Driving down the canyon leading into town I stared anxiously at the clock. I had to get to the hardware store before six to pick up my habitat stamp. It was August 14th, the day before the antelope opener. With five minutes to spare I pulled into the parking lot where Alec was waiting on a bench in front of his motorcycle. An hour later Harrison and Jared met up with us, and we tore out of town towards our campground 20 minutes away.
The hunt was planned by Harrison in the spring after he discovered that for under $100 we could hunt the Wyoming antelope doe/fawn season. On top of the fact the hunt fit into our limited budgets, the season started early enough that both Harrison and Jared could hunt for five days before heading back to college. I graduated in May and had quit my job a week prior in preparation for elk season on the 25th. Alec is a couple years older than us and was on a solo motorcycle trip across the west when he joined up to help film and set up hunts.
“There they are.” Harrison was pointing up on the hill to the left as we drove down the highway. “Where?” “Up on the ridge.” “Where?” the rest of us repeated. Finally three of us found them in our binoculars, and we set up our first stalk. Jared and I weaved between sagebrush and cactus up towards the ridge. As we neared the top I crept around a juniper expecting to see an antelope 25 yards down the slope. Instead, above me I found a mule deer with a staring problem. As I looked behind her for antelope I realised that what we had believed to be antelope were a combination of light and darker colored mule deer. The excitement of the first morning may have made them look a little different through binoculars.
Over the course of the next few days we slowly improved our strategies and spotting abilities. As whitetail hunters our habits and skills seemed counterproductive at times. Through trial and error we began to understand antelope better and better. Instead of army crawling across cactus filled expanses, we focused on antelope in areas with thick cover closer to the road. Then, by judging the direction they were traveling, we would drive a mile down the road and attempt to intercept them with a short stalk. Cutting the distance from 80 to 50 yards created our greatest challenge. Antelope have excellent eyesight and easily trot out of range at the slightest movement. But the area held hundreds of antelope that provided us with a perfect training ground. We knew if we attempted enough stalks one of us was bound to get lucky.
In the end Harrison and I both were able to take an antelope with a rifle and Jared with his bow. In the evening we filled up on antelope backstrap and ramen noodles. Name a more iconic duo. I’ll wait. Thanks, Stu.