The 2005 deer/pronghorn hunt was my first, using the 7mm 140gr Accubond in my Browning B78 7mmRemMag. I loaded 70gr of IMR7828 for a chronied MV of right around 3200fps at the muzzle. I posted those results here in Oct. 2005, but to review: the heavy mule deer was taken at 408 yards and the pronghorn at 175 yards. The bullet performed better than I had expected.
This year I flew to Denver and picked up a rental car to again drive across Colorado and Wyoming, a trip that I always much enjoy. Seeing the great west, from the high plains to peaks to the prairie gets me fired up to work hard on my hunt.
Arriving at the lodge on the evening of Sept. 30, I met the outfitter and guide. The cooks laid out grand fare and I turned in early, as my guide had said that we'd have breakfast at 5a.m. Well before daylight, we were on a knob, atop a ridge line, where we could watch deer at first light, up to a mile away, feeding and moving off the alfalfa and into the rough drains running down off the ridges. We waylaid a fair sized herd and counted 14 bucks moving by us and into the higher ground to lay up for the day. None of the bucks carried the heavy antlers that I sought.
After the morning hunt, we had lunch and began glassing for antelope. I was able to glass a number of bucks, none of which appeared to be carrying over 13" of horn. I passed on three that I was able to get in my rifle scope, holding out for something that looked at least like 15".
The evening passed as had the morning, with more bucks spotted but none that wanted to go after. I had, during the day, stripped down to a T-shirt, as the temperature had risen into the mid 80s. With all the walking, I had no trouble falling into a dreamless sleep soon after a late supper. I was only awakened one time by the incessant mooing of the cows of the ranch, whoâ€™d that day had their calves taken away. Cows have to be penned for two or three days in order that they not take off out of the county looking for their â€œlostâ€ calves. The calves had been loaded and shipped to auction, so the plaintive mooing of the cows was in vain. About the third day, theyâ€™d forget their calves and resume their boring cow lives, but that night the concert they created was hard to sleep through.
The second day was a repeat of the first. I saw lots of game on the private leases, hunting an entirely new area. What a pleasure to hunt thousands of acres and never see another hunter. The guide knew where all the high knobs were and we glassed and rejected a number of bucks. Ditto for the pronghorn hunt of that second day. More bucks to glass, but none that I wanted to take that early in the hunt. I fell asleep even more quickly that night.
On the third day every one of my 64 years was felt, as I struggled up and down the rough, semi-arid ridges of north eastern Wyoming. We never seem to notice the years taking their toll, but they do. After lunch we saw a weather front come in, bringing a cold rain with it. By time we got to the next hunting spot, the rain had let up for a while and being the third day, I was more into taking the first good antelope buck that I could stalk and get a shot at. We glassed what looked like a good buck, with high symmetrical horns. I eased up to the brow of a low knoll on the prairie and had the buck in my scope, only waiting for him to get out from in front of a doe so I would have a clear shot. Suddenly a lone doe who was being pursued by a smaller buck, off to our left, let out a snort as she spotted us and the entire herd of about twenty antelope, to include my buck, took off. Luckily the herd had not seen us, but had only bolted because of the snort of the lone doe. We watched as they went up over a rise one and a half miles distant. After hoofing it to the rise, we eased up and made out the herd at around 250 yards. In the half hour since theyâ€™d bolted, they had settled down and were again grazing, with my buck worrying one of the in heat females. A four foot high rock laid to the right side of the rise, so I eased up to it and slid my jacket atop the natural resting place to the right side of the rock. By time I had the herd in my scope, half of them were looking at me. From past experience, I realized that they would not give me more than a couple minutes, if that long, before they again bolted off, escaping some danger that they perceived in my presence. The buck walked clear of the doe, quartering toward me, left to right. I placed the crosshairs on his shoulder and moved the rifle with him, as he did not appear as if he was going to stop. I touched off the round and the guide reported that the buck had â€œhumped upâ€, even though he did not fall. The rest of the herd lit out, save for one very small buck, who stood looking at his big brother just as he fell over. By time I got to my buck he was graveyard dead. By measuring paces the shot had been 260 yards. The 7mm 140gr Accubond had torn up his lungs, liver and clipped the stomach before exiting the ribs on the far side. The guide dressed the buck and we loaded him on the fold down rack on the front bumper of the Suburban and headed back to the ranch to hang him on the game pole.
