Wyoming Hunt by Wilson
My plan for a month long hunting vacation in Wyoming, Big Sky Country at its best, no smog and it seems like you can see forever has came and gone with great success! My son Donald his wife Shay and their 13 year old daughter Nicole and I headed off to Wyoming. We stopped in Cokeville at the Hideout Motel where we would be staying a few weeks, hunting and doing some landscaping, road work and fence mending on the property.
With a couple of days before the deer opener, a trip to Jackson Hole was in order so the girls could do a little shopping. The next few days we took Nicole all around the Lincoln County area looking for a buck bigger than what her brother Derick had shot for his first deer a small forky. All she wanted was one with bigger horns, no monster just one with bigger horns than her brothers.
I was amazed at how well her young eyes were working at spotting deer. She would point them out on a hillside and her dad would say great spot and I would put up my binoculars and say oh yea nice. We saw lots of bucks but nothing that we wanted her to shoot, her dad kept telling her it wasn’t big enough.
On the 3rd day of the hunt we spotted a nice 3×3 but Donald said the horns were not big enough so we traveled on looking for the right deer. Every morning and evening we watched and patterned the deer and elk on the property. In some ways it’s like fishing once you figure out their pattern all you have to do is ambush them.
Donald took Nicole on an evening blind hunt where the deer come down to the pasture. He had beef jerky, drinks and treats and they waited for almost 3 hours for the deer to come to feed. We had watched a nice 4×4 that Donald wanted Nicole to shoot for her first deer. The deer finally moved down the hill toward their hiding spot, but when a doe came within 20 feet and smelled them she snorted and spooked the herd back up the hill about 200 yards.
Nicky picked out a 3 pointer and shot it through the heart with her dad’s rifle. Nicole said her dad went wild, hugging her and saying you got him. The smile on my grand daughters face when she came running up to the gate for me to bring the truck so they could load up her first buck was priceless. I didn’t have to ask her if she got one her face was lit up like a neon sign.
After we had skinned it and Warden Neil Hymas had checked her buck for her, she proclaimed her hunting was now over and she was sleeping in. Love that grand daughter of mine, she sets her sights on doing something, does it then moves on! It’s all in the upbringing as her mom and dad are the same way.
We then spent a couple days sleeping in and working on the land before heading off to Salt lake City so Shay and my granddaughter could fly back home. On the trip to Salt Lake City it was raining and snowing off and on all the way. As we drove passed a little town on the other side of the hill from Salt Lake City the rain and snow was coming down pretty good. I looked out the window and the sun was shining down like a spotlight on a church on a nearby hillside. An area about100 yards around the church was dry as could be with the sun spotlighting the little church and its parking lot. It sure would have made a great picture but at 50 miles an hour it wasn’t possible. The next few days we covered ground looking for horns,but I didn’t see any bucks that I wanted to shoot.
One morning we were up in the back country hunting deer on a ridge in the snow following deer and elk tracks in the timber. Donald said he would walk around and see if the deer would come back toward me. I found a small opening in the timber and stood still. A few moments later I could see feet moving through the timber and then this magnificent 7 point bull elk stepped out in the open about 50 yards away, ate a few leaves off an aspen tree and then laid down under it. I was almost breathless and afraid to move as the cows and calves’ ate within 20 feet of me.
The wind suddenly shifted and when the bull got a whiff of me he jumped to his feet, turned and stared right at me, even though I had not moved a muscle. He then turned and jumped over a log making the only sound I heard in the snow as he and his cows left the area quietly. My son came back down the ridge a while later explaining that he could smell them, I said yep and they smelled me also as I relate the story to him. Here it was only 10 a.m. and I had already had a great day in the outdoors.
That evening we had 4 antelope running around the property again, they had entertained me and Shay for an hour or so the day Nicole had shot her buck. Three evenings before the season ended we watched a tall narrow 4×4 buck bed down on a sage brush knoll sunning himself. With only a couple days left of deer season I thought it would make a good cull buck so I decided to go jump it out of its hiding place and shoot it.
The next day I started at the bottom of a sage brush draw working my way uphill, I could see a couple forked horned bucks, doe’s and fawns working their way uphill ahead of me, but not the buck I was after. As I neared the mouth of the ravine that I was working uphill on, this really nice heavy horned 28 ½ inch 5×4 sprung out of the ravine and started running up the hillside. My first shot was right where it should have been, on the front shoulder, as I could see the hit threw my Elite Bushnell 3200 5-15x50mm scope, but the bullet’s angle was wrong and it broke the leg but didn’t enter the heart and didn’t seem to slow the deer down a bit.
