This past weekend our band of hunters returned to Wyoming to fill our doe, fawn tags in area 87 near Pinedale. I had been checking the forcast for days in advance and the results were always the same, snow , snow, snow and clearing on Monday.
Weeks of preperation had gone into this hunt as in all past hunts. This would be my son and I marking our twenty second year of returning to Wyoming in a quest of the "high plains drifters."
Two weeks prior we had taken five nice bucks in area 26 on a private ranch that we have hunted for some eleven years. The weather was almost too nice allowing short sleeves during our midday hunts. More on that hunt latter.
Friday morning the quote of the day was "We need two trucks Dad!" One party member had turned up sick so old dad had to clean out the black crew cab and add it to the Duramax pulling the Rhino. We loaded up on clothes and sleeping gear plus all the food, drinks and camping gear need for a three to four day stay in the wilds with snow on the way. With ten tags to fill and eight animals to bring back to my house we would need extra room.
IN the months prior to the hunts we had spent time in the Utah desert checkin velocity of several rifles and a long range pistol chambered in 300 Savage. Placing steel targets from 250 to near 400 yards gave instant feed back on hits. Some how I got the bug to try some light bullet loads in a 340 Weatherby that had only been fired three times in the past. I settled on a load of 90.8 grains of H414 and a Barnes 160 grain Triple Shock that showed 3562 fps and was putting a cold barrel shot three inches high at 100 yards.
Arriving at our familiar camp spot in mid afternoon mother nature was kind enough to allow us to set up camp before the snow began to fall. Jr, Gordo and our new guy did get in an hour or so of hunting before dark but returned empty handed. The first night we dined on t-bone steaks, baked beans and a bottle of chilled wine. Pipe and cigar smoke clowded the eating tent as we
chatted about past hunts and the hunt to come.
After an almost too warm night in my pair of sleeping bags I was the first one up and out of the tent. Snow covered the Rhino and I turned on the stove to melt the frozen lid on the coffee pot. I took a broom to clear the Rhino seats and dusted off the portable shooting bench that we had created for this hunt. In past years I had filled several tags in sight of this camp spot. So i was thinking I might stay in camp one day and lay in wait for a passing herd. (Turns out I was not at my post when they did come by.)
The side by side Rhino has had two seats added in the back so it makes a great touring machine and a great pack mule after the kill. Three of us climb aboard and Gordo takes off on foot through the six inches of snow that has fallen and continues to fall. Two track roads criscross the flats and valleys of the sage country we are hunting. In the distance rows of drill rigs tap for oil and gas. After a couple hours touring the clouds grow a bit thinner and the sun peeks through. I attempt to clean the snow from my glasses and clear a few flakes from my new Alpine bino's. Finally Jr spots a few animals to the right of the trail we are on. He puts on his electronic muffs as we draw a bit closer. I pull a pair off the roll bar and place the muffs on the top of my head but fail to pull them down over my beany covered ears.
Jeromy lazers the animals and says 288 yards, certainly not long range. The two wise men sepperate themselves from the coming muzzel blast as I lean on the Rhino and take aim at the lead doe with the big gun. She is slightly quartering toward me and the i60 grain bullet enters just behind the right front shoulder and after destroying most of her innerds exits infront of the hind quarters, thank god! But even the 340 does not stop this tough old lady, she moves off a bit before settling into the sage.
With a second tag in my pocket I turn my attention to the remaining animals. They are bunched together, a buck, two does and an fawn. Jr says "watch out for the fawn" But the larger doe separates from the group and the the dot in the eight power Leupold settles low in chest. The Federal 215 ignites a bunch of H414 and sends the blue tipped bullet on its way. Mortaly wounded she tears off turning the snow red before piling up.
Later that day Jr teams up with our Idaho friend Roger who has fought terrible road conditions to join us. They proceed to fill the bed of Rogers truck with one shot, instant drop kills with a 243AI and a 25-270WSM. Results in a skinning party by lamp and head lights.
Gordo, the lone wolf , has yet to see an antelope in his walk abouts. So over Sunday and monday he joins us on the "clown car" When we do find antelope there is almost too many to deal with. Does, fawns and bucks string out in waves of "lope"! But by Monday we only need two more to fill up. Jeromy, the new kid on the block, makes a heart pounding stalk and downs his first big game animal with a 201 yard shot with one of my 243's. I don't think it went as far as the 340 hits. On the way back to break camp Gordo makes a nice shot on a squatting doe with his 270, she also drops straight down!!
Another great Wyoming adventure is in the books. Next time pull my muffs all the way down, don't forget the extra boots and probably leave the 340 at home.