Wyoming, 2009, DIY, Public Land
We knew he looked really massive despite the heat waves that blurred our view through the spotting scope. We wanted a closer look, but the problem was we would have to low-crawl over a mile to keep from busting all of the antelope out of the valley between him and us. Beneath the clear blue skies and sweltering midday heat, we started closing the distance.
After 30 minutes of serpentine movements through the sand and sage, we knew we had to be close. Slowly working the cramps out of my shoulders and neck, I peered out of the gully to find the buck 162 yards away with a bedded doe. I was sure he was a big buck, but I was having a hard time deciphering just how big due to the glimmer on his horns from the intense sun rays. I crawled down and had my dad take a look. He said, “If you don’t shoot him right now, I will!” I knew by his tone that it was in fact Big Boy…
Challenge – defined by Google as “a demanding or stimulating situation”. At 34 years of age, I find myself looking for exactly that when I go on a hunt. Gone are the days of going out and just filling tags. The camaraderie of hunting with family and friends and the thrill of the chase will never fade regardless of how high I set my goals. After my first 11 years as a rifle hunter, challenge is what led me into hunting with my muzzleloader and bow for the past nine years. Challenge is also what has raised the bar in the size of animals I attempt to take each season.
Pronghorn have always been one of my favorite big game animals to hunt. Rare is the day you don’t see animals, but it is their speed, amazing eyesight, and open country they call home that makes them a very worthy opponent.
The last buck I had taken with my muzzleloader in this unit in 2006 scored 81-2/8 B&C, just narrowly missing the 82 minimum for inclusion into the all-time B&C records book. Taking nothing away from that majestic buck, this year what I really wanted was an 85-class buck, and I was willing to hunt until the end without pulling the trigger if that’s what it took.
My uncle, dad, and wife also held tags for this hunt. My dad had been chasing them with a bow earlier in the hunt, and we had hopes that he would have some good bucks located. Since my wife and I would not be there until the day before firearms season, we relied heavily on his field work. By the time archery season was over, he had identified six bucks that he felt for sure would score between 80- 85 and another few that were potentially 80-inch bucks. Of these, there were three that we would concentrate on; we nicknamed them “Tall Boy”, “One Prong”, and “Big Boy”.
When we arrived, we drove out to the BLM areas. Amazingly, we were able to locate all three bucks, along with memorizing and judging their horns. At an estimated 17 inches, Tall-Boy was the tallest antelope I had ever seen and I enjoyed watching him through the scope. I was also able to take some great still shots of him. As impressive as Tall- Boy was, I was in pure awe of the mass, prongs, and symmetry of Big Boy. With the naked eye you could see how much he outclassed all other bucks around him.
For a full account of Eric's adventure, go to page 22 in the June/July 2010 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.