South Dakota Bison Hunt

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When I was in college, I was a student in a program; a field course. It was an experimental type of class designed to see how students learned the sciences in field situations in an effort to make teaching more productive. As this program evolved over the years, it changed. It eventually became a class emphasizing on teaching a new type of lifestyle. By teaching these students about sustainable land use, conservation ethics and urban development, we could in fact; produce workers educated enough to deal with our modern day dilemmas.

Over the course of time, the students now annually witness a bison slaughter and must take part in the harvest effort. I was fortunate enough to be able to kill this bison in 2010. It was a great experience for me, and I was able to accomplish my goal of making the situation as efficient and clean as possible.

Immediately when presented with the opportunity, I realized that if the killing of this animal was botched, and 30 liberal, un-educated and irresponsible young people were to see such a distasteful sight; then, in fact, we would just produce 30 anti-hunters.

I arrived in Camp Crook, South Dakota at a ranch owned by a man who I unfortunately did not have the opportunity to meet. His name was Mike Thiel. I did, however meet one of his ranch hands, Tyler. I spoke with Tyler about my goal of making the process as quick and quiet as possible, and he agreed to help me in the efficiency of the undertaking.

When I awoke in the morning to meet with the crew and the mob of students, I was greeted by an old friend who asked me if it would be all right if someone else took the shot. I agreed, as the whole operation was put together by them in the first place.

The man who was chosen to hunt down this buffalo chose to use a modern muzzle-loader. And by seeing this, decided to provide assistance with my rifle, nicknamed "Trouble" should he need it.

When we came upon the herd, they were already excited and in tight groups. Tyler, the ranch hand, pointed out the cow that we were meant to take. Finally, when it presented a shot, clean, broadside at 50 yards. POOF. A cloud of smoke filled our vision. When the gun smoke settled, the cow was unscathed.  After repositioning, the cow offered a second attempt, broadside at 65 yards, and POOF! Nothing yet again. Now, after much elapsed time, a third opportunity presented itself. At this time, after following the cow with his weapon over some distance, his nerves got the better of him and he let down and asked me to kill the young cow. Torn between trying to help him succeed in his attempt, and fulfilling my own desire, we discussed the situation briefly. I fired one shot, a 100 gr Hornady interlok .243 in diameter landed squarely in the last vertebrae at the base of the skull. Her lights went out, and she collapsed. It was over. Cleanly, and quietly.

I spent the rest of the day with the students and they received education on how to handle the meat, how to cut it, and how to skin. The students were broken up into groups some were skinners, and some were meat cutters. Even with all the help, at the end of the day, I was completely exhausted.


ManOfTheFall's picture

That definitely sounds like a

That definitely sounds like a college course I could get into. It sounds like you had a great time. Did you get to eat any of the meat. I've never had any buffalo meat but I have heard it is pretty good. Great story and nice pictures. 

groovy mike's picture

It sounds like you had a fantastic college curriculum!


Thanks for sharing the story and the photographs.  Photos really improve any story in my opinion.  It sounds like you had a fantastic college curriculum, and you are smart to have realized that you had the potential to create thirty liberal, un-educated anti-hunters if the bison harvest went down the wrong way.  It was a good call that you had a modern rifle for back up.  Did the muzzle loader not hit the whole bison broadside at 50 yards?  That is almost unbelievable!  Doing the right thing as far as giving the other shooter the opportunity to shoot first was an admirable thing to do.  That had to be difficult.  I’m glad you got the opportunity to shoot in the end.  I have found over the years that God very often will reward those who are unselfish, by giving them the very thing that they wanted to hold on to, but gave up in order to do the right thing.

I can’t imagine why anyone would select a modern muzzle-loader to harvest a bison.  It is neither a good technical choice for efficient killing power – like choosing something like a 300 Winchester magnum could be justified; nor does it have the historical reference of being a tool that was used on bison.  While I am glad that your 243 worked for you, it is not a cartridge that I would have selected either.  I suspect that you chose it for the sake of reducing the noise of the report for your fellow students but I think your 30-06 with a heavy for caliber bullet – say something ion the 180-225 grain range would have been a much better choice for large animal penetration.    That said – I would have had to have used something akin to the traditional 45-110, 45-90, or even 45-70 cartridge, or any of a variety of flintlock muskets with black-powder and a lead round ball if I were going to take a bison.

Someday I hope to get the opportunity to try it myself.

There is no arguing that  butchering a big animal is a big job.  Handling anything that size and getting it done in one day is a noteworthy accomplishment even with help.  It is exhausting work, there is no doubt about it.


hunter25's picture

Interesting story and I agree

Interesting story and I agree that you wisely made the right choice in being prepared to avoid a messy situation. Even if the shooter had finally connected it would have likely been a bad hit based on his previous shots. Like you said it does not take much to make an anti hunter out of a non hunter. Hopefully the well placed shot that you made will turn some of these kids in the other direction and give them a desire to learn more about hunting or just shooting in general.

Good job and wise choice. I hope to take a buffalo someday myself but hopefully in a more wild setting as I just began applying for the tag in Utah this year.