October 8th-14th, Snowing, cold from 27 low to 38 high.
For those of you that hunt California, stop it! No seriously! I used to, until the government decided to split the state up into zones and give hunters the shaft, in not getting to hunt their own land in a certain zone without having that tag for it. Gone were the days of hunting multiple spots anywhere you wanted to throughout the state. Things may have changed since then, I wouldn’t know or care, as I use my resources to hunt out of state, for two reasons, 1. It’s not California, 2. You see more bucks out of state than you do here, and your success ration goes up 100 fold. Some hunters may disagree with me, and that’s ok, but personally I’d rather spend a week out of state hunting than every weekend in California, with no success. This coming from a born and raised Californian.
My preferences is the great State of Wyoming, for several reasons. One being the family had a ranch there on the Wind River for many years, and only sold it due to the death of my uncle. However, having hunted in this state for decades, there are many places to go, just takes a little time to scout it out and to know the area you are going to, knowing that the end result is a full freezer. So this time of year, being March, is the time to prep for the fall! That doesn’t mean just getting gear together but also studying topo maps of where you are going, so you know what to expect when you get there.
This time around I am hunting with my long time hunter partner, friend and brother, of 49 years, Steve McCullough and another friend Jeff Ross. The first item of business is to apply for your hunting license, which also gives you your Mule Deer tag. This has to be done in March, as the drawing for the fall hunt is done in June of that year. When you find out you got drawn, then the fun begins with planning, gear and lots of maps. I won’t go into all the stuff you need, as I’m hopeful you already know. The season is usually the first or second week of the following October, in this case October 8th thru October 14th, which bummed me out a little bit, as the BBT TOC was that week, but one has to make choices. Keep in mind that I’m old and it takes us two day to get there and two days back, so our season is 3 days long.
Word of advice, make sure you zero your weapon at whatever distance you are comfortable with, before you go, and once there shoot it again to make sure it’s still on! If it’s not, it take minutes to fix it and you won’t miss that shot!
We are heading to a place that is Northwest of Buffalo, Wyoming where we have hunted before. This time we are stopping along the way to see friends that live just North of Kaycee, Wyoming, which is just South of Buffalo. It’s an outstanding ranch of 70,000 acres right next to the Bighorn Mountain Range, which has plenty of hunting areas, for those that are contemplating to hunt here. We arrive at our Hotel, the Hampton Inn, on the second night and settle in with dinner and drinks, and to get to the local sporting goods store called the Sports Lure, before they close, to buy our Whitetail and Antelope tags. We are up early the following morning and head to our area of hunt, after much needed coffee. We meet up with a friend that lives there, and use him as our guide. The first day out it’s colder that a well diggers butt in December, as it’s in the high 20’s. Dress warm, Under Amour, layered gear, gloves, coffee, and 4 seasoned bibs and parka, just like when I’m tournament fishing, except its camo lol.
So we take a dirt-snow road off to the South about 15 miles outside of Buffalo and within ¼ miles two bucks pop up out a a creek bed. We slowly get out of the truck, and my Partner Steve settles in on a large 4×4 Muley, at 300 meters. 10 seconds later it’s on the ground waiting on our arrival, with gutting and skinning gear. After 15 minutes of short work, the deer is in the back of the pickup. One down! Now we are stoked! We search the area of land that we know well and come across 6 more fairly large bucks, all within shooting range, but we let them go….its only day one and not big enough for me! We finished our ride and stalks, on this part of the area we were hunting and now It’s time to have lunch and move on to area number two.
So here we are across the main road and heading North, towards Montana, to get to the back country. A bit of a bumpy snow covered cold drive but it was worth it, as it gave us time to warm up and have hot coffee and something to eat. We come over a hill and a long valley, with ridges on both sides, lays before us. Keep in mind that this area it Not forested, but it’s a high tundra sage brush, so you can see forever. We crest a ridge and see out about a mile a nice looking Muley and he spots us, he turns and runs a full tilt to escape. Being a former USMC Sniper and instructor, our motto is, “You can run but you will only die tired” came to mind! We continue forward and he disappears around a tall hill. We stop and get out and glass and scope for a few minutes, and actually found three more bucks together on another nearby ridge. Upon thinking that he left the area, we decided to take a break, when this guy shows himself on top of the hill area where he disappeared. Our friend-Guide, says, with enthusiasm….it’s a shooter…! Usually when he says that he is correct and I pop out and scope him. Yeah he looks pretty good but I’m looking for body weight not antlers. I’ve already done my trophy hunting when I was younger, I want MEAT! Upon his assistance, I calculate bullet drop, as I’m sighted in for 200 meters, and he is 870 meters out, which is about a 80 inch drop for me. I adjust my elevation, as I use a Millet Mildot Scope on my Savage 270, as well as on my M-14 and put my 6th dot on his withers, go through my breathing and crank off a round. Seconds later he rears backwards and tumble out of sight. I smile at my buddy and we proceed to the area and find him behind that hill. He had tumbled all the way to the bottom, thank God, so I didn’t have to hike up and get him. The shot placement was dead center chest so the drop was a little more than I thought, but it got the job done.
