June/July 2011 EHJ (Issue 125)
Wyoming, DIY, Public Land
- "Vince! Hey, Vince! Wake up; it’s raining!” I glanced at the clock - 1 a.m. I managed to wiggle out of my sleeping bag, which isn’t easy to do in the front seat of a truck, and sat up straight. Still half asleep, I knew we had to hurry in order to get out before the road became impassible. It’s amazing how a little water can make a decent road a mud-flinging, late-night adventure. Finally, on safe ground, we remembered that in a mere three hours, we were supposed to be going after a big buck. It was time for plan B.
It began August 16, our first day of scouting. Over the years, my dad has been fortunate enough to have taken several high-quality bucks from this area, but hadn’t drawn the tag for 14 years. My dad’s stories of seeing and taking big bucks (including his 17-6/8”, 82-6/8 B&C buck) made the “unsuccessful” notice that much more disappointing to receive.
Now with two tags in our hands, finding two big bucks was our goal. The archery-only season had just opened and I jumped at the opportunity to have a chance at a big buck with my bow. On the second day, I was able to put a stalk on a good buck, but he wasn’t big enough this early in the season.
We headed back later in August, this time for four days. We looked over a ton of country and a bunch of antelope, but had better luck finding rattlesnakes. It should be noted that absolutely no part of me likes these spiteful critters. In our ten days of scouting and hunting, we crossed paths with 16 of them, none of which were happy to see us. Dad warned me beforehand that this area had a ton of snakes, but I never imagined this many.
On our second day, we spotted a dandy buck near a waterhole. The next day we had little cooperation from the antelope, and if that wasn’t enough, the sight of the distant sky only made matters worse. It looked like Armageddon and it was headed straight for us. We hurried back to the truck and got out of there ahead of the approaching storm. When the storm finally passed, we cooked some dinner on the tailgate and jumped into the front seat of the truck for another cramped night on the prairie.
We awoke to clear skies and had a fresh eagerness. At one point that day, I got within bow range of that buck - 34 yards - and started to squeeze my release, but chose not to take the shot for fear of the arrow being deflected. As we left, I wondered if he would still be in the same area on opening day of rifle season, but that’s the risk you take when hunting public land.
Three weeks later, we were back for rifle season and spotted the buck. However, for some reason he just didn’t look as big this time. It was clearly the same buck, but something told me he just wasn’t the one for me. It was hard to pass him up, but I let him go. I wanted to get another look at a buck we had actually spotted during our previous scouting trips. We had never seen the buck inside of a mile, but I knew he was heavy and had those high prongs that Mike Eastman always says a big buck needs.
For a full account of Vince's adventure, go to page 32 in the June/July 2011 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.