The next shot was a clean miss over the deer’s back. I was now getting excited, big deer, big horns and just two more shots left. I put the crosshairs right on the deer’s neck as it ran uphill and squeezed off a round and the deer quickly disappeared out of the scope. I was so excited I wasn’t sure if I saw the hit in the scope or not but I knew that it was a good shot immediately.
I climbed up to the hill and admired the horn mass. Not the cull buck I was after and the big buck brought a happy conclusion to some great deer hunting. I grabbed the deer by the horns and started to pull it down hill and quickly found out the deer weighed more than me as I could hardly budge it on a downhill slide. My son came and between the two of us it was all we could do to get it a few feet at a time. Finally we got the old boy down to the ravine and my son got the quad and we drug it to the truck.
We messed up the hide for a skin mount and the bullet through the neck and jaw didn’t help it any so a European Mount was decided upon. The next day it was off to Dana Cold Storage, the meat locker we use in Thayne, where it would be hung and made into a variety of jerky and hamburger for chili. It is about an hours drive from Cokeville, but the service and scenery are worth it.
More fence work and then my son and I split up. He went on a 7 mile uphill elk hunting death hike with Seth, owner of the Hideout Motel, while I went as an observer on an antelope hunt with former land owner Dave Clements and his daughter, residents who had both drawn antelope tags.
Seth had already filled out his tag with a beautiful 15 plus inch pronghorn with a 7 ½ inch base. Dave, his daughter and I headed west from Cokeville for a couple hours into the gas fields and sage brush where rabbits, wild horses, sage chickens and antelope thrive. The horses that I saw are not your regular mustangs but beautiful horses with some breeding background left to run free by ranchers many years ago.
I had one chance to get some close camera shots of a string the first morning and blew it. Dave did a lot of glassing and driving and we finally found the trophy his daughter was after, but the closest we could get was 600 yards and then after that maybe a half mile. The pronghorn horns stood a couple inches higher than any other buck in the herd and he was very spooky. Usually by the time you saw him he was doing about 60 miles an hour putting distance between the vehicle and himself in the middle of the herd.
On day two, his daughter gave up on a trophy and decided any pronghorn would do. We ran into a migrating herd and his daughter got out and got ready to kill one. The herd stopped to look at her and she fired, Dave said you shot high; she fired again and shot 20 feet low. She was all shook up and fired again we know not where as the antelope trotted off. We followed the herd and they stopped on a hilltop where she made a 300 yard shot. She could not hit them at 100 yards but said that when she kept both eyes open she had no problems. I was glad the second day hunt was over.
That evening when we returned I found my son Donald back at the motel. We had a few toddies and that night I knew he had went through the mill on his death hike as he moaned and groaned all night long from his muscles hurting. The next day Dave, Donald and I headed back to the sage brush rolling hills area to fill out his tag. We covered lots of area and saw lots of antelope until Dave saw one that was separated, somewhat, from the herd. No monster, just a nice little goat. Back to the motel and a quick skinning and then checking on the elk that evening. They were coming down to feed so we knew we could nail one the next day if we wanted.
The next morning was the opening of the 10 day elk season in the area. We watched a 100 plus elk feed off the property and head up the hill for the day to rest in the trees. No monster bulls just some nice 5 pointers. The big bulls had stayed on top of the mountain and were separating themselves from the cows. That’s the way they got big. That evening we told Dave and his daughter that we were going to kill some elk the next morning. We got up at 5 a.m. and started the truck to warm up when Dave came over and informed us that his daughter was still in bed, Donald said well stay at the gate until daylight so you don’t spook the elk as were going up the hill and shoot a couple bulls as they feed uphill.
Donald took off in the dark to get to a good ambush spot while I stayed at the edge of the property figuring to get them in between us. The elk were bugling as they worked their way uphill and just when the elk got on my hillside, here comes Dave and his noisy pickup pushing the elk over the knoll away from me. I will leave my feelings to the imagination as to how I feel about that issue.
Dave and her came walking up to where I was at as they were heading over the hill to ruin Donald’s shot as well. Hold on a minute I said Donald’s over there and he is about to kill his elk. I had to tell her twice to stop. Donald was watching and was wondering why three of the herd bulls had stopped walking his way and had instead decided to climb a knoll and was looking my way getting ready to spook off over the hill away from him.
At 350 yards he glassed several rag bulls and decided on a nice 5×5 with ivory tips. He aimed at the front shoulder and hit it, it started downhill and he hit it again. He next shot a rock in front of the lead cow to turn her back toward us but she would have nothing to do with that. When he looked back, the bull was still on his feet so he shot him in the other front shoulder putting him down. Those elk are tough critters. We walked to the crest where we could see a couple cows and calves staying by the bull that Donald shot. About a 500 yard shot for me but I was not after ears. More skinning and off to Dana in Thayne again the next day.
