Home, Home on the Range

Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Nicole Larson
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I was excited to say the least. I made it through most of my summer shooting my bow, scouting velvet bucks and planting food plots. Long hours in the fields- are soon to pay off this fall. This year was a little different from years past. Of course there's much anticipation for September 4th, which marks the archery opener for our beloved North Dakota deer season- BUT this year i was actually going to get to hunt a MONTH early, and i could hardly wait. 

Antelope. I never have encountered one up close. I knew nothing about them other than the fact that when i was deer hunting these wily prong-horned creatures could spot you from over a mile away and would be two sections away before you could get your bino's on them. I heard that they are super skittish and hard to get with a bow. My experienced friends told me to be prepared to spend LONG hot hours in the blind over water to get a shot, sometimes spending days waiting for the right buck to show. It didnt scare me, though i am more of a spot and stalk style hunter, i was open for any type of hunting.

Brent and I had long waited this trip, it was a super busy summer for us with our new (old) house we were basically re building ourselves, both of us are working full time jobs and working part time on our TV show. With hardly any time to just breathe, Antelope hunting in Wyoming sounded like an amazing vacation get away and Brent and I were more than ready.

Before we knew it we were packing the back of the Ram, and up at 4 am the next morining to pick up our friends David Fennell, our neighbor and "camera man" and Brent's good buddy Sean Evenson from Benson MN. The trip was long and boring until we reached the black hills, where antelope were spotted everywhere along the hilly terrain. I was so excited to see all the Antelope, i just knew this was going to be a good time. I had never been to Wyoming, and the landscape was breathtaking and there was wildlife everywhere, definitely a bow hunter's dream. 

When we arrived at the ranch, it was even better. We drove up and over a large hill and there before us was a large valley with a beautiful ranch nestled in the middle, and surrounding it was cattle pasture and a huge alfalfa field with Antelope EVERYWHERE! it was like a scene from a movie, we were in awe. As we proceeded towards the ranch house, a few antelope crossed the road in front of us, and a few big bucks perched a top a nearby hill were watching us but seemed fairly calm as they grazed toward the alfalfa below. 

As we stepped out, the fresh Wyoming air had hints of sage and cedar. It was dry, and hot. nearly 100 degrees out, and within clear view of the driveway, the local water hole harbored about 15 antelope near by. We were greeted by a very friendly rancher that was eager to show us his place, and help us get set up. Before long we had blinds set, and scouted out a few good bucks. I could hardly wait until the morning- because i knew we were going to see antelope, and a lot of them! 

As the sun set, we sat atop a hill, where we placed our tents- and watched the antelope graze until darkness fell over the landscape. We readied our camera gear and bows, and sat outside talking about our plans for tomorrow, gazing at the stars... the brightest stars ive ever seen. Wyoming was beautiful in so many ways. 

As daylight broke and the cool air began to warm, antelope began cresting the hills and heading to feed in the alfalfa. We spotted a few more before heading out to sit the day in the blind, we didnt head out early like we probably should have but it totally worked in our favor. A truck headed over the hill and pushed the antelope off the fields for a short while, so we hurried to our blinds and got set up. Not long after climbing into the blind, there were antelope in front of us, behind us and all around. Any window we looked out of, had antelope in it! what a great feeling!

12:30, it was 110 degrees out and we were HOT, and so were the goats, because they began pouring into the water hole. I had a specific buck i really wanted. He was tall and had beautiful cutters. He had a black face and cheek patches, which i was told meant he was mature. He was about 200 yards away and slowly closing his distance I decided to hold out for him, though there were quite a few nice bucks around me.

Before we knew it, a very nice group of Antelope showed up in front of us from the huge alfalfa just over the hill, peering at the water they slowly made their decent towards us. Brent had always wanted to shoot a wide buck, it had been over 25 years since he last hunted antelope. He spotted one instantly that was wide and tall. "I really like him!" Brent stated excitedly. Though i was up first, I wanted to wait for the other buck -so i quickly grabbed the camera and started to record. There were two bucks, both were "shooters" but Brent wanted the wide one, and as they hit the water the bucks stood back, at about 37 yards. For some reason without drinking they turned to leave. quickly,  Brent took aim and through the lens of our Nikon, i watched his arrow strike its mark and followed the group as they exploded through the water and into the alfalfa, while watching Brent's buck slowly drop back and tip over. 
"hes down! he's down!" Brent called out with enthusiasm as i turned the camera to him. We were in the blind for only a few hours with tons of action- i was loving it!

