Antelope Spot & Stalk - Sam Strikes Twice
Wyoming has many great hunting opportunities for both residents and non-residents. However, if it is a youth hunt you’re looking for then an antelope hunt is almost ideal. Wyoming has more antelope than any other Western state... by far. When hunting, it is common to spot and stalk antelope continuously the entire day. And since antelope are out in the open, there is little advantage to getting into the field too early. So sleeping until 7am and eating a good breakfast before heading out is the norm. Add all of these factors together and you have the makings for a great youth hunt!
Wyoming has a point system for drawing tags, like many other states. However, Wyoming has several different draws for tags from “any antelope” tags to reduced cost doe and fawn tags. It is the doe and fawn tags that fit well with a low budget hunt. These reduced cost tags can be drawn without the need for points, and drawing them won’t affect your points for other tags. They’re also cheap, $19 for a non-resident youth tag and $34 for an non-resident adult. With the opportunity to purchase up to four reduced cost tags for each hunter, your low budget hunt can also bring home a lot of meat to fill your freezer.
This was Sam’s first antelope hunt in 2011. He just turned 12 earlier in the year and is now able to obtain his own tags for big game hunting in Wyoming. Although we could have purchased 4 tags for him, we decided to get him 2 for this first year. Due to the distance of our preferred unit just West of Casper, we were planning on spending 3 days for our antelope hunt this year and would be able to go only this one time. Two tags for Sam seemed like plenty for a 3 day hunt.
We drove up Thursday afternoon and made camp at Pathfinder Reservoir that evening. The drive and set up were relaxed, but the kids were definitely anxious and anticipated a fun hunt beginning in only a few more hours. I don’t know how well the kids slept, but the adults didn’t bother to set an alarm clock, we simply slept until we awoke Friday morning. (You have got to love antelope hunting for this reason alone!)
After breakfast and coffee, we packed up, threw our gear into the truck and set out to find some antelope. It didn’t take long to find them, they are literally everywhere. In almost any direction you look, you can see antelope among the scrub brush and flat, rolling hills. After driving only a few minutes, we stopped the truck and began to strategize our next moves.
We chased antelope, stalked antelope, and even tried to ambush antelope the entire morning. It was fun, action filled, hunting. But, no shooting opportunities for Sam. We had purchased Sam a new rifle earlier in the spring and had practiced with it many times over the summer. And although Sam was a confident shooter, we had discussed our comfort with shooting at distance and decided we’d try to find animals within 150 yards for our shots. This first morning, we had not had any antelope within this distance. Our closest encounter was a doe and fawn at 267 yards. A little too far for a good shot for Sam.
We returned to the truck, ate some lunch and decided to drive a short 10 miles to another area we had been successful in previous years. We could see antelope about 600 yards away as we approached this area on the ridge across a steep, but small, ravine. We parked the truck and assembled ourselves for the next spot and stalk adventure. We hadn’t gone 10 yards from the truck when a buck, doe and a fawn suddenly appeared in the bottom of the small ravine about 80 yards below us. Sam wasted no time, took a knee and fired within seconds. His shot was placed directly into the front shoulder of the lead doe. She dropped immediately and the buck and fawn ran down the ravine and up the other side.
After the high 5’s and hugs, we quickly dressed, quartered and packed his first antelope back to the waiting ice chest in the truck. The others in our group did a quick hike to the opposite ridge to determine if there were other antelope still in the area. They returned after awhile with the suggestion we again move on to our next planned hunting area.
We arrived at our third hunting area at about 4:30pm that afternoon and immediately spotted our next group of antelope to stalk. This group consisted of 4 does, a fawn, and a very nice buck. Since this hunt was about getting good shooting opportunities for our younger hunters, we decided to split into 3 father son teams and approach the group of antelope on both ends of the mesa with the third team pushing directly at the group from a small draw that led up to the top of the mesa. Since Sam had already been successful this day, we took the role of pushing directly at the antelope trying to push them to one of the other young hunters waiting on either end of the mesa.
With our plan in place, we left the truck and carefully hiked about a half mile to the top of the small draw. Within our sight, at about 200 yards, we could see only the head of the nice buck above the brush. We stayed low, crawling on our hands and knees, carefully avoiding the prickly pear cactus doing our best to close the distance as much as possible. Suddenly, the antelope came into view one by one. They weren’t spooked, but they are moving at a fast walk across the horizon from right to left. The jig was up, somehow the antelope knew something wasn’t right and were on the move. Sam and I immediately straightened up on one knee. I quickly ranged the lead doe, 165 yards. I wasn’t planning on Sam taking a shot at these antelope, especially on the move and now picking up a little speed. I’m watching the group now running at a slow gait through my binoculars when, BLAM, Sam takes a shot about 6 feet to my side. I jump slightly at the blast, but am still watching through my binoculars. To my surprise, the second doe in line hits the deck...thwack. I announce the hit to Sam, who responds, “No, I missed.” “Missed?”, I reply with a rhetorical question. “The second doe was hit hard. I can still see her on the ground.”
I begin to congratulate Sam on a fine shot, how impressed I was at his confidence. I wasn’t going to tell him to get ready for a shot on these antelope because I thought they were moving too quickly. But he had a good broadside target with a good backdrop providing a safe shooting opportunity. After finishing my congratulations and reservations, Sam looks straight at me and says, “but I was shooting at the lead doe.”
Well, tough shot just turned into a great learning opportunity. Besides being extremely lucky, I tell him, you need to understand running shots are poor shots for this very reason. The fact that he bagged his second antelope on the first day didn’t get lost in the learning opportunity though--still lots of smiles, hugs and high five’s.
A great hunt that finished almost as quickly as it began for Sam. We might have to get him some more tags next year so he can hunt a couple more days. That and another freezer wouldn’t hurt either.