Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains – The Outdoorsman’s Family Resort
By Len Backus, Publisher of LongRangeHunting.com
Over the years I have made a gazillion trips to the western states. I was introduced to the Rocky Mountains while at Army Reserve summer camp just outside Denver, Colorado. My wife flew out to join me for the weekend and we drove up to the top of Mount Evans. After that trip I was hooked forever.
In subsequent years we hit every single western state, some many times. The one that always seems to be at the top of our list, though, is Wyoming. Our growing family stayed in the Jackson, Wyoming area during many summers rafting rivers, riding horses and watching rodeos, In winters we returned to ski down mountains and to snow-cat through frigid Yellowstone.
One summer we visited the Wyoming ranch of a future US senator from my home state of Wisconsin. The invitation was the result of my precocious 5 year old, cowboy-garbed son sitting next to him on the flight out to Jackson.
As a family we also visited Yellowstone and marveled at the ability to get close to buffalo, moose, elk, coyotes, trumpeter swans, antelope, mule deer, sheep – though I don’t think we ever saw a grizzly or black bear on those early trips. But here are some bear pictures I took in later years in Yellowstone.
I have hunted antelope near Casper, mule deer near Gillette and Hulette, and coyotes – well, coyotes everywhere.
Last fall I hunted mule deer on the northern end of the Big Horns up at 9,000 feet of elevation. I fell in love with this spectacular scenery as soon as I saw it. I knew it would be ideal for the long range hunter.
I took a peek at it around April 1 with 2 feet of snow covering the ground next to the highway. I hiked the mountains on an early scouting trip around June 1. On that trip I was limited by snow at the higher elevations, especially where there were trees to walk through. They had had an unusually heavy snow fall late in the season.
I returned with my wife in late July and got into the areas I missed in early June. The heavy, late snow meant the terrain was by now lush with the best alpine wildflower display my wife and I have ever seen, even better than Crested Butte, Colorado in 2007.
By the way, my summer vacation plan worked perfectly. I told my wife I was taking her on a mountain resort trip to view wildflowers and to eat wonderful hotel food. She bought the idea and I got to do some summer scouting for my fall hunting trips. I am pretty sure that if you told your wife and pre-school kids you were taking them on a mountain resort trip in, oh let's say, mid-October, you could squeeze in a 3 or 4 day rifle deer or elk hunting trip with none of them realizing what just happened. On this Big Horn trip I saw far more moose in three days right along the highway than I saw in Yellowstone and Jackson Hole on many trips combined. By the way, have you ever seen a moose jump a fence?
On one of my 2010 crossbow hunting trips my stalk was blown by a pair of moose busting through just when I was about to start the “end game” of my stalk on a nice buck. “What the heck is that all about?” I thought. The mystery was solved just a few minutes later when 2 moose-hunting archers came ambling by wondering where their prey had gone off to. That hunting pressure was an exception, though. The archery season was not crowded up there.
On another day I ended up taking a mule deer doe at 72 yards with my new PSE TAC 15i crossbow. What a powerful, accurate weapon. The deer was quartering away and in the dim light I hit its left hip bone. The arrow “cracked” through so loudly it was like taking a broom handle and swinging it as hard as you could against a small tree. Complete pass through resulted in a very dead deer.
During the rifle season my hunting partner and I each took mule deer at long ranges. This is Jim See and his 660 yard mule deer.
And now I can’t wait to take my children’s children out to explore this fabulous state-wide family resort!
There are plenty of choices of places to stay up in the Big Horns. Many public forest service campgrounds are sprinkled throughout the region. There are 3 resorts as well, all owned by the same family. I stayed at 2 of the three last year on several different trips.
Accommodations include deluxe rooms as well as rustic cabins suitable for the more rugged families or hunters. Two of the lodges have indoor swimming pools with whirlpools that feel really good after a hard day spent hiking or riding the snowmobile trails.
Each of the 3 lodges have dining rooms with complete menus. The food was quite good and the service attentive.
I’ll be returning to Wyoming’s northern Big Horn Mountains this fall and staying at one of these lodges again. I will have used my own buck tag in SE Wyoming in late September, but my son will have a buck tag and I’ll be his guide and spotter for the mid October rifle season. I can’t wait to get back up to those spectacular scenes that still remain in my mind!
For deer this is Area Y and buck tags are just about always leftover after the draw. Maybe I'll see you there this year on my son's hunt or in 2012 when I'll have my own buck tag there again. It is absolutely some of the most spectacular hunting terrain and mountain views you will ever experience.
Len Backus is the owner of www.LongRangeHunting.com. He has been a long range hunter since the 90's and is as likely to bag his game with a camera as with a rifle or a specialty handgun. His outdoor photography can be seen at LenBackus.com