By Hunter Conroy
I was 10 years old and had just received my first hunting license when my dad asked me what animals I dreamt of hunting if I had the chance. After careful consideration, my list consisted of mule deer, caribou, Stone sheep, and antelope. I am blessed to have such a good dad who is willing to take me on all kinds of adventures to help me accomplish my dreams. And so, at 10 years old, my quest for four very different species began.
My first animal was a weird-looking, hard-earned mule deer buck that I was thrilled to get. After other successful local hunts for deer, elk, moose, and a turkey, my dad and I were able to head up north with a buddy to get a mountain caribou. Thanks again, Mr. Wade! After that, my dad and I started looking for a place to hunt antelope. We spent a lot of time looking at Huntin’ Fool’s Wyoming antelope tables and tried to find a good unit. My dad called Huntin’ Fool and spoke with Logan Hedges, who was full of great information in planning our trip. Since we decided to save our antelope points for a group hunt with my 12-year-old brother the next season, my dad got up early and surprised me with a leftover tag for a Wyoming unit as a present for my 15th birthday. I was so excited and couldn’t wait for the trip!
As we live in B.C., the unit that my dad chose was in northern Wyoming. He also chose that unit because Huntin’ Fool and Wyoming Fish and Game both said that it had some big walk-in areas for us to hunt. I called Logan again, and he was very happy for me that I was going to hunt antelope. He told me there were a lot of antelope in the unit but it might be tough to find one on public land. I thanked him and hoped I was ready.
The drive from Cranbrook, B.C. to Sheridan, Wyoming was about 11 hours. We left at 4 a.m., and I was so excited to be hunting antelope that I didn’t fall asleep the whole trip. As we neared Wyoming, we saw our first antelope. We were going down a few days before the season so we could scout around, and I was hoping to find a nice buck that I could get on opening day.
My dad and I checked into our hotel, put our gear away, and realized that we still had a few hours of light left, so we threw on the camo. We decided to check out an area we had heard about. Along the way, we saw hundreds of antelope in farmers’ fields along the highway. I couldn’t wait to get to our spot and see what there was. Surprisingly, there weren’t many antelope in our target area. There was basically nothing for public land, but there were tons of mule deer. I estimated that we saw at least 350-400 deer in one area alone. We only saw three antelope, though. On our way out, we saw seven monster bucks come over a hill skylined by the setting sun. It was amazing.
On our way back to town, we stopped at a local sporting goods store and spoke with a couple of guys who were very informative about how to field judge antelope. They gave us some great advice on what size of antelope we could expect on the public land in this area. We returned to the hotel and planned to hike to the walk-in area in the morning.
We woke up early and hiked into the walk-in area. It poured rain all day, but we saw six antelope bucks! Most of them were small, but one was a nice buck. He only had one cutter, but he was clearly the leader of the herd. We walked around that walk-in area all day. On the hike out, we found a beautiful buck with over 20 does. He was rutting like crazy. We watched him chase the does for about 15 minutes.
Opening morning came, and my dad and I headed back to the walk-in spot. The rain had finally stopped, but the fog was so thick that we could hardly see. We didn’t see a single antelope, and we ran into other hunters everywhere. After four hours of hiking, we were feeling a little low when we walked out of there. We spent a few hours driving to different areas and found a few herds of antelope, but no one would let me hunt without paying a large trespass fee. Given this, we decided to keep looking on the few blocks of public land within the unit.
It was now mid-afternoon, and my dad suggested that we walk back into the walk-in area since everyone was likely gone now and the fog had just cleared up. I was game to try again. We walked back in via a different route to get onto a big flat where we had seen antelope the day before. We hiked up a hill so steep I wouldn’t have been surprised if we topped it and there was a sheep standing there. When we finally got to the big flat, we began to glass it. I was getting my binoculars out when I saw a little black dot moving way out in the sage. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a lone antelope buck. It was a long distance away, so we moved quickly over the various hills and gullies to close the distance. Along the way, we popped over one hill and glassed for the buck. He was now bedded right in the middle of the big flat.
About 20 minutes later, we eased over a ridge and discovered that he had moved to a new spot on a higher hill. We made our way across the final draw and crept over the hill. As my dad slowly moved up the final ridge, we saw the buck bedded about 100 yards away and we hit the dirt. We dropped our packs and belly crawled through the grass to get me into a good shooting spot. We could see the buck bedded in the open again, and my dad whispered that I could shoot the buck when he stood up. It was really hot out, and all that hiking around made me really tired, but my adrenaline was pumping as I knew one of my dreams was close to becoming a reality. Suddenly, the antelope stood up. He looked around and saw us lying on our stomachs in the grass. I wanted to shoot in case he ran away, but he was still looking in our direction, so I couldn’t move. My dad whispered to me that when the buck looked away he would put up our Primos trigger stick and I would need to get on the shooting rest right away. My heart was pounding. Eventually, the buck took a few steps and looked away. In one fluid motion, my dad raised the trigger stick and I put the Tikka .270 on it and got on the buck. He looked back towards us, but I already had the crosshairs on his shoulder. The rest is history.
Walking up to the buck was like a dream. I was so grateful for this opportunity. I touched those cool looking horns and then it hit me. He only had one prong! This was the biggest of the group of bucks we had seen on the scouting day. I was thrilled to get him. After we butchered and caped him, my dad took all the meat in his pack while I took the head and cape in mine. Lucky me.
As with any good hunting adventure, there are so many people to thank. I would like to start with God for giving me this opportunity to take my first antelope. Also, I would like to thank the guys from the sports store for all their insight into the unit we were hunting. I would also like to thank Logan for his advice to get us started.
Finally, I would like to thank my mom for letting me go on this trip and my dad for all the hard work and effort that he contributed to make this possible. We hiked about 20 miles to get this antelope, and none of it would have been possible without him. Thanks again, Dad! This was my first hunt in the United States, and I can’t wait for my next one. My dad says in the summer of 2020 I am going on a Stone sheep hunt in northern B.C., and I can hardly wait!