Wyoming, in my opinion, is the indisputable promise land for pronghorn antelope. In early June 2017, I was primarily focused on brief 3-photo images on my trail camera of a great whitetail buck. I focused a lot of energy on returning to check the camera every two weeks, completely overlooking my upcoming Wyoming Pronghorn tag. Then two days prior to archery season I rushed into my limited draw area to scout. It wasn’t a disappointment. A new area of the unit revealed some great mountain Pronghorn, but I decided to check some common stalking grounds a lot closer to home. A friend and I found a common Pronghorn overload in two of my locations, 3 or 4 smoking good bucks venturing into agricultural fields and more than we could count in the high rolling prairie.
The evening prior to opening day, I drove out to look at irrigated fields. The sky was already hazy from regional wildfires, but one bright white plume was distinctive! A quick phone call to the landowner proved bad; 6,000 acres were burning from a lightning strike in the rolling hills. I now focused on blending a blind into the farmland oasis. Setting the blind pre-dawn two days into season wasn’t my first choice, but I hoped it would pan out. As the sun rose, I glassed for antelope. Found them!! But, that wasn’t all I found… Sixteen portable potties, ribbons, and lathe sectioned out a maze at the adjacent property. I drove over to investigate and introduce myself. The roughly-dressed landowner joyfully exclaimed, “I’m setting an Eclipse man-camp! I have 50 parties coming in and the emails are still coming!” That explains the chartreuse poster board on a pallet that I saw on the way in. I said, “Please don’t tell them I’m hunting, or I’ll have to cross a star-gazer picket line!” After work I drove out to observe the antelope behavior and see the little boom town grow.
“Wyoming, in my opinion, is the indisputable promise land for pronghorn antelope.”
Saturday morning, I sat in the blind predawn. A windrower was cutting alfalfa a half mile to the north and a team of ranchers were picking round bales up one quarter mile to the south. A few antelope were in view, but not one of the four I had seen before. Now the man-camp of Eclipse star gazers was coming alive along with presumably pronghorn archers heading out to the hills. This prompted me to leave the blind after a three-hour sit to follow the archers to the high prairie. I had already seen a lot of antelope on the prior burn and in the tall greasewoods (tall sage/cedar type bush that is very unforgiving). Now a little after 9 a.m. many antelope were visible from the truck. I drove to my favorite moonscape that was divided by barren black, spotted with green cactus and unburnt prairie to the greasewood bottoms. What an advantage! I can see them even with my aging eyes! A short walk off the plateau revealed a bedded buck worth a closer look.
I returned to my truck for my 15 x 56’s, tripod, and BetheDecoy antelope head. Walking across the burn, the only vegetation exposed was singed cactus. What a hardship, I thought. When cresting the basin, the buck was up and walking toward the flood plains one half mile away. He and another buck hopscotched in 300-yard intervals to a cut bank with stagnant water pools throughout. Here I sat for two hours watching many small groups going to the water and return in many directions. But, the new target buck never committed to a drink. Staying several yards away from the cut bank, eventually his partner buck saw me from my side hill vantage point crouching into my tripod with my BeTheDecoy hat. He methodically sauntered towards my location. He gathered a doe and fawn in tow 200 to 300 yards behind. The target buck continued to hold his vigilance, but now 200 to 300 yards away from the cut bank.
“I was overwhelmed with emotion as I sat in disbelief of what just happened.”
For nearly three hours now, I had not moved more than 30 yards(ants in my pants,real ants) and never exposed my face from my seated tripod set up. Soon the lead buck was under 20 yards to my 2 o’clock position. Slightly bringing my eye out of the eyepiece, he was inside of anyone’s comfort zone. The doe and fawn were now 300 yards and coming toward me. The lead buck investigated now to my 8 o’clock, estimating about 40 yards away, and coughed at me scurrying up the hill. Although time seemed to zip by, it still was 20 minutes until the doe followed to my left. Now the target buck was about 500 yards and mentally fixed on the route taken by the others. Focusing on the buck, I was amazed to hear the doe urinate in the sandy soil to my left. With the prior antelope moved over the hill, and the buck quickened his pace to within 54 yards of my position. Busted! He saw my movement with the rangefinder! His irritable posture said, “Now or never!” Sliding my left hand down to my BT Mag riser and nocking an arrow, I rolled back onto my numb fanny. Amazingly drawing my long axle-to-axle Bowtech was unnoticeable. Slight quartering away, I held to offside shoulder at 46 yards. Draw, Anchor, 3rd PIN, Smash!! My arrow tipped with DirtNap DRT disappeared, then reappeared skipping across the desert floor. The death run was a tight 30-yard radius, then it was over. Every factor of my set up proved superior. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I sat in disbelief of what just happened….being spotted and then walking right towards me!
Returning to my truck to see a phone call from the landowner only moments prior, the message said, “Are you hunting the hills? Just checking because I’m worried about the hippies possibly starting another fire!” “No Sir, no fires just a downed antelope! “
Note to self..bring water…