For me antelope hunting is one of those hunts that you want to do every year. I'm a long ways from the nearest pronghorn here in Canada's East Coast. Yet, on this hot summer day as I sit in the shade of my back porch with two tired dogs lazily enjoying the slight breeze and scents of many shrubs in full bloom I'm stressing mildly. My work is done for the day. I've cleaned up from work and have a nice cut of moose backstrap thawing on the counter. The BBQ is ready. I should be content. Oddly , I find myself uneasy.....trying to figure out how to get back to Wyoming for another antelope bow hunt this season.
I let my mind drift back to last August's hunt at the Werner Ranch. I can't tell if that soothes my desire or only makes it grow stronger. I can almost smell and taste the wind and the dust. The smell of sage is wonderful in the blind, as is the group of antelope out on the distant horizon cautiously making their way to the small waterhole I'm sitting over.
The breeze is hot and unrelenting but welcome nonetheless. Perhaps 2 hours has gone by from when I first noticed the herd making its way towards the water. A few had already watered, mostly does and small bucks. One buck had me shift into position and assume the 3 fingers under grip on the Black Widow's string. I wasn't holding out for the biggest antelope on the ranch but my personal goal was to take one bigger than my last goat. I couldn't determine if the buck fit the bill, so I elected to let him water and move on. My heart was racing and sweat trickled down my back. If this was a dream, I didn't want to be woken up.
As the nice antelope scrambled up the grassy bank, I released my grip on the string. I cautiously looked around before putting the bow down. Seeing no more antelope I began shedding some clothing and reached into my pack for a drink of water. Nothing ever tasted so good in that 100* heat I can assure you.
Antelope hunting over water holes may not test you physically but sitting there all day in those temperatures will try your mental toughness. As the sun climbed higher and with it the temperatures in a blue cloudless sky, I peeled off more gear. Before long 200 bucks of the finest camo gear lay crumpled in the corner of the blind!
I noticed a few dark specks out on the horizon.
After a bit it was clear it was another group of antelope making their way towards the water. As they will often do, they came into about 300 yards and spent over an hour checking out the water for any danger. Another 30 minutes and they were at 150. From this distance I could see 2-3 shooter bucks.
Another agonizing 30 minutes had them at 50 yards. I determined that although one was bigger than the other two potential targets, I would take any of the 3.
After the brief check at 50 yards they must have decided all was safe and they proceeded directly to water. The does hit the waters edge first, followed closely by one of the 3 shooters. From 10 yards I could hear them sucking water. The first buck at the right spot seemed to be the smallest of the 3. I made him to be the same size as my buck from my previous visit. Another bigger buck was approaching so I opted to stand down on the buck at the water.
At times like this I tend to notice the small things. As the second buck slowly approached into shooting position I could see little dust explosions with each step he would take. I noticed flies crawling on his face. He looked dirty and dusty like he needed a bath. But above all, he looked magnificent. Antelope are a striking animal to behold.
He made waters edge and I was already drawing. I concentrated as if I was studying to take the BAR exam on a tiny spot on his dusty coat and let the string slip.
The shot looked good and he plowed through the water. He came out the other side already weak. He slowed, staggered, and went down within 60 seconds....I had the presence of mind to grab my camera and take a picture.
Below you can see him just before he goes down.
As I was watching the effects of a well placed arrow and doing that mental balancing act that all hunters must come to terms with, another buck popped into sight just as mine hit the grass.
My antelope had seen his last Wyoming sunrise and he wouldn't taste that pond water any longer, but I felt reassured knowing the population is high and the money I spent to the Wyoming Wildlife Division and to the landowner would only help to ensure these and future populations of antelope have a voice and a future in those wild lands.
And oh yeah, it felt incredibly primitive to take an antelope with a trad bow in my underwear. True story!
No worries though...I got dressed for the photos.