have PPs for Wyoming and am planning something in a higher trophy potential area for next year. I've got a 6.5-06 AI on a Savage 110 action w/ a Bartlein 1-in-8" twist barrel in the works, which I think oughta be just what the doctor ordered for REAL long range shooting out on the plains! While I have no regrets after shooting this, my first PH, it looked bigger in the scope as it jogged along in front of me than its horns do now that they're in my hands
and I'll practice a bit more restraint next time. I'm not a trophy hunter at all, but will always look for something a bit bigger if and/or when I have the chance.
Thanks all for reading and for the information. Thanks also to Buffalo Bob whose instruction on PH hunting was invaluable in helping plan out the logistics of this trip!