The Play for Splay

By Jim Liden
Wyoming, DIY, Public Land

Jim Liden - The Play for SplayDecember/January 2014 EHJ (Issue 140) - It was great to be back in the high desert country in my home state of Wyoming. I hadn’t spent any quality time in my old stomping grounds since college. I grew up in Cody, Wyoming, went to college at the University of Wyoming in Laramie and then disappeared from the state to make a living.

An all too familiar Wyoming welcome in the form of a partially flat tire greeted me in the middle of the Red Desert country. I had drawn a coveted Wyoming pronghorn tag for the Red Desert area in south central Wyoming. It took me six years to draw it with max points and I was spending my Labor Day weekend scouting the unit.

This part of Wyoming and most of the surrounding country had seen extreme drought conditions and it was just my luck that the minute I showed up, it started raining. Rain in this part of the world turns the dirt roads into quagmires. Trying to power through some water and mud in a low area sent my truck slipping off the side of the road. Fortunately for me, a submerged rut bounced the truck back onto the two-track just before getting completely stuck, which would have cost me days of waiting for it to dry out.

As the truck jumped back onto the road at a sharp angle, the front left tire momentarily popped off the rim, but amazingly resealed itself, losing only half of the air pressure in the process. Some of the old-timers in this area recommend carrying two spares, now I understand why.

I drove approximately 350 back-road miles over three days and was looking forward to my hunt in October. The season opened the end of September, but with a commitment to join a friend on a Maine moose hunt at that time and wanting to let the opening week crowds dissipate, it would be the first part of October before I returned to the Red Desert.

On October 10th I started my hunt and was looking forward to a somewhat subdued adventure compared to my intrepid Alaska DIY float moose hunt the previous fall. I had seen over 100 bucks on the early September scout mission. However, nothing in the trophy-size category I was hoping for. It was big country and I knew it would only take one. I committed myself to keeping off the trigger for at least the first two days, unless I located an 80-incher or better. This was shaping up to be an enjoyable Wyoming pronghorn hunt and it felt good to be home.

Just like my scouting trip I saw a lot of pronghorns with lots of bucks but only one caught my attention. He had solid mass, prongs and length, but what was really eye-catching was how his horns splayed out. He was a beautiful buck, but it was hard to determine if he hit my selfimposed 80-inch mark. The weather was beautiful and there was not another hunter to be seen. I had the country to myself.

Jim Liden - The Play for Splay

For a full account of Jim's adventure, go to page 42 in the December/January 2014 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.