Not Willing to Settle

By Kevin Burns
Wyoming, 2010, DIY, Public Land

Kevin Burns - Not Willing to SettleOctober/November 2011 EHJ (Issue 127) - As I watched the huge pronghorn through my riflescope, I knew this was a special buck. He turned to face me at 275 yards, and as I aimed the crosshairs on his chest, I couldn’t help but recall the haunting memory of 17 years ago when, in this same unit, a monster buck - one that I knew would score in the high 80s, did the same thing. I missed that buck clean and never saw him again…

Our 2010 hunt started when my three brothers, Rob, Lance and John, and best friend, Les Brunton, drew good antelope tags in Wyoming. We had drawn this unit twice in the early ‘90s and always collected nice bucks, but never the giants we knew roamed the area.

On one occasion in 1993, Les and I saw a giant. I made a stalk on him, but as I closed the distance, I found I could get no closer; he knew I was stalking him and faced me head on. The final look through my spotting scope made my adrenaline soar; this buck had to be close to 17 inches with large prongs and extreme mass. He was truly a monster buck.

One shot from my .25-06 produced a cloud of dust just to his left. I later confirmed what I already knew…a clean miss. I spent the remainder of my hunt looking for that buck and never could find him.

This year would be different. I knew it would be years before we accumulated enough preference points to hunt this area again, so we had to make the best of it.

We hunted hard for four days without finding that once-in-a-lifetime buck, but the large number of antelope and the quality of bucks we were seeing was impressive. Bucks in the 76-80 class were seen and passed up every day.

On the fifth day of the hunt my brother, Lance, killed a nice 16-inch buck and John collected a heavy-horned 14-1/2-inch buck later that morning. John was in the process of building a house, so he headed back to Montana. Lance had more time and was able to stay and do some exploring.

As the days went by, the heat and dust began to take its toll. Day after day of staring into sun-drenched sage from daylight until dark had an exhausting effect. Every trophy pronghorn hunter knows what I’m talking about. You start saying things like, "Maybe these bucks are bigger than I think they are,” and "Well, it’s been fun. I’m going to shoot the buck I passed up a few days ago.”

When this happens, I take a day off and go to town, take a shower, clean up the truck, watch TV…anything but look at or talk about pronghorn. I guarantee after that one-day break, the next day you’ll feel refreshed and anxious to get back in the game.

I did just that and felt like a new man the next day. That day I began hunting the north end of the unit and saw some exceptional bucks. A buck I believed was a solid B&C candidate spent his time alone out in some open flat country, in the same place as the giant I had seen years ago. I would save this buck for my last day, if needed. I still had four or five days to find that once-in-a-lifetime buck.

Kevin Burns - Not Willing to Settle

For a full account of Kevin's adventure, go to page 22 in the October/November 2011 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.