Well, we made our annual pilgrimage to Wyoming to chase some lopes and enjoy some time away from busy jobs and home lives. This year we were hunting a new unit and had only 2.5 days to tag out. The aspens were just starting to turn and we awoke the first morning to beautiful terrain and nearby bulls bugling. We had heard from the local ranger and other locals that numbers were quite down and good bucks were really hard to come by - so we mentally prepared ourselves for this reality and went afield ready to take what we could find.
After stopping to watch a heard of elk move through, my buddy spotted a small heard of lope on a distant ridge about a mile way. Through the spotter he made out what looked to be a decent buck, and given the beautiful terrain and outlook on the numbers - we decided to go after it. So, down into a canyon, across a few forks of the river, and up the other side through the aspens full of elk we went. Once we neared the top of the ridge that gave way into a bowl in which we saw the antelope heading for we got ready.
I am generally first shooter (or right of denial) as I now fly in from MI and the rest of our crew lives in/near Denver. So I get ready with my shooting sticks and we pop over the crest.
There they are, at 175 yards just looking at us. I get my scope on the buck but I have the "first-shooter-shakes" and just don't feel good about it and elect to pass. Then the group hightails it up higher into the bowl.
After about 1 minute I realize that I have calmed down and was pissed I passed up a shot at a mature goat on a low numbers year. So, I whip the bi-pod out of my pack, screw it on and go prone with my lumbar pack as a rear rest. My buddies are ranging the buck at 507 with my Leica 1200, so I dial the CDS to 490 to compensate for the uphill shot and settled it. I felt super steady and there was no hint of wind. He was at ease and feeding and slightly quartering away facing right. I fire - coming out of the recoil in time to see a reaction to a hit and he runs about 20-30 yards and pauses, quartering slightly away and left - I fire again. Another hit and he drops.
Turns out both were perfect hits going in behind the shoulder and out the neck - and so the shots both criss-crossed the vitals leaving two 2" exit holes out both sides of the neck. I was pleased with the bullet performance and placement. We dressed him out and quartered him as the sun continued to rise. The hike back was long, but we were all smiles.
(My favorite pic of the trip)
Win 70, Classic SS short action
23" Pac-Nor in 308 win
Mickey Bridges Pattern EDGE
PT&G bottom metal
VX3 2.5-8x36 CDS
155 Scenar, Varget, Lapua brass
Next up was my buddy Brian who got on a nice buck on a small tract of state land, right off the main road and dropped him at 206 yards. Drove the truck right up to him, cracked a beer and dressed it from the tailgate hoist with some J. Cash playing in the background...livin' well.
Marlin XS7 - 308 Win
165gr Hornady BTSP/Varget
VX2 2-7x33 CDS
Next up we spotted some does on state land and my other buddy did not feel comfortable with the distance with his new rig only a few weeks old and sighted in the day before - so I opted to take a poke with my new rifle that just so happened to shoot a VERY tight group with the first plain jane factory fodder that I tried the week prior.
So, this little lady succumbed to a rifle that had waited 55 years for it's first kill.
1958 Model 70 Featherweight
130 win PPs
Snow - hail - sleet - 50mph winds
But, with an area rich with broken and varied terrain we were able to stalk within 150-175 yards for both of my buddies other tags and were tagged out by 1pm and headed for camp and a nice 12yr single malt around the campfire.
Marlin XS7 - 308
Model 70 SS Classic
This doe was taken while bedded after an epic stalk down a drainage through some dense brush. A great end to the hunt.
Next year through - we might try for elk in this same area if we can draw tags.
Here's to another year of lopes in the books!