topher

In August I went to Wyoming with my father-in-law and his friend Vern to hunt antelope. I have a photo gallery at the bottom of this post.

It was a tremendous experience, with almost everything being something I’ve never done before. It was a 24 hour drive each way, and I drove about 75% of it.

The place we hunted is in the north-east corner of Wyoming, a couple hours south of Gillette. It’s considered high desert. We didn’t see any snakes, scorpions or spiders, but the ground was all dry and cracked everywhere. There was quite a bit of cactus, but it was all low to the ground. We all wore heavy boots and paid no attention to it though. Some of the guys used the stalk method and spent time on their knees, and they wore knee pads.

The first couple days were about 105 degrees. We were mostly bundled up in camo clothes, so it was really hot. We sent the middle of those days under the tent cover in shorts. Speaking of tents, we stayed in the nicest most elaborate camp I’ve ever seen. Our sleeping tent was 18×24 feet and I couldn’t touch the ceiling. We had cots in there with warm sleeping bags. It got down to about 50 each night.

Right outside the sleeping tent was a steel frame about the same size with a giant blue tarp over it. Under there we had the coolers, the stove, a table, and some lounge chairs. We spent the hot parts of the days under that “tent”.

The wind blew almost all the time, and it was about 20-30 mph. Occasionally it would stop, very suddenly. The it would start again very suddenly. There was rarely any rising and falling of the breeze. It was on and off. One evening about supper time/dark we had a storm of sorts. It spat some rain and the wind got up to about 50mph. We quickly carried the stove inside the main tent (and had slightly crunchy steaks later) and the blue tarp partly ripped off the tent. It was pretty exciting for a while.

I spent all my hunting time sitting someplace, waiting for an antelope to come to me, with the exception of one stalk at the end of one day. There was a wash that meandered through our hunting range. A wash is the place the water runs when there’s a lot of rain. In the low spots the water pools, and all the animals use those to drink. I sat near two different water spots while there. The first one was a bust, but from where I was I could see where they were actually going, so I moved over there later in the week.

Crossbow
The spot I settled on in the end was in the outside curve of a wash, so there was a vertical “cliff” about 3 feet tall, and I sat with my back to it. In the morning it was kind of miserable, because the sun was in my eyes, it was warm, and when the antelope came over the ridge in front of me they could see me easily. In the afternoon and evening however, it was reversed. The sun was in their eyes and I got shade a lot earlier than other places. I sat there a total of three days, and I read all of Liar’s Oath by Elizabeth Moon. I got ragged on a little for reading while hunting, but I did a good job keeping my eyes open, and it helped a great deal in keeping me very still.

My second day in my spot, in the morning, I saw a doe and fawn come over the ridge in front of me, and go down to the water. I’d like to point out that this late in the season all the “fawns” were able to be on their own. I moved slightly to my right behind a rise and came up over it o see them moving away. I aimed my crossbow carefully and let fly, and missed. I went over and pulled my arrow out of the dirt and went back to sit. When I went back for lunch I learned that a rancher’s wife had driven out there to say we’d wounded one, and she had blood all over her backside. Since I was the only one to even shoot, it had to be me. We looked the arrow over very very carefully and found just the tiniest bit of blood on the fletch, so we figured I scraped her butt. They have white butts, so any blood at all would stand right out.

Curious Cows
That afternoon I went back to my spot and sat. At about 4pm the cows came to get their water. The cows out there are mostly wild. The run free all year, and get rounded up once a year. They don’t put fences up to keep cows in, they put them around places to keep cows out. This means cows have the right-of-way on the road. The cows came every day, and acted normally until they saw me, and then they would all stop and stare at me, often for hours at a time.

At about 6pm I heard a snort behind me and looked up over my left shoulder and there were three antelope 3-4 feet from me. They moved off to my left, but didn’t actually run away, they were just trying to see what I was. A doe was climbing a small hill and I put my sites on her front leg, hoping by the time the arrow got there it would take her right behind her leg, in the heart.

I squeezed the trigger, heard a thump and they all ran away. I saw my arrow flipping high into the air above where she was. I jumped up and run up there to see where they were going. Two were headed for Michigan, and were almost over the horizon in the seconds it took me to get up the small hill. One ran a different way, around another hill. I didn’t find any blood on the ground, but when I found my arrow it was covered in blood from end to end. I got on the radio and said “Ok boys, I got one for real this time”, and they all started moving my direction.

My father-in-law was to the south of me about a quarter mile, and got over to me pretty quickly. Everyone else was back at camp, and started toward me on the road in the truck. I was about 400 yards from the road (where road == tire tracks with less cactus in them than anywhere else). We started casting around for a blood trail when the guys in the truck said on the radio “You can stop looking for her, she’s lying right here in the road”. I have no idea what made her run there, but it couldn’t have been more perfect. Below is a picture of me and the guys, from the left, the shadow is Alex, then my father-in-law, me, Chris, and Vern. Chris lives out there, and Alex is his nephew from MI.

Joe, Topher, Chris, Vern, Antelope

There are many many more stories to tell, like the dog poo under the restaurant table on the way out there, the stars at night, the moose in the highlands, etc, but this post is long enough.

Here are some more pictures:

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