Spot and Stalk…what?

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View  of the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming

The scene opens with a panoramic view of some breathtaking vista.  We feel as if we are gliding above the tree tops dusted with snow.  Like a bird, or a drone, we are now flying high above trout filled waters and rocky crags that hold bighorn sheep perched upon a precipice just waiting to be pursued.  The soundtrack to this inspirational view of the wilderness we all crave and need (whether we are aware of it or not) is the comforting drone of a man’s voice as he shares with us his spiritual connection to all we are seeing. He is imparting to us the wisdom of the hunt, the take away, the (dare I say) religion of the hunter.  He is not there to only harvest a glorious and antlered animal but to connect, to unplug, to commune, to grow.  Even his boots look inspired as they take step after step up a steep trail with mountain grasses swishing along side of them.  As  he glasses the hillsides and horizon before him I can almost read the wisdom and the triumph in the well earned lines of his face.  The scene is so comforting and familiar.  Familiar perhaps because it is just like so many other hunting movies making their debut today.  I poke fun, but truthfully I love these movies.  They get me excited for the season.  My adrenaline begins to spike as I think about my own upcoming days in the great outdoors, though my hunts are nothing like the one’s I see in these movies.

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An unintentional illegal fire during the temporary Total Solar Eclipse fire ban in Wyoming.  Oops!

My hunts usually begin with phone calls to my mom or neighbors to see who is available to watch my short kid and transport my tall kid to and from volleyball practice.  Then comes the teenage eye rolling from the tall kid, “Great, it’s hunting season again.  Goodbye, Mom.  See you in three months”.  I am refusing to shoulder this mother guilt even as I take off the following morning before dawn but it does take some shrugging to rid myself of it.  I ask her and I ask myself, “Why doesn’t her dad get the attitude when he takes off on his adventures?  Why is it not only okay but expected that he gets to disappear into the wilderness without question but when I do it I am breaking some unwritten rule, shirking my duties (I mean, for crying out loud, how could I leave the house when the toilet isn’t clean?).  But, leave the house I do and my soul is all the better for it.  I remind myself and my family that I am a better person after a recharge session in the great wide open.  Even if my hunt is nothing like the ones in the movies.

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Breakfast on the go after leaving the kids asleep in their beds

My hunts are humbling and humorous learning experiences.  More often than not they end with me heading back to my truck empty handed but with a brain full of what to do different next time; fuel up the truck before heading out of town, remember my hunting license, don’t head off-road with no wear left on the tires, bring water, bring food, yes…that rock is still a rock no matter how many times you glass it.  I have a name for those special rocks, rockalope.

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The first flat tire of the day

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After the second flat tire the hunt was over and the victory beer was deserved

I am currently chasing antelope with stick and string.  I have opted for the spot and stalk method which is not as easy as it sounds considering antelope have the eyesight of God.  They see all things from all directions.  They know you are there even before you know you are there.  My stalking skills are getting quite honed but I am still getting busted at 60-70 yards every time.  This is just beyond my range of comfort with my bow.  Each time I get that close I make a little “boom” sound in my mind that sounds a lot like my 30-06.  The antelope sprint away unscathed and I carry my hiking companion back to the truck.  In six full days of hunting antelope this season the score is currently:

Antelope 24

Gloria 0

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My hunting companion

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Sitka Women’s Timberline pant and heavyweight hoody are AWESOME!

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A friend joined my camp to fish and paddle but I convinced her to be my decoy

Yesterday morning I pulled out of camp at 6:30 am and found antelope immediately.  About 20 of them peppered around a flat indentation of sage covered scrubby desert floor.  I looked at them from the truck and almost couldn’t muster the determination to try again.  After all, I  had crawled in about 24 times over the past few weeks with no success.  Why even try again?  But, I shifted my perspective quickly about what my definition of success was and I got out of my truck and began to crawl and then to shimmy and then to inch.  Over an hour I made my way from 150 yards to 78 yards on flat terrain with only 1.5 foot tall sage brush to conceal me.  I was scanning the 10 to 15 pairs of eyes that could have busted me at any moment.  I was waiting to make a move until all heads were lowered to feed or were looking away from my location.  When I was finally busted by a suspicious doe at 78 yards I simply sat up and watched 20-25 antelope make a hasty get away.  Once again I was empty handed but this time I had a huge smile on my face.  As I walked back to the truck I just kept shaking my head in awe at the fact that I had just covered that much ground in plain sight.  I had succeeded in evading the divine eyesight of antelope for an hour of inching my way closer.  I’ll also mention here that I looked for my rangefinder on the desert floor for 15 minutes before realizing I had put it in the chest pocket of my Sitka heavyweight hoody for easier access.

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The integrated face mask of the Sitka heavyweight hoody is key for concealment in plain sight

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A beautiful shooter buck across the river?  No problem….

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Shooter buck is safe due to a steep hillside and additional moat across the river

The antelope are still in the lead.  I head out again on Friday to do some more belly crawling after the fastest land animal in North America (second fastest in the world).  My odds are not great seeing as I am trying to get within 50 yards of an animal with a 320 degree field of vision, but I am persistent if anything.

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Oops…. GoPro image

 

 

 

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