I made it out to Casper Wyoming for opening day of antelope season in Area 25 on Oct. 1st. I drove out from my home in Lynchburg TN a few days early to do some scouting and beat an early season snow. The snow started Thursday night just as I was checking in at the Ramkota Best Western. By morning, we had 6 inches of snow on the ground and it was still snowing. It was a lot prettier looking out of the Resturant window than it would have looking out of my truck windshield.
I had a hunt scheduled with Sy Gilliland at SNS Outfitters. This was my first antelope hunt so I wanted someone to show me the ropes. I hooked up with Sy through Cabelas Tags Service since I didn't have any connections in Wyoming. I normally don't use a guide. I prefer to do a self-guided hunt but I decided on the hunt too late to do the research needed for a new species in a new area. This would be a solo hunt. For some reason I couldn't get any of my hunting buddies interested in a speed goat hunt.
But I did get there early enough to do the research for future hunts. I spent the next four days scouting Area 25 and some of the surrounding areas. I visited the State Game and Fish Office as well as the Casper BLM Office to get maps and more information. I visited the local meat processors and taxidermist to see what I could learn from them. All very good sources of info. By opening morning I had seen and photographed any and all bucks that I could drive to in Area 25. As it turned out, I had several pictures of the buck that I ended up shooting.
This was a town hunt, so I met Sy and my guide Cass Huber at the hotel the first morning of the hunt at a room they maintain at the Ramkota. The first day of the hunt was just Cass and I. We road out to a ranch that they have leased for the hunt. We parked on a high spot and waited for daylight. As it got light, we started to see groups of antelope scattered over the prairie. From our vantage we could see for well over a mile. There were probably 15-20 groups of goats with the herd buck with his heram of does. We glassed each one in turn, judging the quality of the buck. Being new to this, I would have shot any one of a half dozen of them but the guide kept saying we could do better. We started driving the two-tracks looking for a better buck. I told Cass I'd like to stretch the range out if I could, but that I would shoot whatever buck he said I should shoot, whatever the range. We rode and glassed until after lunch, looking at hundreds of antelope.
I brought 2 rifles with me on the hunt. My primary gun was a Savage 111 Long Range Hunter in 6.5-284 Norma. The glass was a Vortex Razor HD 5-20x50. My handloads were loaded with the Berger 140 gr. VLD Hunter traveling at 3057 fps. My secondary gun was a Remington 700 XCR Long Range Tactical in 300 Win. Mag. The glass was a Nightforce NXS 5.5-22x56. I was shooting a Berger 190 gr. VLD Hunting at 3000 fps.
As it turned out, it was a good thing I brought the second rifle. In the last four days, I had shot both guns at the local gun range as well as at some BLM land I'd learned about at one of the local gun shops. I wanted to check my drop tables at the local altitude and temperature. Both were where they should have been out to the 800 yards I'd been able to shoot to. Unfortunately, the morning of the hunt, when I checked the Vortex on the 6.5-284 to make sure I had returned it to the zero stop range, it kept turning. I didn't know which elevation cap, inner or outer, had turned, so I put it back in the case and pulled out the Remington.
We had about decided we had seen all of the bucks on the ranch. Early in the morning we had glassed a good buck and had dubbed him "Plan B". We were on our way back across the ranch to find him when Cass suddenly stopped the truck saying "There's a buck we haven't seen." We put the spotting scope on him and he decided he was a shooter. I got out and found a spot that wasn't covered in prickly pear and got into a prone position using the Atlas Bipod to support the rifle in the front and a rear bag under the toe of the stock. The buck was standing on top of a small hill watching over his does. They completely ignored us. Cass ranged the buck at 546 yards. I checked the wind, temperature and pressure on my Kestrel and fed the data into the "Shooter" app on my Droid Bionic and dialed in the elevation and windage in on the Nightforce. The wind was full value from my left at 15 mph so I dialed 4 MOA left wind and 8.4 MOA of elevation for the 546 yards. I put the crosshairs high on the shoulder and had Cas range the buck again. The wind was steady and the buck was standing broadside. At the shot, I lost sight of the buck due to recoil. When I couldn't see him, I asked Cass about the shot. He said the shot was good and the buck dropped in his tracks.
We drove as far as we could then climbed the hill to the buck. I was really pleased with the buck. The bullet entered high on the shoulder, taking out the top of both lungs, top of the heart and breaking the spine. He never knew what hit him.
It was still cool enough that we decided to try for one of the two does I'd bought tags for. I wanted to save one for the second day of the hunt so I could reset the scope on the 6.5mm and use it. I told Cass I'd like to also shoot the does at long range, even if it meant not getting to harvest the does. For the last couple of years I've decided to only shoot at big game at long range. There were plenty of does at 200 yards or less, but it took a while to find one at a good range. We finally spotted two dry does near a fence at 611 yards. One of the does had the small horns that some of the older does have so I decided to take her. I set the scope for the conditions and sent a round. Just as I pulled the trigger, the broadside doe turned quartering toward me. The antelope ran about 100 yards, stopped and laid down. I chambered a second round as she was running. I held the same hold and shot her again. She fell over at the shot. The first bullet had hit the rib cage and went through the paunch, exiting the hind quarter. The second shot broke both front shoulders and took out the heart.
After we dropped the two antelope off at the processor, I went back to the local range to check the scope on the 6.5. As I suspected, I hadn't tightened all three screws on the inner zero stop cap and it had slipped. I reset it and was ready to go for the next morning.
We met the other hunter from Michigan and his wife the next morning and drove to the same ranch as the day before. On the way, we told him about the buck we'd named Plan B. As soon as he saw him, he decided that was the buck he wanted. His hunt was over in less than a hour and he had a fine trophy. The bucks cutters were high enough to start just below the curls.
After driving around for a while looking for a long shot, I took the second doe with the 6.5-284. She was at 504 yards. The Berger did a great job on the antelope and didn't destroy nearly as much meat as the 300 WM.
I payed for the processing on the first two antelopes and donated the meat to the local version of Hunters For The Hungry. The last doe, I traded for the processed weight in various types of sausage, pepper sticks and jerkey. I didn't want anything that needed refrigeration. I intended to spend another week or so exploring Wyoming, including Yellowstone. When I got up the next morning, I found out Casper was expecting 12-24 inches of snow that night and Yellowstone was closed due to the Government shutdown. I figured I could find a way into the Park, but I didn't think I could get there in the snow. My other hunting spots in South Dakota and Colorado were also expecting snow, so I pointed the Chevy Avalanche back East toward Tennessee. Tornadoes chased me across Nebraska, but in about 30 hours I was back in Lynchburg.
It was a great trip. I learned a lot and I'll be ready for next year. I think I like this antelope hunting. :-)
WHEN YOU HUNT LONG RANGE, SOME TIMES THE SHOT IS THE TROPHY.
I really enjoyed your story! I'm very jealous. I hunted WY antelope from 2004 through 2007, and in TX in 2008 and haven't put in for a tag since. Time to start again. I'm like you though, I've never used a guide and don't plan on it. I've been lucky to fill all of my tags each time on my own and we filmed several of the hunts.
I'm curious about the 6.5. What powder did you use and brass and primer? What is the barrel length and contour? Same questions for the 300 please.