I just read a post from an “outdoor mom blogger” that was on the topic of how to engage your children in the outdoor lifestyle. It was sweet and nurturing and full of love and encouragement, just like you would probably imagine. All I could think the entire time I was reading it was the crazy, fire breathing dragon, drill sergeant of a Mom that my kids get to deal with before we leave on our family hunting trips. I can laugh now because we are on our way home from a very successful and fun trip and my kids, husband and dad are all still talking to me! But in all honesty, getting a family prepped and ready for a hunt is no small feat and it can be down right overwhelming and I am not going to lie, the pre-trip anxiety before leaving for our family hunt to Wyoming, was the real deal for this Momma.
It isn’t easy to get everyone ready for these big trips. It is far from just throwing a few layers of clothes into a bag with a
Nonetheless, the prep is always worthwhile because it helps to make our trips so fun for all of us. Once we pulled into camp last Saturday, there were only a few things to set up, and we were off hunting. This year, we had my Dad along with us too. Which is a very special thing for all of us. We love him dearly and truly treasure the time we get to spend with him. Especially while doing something we all are so passionate about. Casey, Dad and I all applied for and drew antelope tags in the same unit that we applied Cade, Quinn and Dad in for mule deer. Casey and I were ok with the idea of just taking the kids and Dad deer hunting, had we not drawn the antelope, but we lucked out and had a total of six tags to fill on this DIY Public Land Hunt. This would be the Year of the Goat for me!
Our plan was to make it to camp a few days before the mule deer season opened. Antelope season had been open for a couple weeks before our arrival, but we figured we could hunt for the antelope while scouting for deer before the circus of hunters arrived in the area for the opener. It didn’t take us long to realize that we had timed things perfectly hitting the peak of the rut for the antelope herds in the area. Wyoming is well known for huge populations of antelope, but the rut highlights this fact even more.
I should also mention that neither Casey or I are die hard antelope hunters. In fact, before my California Buck, I had yet to ever harvest one and Casey only a coupe before that. Our rookie skill set was apparent after looking at over a dozen bucks on the first outing of our hunt. They all looked the same with a few minor differences. It made us both kind of gun shy, really wanting to hold off for a stand out buck. Before heading out on the evening of the first day, we all sat down and began researching field scoring antelope. As we headed back out, it was fun to practice scoring the bucks we saw. That evening we came up on herds of does guarded by territorial bucks. It was comical to watch these love sick beaus run wild chasing each other away from their claimed harem. They could care less about us most of the time, almost as if we were invisible to them.
Gas well pads dotted the sagebrush covered desert land that we were hunting and made for make shift land marks to describe to each other where we were looking when glassing. Just about every single pad was guaranteed to have a buck or two nearby and the antelope seemed to stick out like sore thumbs across the flat land. The trails of dust behind the running herds also stood out from long distances. One dust cloud in particular caught our attention the evening of our first night. As we made our way closer to the disturbance, we could see a heavy horned buck stomping his feet, pawing and peeing to mark his territory. He was a wide set buck that wasn’t very tall but the mass of his horns was intriguing. Still hesitant to pull the trigger we headed past this herd to get a better look at another small group spotted in the distance. Not seeing any bucks of size in this group, Casey asked us which direction we wanted to head next. Without hesitation, Dad asked if we could drive back around to get another look at the wide buck we had watched previously. We headed back in the direction of that big herd and this time the buck had all his does gathered up about 150 yards from the closest gas well pad. We stopped briefly, pulling up our optics to take a second look at him, and by the time I pulled my binos down, Dad was up and around the back of the side by side getting a good rest, staring at him through his rifle scope. He was going for it and it was awesome to see his enthusiasm! We watched and Casey filmed as he pulled the trigger on the dark faced buck. The crack of his rifle followed by the sound of a solid hit was followed by high fives! Dad was the first to make a decision and tag a buck on this trip!
The next morning we adventured to a new area to see what we could turn up. It was fun to practice our stalking skills on the smaller bucks we ran across. Casey and I were both regretting the fact that we didn’t bring our bows along and get an archery permit for this hunt. We just didn’t realize that we would have been able to walk into 35-40 yard ranges from these goats, but the rut was definitely in full swing and there was obviously only one thing on these goats minds. Both Casey and I continued to pass on several bucks throughout the morning. Around Noon we headed back to camp for lunch and a nap. Around 3pm we would head back out.
