This is a story about a very lucky lady who has drawn 2 of 3 big game special hunt tags available to a person in California. Heather drew an elk tag back in 2008 and this time she drew the antelope tag.
All that’s left is the California Big Horn Sheep tag, and knowing her, I better start getting in shape now. Besides that, she has been on 3 special deer hunt draws and has taken two very nice mule deer.
I was checking the California draw results, and nothing for me, next I check Heather’s and sure enough she gets drawn for the Antelope hunt. Unbelievable. My hunting partner, Chris, just happens to live in the hunt zone, so we had a place to stay. To get her ready and myself ready for Wyoming and Montana, we made several trips to the range. She was shooting the center out of her 30:06 at 100 yards and staying in the black at 200 yards. She was ready.
It was time for the trip 8 hour drive and were in town around 4:00 pm, still time to do a little scouting before we met up with Chris. Just about sunset, we see our first antelope, 1 nice buck and 2 does, we were now ready to find Chris and have a nice dinner. We still had another day to scout, so the 3 of us were up at 5:00 and on the road. The first area we checked had a really nice 14 plus inch buck with about 20 does, looking good. Next, we went to an area that was recommended to Chris by some fellow workers. When we arrived at our turn off, the left side of the road was private property and there was one of the biggest antelope bucks any of us had ever seen. We worked our way down the road, which was intertwined with BLM land and private property; studying the map to make sure we knew what was open and what was private.
By the time we made the run, we had seen two more good bucks on BLM land and at least 4 more on private land. That was three really good shooters on open land. We all looked at each other and said that was enough of this looking stuff and took the rest of the day off.
The opening bell was almost here, 4:30 am, drinking coffee and getting ready for the hunt. There were 4 of us now, as Chris’ daughter joined up with the group. We made our way to the area where we had seen the first nice buck yesterday, and nobody was home. That was not good. We looked and looked and looked again, no go. So we head up the road to plan B. We make it to where we saw a very nice buck and there was a good buck with a group of about 20 does. Heather and Chris make a hunt and I stay with Christiana to film and watch. We watch them get to within a hundred yards, when the antelope start making their way to private property. Round 1.
The next hunt started when we see this beautiful heart shaped buck with two does. Not an extremely large buck, but a very nice buck that Heather really wanted. She makes her way to within a hundred yards of the unaware animals and gets herself ready for the shot. We watch in anticipation of the roar from her 30:06, we hear the shot and watch her heart shape buck run away with his 2 ladies. Round 2.
We were heading back through the area that we saw the first group; when all of a sudden we see a single antelope buck just walking around in this very large sage brush area. Not a monster but a very reasonable buck. Heather decided she wants to make another try, so off she goes, with only the ammo in her rifle. We watch as she gets to within a 100 yards of this buck, and see her shoot 4 times, which was all the ammo she had. I got an extra clip and start walking to her as the antelope worked farther away from us. By the time we met, the antelope made it out of the valley. Round 3.
After this hunt, we continued to work our way back to the main road, when we see the largest antelope buck every. He had to be at least 16 inches and as thick as my wrist. Heather hurries out of the truck, loads up and makes her way after the buck. He was in some small sage bush, which appeared impossible to get away. She makes it up the little hill and he vanished into thin air. It was almost impossible for the buck to disappear, but he was nowhere to be found. He had almost a mile or more of open Sage County to cover, and none of us could find him. We ended up calling him the vanishing buck. Round 4.
Getting a little frustrated, we were heading home for a lunch, when we pass the area where we spotted a nice buck the day before and there he was. He was about 200 yards out at the edge of the lake with no way to get closer. Heather decides to pass on the opportunity and we continue to the house for lunch. Round 5.
After a nice break, we head back to the mountains for the afternoon hunt. Again we pass the lake, and this time we see two smaller bucks in an area that was open to the public. Heather and I make a stalk on the bucks. We get within a hundred yards, set up and the bigger buck makes a charge at us, stops, looks at us and runs back to the smaller buck. He stands there for a second, makes another charge to us, stops for just a second and then charges right past us. It was so funny that we just had to watch and did not even think about shooting. Round 6.
We get ready to go back to the truck and see that the big buck from this morning was up and moving. This gave us a chance to try and cut him off before he made it to private property. We started our stalk down the fence line and were about 200 yards to where there had been crossing the fence, when it became a foot race between us and the big buck. It is not easy trying to out run an antelope. Big buck won. Round 7.
To start the afternoon hunt, we made our way to the morning area, to find the area empty of antelope. We decided to check another area for the last hunt of the day. We finally get to the area and take this old dirt road that gets us to on old lake bed just before dark. As we run out of road, we see a buck and two does at the other end of the lake. Heather decides to take one last hike to see if she can get within range before dark. It seems that each time she was close enough to try and get ready for a shot, the buck would move away. This went on until it was too dark to make a shot. End of day one. Round 8.
After a good night's rest and a little teasing from all of us, Heather was ready to get the job done and get back to college for her Junior year, which started the next day. She had to be at school by 9:00 am, on Monday. With all the excitement from yesterday, we decided to work our way through the area backwards. We reached the cutoff road and started to work our way down this old dirt road. We may have been on the road for about 5 minutes, when we saw the same heart shape buck that she missed yesterday, feeding with two does. She quickly gets ready for the stalk and makes about a hundred yards sneak, gets into a shooting position and makes the perfect shot. It turned out to be a very respectable heart shape buck. Game over.