October/November 2013 EHJ (Issue 139) - Putting in for tags is usually one of the biggest decisions of the year. But, I have picked the same antelope unit for the past five years, mainly due to its diverse ecosystem. It’s a small unit that’s easy to access and easy to draw, a perfect tradition for us college students getting away from the classroom to the scent of sage and pine.
On a Friday, my brother Chance and I finally got out of class and loaded up the truck for a long anticipated weekend hunt. As we drove I told Chance that this was going to be the year. I had taken four great bucks in previous years, but this was going to be the big one.
Thirty miles from my unit we met up with my boyfriend, Henry, who followed us to the usual campsite. In the evening sun, we stopped here and there to glass and found multiple good bucks and I was really beginning to feel the itch.
These bucks were in the peak of the rut. Just before we pulled down into our camp in the aspens, a young, curious buck stood about 200 yards from the truck. I stepped out, still in my tennis shoes and school clothes and walked out towards the antelope. Grinning back at Chance and Henry, I wanted to see just how close I could get. Taking slow steps, I just keep getting closer, and closer and closer. This little guy wasn’t going to budge! I focused on his beautiful features and he stared right back at me. At 22 yards I suddenly got nervous. Was he going to charge me? As he started to move away a few steps, I decided it was time to let him be and walked back to the truck, grinning from ear to ear.
As we drove into the draw where we camp we startled an elk cow and calf just as the sun went down. The boys went right to work setting up camp while I threw on some burgers.
We were expecting our friend John and his brother Josh. John had a tag for a neighboring unit, so the more in camp to tell stories, the merrier. Chance, Henry, and I are all part of the Extreme Outfitters team in Wyoming and we take great pride in every hunt, where hunting and eating antelope is part of our culture.
Chance is our go-to man when it comes to antelope. Sitting around and listening to the fire crackle, Henry and I were quizzing Chance on his secrets for sizing up antelope.
"There’s really no doubt when you see a monster,” he said. "On others, if you’re unsure, just look for black.”
He was right. Massive ebony horns and big black cheek patches are tell-tale signs of a mature buck.
As it cooled, excitement filled the air and all three of us dreamt up what the next day would bring. At midnight, John’s headlights peeked through the trees. After we talked through the plan with him, we all hit the hay.
Morning came early. Waking from a deep sleep to a cold frost on my sleeping bag, I fumbled to get dressed. After grabbing some granola bars we piled in the truck and were off.
Soon a few elk popped out of a nearby aspen stand that was turning deep orange and red. We came across antelope one after the other, glassing and rough-scoring in an attempt to find the big one. Finding nothing worth stalking, we decided to head up to our sage desert honey hole where we had seen a really nice buck the year before. After we pulled into a finger of aspen overlooking the sage, I stepped out to take a look.
I was shedding my coat when Henry said, "Bri, come look at this buck.”
Chance and Henry had glassed up a buck 1,000 yards north and three ridges over. Even through the Swarovski spotting scope at that distance, his mass and prongs looked great. That was him! Grazing with about 30 other antelope in a northeast 20 mph wind, the big buck stood just short of the neighboring private ranch.
Henry and Josh volunteered to man the spotting scope and not lose him while Chance, John, and I began the stalk. We dropped down into the first draw just out of sight and began to side-hill at a fast pace. Horseshoeing around to the other side, we slowly crawled over the top into the next. The wind seemed to be getting worse.
Finally, we reached his ridge. Chance glanced back at me with that look of be ready. We crawled and peeked, crawled and peeked - still nothing. Where were they? Beginning to worry that we blew it, I crawled up to Chance to see what he thought.
For a full account of Briana's adventure, go to page 14 in the October/November 2013 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.