Losing a game of hide-and-seek. Again.

by Katie on September 29, 2011

No bones about it, between getting busted so easily and hiking our tails off for nothing that morning, we were a bit discouraged. Okay, more than a bit.

I began questioning Brandon about still using my bow. And whether our fellow hunters thought I was crazy for still using it.

“Look, it’s your hunt,” he said, “You worked really hard to prepare to use your bow, and at the end of the day, you’re the one who has to live with how you handled it. Before we got here, we planned on putting in a good day-and-a-half, maybe two days with your bow. I’m ready to pull out the rifle whenever you are, but no sooner. If you’re happy with it, I’m fine using your bow the whole time and maybe going home empty-handed as a result of that. But it’s all on you.”

Tough love, huh? Not really. Directness is how we operate. And I was actually encouraged, and reminded I was there to please no one but myself. And despite a discouraging first stop of the day, I was still loving every minute of actually getting out in the field and close to so many antelope. It was quite a rush, even when it was a long shot.

We basically rolled the dice next, and went to a front pasture the first camp kill had come from the day before, since our fellow hunters had told us there was pretty decent rut activity going on there. We drove out to the far end of the pasture, after we’d seen three different herds of antelope. And of course, they saw us, too. Since it was well into the morning at this point, they were on high alert and all 20 to 30 antelope within a mile-long span scattered and bolted in four different directions throughout the pasture. One was a group of small bucks. There was a shooter-buck with them, but we’d already learned we needed a rutting buck for any chance of archery success. The second was about four does and a nice, respectable buck. The other herd didn’t give us a very good look before they topped over a hill, but we were fairly certain we caught a really nice buck with a bunch of does – the largest single herd we’d seen so far – a good sign as far as the size of the buck. Not that we were looking for that when we got there, but if we were going to have several options, might as well go big, right?

Unsure of how long it would take them to settle down, or if they even would at all, we still ventured out, and creeped behind the decoy for another half-mile or so out into a corner of the pasture, just on the other side of a small bowl we were pretty certain the largest herd was hiding out in. Brandon set up behind me with the decoy, in case our antelope topped over the hill in front of us, and I moved in a bit closer, got my range marks, and waited.

Pretty soon, a buck topped over the hill, and began feeding right along the ridge, oblivious to our presence. We snuck up a little closer, since we’d learned we really needed to be within less than 200 yards, preferably closer to 100, before we flashed our decoy. I ranged our buck at just under 150 yards, right before a couple does joined him. If there’s anything we took away from the whole experience, it’s that does are trouble. Aren’t females always smarter and more observant, anyway?

We went ahead and tried the decoy, but all three of these antelope wanted no part of it, and escaped. We waited a while longer, and watched the little buck herd run across a ridge, definitely leery of our presence.

This is about the time we got a message stating “another antelope execution complete.” Good news. Two of the three tags were now filled, and we were left as the only hunters on the whole place, giving us free range through every pasture. Not to mention, four extra hands to help spot for us. And of course, we were also very happy for them, as it was a first kill for my fellow lady-hunter.

We made the call to hike around the hill in front of us, and hopefully get a peak into the little bowl, while we waited on the first-kill couple to be our eyes on the other side.

We found the bowl empty. But no sooner could we let out a sigh about that before we saw antelope heads – and horns! – just over the top of the other side. We quickly and quietly made our way over to a big juniper, just about 20 yards below the top of that hill, and waited patiently, watching those pronghorns work along the top side of the hill, within 50 yards of us. Nearly shooting range, if we had a body view.

But, alas, we did not. Our spotters arrived, informed us the horn tips we could see were that of a “Big” buck, just as we had suspected. This was the couple who had killed their buck in this pasture the day before, but said they definitely hadn’t seen this buck in there.

In typical antelope fashion though, with us so close to being able to make a move, practically already inside shooting range, just without a visual, they decided to take an opposite turn. Not wanting to get this herd too riled up, in case we decided to come back later for a better opportunity, we waited until we got an “all-clear” from our spotters before hiking back out the way we came, a solid mile-plus back to the truck. On our way out, we did catch the herd running along the same ridge our little bucks had, and were able to put the binos on the buck. Sure enough, he proved to be a nice one, and was quickly deemed our “back-up, rifle buck,” in case our archery attempts proved fruitless.

Back to camp we headed to check out the big second kill of the hunt, pack lunches, and continue our pursuit…

[You guessed it, still more to come. No, I could not possibly draw this three-day hunt out any longer.]

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