DIY Wyoming Antelope Hunt: Family, Friends, Good Times and Great Memories!
OutdoorHub Reporters 10.29.18
This all started a year ago in the same way all of our other DIY hunts start… on the drive home from our current trip.
Last year, after a successful DIY cow elk trip to the Big Horns, we started planning for 2018 before we even hit Sheridan heading east. It’s amazing how before one trip is even completely in the books our minds are already fixed on the next adventure. Surely you have all been there before, and with my motley crew of hunting buddies, it’s certainly no different.
Preparation and expectations are the two main components that go in to all our hunting trips, and so far, it’s led to some amazing results. It really helps that we are all likeminded individuals who are all in it for the same reasons. We like to travel to new places, put in a little bit of effort (but not too much), do some sightseeing, take in a bit of history and hopefully come home with a little bit of meat to store in our freezers.
First and foremost, we are not trophy hunters and never will be. For us, the trip itself is the trophy. The meat and head gear are great, but not the end all be all of a successful trip out west.
Let’s start with preparation.
I won’t get too into the weeds here, but what we have found helpful in planning for a DIY trip is breaking it down into smaller pieces so it’s not so over-whelming.
We like Wyoming, a lot, mostly because we have done several trips there already and are familiar enough with the tag/points system. Also, there are lots of options for non-residents to choose from with the ability to hunt every year for several species without the need to build points. Sure, you can build points if you want to hunt inside limited draw zones – and we are doing just that – but we also want to hunt every year, and appreciate how Wyoming offers us the ability to do so.
A lot of western states offer the same options, but like I said, we have been to Wyoming and have plenty more “new” trips to do there before we need to dive in and learn another state. Here are a few things you need to do right off the bat that will save you loads of time and effort, and help guide you along the way:
- Call the local biologists; Talk to them about your goals and tell them what you were thinking and LISTEN to what they respond with.
- Repeat step 1 with the regional Game Wardens, and again, LISTEN to what they say. Don’t necessarily ask them where to hunt, instead give them an idea of your scouting plans and let them give you some feedback.
- Maps; Get a bunch and study them until you actually have boots on the ground. Especially county road maps. In Wyoming, knowing which roads are county roads is paramount and can save you a lot of frustration and potential trespassing tickets.
- Private property mapping technology; There are a bunch out there, so choose the one you like and subscribe so you know where you can and can’t hunt. This is worth its weight in gold out there in antelope country.
Now with all the prep work done, location scouted, supplies accounted for and rifles zeroed in, we were ready for our first foray at Antelope. This year’s new purchase (let’s face it you always need new gear for a hunt, am I right?) was a Savage model 110 Long Range Hunter chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. I have been reading about this caliber for quite some time and figured now was as good a time as any to add it to the arsenal. I paired it up with some 120gr Federal Trophy Coppers and the results were impressive, to say the least. As you will see later in the article, these bullets did a number on the goats, and I will surely be trying them on whitetails later in November.
I highly recommend you check them out and see how they group out of your gun.
This was my last shot group at the range before we headed out west. Mind you, this was all gun! I am a decent shot, but this gun and ammo combination did a fantastic job making me look good.
I will spare you the details of the travel to get there and setting up of camp, but will share with you these stunning pictures of where we lived for a week:
Smoked oysters are a camp tradition. . . not universally embraced by the entire camp, but a mainstay nonetheless!
We spent our entire first day scouting to dial in exactly where we wanted to be opening morning. We paired up and went our separate ways to the spots we had picked from our one day of boots on the ground scouting. You can cyber scout all you want but having even just one day of knowledge in the field is invaluable!
Until we got to our unit, we were 100% planning on camping in a very specific location. Once we got there, however, that quickly changed by about 10 miles as the crow flies, but by about 40 miles following the roads (the public country roads that you’re allowed to drive on.) Had we not been there a day early to scout, we likely would not have had the success we did.
My dad and I had picked a smaller section of state land where we had put some goats to bed the night before. We got there nice and early to get set up and promptly watched all the road hunters roll in about 10 minutes before shooting light. As the sun started to peak over the horizon we could already see lopes in the bottom below us. . . now we just had to wait until shooting time.
In terms of carrying out our plan for opening morning, we were pretty efficient, as the machine had been set in motion at this point. As soon as the clock struck shooting time, I settled in on the biggest buck in the group we had been watching since dark. There were 3 bucks and a group of about a dozen does and when he cleared the heard at 250 yards I began going through my pre-shot routine.
Having shot your standard off the shelf or ‘hand me down rifles’ all my life it was very eye opening to see what a proper fitted gun could do for my psyche and results. 250 yards is a chip shot for a lot of people, but not for me. . . that is until I started shooting this rifle. Like I said earlier, all credit is due to my new Savage 6.5 Creedmoor, as its Accufit system and the way I was able to customize the stock and length of pull to fit my liking made huge improvements in my groups and confidence at shooting longer ranges. I simply settled in, clicked off the safety, took my breaths and started to squeeze. . . The rest is history and I had my first ever Antelope buck. I know, kind of mundane and almost routine, but that is what all the prep work was for – to make this moment almost second nature. He was awesome, and I was so happy to have shared this experience with my dad!
Now remember the part about the road hunters? We knew they would show up and they were a big part of our opening morning plan. See, we had positioned ourselves where we knew there were going to be goats from the night before, and that led to my success, but now that the road warriors had put their coffee down and pulled out their rifles, we knew they would push the rest of the goats right back past us. So, we stayed put and waited. Sure enough, within minutes the shooting started around us, and before we knew it they had pushed some goats right back past me and my dad, who was still lying prone next to me. He was able to make virtually the exact same shot I had just made, and he promptly filled one of his doe tags less than 5 minutes after I had filled my buck tag.
This was a very special moment. Up until now, my dad and I had only harvested an animal on the same day one other time in the 35 plus years we had been hunting together. On this day, we had two antelope down less than 5 minutes apart. There are only a handful of days where you get to experience something special like that!
The rest of the morning was spent relaxing and taking it all in as we tended to the meat of these two beautiful animals. About mid-morning we got a text from the other hunters in our group saying they too had some opening morning success, and we were off to their location to help cut up and pack out.
Over the next few days, we found more success filling some of our doe tags. Eventually, towards the end of the week my dad finally connected on his buck, which meant all 4 hunters were going home tagged out!
The 5th member of our crew, “The Dodger” is not at all a hunter but very much a legend around camp. He looks after home base, cooks some of the meanest meals you’ll ever come across and is an encyclopedia of information to help settle disputes on who is right and who is wrong in just about any camp conversation! Oh, and his napping skills are like nothing you have ever seen before!
As the week progressed our focus started to shift a little from hunting and more towards relaxing, hanging out with the family, taking in some history and doing a little site seeing. We learned all about the Bozeman Trail and even jumped over to Devil’s Tower. I enjoyed from afar, but you can see that some folks wanted to get a different view, one in which I was NOT interested in checking out!
Here is one of my favorites of Dad trying to be “Insta-famous”. . . I can only assume it looked better through his camera 😊
As the week came to a close, our thoughts had once again shifted to our typical “what’s next” mentality and the excitement of planning another trip on the other side of the country ensued! Before we even got to South Dakota we were already looking up units and preference points for Mule Deer back in the Cowboy state!
I will leave you with a few more photos from “Lope Camp” in hopes that they push you over the edge if you’re on the fence about putting together a DIY trip for yourself!
Once you do it, you will be hooked, I guarantee!
Oh, and one last thing, watch out for these little buggers! When the moment counts, they always seem to pop up in the exact spot you need to plop down to get off a shot or glass an animal!