A Beginner's Report Out

VikingsGuy

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I finally caught up enough at home and work to share my experience.

I think the best place to start is with my goals for the trip in order of importance to me. They were:

1. Have fun, it's about the experience, not the results -- DONE
2a. Re-connect with my best friend (who lives out of state) and get to know my soon to be son-in-law a little better -- DONE
2b. Return my son-in-law to my daughter without any bullet holes that would mess up the wedding photos -- DONE
3. Learn, learn, learn - this is our first western style big game hunt -- DONE
4. Remain disciplined with shot selection, no wounded animals -- DONE
5. Bring home some tasty antelope -- DONE
6. Make my shot(s) -- DONE
7. Meet a few HTers -- DONE (NDMuley & rjsloper)
8. Punch all 3 of my tags -- Nope, only 1 of 3
9. Get a buck worthy of HT posting -- Nope, but posting my sorry mini-buck anyway

While falling short on the last two, I am super happy with the experience, I learned a ton and will be headed back next year.

Now for the travelog:

Day 1: All 3 of us arrived in Lusk, WY on the Saturday afternoon before opener. Got checked-in, unpacked and drove around the unit a little before dark to get the basic lay of the land.

Day 2: The day before opener. Scouted hard and got our gear ready for for the opener. 'Lope numbers way lower than I was expecting given how many tags allocated in this unit. They were here and there, but very few good sized groups, and those were mainly on private. Walked down to the Elks and joined the annual Ranchers/Hunters Dinner. Luck seemed to be on our side, I won the Weatherby 30-06 they raffled off. Ended up at the same table as rjsloper by coincidence, a nice surprise.

Day 3: The Opener. Out before first light to a small patch of state land that had a decent buck and a few does the day before. We picked an area of the unit that had a lot less scouting pressure the day before, as we really didn't want to hunt in a sea of blaze orange or be racing others for "road shots". Unfortunately it was so foggy we could only see about 30 yards until an hour and a half after sunrise. And by then the 'lopes we had seen before were already moved to private, even though we hadn't heard a rifle shot yet. We moved to some WIA in the area, spotted a smallish but decent buck and walked in for a stalk. My buddy had first shot so we mainly watched him work his stalk through binos. He got to about 150 yards with a broadside shot, which he made. We gutless quartered it and got it on ice as quickly has we could hike it back to the truck. We were all feely pretty good about things despite the weather-related slow start. We worked the WIAs in this corner of the unit until about noon and we spotted another decent buck, but we were a little unclear on a WIA issue and we passed on that animal. Later when talking with a game warden we met, it became clear that it would have been a legal shot - bummer. Mid-afternoon we spotted what we thought was a big eared doe. I was next shooter up and figured might as well get one of my two doe tags out of the way. The 'lope was skittish and looked ready to bolt. I was 287 yards out and the 'lope was quartering towards me with a 15mph crosswind. It was shoot now or lose the chance. I sat down, rested the rifle on my MR pack, held over for the yardage and forward for windage and nailed the shot - through back edge of scapula and through the lungs - a quick kill. When we walked up, it became clear that this was a small buck (with balls to prove it) not a doe. A newbie mistake, I focused so much on making the shot that we really didn't focus enough on the head. Since I had a buck tag it didn't matter, but at the time I was both excited I made a "longish" shot for a MN deer hunter, and disappointed I blew my chance at a bigger buck. Quartered and on ice, the hot seat moved to my soon to be SIL. We were 2 for 2 and feeling good. Hunted the rest of the day and never got within 600 yards of another 'lope. My buddy from Denver got a call late afternoon and he had to head back to Denver for a work issue first thing Tuesday morning. 1 down, but still 2 of us left. But at least he left with a buck in the cooler.

Day 4: It was clear that the 'lopes were now well aware that it was hunting season and many of the animals we had been seeing were squarely on private. Late morning we decided to put our feet to work and ID'd some state land that was largely landlocked but could be accessed via 5 mile walk through a mix of adjacent state and wia land. We did a lot of walking on a day that ended up at 88 degrees (big change from opener morning), but never got closer than 1,000 yards to anything. It was worth a try and enjoyed exploring a little, but blew a lot of time in some public land with few 'lopes and no shot taken by SIL.

Day 5: The first two days we stayed away from the most popular public area in the unit, with a strong desire to avoid a mass of orange, but we figured by Wednesday many folks would have left so we gave it a go. The lopes were still spooky but we had a number of viable stalks. My SIL got within about 240 yards of a decent buck but had a clean miss. In theory, I was next shot up, but told my SIL that he could go until he put one in the cooler. He also got to about 260 yards from a doe and had another clean miss. He was frustrated, but this was his first trip hunting as a lefty - he is a natural righty who lost all sight in his right eye a couple of years ago and is making the transition to shooting lefty for the first time this summer/fall - that has to be tough.