Another quick knife work and he’s in the truck, after a 20 minute drag. I’m liking this! Two Down! We are done for the day, as its getting dark, so back to the hotel for a change of clothes and then dinner and drinks. Up early the second day and our third buddy Jeff is on the hot seat. Back to the same area I hunted and we weren’t two miles up in the higher tundra scoping out several bucks, all shooters, but one caught his eye that was down in a hole bedded down. This guy was huge. I tried to talk him out of I, as it was way down in the hole. He wouldn’t have it. He and my guide friend worked their way down a half mile, while Steve and I watched from the ridge….too many footsteps could spook it. Finally in position, about 300 yards away, Jeff shoots….done deal…three down. Now to get him out. I already know this is going to be a chore.
After a 45 minute hike down to get him, it was another two hours to get him up to a place where we can get a quad to it, of which we had to call for from the ranch. Mind you the whole time it is snowing. We leave him and reverse hike back up the ridge, to collect our gear we left there. Add another 20 minutes to get over the top to the truck and we are beat. We retrieve the animal and go back to base camp and then the hotel for a much needed shower and whiskey.
Day three sees us with all three Muley’s hanging from the tree and now looking for the Whitetail and Antelope. So the day starts cold at 27 degrees, but the good news is I have coffee. Actually this day was the easiest, as we see Whitetail in the low sage, along the river bottom every morning when we go out. To make this very long story shorter, the three of us bag all three whitetail, within the first two hour, all shots under 300 yards, and started looking for Antelope, which by nature are a little more scarce and spookish. As the day continues, thankfully it warms up to the high 30’s. Far back in the valleys of the higher country we spot a set of three. Mind you we have doe tags, same as the whitetails, which are bought over the counter in this state, and upon confirmation of glassing them they are all does, so we set out a stalk of several hundred yards. Finally upon the area that we last saw them, we sighted them before they saw us and quietly settled in for a shot. Jeff decides to go prone and lay on the high spot and wait for them to show themselves more, but I know he is at a disadvantage laying down. Steve and I move forward hesitantly just to get closer. Twenty yards up they show themselves working up the ridge. I immediately snap the weapon to my shoulder and click off the safety….picked the one I wanted, adjusted my elevation for a hold over the withers and cut lose. Immediately Steve did the same, and found that we picked two different targets… thank God. Both dropped like a rock. I hit mine a little high upon the right withers, thinking that it must have stepped down as I shot, but nonetheless it took out his spine. It was dead before it hit the ground. Steve had to put another round in his, as his hit low. The truck was only 400 yards away, so we are done. One the way back to base camp, we spotted a third and Jeff had his chance, which he dispatched quickly. In the three hunting days there we had collected all 9 animals and now the task of 1/8thing them up for our Freezers, which took the rest of this afternoon. After that we went fishing for large German browns in the river, which was awesome.
I had a 650 Grizzly cooler and Steve a 600 Yeti cooler, which I recommend both for this kind of work. Jeff took his game into a butcher. I like doing my own, so we got them cut up and Iced on each layer. By the way that 650 Grizzly holds three large game animals cut up and stacked with ice on each layer. I strongly suggest that you put the cooler in the bed of the truck, before you load it. Otherwise you will not be able to pick it up. The ice lasted 6 days! I got it home after two days on the road, set up my butchering table, knives, vacuum packer and went to work. Two days later….freezers are packed.
Just fyi, from the time we entered Kaycee, Wyoming to the time we crossed the State line coming back home we counted 101 big legal bucks. In California the doe to buck ration is like 300 to 1, if you see one. My advice is to go out of state, have fun and fill your freezer, though a long trip, it is always well worth it, and if you have a chance take a kid with you and teach him or her.