Public Land Wyoming Antelope

(by Carl Wilson)

We set camp in the dark. Our first-choice spot had not panned out and as a result
we drove a bit further and later than we had anticipated. Such is Public Land hunting. When my hunting partner Phil moved to Wyoming in 2019, on a whim I put in for an antelope tag. That I had not a single preference point did not discourage me in the least. But I must admit surprise when I drew the tag.

The plan was for Phil, who would be a resident by October, to buy a left-over tagin the same unit. But the best laid plans of mice and men being what they are, there were no left-over tags to be had. Phil insisted he would act as camp-host and “guide” and accompany me anyway. I have never hunted antelope before, but I just knew I had a sweet antelope rifle with my .257 Roberts. Reading Boddington’s “Perfect Shot North America” convinced me otherwise. In it he details poor shots due to wind and yardage from any of the .25 caliber cartridges, and as a result, he now believes the best antelope cartridges to be the fast 6.5’s, the 270’s, and the 7mm’s. He’s been hunting antelope virtually every year for 50 years, so I deferred to his expertise.

I brought along my stainless/synthetic Winchester Model 70 Classic chambered in
7mm Remington Magnum. Not that the diminutive antelope require a heavy bullet, but I like the 160-175 grain projectiles in this rig, and I had some 162 grain Hornady SSTs over IMR 4831 hand-loads ready to go. I brought along a tripod and spotting scope as well as a butt-pad for sitting on while glassing.

Using OnX, we identified a sliver of BLM land that adjoined state land which had a water source on it. Our plan was to side-hill along the canyon towards the water, and sit and glass. I could reach out pretty far with Remington’s Big 7 and with the extra set of eyes spotting for me, I felt pretty confident in finding a shooter. Although this was my first antelope hunt, the criteria I apply for all my hunts, applied here too: 1) enjoy the adventure, 2) fill a tag and freezer, and 3) consider horns and antlers last. Love me an adventure!

Back in camp, we rose in the early-inky-darkness. After coffee and a bite, we
hitched our packs and started out to execute the hunt plan. We were barely
thirty-minutes into our hike when Phil spotted a buck and a few does sky-lining
the ridge in front of us at 633 yards. We hunkered down and they obliviously fed
to the right, and then dropped over the ridge out of sight. The wind was unfriendly, blowing directly at our backs towards the ridge. We skirted across the valley floor, and started creeping up towards the ridge top. Some 30-40 minutes had elapsed since we first spotted the antelope when we crested the ridge.

We low-crawled along and cut the herd’s tracks, still traveling to the right as they
were earlier, while losing elevation. Keeping an eye on the distant hillside as we
crept along, we continued to attempt to predict the herd’s movement and by
now, the wind was an ally and blowing in our faces. The main ridge broke into a series of fingers and ravines which extended to the valley floor. We traversed them perpendicularly, about a third up from the floor, heading back towards the general direction of camp. Belly crawling over each finger while continuing to scan for antelope, we finally caught a glimpse of a doe.

She seemed to see us—or the movement anyway—but quickly returned to
feeding, unconcerned. As she fed behind a bush, we finished our belly crawl into
the ravine. I shed my pack and crawled up the ravine side, nothing. We continued
up and over the fingers, belly-crawling and sneaking looks through the brush.
Finally, while peering between two bushes, the buck spotted and stared at me.
Phil had not crested, but was to my side with my short shooting sticks which he
pushed towards me. I was able to raise slightly to clear the brush, as the buck
continued to watch, and squeeze off a shot.

He was slightly quartering away, and while my entrance wound was a clean lung
hit, the exit wound broke through the scapula, causing a little meat loss. The SST
punched through with such devastating energy transfer, that the buck dropped in
his tracks. I immediately chambered another round, but he was down for the
count. Phil went back for my pack while I continued on to the downed buck. Simply
beautiful. After photos and tagging, we started skinning the buck in preparation
for the gutless technique, breaking down the buck onto my Tyvek tarp. Once the buck had been disassembled and his wobbly bits had cooled, into the game bags he went.

My self-imposed Boxes had all been checked; a fantastic adventure, meat in the
freezer, beautiful European mount. Complete success! It was a short hunt, but it was definitely a hunt. A spot and stalk from an initial 633 yards, to a shot at 94 yards. As it turned out, that little .257 Roberts would indeed have been perfect yet I have no regrets for having brought too much gun.

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