That evening the elk were way on top and they were not about to come down to feed. Another Storm came in and we covered the high country with no luck. Went back after the 7 pointer but all we found was tracks. One thing I learned early about elk hunting was that if the wind was blowing wrong you would not get with in a country mile of them. We ran into Warden Neil Hymas in the high country in the snow. His radio didn’t work and he had a minor accident while chasing a violator. I couldn’t help but think that maybe onstar could have helped catch the violator and if the accident had been serious could have helped Neil or any other warden get help for himself if he needed it.
Six days into the hunt we were heading into the Greys Creek area when Donald spotted a good bull heading up a ridge a couple hundred yards away. There he is, get out and get him. By the time I got out and up the hill a ways to shoot, he made a couple steps and they were out of site. Up the hill I went.
Rich who owns the local pub came by Donald and he told him to drive around on the other side of the hill because my dad is up there and he will push the elk to you. I finally made it to the top and was walking back down the ridge when Rich got into them. I sat down and waited and in a couple minutes a hundred head came round a knoll heading right at me. The lead cow smelled me and stopped dead in her tracks. She nosed out where I was and headed over the side of the mountain on a trail. One nice 6×6 bull in the herd but until they lined out I never had a shot. I missed him 3 times running but the 4th shot was a direct hit behind the shoulder but high. I love my Elite Bushnell 3200 Scope, as I could see the elk hair fluff up as the bullet found its mark. The bull traveled a few more steps and was out of sight.
A couple minutes later I heard a couple shots from the road and then it was like an army opened up and elk came back up the hill all around me but nothing with good horns. Crocker Ridge has nothing on this area as it seems like every local and out of state hunter in the area was there blazing away. By the time I got down to where my elk had went an Edmanston rancher was busy working it over. One shot right where I told them it was hit. Well he had shot twice and missed twice when my bull decided to die and drop dead. I couldn’t blame the guy for thinking he killed it but a high shoulder shot does not drop an elk unless its back is broke and then you don’t walk up and cut its throat because the sucker would kick or horn you.
A couple of the tines were broke, so after some conversation we left. A quick trip back to the motel to shower then back up the hill as my boy tried to convince me that the entry hole was an exit hole. I didn’t buy it for a minute and we both went back to make sure it wasn’t laying up there anywhere. Back at the top I found Rich looking for his elk. I showed him a dead ragged horn bull shot threw the neck and he and his friend loaded it up on his quad and left.
We looked the area over real good but no 6 pointer on the side of the hill where I had hit it. Back on the backside of the hill we ran into some other Californians shooting at cow elk. After watching him shoot a half dozen shoots Donald handed him his gun and said put the crosshair on the shoulder and pull the trigger. He did and the cow elk just stood there at 300 yards. We all laughed and the whole group informed the guy that he couldn’t shoot and Donald and I left! I talked with the local game warden and he said they were killing elk all over the area for hours after we had busted the herd up. I made up my mind right there that unless it was a wall hanger I would not bust up another herd to be butchered.
The next morning I was stiff, as I had used some old tired muscles that I had not used in years. We checked the property and the elk were down feeding again. Donald drove right up within 200 yards of them and said jump out and kill one. I jumped out and said which one they were all bunched together like a flock of ducks. Donald said well at least you could shoot. No clear shot and the blood was pumping, we can pack up and go home now as that’s not the way I want to kill an animal. Tempers quieted down and we went on hunting, Donald had tried hard to put me on elk and I had downed one already so no big deal to me as I was still hunting horns.
That evening we went back to the property to watch the elk and they started down the hill early. We glassed the lead bull, no monster rack just a nice 5×5 with ivory tips and watched him herd the elk down the hill and he was one of the last to jump the fence to start eating. We were on the backside of a knoll and I suggested I slip out of the truck and crawl up on the elk. We got out and crawled up the hill a few yards and then the lead cow’s head went up as she smelled us at 300 yards. They all bunched up except a cow that was in heat ,I think, as the lead bull came back to poke her in the butt with his horns to get her to go uphill. This opened up a shot from my 300 win mag with a muzzle break ( the break distorts the noise so the animals don’t know where it came from) to his front shoulder which slowed him down long enough for a follow up shot to the back dropping him in his tracks.
A short drive up to the elk and the hunt was over as it was picture time and a hug from my son. I checked my elk at the local game wardens station and also found out what happens to game that is confiscated, It goes to local residents in need. Donald and I helped clean a really nice 6×6 going to needy people. The horns will be taken to headquarters, cut up and thrown away. To me that’s needless waste of resources. It was a trip of a lifetime and the only thing that could have made it any better was if my grandson Derrick had been there with us.