Day 6: Driving sleet was in order for the morning walk, we put on a bunch of miles but saw few 'lopes on public (plenty on private). SIL never had a shot. We were a little frustrated at this point, and had to call it a little early to pick up the raffle rifle at the local truevalue before they closed. On the bright side we met NDMuley at the Silver Dollar for some beverages and a little chili. Was nice to chat with a fellow HTer (who had great success in a different unit - well done NDMuley!).

Day 7: Hunted hard, tried to get permission from 2 farmers to hunt large groups on the corner of private and in both cases got a firm "no way". SIL got a third shot at of the nicer bucks we had seen but that didn't work out either. He was clearly frustrated and passed the baton at mid-day. In the afternoon we had several decent opportunities for does (as that was all I had left). Twice I belly crawled to within 335 yards but they did not let me get inside of 300. 300 yards was my self imposed limit for this trip so both shots were passed. I regularly hit a 6" gong at 400 yards sitting with gun over MR frame at the range, but the range is the range and the field is the field. Moving up from 50 yard tree stand shots to 300 yard open field shots it seemed like a reasonable first step. I am glad I honored my limit and we had no wounded animals, but I will put in a little more practice this summer and will be ready to set 350-400 yards as my new limit with confidence. I feel fairly confident that I would have made the 325 and 335 yard shots I passed on, and if I had I would have punched all my tags, but I try to be disciplined with my outdoor plans and not let the heat of the moment carry the day. Got back to the room and packed the truck for the ride home.

Day 8: Got up before sunrise and hit the road -- good to get home, see the wife and kids, and sleep in my own bed.

By the measure of many on this forum, I am sure this sounds like a failed hunt, but to us it was a great learning adventure. Our gear worked, our approaches mostly worked, we have meat in the freezer and 2 of us hit our shots. With a little better unit next year (or lining up some private access) and moving my max shot out to 350 or 400 yards, I am confident we will tag out.

I will post a gear summary - what worked and what didn't later this weekend, as newbies we had a lot of new stuff to try.

Now my attention moves to mid-October grouse with my son up at our cabin and early November South Dakota pheasants with my son and a small father/son/daughter group of friends. Will be fun to watch our dog working the fields again.

Thanks to all the HTers who helped make this happen and Happy Hunting!

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Ben Lamb

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Fantastic write up, hunt talk folks are some of the best out there. I've yet to meet one who isn't quality in person. Glad you connected on a pronghorn!

If it makes you feel better, I've missed thrice now. :)
 

npaden

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What that buck lacks in horns he should make up for in tenderness. Congrats on your first western hunt.
 

wllm1313

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2b. Return my son-in-law to my daughter without any bullet holes that would mess up the wedding photos -- DONE

Honey it's just a flesh wound...

Congrats on a great trip, my father-n-law is one of my favorite people to hunt with, glad you took your son-n-law out. After losing my dad it has meant the world to me to have my wife's dad make the effort to connect with me.
 

VikingsGuy

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Congrats on a great trip, my father-n-law is one of my favorite people to hunt with, glad you took your son-n-law out. After losing my dad it has meant the world to me to have my wife's dad make the effort to connect with me.
It's an embarrassment of riches beyond what I deserve. A teenage son who wants nothing more than to spend time in the field or boat with me, and now adding a pretty cool son-in-law who is excited to join in too. It takes a little of the sting out of not having my dad out there with me anymore.
 

NDMuley

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Congratulations on your buck and it was a pleasure meeting you and your sil.
 

kansasdad

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Way to go VikingsGuy etal. I'm guessing you will check for a cheek patch next year.

Congratulations on a very robust pronghorn adventure
 

fallfreak

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TN
Enjoyed your write up. I would say getting 7 out of 9 on your goals is a huge success and fun to boot.
 

Addicting

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Way to go VikingsGuy etal. I'm guessing you will check for a cheek patch next year.

Congratulations on a very robust pronghorn adventure
I remembered seeing that in the regulation and it struck me as odd that someone wouldn’t be able to tell a buck from a doe. On our hunt we had that same weather and found 2 laying 400 yards across a valley. Even with 18 power we couldn’t see horns on either of them. One just looked a lot bigger than the other which made me stop and take a long hard look. I remember the cheek patch part and it looked like the bigger one had one. So I focused on the smaller one which we confirmed was a doe. After a 352 yard miss both got up and then it was clear to see the larger one was a buck, a decent one at that. Both of us were surprised on how we couldn’t tell for sure the full 10 mins prior. It happens!

Vikingsguy congrats on a great trip and putting some tasty meat in the freezer!
 
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wytex

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Nice write up and congrats. Would have been a real treat if that rifle said Made in Wyoming on it but not quite yet.
 
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