I had been invited to the National Bowhunt in Glenrock, Wyoming, where teams of three would compete for points on the deer they’ve shot. The weight, and in case of a buck, the points of the rack, would all be tallied together to see which team had the highest number of points.
Fellow WomenHunter® Kathleen Griese, my long time friend Paula Brown, and myself, would make up the "Women’s" team. We were actually the very first all-women’s team in the 36 years of this contest.
Each team had a flag that represented them. Our WomenHunters™ banner flew proudly amongst the others.
Every team had to draw for the ranch they would be hunting on, and ours turned out to be the Ruby Burk Ranch outside of Douglas on the North Platt River. Ken Hicks would be our guide for the next three days.
This is my account of the great time we had… (Look for Kathleen’s story also)
Ruby’s ranch hand, Hugh, loved having a team of women hunting and driving around the 5,000-acre property that he managed. Truth be told, we kinda loved him too!
For a hunter from the Midwest, this was a totally different landscape and equally different way to hunt. At 5,000 feet elevation and nary a tree in sight, it would be a challenge to hunt this wide-open terrain with stick and string. I would give it my best shot anyhow!
Either whitetail or mule deer were fair game on this hunt. Being that the three of us were from the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin where mule deer don’t preside, we decided we would all try for a mulie. Unless of course we saw a monster whitetail, or it just plain got late in the hunt and we’d "settle" for anything.
In addition, we had also purchased over the counter antelope doe licenses, due to the large amount of antelope on the property we were hunting.
My most memorable moment of this hunting trip was when I was walking to a chunk of woods in the afternoon, and came within inches of stepping on a rattlesnake. Because my eyes were focused straight ahead looking for deer, I had not noticed what was down at my feet. It's rattle and it's loud hissing, sure made me jump back in a fright!
Once I was finally in that chunk of woods, I found a spot overlooking an alfalfa field to sit at. There was a windblock of stacked-up dead trees blocking a portion of the field from my view. I was sitting on a camo stool in front of a cottonwood tree, when two yearling mulies walked past me at 10 yards.
One bedded down less than 15 yards from me and he never knew I was there.
I was now on the ground with the stool behind me to help prop up my camera arm, while I videotaped this mulie. 10 minutes later, he got up but moseyed around my area. He stayed within my sight all evening long. A few other small deer came by and hung around with him.
Then, I looked behind me and saw a little pencil-headed whitetail spike coming my direction. I turned the camera on him just to see how close HE would come before I was busted. If I hadn't gotten it on tape, nobody would have believed me (and I showed them too) that this spike came within a couple yards of me. All the while, my noisy video camera was on him. He stopped and put his nose to the sky and sniffed the air but NEVER had me pegged, even when I could have reached out and grabbed him by the neck! It was like he looked over my shoulders past me, but never at me. It was so hard to keep from yelling, "BOO!" or snickering too loud. "You stupid little buck!", was all I could think. He walked right passed me and stood broadside at 20 yards. I would continue to watch him and just let him go.
I was wearing one of those sound amplifiers in my ear and could hear crunching behind me. Because the sound was amplified, I didn't know how close it was, or what it was. I then turned the camera off, turned my head to see what was behind me, and there, just a couple feet from me next to my tree, was a mature whitetail doe. We came face to face (literally) and we startled the ga-jeebers out of each other! She ran off the way she came and I could only smile.
Some of my other memorable hunting episodes are:
One morning, a big 8, (or perhaps I should call them as the westerners do… a 4x4) came to within 35 yards of me. Unfortunately, he was only giving me a full frontal shot, which I would not take with a bow. I could only watch him quickly turn and run away, when he decided that my blind did not belong next to the only tree in the area.
On the evening hunt, I watched two big mulie bucks from the other side of the field. I thought they were elk at first because their bodies were so big. "No, they don’t have elk on this ranch. Maybe some of the cattle got loose," I brought my binoculars up to my eyes and saw the racks on these mule deer and my heart started to pound. It was getting dark and they were 185 yards away. They’d never make it to my side of the field before sundown, if any time at all! So I shot them with my camera instead.
I hoped I would see them again, and the next morning I did. Those mulies were heading my way on the edge of an alfalfa field. They made it to 83 yards (my heart was pumping!) then turned and walked away, up the sagebrush-covered hills. I would have loved to take either one of them, but they were in rifle range, not bow range.
Deer were passing by at close range, walking less than 10 yards in front of me, but I was not interested in them. I wanted to see where those two big boys were going. They left me for another zip code. And such it is with hunting.
We had the opportunity one afternoon to go to another ranch, Sullivan’s Ranch, and see elk. Unfortunately, no elk were sighted but we could hear them off in the distance. What a beautiful place this was!
Mishaps: There’s always at least one of these on my hunts.
While sitting in my ground blind at a waterhole, I peeked out the roof vent of my blind and spotted 4 whitetails coming down from the hills. Two of them had visible racks. My heart started to thump wildly and I grabbed my bow and got into position.
