I had been preparing for the trip for quite some time. My bow was tuned and equipped with a brand new sight. I was deadly out to 90 yards. I must admit that it was hard to get too excited with the extremely warm temperatures, but I figured that once I finally got in the blind, the inner hunter who had been sleeping inside of me for the last several months would wake up and be ready for action. As the pronghorn hunt drew near, I could feel him grow restless.
I have bow hunted many animals in many states, but had never tried my hand at pronghorn. I had watched several television shows where they were hunted, and after a generous invitation from my friend, I decided that I was up to the challenge of hunting Antelope. Although my knowledge was limited, my determination was high.
I carefully packed my clothing, golf clubs, and bowhunting gear and headed to the airport for an early morning departure. When my wife dropped me off, I gave her a kiss goodbye as she wished me luck and drove off into the early morning light. I was now a man on a mission. Just a few short hours later, the 700 series airplane touched down on the runway in the mile high city. The plan was for my friend to pick me up in Denver and then drive me to his house 4.5 hours away in Wyoming. I had never even been to Wyoming so I was looking forward to the drive. The trip was nice, but not at all what I expected. We were mainly driving through sage covered hills, and I was expecting giant mountains. However, I noticed right away that Pronghorn must love sage because they were everywhere. My friend taught me what to look for in a trophy as I peered through binoculars for much of the trip.
Once we arrived at his house, I visited with his wife and one of the best dogs I have ever trained (Jake). We quickly caught up on the latest happenings in our lives and my friend and I headed to my pre set ground blind. I had sent him home with two ground blinds earlier in the year so that he could set them up early to allow time for the antelope to get accustomed to them. I was thinking they would be set up two to three weeks in advance, but that is not what happened. In fact they were only set up a few days before my arrival. When I found this out, I was worried that the blind might spook the bigger bucks. Once we pulled into the water hole that I was hunting, I became even more concerned. There was absolutely zero cover over 8 inches tall in the entire area, and my blind stuck out like a sore thumb. Oh well, I figured I needed to stay positive and make the best of it.
One great thing about hunting antelope over a water hole is that you don’t necessarily have to hunt at dawn. They come in and out of the water hole all day long. Not being a great early riser, this fit my schedule perfectly. I woke up at 730 the next morning to a light tap on the door telling me breakfast was ready. The house was filled with the smell of fresh cooked bacon. I was elated. There is no better way to wake up for a day long hunt.
After the feast, my friend drove me to my blind and the hunt began. I was barely settled in when to my surprise a few antelope does began to filter down to the water. This was getting exciting. All day long I saw bucks and does in the area. I think I saw fifty to sixty total. My blind was about fifteen yards from the waters edge which meant that it was 45 yards to the other side of the pond. This was a bit farther than I was comfortable shooting at such a nervous animal. Several does actually made it to the water but the mature bucks were wary and stayed just out of range. I could tell they were very concerned with my out of place blind. I wished it had been put out sooner but we would learn that lesson for next year. I began to wonder if I would ever get a shot. Ten long hours later, my buddy drove in to pick me up. I had a great time and saw plenty of animals but never had a shot.
My friends are awesome, and I had the same wakeup call the next morning. I had stayed up during the night thinking about my next move and decided to put the blind right on the waters edge. This would make my longest shot across 30 yards and I figured with the lack of water in the area, they had to drink eventually. Now that the blind was repositioned, I had a new bit of confidence. The antelope didn’t disappoint. Neither did the cows.
Minutes into my hunt, I was surrounded by exactly 42 cows of all shapes, sizes, and demeanors. I even had a grumpy bull who weighed in at about 2000 pounds. I didn’t mind him being around until he rubbed against my ground blind and stuck his face to my window screen. He let out the nastiest sounding bellow and I could tell he wanted me to know he was boss. I braced myself preparing for him to trample the blind, but The Lord was with me and the bull eventually walked away. I was not happy about all of these cows but I was in cattle country. Wyoming is a free range state and it is pretty much run by the ranchers. Even though I was hunting in public ground, the rancher had the right to graze his cows and he would not be happy if an out of state hunter interfered. I kept thinking that the Marlboro man would ride up on a horse in any minute.
The cows hung around all day and even though they spooked a few skittish antelope, they eventually helped my cause. Several of them gathered right next to my blind and some even licked on it. This seemed to make my blind invisible to the antelope. The next great things the cows did was to cover up 75% of the pond. The only part they left open for anything else to drink was the area immediately to my front left which was all well within range.
Finally a nice buck ventured to the waters edge. I drew back my bow and gently squeezed the trigger. Much to my disappointment, the arrow missed by several feet and appeared to be fling sideways. I had chosen to shoot through the screen mesh on the window, and this proved to be a poor choice. My mechanical broadhead opened prematurely and the result was a clean miss. The Buck spooked and eventually walked out of sight. What a bummer. Close to 17 hours in the blind and then I made a rookie mistake. I knew better. Never shoot any mechanical through the mesh. I was so bummed out but decided not to let it get me down for long. Maybe I’d have another chance. Maybe he’d come back. I’m sure he wanted a drink or he wouldn’t have been here to begin with.
I rearranged the windows by taking off the mesh and closing all but a few. Antelope have incredible vision. In fact I was told that their normal eyesight is like looking through a 10x pair of binoculars. If they see movement in the blind they will bolt. I knew this and it is exactly whey I left the mesh up previously. However, there was now no other option.
As I waited patiently, nature called. I had to go to the bath room. My stomach was growling and we were entering emergency status. As I unzipped the back door of the blind to make a quick exit, I saw two bucks laying down about 100 yards away. One was the buck I had previously missed. I zipped the door back and decided there was no way I was going to spook them. They wanted to drink badly and were probably going to come in as soon as they saw a doe drink safely. The problem is …… I still had a serious issue and was about to explode. What did I do??? Did I simply hold it? Did I go to the restroom in the corner of my blind? Let’s suffice it to say I’m leaving the details of that to your imagination. All that I can say for certain is that I am a hardcore bow hunter, and I was on a mission to kill. I wasn’t going to ruin my chances after what was now going on 20 hours of hunting.
My persistence paid off. The buck must have gotten too thirsty. As soon as a few does made their way to the water, he was close behind. He entered the pond and my sight at the only place the cows left open. As he slowly walked past, I tucked into a corner of the blind and drew back my bow. I eased my bow into the window, picked a spot, calmly squeezed the trigger of my release, and the rest is history! I finally had my trophy and a great story to go along with it.
I gave thanks to The Lord of the harvest as I always do. God had truly blessed me. Not only with a great hunt but with some great friends. I took my antelope on day two of a six day trip. We were able to spend the other four days exploring the mountains, training with Jake, and we even managed to get in a few holes of golf. The cool temperatures were a great break from the Texas heat, and I must say that this was one of my best hunting trips ever. Remember that life is short and we aren’t promised tomorrow. Time spent with family and friends in the great outdoors is time well spent. What are you waiting on??? Take an adventure of your own. May God bless you.
Brian Johnson (www.duckdogtrainer.com.)