The time has come. The season is here. Finally, we can begin to tell stories that are all about adventures in the great outdoors and pursuits of the wild animals that call it home. These are the best stories. These are the stories that carry us through the rest of the seasons. I live for these stories and the inspiration I find in them.
For months I had been anxiously waiting for our first big trip of the year, antelope camp. No matter how much planning you put into something, the unexpected can always turn your plans upside down and toss you in a completely different direction. For me the unexpected was the sudden downturn of my great grandmothers health leading to a very short expectancy of life. She was 99 years old and the whole family was excitedly planning her 100th birthday party. She had lived an amazing life and lived it to the max. Without knowing the exact time frame of her death I was unable to plan on our antelope trip and the rest of the group had to continue the process without me. When the day came for the group to hit the road I was busying myself around the house and trying to distract myself from the overwhelming need to get out into fresh air for a little help from the great outdoors in relieving my growing stress level. Sometimes hunting is the best kind of therapy. At literally the last hour before they guys were set to leave I had a completely unexpected blessing and someone stepped in to fill the gap that kept me from being able to go on the trip. It was a little hard to adjust mentally when I went from not going to getting to go, not to mention packing, with only an hour to get it all together. I welcomed the challenge and when the truck hit the road I was in it. It felt surreal and I was so thankful for the opportunity.
The gorgeous prairie country, that the antelope we pursue choose to call their home, lies in an area about 4 hours from us and tucked up into the high mountains. We looked like a convoy as we headed out across the big sky country. There were six of us in the group and 4 of us had drawn doe tags and the other 2 had buck tags. We knew that the best time to be out there was opening morning, hence our determination to set up camp the night before. We found a good campsite with a cold clear stream running right through it at the base of some gnarly rock faces. The setting was beautiful and resting that night to the perfect sound of a bubbling stream produced some amazing sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night enjoying that comforting sound and growing cold. A quick lighting of a Mr. Buddy heater soon fixed that problem and I was again fast asleep. We woke way before dawn and had coffee, an essential for function in our camp, then loaded up and headed toward the open prairie by the time the first streaks of rose were just cresting the rocky cliffs.
We ended up in a spot that yielded a lot of luck last season. It was the same area where I had taken my antelope buck the year before. The way the hills were formed around this area acted like a funnel and when the antelope started to move on opening day they seemed to use this area as a corridor. We decided to split up into two groups here. My husband and I stayed with his cousin, one of the hunters with a buck tag, and started to get set up to glass. At this point I realized I had left my camera back in camp. I went back to get it and as I was returning, a small herd of antelope ran directly in front of me and onto public land. I immediately got out my rangefinder and started looking for an opportunity to get on them. Antelope are fast and before long they were way out of my range. They had their eyes on me every time they stopped, leaving me no opportunity to close the distance without pushing them further away. Luckily, they were heading in a direction close to where Tristan and Rolin were set up. I decided to abandon getting a shot myself and instead waited to see if Rolin and Tristan would get an opportunity. As I watched them in my binoculars I saw a buck fall from the group and then I heard the report of Rolin shooting Tristan’s rifle. I was so excited. It all happened so fast and at the break of light on opening day! Even more exciting was the fact that this was Rolin’s first antelope ever and he made the shot at 583 yards thanks to a Vortex Viper PST. The first hunts are always the best hunts. We headed up to the buck while keeping an eye on the herd. Things always happen quickly when you are antelope hunting and as fast as they leave they can be back on top of you again. We made quick work of photos, gutting and quartering. Then we packed everything back to the truck and headed out to see what the other half of our group was encountering. To be continued…