Rested and eager to go, we loaded up and took off to the far end of the area we planned to hunt. The further North we traveled the less goats we saw. We realized that maybe we needed to head further south of the area that Dad shot his buck. We meandered across gas well roads and the two tracks that connected them, covering almost 40 miles. At one point we stopped to glass out across the flats. Dad and Cade would glass out one side of the UTV while Casey and I would glass out the other side. Quinn was stuck in the middle with the least visibility, but it wasn’t long before she informed us that there was a “weird one” in the road ahead. Boy, she wasn’t kidding. The buck she spotted had one of the oddest set of horns we had seen. He was tall and narrow and not very massive, but his horns grew together in almost a perfect rectangular shape. Casey was set on this buck. He wanted a standout buck and this one for sure stood out from the others.
In the time that it took for Casey to decide on taking this guy, the buck had high tailed it across two small pocket canyons and was almost 800 yards from us. We watched through the glass as he trotted across the backside of a ridgeline, just the tips of his horns showing every now and then. Cade then spotted the buck charging down the hillside and into the pocket below us. He was on the move again and coming directly at us. There was no stop in this buck as he bolted across the road at full speed. It is not legal to shoot across the road so Casey took off on foot with his rifle to get across the road to the next pocket over in hopes that the buck might stop, or atleast slow down. It wasn’t long after Casey took off that we saw another buck charging behind this buck. Most likely running him off from his does. As the weird buck crossed into the next pocket behind us, Casey motioned for me to catch up with him. The weird buck had run himself right into another herd of spoken for does and another battle with a buck.
Cade and I made are way over to Casey and I tried to get set up on this new buck, but he kept dropping out of site into a deep pocket. We watched the two bucks battle it out in a head butting competition. When they split up, I didn’t want to take a far shot. The wind was blowing about 20mph with gusts that would almost knock you off your feet. I wanted to take a shot within 150 yards, so we decided to move down the sand dune and up the other side while the bucks were busy fighting. By the time we made it up the other side our vantage point was lower and we weren’t able to see any of the herd. We ran back up the sand dune to our original post and realized the one buck had taken his herd and split out of that canyon. They were moving out of the pocket at nearly 1000 yards away from us.
We had made the wrong move. Or we thought. Coming out of the top end of the pocket was the weird horned buck. He was walking along the top side of the flat across from us at about 350 yards. Casey quickly got him in his scope and turned his turret. The buck was quartering away when he stopped at the top. Casey would have to aim wisely to make a kill shot with these conditions. He laid his pack out flat, crawling up
We quickly quartered the buck into game bags, loaded up and headed in the direction that the other buck had pushed his does. It wasn’t long before we spotted him. But I was hesitant to shoot him. We had spotted a buck near our camp earlier that day, that I would have scored higher than this guy and I just wasn’t 100% positive. Plus, I still had several days left to hunt although I was really wanting to fill my tag before the deer hunt opened so we could focus on getting the kids and Dad their bucks. Night fall was approaching as well as a big thunderhead building above. We headed across the desert toward camp, but not before long we spotted a herd of twenty plus circling around a flat. Casey had his binos up first, quickly exclaiming big buck! The instant I caught a glimpse of the buck through my binos, I knew he was taller than any of the bucks we had seen yet. I jumped out of the side by side, grabbed a sand bag and threw it on top of the ice chest in the back. I asked everyone to hold as still as possible as I settled my head down into the scope on my rifle sat firmly in the sandbag. As the goat moved out from the herd at 160 yards my crosshairs found his vitals and I gently squeezed the trigger, watching him twist and then drop. I was excited to get out to him and check him out up close.
Casey of course got to him first and Quinn and I got to him seconds later and could see that he was a big buck. Dad and Cade slowly made their way out to us with the back pack and tools needed to break down buck. We all worked together to get the edible portions off the carcass into quarter bags as the lightening lite up the sky over us and the thunder shook. A light rain fell as we made are way back to the Can-Am. We were all happy and proud to have filled our tags with such beautiful bucks. This hunt was off to an incredible start and we all were anxious to switch gears to mule deer hunting, which was more in our comfort zone. The next day we would dedicate to scouting, making a plan and caping this goat. Why not have him mounted along with my California Buck, after all, this is my Year of the Goat!