It seemed like eternity and I hadn’t seen or heard them yet. I looked out the window to my left and saw nothing. I looked out the window to my right and there, just a foot outside of my window, was the face of a spike buck! Neither of us thought to have another face so close to our own. He turned inside out and ran back the way he came, taking his three buddies with him. Dog gone it! I knew better than to break one of the rules of ground blind hunting… sitting too close to a window. Next time I’ll be hiding back in the shadows.
On my way out of the blind, I placed FireTape on the outside of the blind so I could find it easily the next morning in the dark. I also placed Tape on sagebrush on my way out so I could find my way back in the morning.
Early the next morning, I walked to my ground blind at the waterhole. It was great to see the FireTape glowing to direct my way.
When I got to the area where my blind was supposed to be… it wasn’t!
I directed my headlamp to shine on the entire area. I detected a light glowing from, of all places, the center of the water hole! UGH! The wicked wind of the west had blown my blind over and collapsed a wall, sending it into the wash. This area has been in a drought for so long that the earth was hard as rock and I couldn’t get any of the stakes to bury into the ground. That’s why it became air born. I was just glad that I had that FireTape on one wall of the blind… the wall that happened to be face up in the water!
I would now have to baptize through water immersion, my brand new hunting boots.
I pride myself in keeping my boots clean and dry. It didn’t matter now!
I also discovered that a wet blind is a very heavy blind. It was no easy feat trying to pull the swamped thing out of the muddy water. My feet sank in the thick muck and I almost lost my balance. The temperature was in the upper 30’s but my finagling with the blind kept me plenty warm. I was able to drag it to where it should have been, dumped out the water, and re-set it up. My scentless blind now smelled of bad "swamp" water, which meant I did too. I was glad nobody was around to watch me. That’s the nice thing about hunting by yourself. Nobody has to see or know about your screw-ups, unless you tell them. J
On another day, I tried to put a stalk on a mulie at the old corral. A doe was bedded down outside the corral fence and bounded away. I got within 10 yards of a mulie forkhorn. Unfortunately, I was wearing my binoculars around my neck which I never do while shooting/hunting, but did this one time. When I drew back, my release trigger caught on my binocular strap and it pulled my trigger around with it. (I was using a release with a 360º turning head.) When he was standing perfectly broadside, I brought my finger back to where the trigger should have been, but it wasn't there. I was pressing air! I looked down, and of course as soon as I turned the trigger around so that my index finger could touch it off, the forkie bounded away. Oh well. At least I had him at close range and barring any mechanical mishaps; I could have had him, no doubt in my mind. That was a fun hunt anyways.
Do I dare mention I got a flat tire while out at the ranch? Luckily both Ken our guide, and friend Paula, helped change the flat and put on a spare.
Trying for antelope:
Sitting over a waterhole is great for antelope hunting, but missing a shot on one is not so great.
I sat on a stool on the North waterhole site with a woodpile right behind me to break up my outline. I watched a sole doe antelope come in and drink at 45 yards. I realized I would need to move closer to get a better shot at what might come next. I crawled on hands and knees (thank God I wear foam kneepads and gloves!) and made myself a trail by pulling out the weeds that were in front of me. I was now closer to the edge of the waterhole and picked out shots at 20 yards. I only brought my bow and one arrow with me to this "new" location. My quiver was left back at the woodpile. (Mistake!)
Several antelope appeared and were all on edge. They quickly drank except for one. She was tardy and I knew was at a perfect 20 yards. I rose up onto my knees, drew my bow above the tall green weeds, put my pin on her vitals and shot. All the while, the other antelope standing there were watching the whole charade. Unfortunately for me, I had the 30-yard pin on her and watched the arrow fly right over her back. It was a clean miss, which is better than a bad hit any day.
While sitting on an alfalfa field, antelope stayed out a ways except for one that came within bow range. However, she had her fawn there with her and began to nurse less than 20 yards in front of me. Again, I shot them only with my camera.
On this trip I watched eagles and hawks soar above me, cottontails hopping everywhere around me, a red fox nearly fall off a log he was climbing, oodles of wild turkeys meandering about, raccoons with their eyes glowing in the pre-dawn morning, cormorants perched on a shoal in the river, and the ever present cattle wondering what the heck I was doing in their pasture.
While there in Glenrock, we were also treated to a wonderful picnic dinner with all the other bowhunters and ranch owners and all the people that made this event a success. Also, a wonderful "Old Timey" bluegrass band performed for us, and even played a tune I requested, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" with expertise.
On the last day of the hunt, a banquet buffet in a local restaurant was held to honor the winning teams and all involved with the hunt. It was also our farewell to new friends just made.
Even though none on our team even killed an animal, we felt the hunt was a success.
Thanks to Mark and Kim Gates for putting on a great hunt so that we were able to come home with TONS of memories (and photos) and thoughts of next years hunt.
© November 2005