Finally got a break with work and chores around the home place, so decided another trip over to Wyoming for antelope was in order. Went over on Sept 10th for the opening day, but it was just too crazy so I came home after only one day. With 400 buck and 200 doe tags, there were a lot of people driving around and it was crowded. Let's just say that any antelope dumb enough to stand around was probably gonna get some lead thrown its way! I did see a lot of happy kids and older folks who were enjoying the hunting experience, and salute them.
Fast forward a little bit over two weeks, and it was much better. In the two days I hunted I really only saw maybe three or four other hunters. The weather was beautiful on Friday, but supposed to turn nasty on Saturday or Sunday. What the heck, can't have luck if you don't go, right?
There were animals scattered everywhere in the oil country and big desert areas, but I just couldn't find any that excited me. I was prepared to come back in October if I needed to, and I wanted to kill a pretty nice animal. My expectations with the rifle were pretty high, but I love my White muzzy and any chance I get with a good solid buck, I will take it. My friend had taken a beautiful 83" goat in Nevada a week ago, so I was hoping to see something up there to compare with his. Most were in that 10-12 inch range tho, and while some bucks had small harems, most were only singles. A lot of the does were still only in pairs or small family groups, with no buck around at all. After a half day of cruising every road and trail I knew in the desert, it was time to move. I thought the high ridges and windswept bowls might hold some bigger lone bucks. I have found them up there before, and figured they'd be there again.
The private land and hayfields had plenty of critters, and some were really nice. Just no one would allow hunting them, so onward and upward I went. Imagine my consternation when I couldn't find a single antelope up in the usual windy haunts. Planned to come up one drainage, hunt across the tops, and go back down to the reservoir in another drainage. The scenery was gorgeous, and worth the drive. Up towards the head of La Barge Creek, I spotted some deer and a few elk.
Came around a mountain top, and what do you think I found? Yep, 9000 feet and they are putting a well right on the middle of the ridge above one of the great waterholes in that basin. I talked with an older couple who have a cabin up there, and they said they started the well about 30 days ago and the animals just left. Couldn't stand all the heavy truck traffic. So much for that idea!!!!!
Headed back down off the top and went back to the desert again, after the disappointment with the drilling. The sun was getting lower and animals I had missed the first go-round were getting up and moving. Nothing like low angle sunlight to make antelope shine in the sage! By dark I had seen over 50 bucks and 300 total, but just nothing I really got excited about. I had put in the muzzleloader for the buck I was hoping for, and the 7mm Mag in case I saw one of those OMG bucks at 500 yards. Never saw a rifle quality buck at all. Logged over 300 miles in 12 hours, and I had a sore butt and back, tired feet and could use an aspirin or two for eye strain. Headed back to Kemmerer to give myself a treat, and try out the new Best Western motel. Great place to stay and the morning breakfast would be a heck of a lot better than granola and yogurt out of the cooler, while wrapped in the sleeping bag in the car.
The 50/50 chance of rain the Weather Channel was predicting came down all night and it was a mess in the morning. My thoughts of long-range glassing the flats for promising candidates was looking pretty iffy. The upper reaches of Ham's Fork and Fontenelle were totally socked in with lightning in abundance. I figured it was back on the flats and I would make the best of it. Hard to glass for speedgoats, when its like this outside.
The antelope were still there, but they had hit the ground and weren't gonna move until it let up. Rain would roll thru in waves, then it would quit and get foggy. This cycle repeated itself on an hourly basis. I decided to give it until about one o'clock in the afternoon, then pull the plug and call it for this trip. You could only see for 800-1000 yards, so you'd park and glass for a while, then move forward to the limit of your previous visibility. Over and over again, with breaks for coffe and doughnuts when the squalls rolled thru.
Finally at twelve o'clock, I found a nice herd bedded in the sage about half a mile out. With the crappy visibility, even the spotter didn't help much but I could see he was a pretty good buck. There were 16 does and fawns and no other bucks, so I figured he was very dominant. Great black face and dark cheek patch convinced me he was worth going after with the muzzleloader. The pouring rain and fog really helped with the noise (my Gore-Tex liners have started to slide in the old boots, and were squeaking), and I could slip and slide thru the mud on the other side of a little ridge until I got up fairly close. With brown Wranglers on, I couldn't tell what was cloth and what was mud, but I knew I was cold and wet. Eased into 140 yards, and they started to get nervous and stand up. When he came up and stood, I was ready and cut it loose. The bullet entered mid body going forward and exited right behing the shoulder on the off side. 300 grain Hornady XTP's make a helluva hole, and he only went about 30 feet. Sorry about the bloody picture.
Luckily, I was able to maneuver the vehicle down a two-track to within 200 yards, so it wasn't a tough drag back, but it sure was a muddy mess. About that time the skies opened up again, so just time for animal photos and no soaking wet hero shots! You've all seen my ugly mug enough, and the animal is way cuter. Fought my way out and got on the road home. Rain was coming down so hard it was building on the roads and no one was slowing down. Saw a couple slide offs and two rollovers from hydroplaning. Got him taken care of good at home, and the horns cleaned and in the salt. At 14"+ and 5" prongs with nice mass, he is very respectable for the muzzy, and I feel good that he was the best I saw out of over 75 bucks. Just have to draw again and keep trying for that monster we all know is out there!
We have a bull, a cow, and an antelope down so far this season, so we are off to a good start. Between my boys and hunting partners, we have 4 muzzy antelope, 4 bull elk, and 6 deer tags still to fill in Idaho before Nov. 30th, so there will be more to follow.
Good hunting to all, and be safe out there.