Brent had to get out and recover his buck quickly. We filmed some outtakes and Brent went to get the truck and get his buck processed since it was over 114 degrees out. We headed to camp with Brents buck and snapped a few photos before Brent headed to town to go get some ice. He sent me back to the blind, I was going to film myself, which i was fine with. David and Sean were in another blind about a mile from me and they had been there since morning. They had seen a ton of goats but no shooters quite yet.  Brent dropped me off and i was prepared for a long evening sit in the blind. It was 2:30 PM and the sun was baking the terrain around me. In the blind it was hot, but there was a slight breeze which made it somewhat tolerable. Not long after climbing in, say 20 minutes, a family group of does and fawns showed themselves. Then a group of young bucks and some more does, they just kept coming. It was great entertainment watching the fawns play in the water, there were even some Widgeons and a hawk that hung around the water all day. 

At 4 pm i got a text from Brent stating the Sean had a nice buck down. He sent me photos, i was so excited for him! two bucks in one day? what an amazing hunt.

I continued to be patient, watching a few bucks on the horizon with no shooters in sight. 7 PM rolled around and i was preparing to pack my stuff some of my stuff, when i noticed a group of does come over the hill in front of me. Then a young buck and a very nice buck crested the hill. My heart began to race, and then quickly sink as they headed to the Alfalfa to graze instead of coming to water. But 100 yards out, as they fed on by, the largest buck would stop and look my way before taking a few steps, and stare my way again. He soon turned away from the group and began to head my way!

My heart was thumping out of my chest when i realized he was making a bee line for the water hole. i turned the camera onto him and readied my rangefinder. I followed him through the lens as i tried to calm myself. He had nice tall horns, and big cutters, with a handsome dark chocolate face. I could see the setting sun glare off his ivory tips. He was definitely mature, and if i was given a chance i was going to take him.  I prayed the good Lord would help me make the shot if he presented one. 

He walked a few feet, paused and walked a few more. Scanning the landscape for any danger, he slowly made it to the bank. I centered the camera on him, and ranged him at 43 yards. He stepped into the water and began to drink, i quietly drew my Hoyt bow, settled my 40 yard pin, and released the Rage-tipped Easton Axis arrow. That beautiful hollow thump of my arrow hitting his chest broke the silence and the buck burned out of there. He tipped over a short 50 yards later, and i got it all on film myself! I was so excited i couldnt believe this all just happened. I quickly picked up my phone and texted Brent, "BBD". He called me instantly and they were on there way to come and see my goat! I was shaking as i stepped from the blind. I could see his white belly from where i stood. The excitement had got the best of me and i was shaking pretty bad. 

Its such a sacred moment when you can put your hands on the animal you harvested. It is a bittersweet moment only a hunter could understand. Brent and David followed me with the camera as i walked up on my first antelope buck. I admired the beautiful animal for a moment and began recapping my hunt. A rainbow popped out behind me as a distant storm rolled by and we got some awesome photos. It was a beautiful moment i will never forget it. I thanked God over and over for the opportunity. 
That night, we gathered in the rancher's shed, talked about our day and enjoyed some fresh back straps over a camp stove from our successful day. A day like no other- we had all tagged out, captured it all on film and we were able to do it all in one day! what a blessing. Our trip had just begun and we had our buck tags filled with two doe tags to go. The next Day David and I went out to fill my Doe tag, and Brent and Sean headed to another blind. I filled my tag after a day-long sit in the blind, as the weather switched on us and a huge cold front came in that made antelope sightings minimal after a nearly 50 degree drop in temperature. After 8 hours a big old doe finally showed up at the water hole and i took a 47 yard shot and she made it 50 yards before piling up. Needless to say it was another amazing day, though Sean didn't fill his tag, and the weather was forecast to rain and only get worse. Sean gave it a shot early the next morning but no Antelope showed themselves and later that day we packed our gear and headed home. Truly an experience we will never forget. 

2015 has started out awesome for us, we hope it continues. Stay tuned for more upcoming action with Field of Dreams TV!