Sunday, June 26, 2016

Wyoming Antelope and the Texas Neophyte

Back in the late 70's and early eighties, my father and I hunted antelope.

We hunted and killed antelope in Oregon (another story or two), but this is when we were lucky enough to draw antelope tags in Wyoming.

South Eastern Oregon is  ... or was .. a great place to hunt Antelope.  And I'll talk about that area another time.  But this time, we were hunting out of Rawlins, Wyoming.  One of my favorite places!

There's nothing like finding a small herd of antelope, picking the best buck out of the herd, and busting him.

This is a story about ... not finding a buck, but finding a doe.

My father (here-after "Pop") and I had been hunting antelope for several years after I got home from the army, and I had already got over the angst about killing game.

Rawlins was (as said before). our favorite place to hunt for a couple of reasons:

(1)  there's a lot of open range just a short drive from Rawlins, and:
(2)  there's a lot of antelope on BLM land, where there's no restrictions because (at the time) Pronghorn Antelope were considered .. what's the term?  Oh yeah .. "varmints".  (Landowners objected to them eating the haystacks they had  created to feed their cattle.  Antelope eat hy?  I had never realized that.  Go figure .. but at least it was easy to get permission from landowners to hunt Pronghorns on their land!)

, .. and since we had been there in previous years, we were comfortable with the region.
On this day, we were just kind of working a small area which seemed a reasonable place to find pronghorns.

I had, by then, become fairly proficient in spotting the white-tail of a Phongie, and when we found a mesa with a lot of tracks leading to it, I was reasonable confident that we could find antelope there.

We were right,
but we were wrong at the same time:

,,, the antelope HAD been there, and a fairly large herd.
But by the time we got there. we discovered that the herd had been scattered by another hunter.

My father stayed back wile I move up onto the mesa (which is a misnomer ... it was just a small hill with a flat top) and I found a lot of 'antelope sign', but no antelope.

What I found was, another hunter.

We met, exchanged names, and he told me that a small mixed (male and female) herd had just run off.

I wasn't surprised that it was a "mixed:" herd:  Antelope usually depend on the dominant female to lead the others.  When she signals that they should leave, the take their most delightful PRONG PRONG hopping leaps past all obstacles (especially barbed wire fences, though which the oddly choose to crawl through) and evacuate the area.

On this day, I arrived on a hilltop where I expected to find a small herd, and instead found a texan with a motorcycle.

Okay, the hilltop was a bit smaller than is suggested by the term "MESA", although I'm not sure what the correct nomenclature applies.  And it wasn't really a Honda 50, but close enough to make no never mind.  Cut me some slack here, okay?

So I asked the Texan what had happened, and he told me that he had jumped the small herd which I had expected; he got one shot off, didn't hit anything, and was disappointed that the herd had left the area.


"Flock Shooting"?

He had shot at "A Herd", not hit anything, and they left?  I didn't believe him.

(Would You?)

So I checked the ground and found a couple of small strings of gut; indicative that SOMEONE had shot SOMETHING, but he didn't tell me about that.

If you're like me, you don't like the idea of leaving wounded game;  a closer examination of the ground revealed more gut, and a blood trail leading vaguely off to the East .. down off the hill and (later) toward a small draw.

Antelope like high ground; but when hurt, they seek a hide.  They go DOWNHILL.
This is obviously what had happened.

I talked to the Texan with the Honda, and he eventually (shame-facedly) admitted that he was shooting at the Bull of the herd, but perhaps ... perhaps ... at the last minute an ewe had move between him and his target .. and he may (maybe, perhaps) have hit her instead.  At any rate, the Bull and the rest of the herd got away and he was hot to trot to go after his target!

Walking the ground, I found some more gut (suggesting that the female had been hit harder than the Texan wanted to accept), and a small (dainty) blood trail leading East of the high-ground.  There was a small swale over there, so I suggested to the Texan that he leave his moped behind and come with me while we followed the trail.

He was reluctant.

I flipped the safety of my .25-06 (built by my father on a 1903-A3 Action a few years earlier) and offered a more  friendly suggestion that, since he had shot the ewe, he might have a vested interest in following up the consequences of his bad judgement.

After a short (seconds) period of reflection, he allowed as if perhaps that was the right thing to do.

I pointed him in the direction of the blood trail, and we preceded down-hill to a small swale which was not obvious from our original vantage point.  I walked behind him.

There we found a very small doe, gut shot, not bleeding much but lying on her side and not able to stand.

I told the Long Tall Texan to finish her off, which he did with a single shot to the head at 20 yards through his 7x Leopold.  I was impressed, considering that he was over-scoped for that kind of a shot.

Then I asked him to display his hunting license and tag, which he did.  At my direction, he tore out the 'date' portion of the tag (the 23rd, IIRC) and signed it using a lead-tipped bullet from my .25-06 as a pencil.

*(he claimed he didn't have a pencil; we've dealt with this before, Pop and I.)*

Fortunately for him, we were both hunting on an "Either Sex" tag, so he was the proud possessor of 50 (probably 35)  pounds of antelope meat with no trophy horns to display in his den.

But it was a legal (if reluctant) kill, so he faced no expectation of criminal/game charges being posted on him.

I left him with a fully loaded weapon.  I thought at the time that there was a loaded weapon at my back, but by that time I had become accustomed to the concept that ... just because a man has a loaded weapon, and he is angry, that doesn't mean he is going to act on homicidal impulse.

Well, I had been back from Nam for a couple of years, and I was getting a little slack.
Good for me that my initial reading was accurate; he was angry, but cowed.

I've since reconsidered, and I wouldn't have left an armed enemy behind like that.  What I should have done was to take all of his ammunition before I turned my back on him.

But I was young, and still naive despite all of my experiences in '69-70,

I've cured myself of that, mostly because I replayed the last 5 minutes of that day in my mind, repeatedly, and it still makes me say "WTF Was I Thinking???"

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