That evening the rain returned and seemed even colder. The forecast on my Walkabout radio called for more of the same the next day. After three days of walking rough country, I really wanted to get my buck that evening. Gaining a good perch overlooking Little Powder basin, we glassed some more. The guide spotted a buck lying next to a log, in a drain at what looked like a mile away, using his 25X spotting scope and tri-pod. I looked through the scope and agreed to take that buck if we could somehow get to him. The guide used past experience to guess that the buck, along with possibly more bucks, would come through a cut between two ridges and go for a wheat field behind us. It was now four oâ€™clock, so we anticipated that the deer would soon be on the move. We motored over to the spot. As we dismounted. two bucks came around from behind a tree line and began to feed, roughly 175 yards from us. I took up a good steady position and quickly viewed the bucks, not certain how long it would take for them to bolt, as our scent was on the wind and going their way. The one that appeared to be a 4x4 was nice, but the 3x4 carried much more mass, so I laid the crosshairs on his shoulder and fired, just as he put his head down to feed. The bullet pierced the main beam of his left antler and entered just behind his shoulder. Evidently, the bullet was upset by going through the antler, but did not break up. The bullet did however begin to tumble, making a one and half inch entry wound. The 4x4 moved out smartly with my 4x3 buck trying to go with him. My buck had no steam left and fell over after about four steps. When the guide dressed the buck we found that the lungs and liver had been shredded and the bullet stopped in the stomach. The high speed tumbling bullet had done the damage that I needed done and even though I did not recover the bullet, I wager that it held together quite well. The antler was not ruined and only had the 7mm hole through the tine, which would become a part of my story whenever anyone looked at that rack.
Even in the elation of taking the buck, my shoulders drooped a little as I realized how tired I was. A four or five day hunt in rough country is a young manâ€™s game. I am glad to have been able to hold up walking for my three days. By the end of that third day, the hunt had really become work for me and would only hope that I couldâ€™ve kept going had I not bagged my buck on the third evening.
We toted both animals up to the meat processor and went back to the lodge for the eating and story telling. The people who run this place are grand folks and we had a good evening together.
On the morning of the fifth day, I collected my wrapped and frozen meat and headed for the Denver airport, stopping along the way to UPS my cased rifle and suitcase to myself. I carried the meat from both animals in my otherwise empty luggage. The hard frozen meat stays in fine shape for a one day trip home and was still frozen but not as hard, when I loaded it into my home freezer that night.
I have hunted with this outfitter eleven times since 1991. He will not guarantee 100% success, but what I guarantee is that if you listen to your guide and do as he suggest, you will be put in front of some mighty nice bucks on that hunt.
I really like carrying the single shot rifle. If shots are practiced and taken at various ranges and from any conceivable position, while on the range, one shot is all that is needed. Besides, a follow up shot with a single shot rifle does not take that long to accomplish with some practice. I have carried mostly bolt rifles for most of my life. In taking game I have used a fair number of calibers, most of which would do the job on this most recent hunt of mine. For those of you contemplating a combo deer/pronghorn hunt, I would suggest any caliber .277 or larger in a rifle with which you can consistently fire three rounds inside an inch and half circle at 100 yards and a seven inch circle at 300 yards. Most magnums cartridges larger than a 30-06 are not needed for deer and antelope, but go with what you like and with what you and connect with.
One never knows when oneâ€™s final hunt will take place. A friend and I are now looking at a caribou hunt in Canada, so perhaps I will post the results next year!