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Western Whirlwinds


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#1 Phil

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 06:22 AM

Seems this year's Western adventure was one for sure !
Three of us left PA on a Tues evening with plans to drive straight through to WY for a one day Antelope hunt on public access land before heading to CO for the 2nd Elk & Mule deer rifle season. I was hoping to stop by Ohmaha NE to see Steve but we hit Ohmaha around 10am Weds so I knew he'd be at work and I didn't want him to make any special arrangements to meet us. The NE winds were raging as we drove into 50+mph headwinds, dropping the truck's fuel mileage from 19 to 13...had to really hang onto the hat when stopping to pump gas!
We arrived at our hunting spot Weds evening to join Judd & kids who had been there since Sunday. They had been dealing with high winds all week and reported the Speedgoat numbers were way down and the praire ghosts were spooky. Judd warned that the lopes wouldn't let them get within a 1000yds with the truck before racing away. They'd received permission to hunt a private ranch the last day so wouldn't be hunting with us. At daylight we headed onto the ranch we had permits to access and it was 23 degrees with 40+mph winds still screaming across the plains. Recounting Judd's experiences we opted to stop the truck below the crest of each hill we encountered and would get out and sneak on foot to peek up over the top with bino's to hopefully spot antelope ahead and see if a stalk could be formulated. Right off the bat Fred missed a big doe at 315yds then a med. sized buck trotting at 200 yds offered a quick offhand shot as we were glassing a large bunch 1/2 mile away...lopes 2, hunters 0.
After the quick start we decided that we'd put in some shoe leather time and headed cross country. Pastor Keith has had several years of Western hunting so he ventured off to the East and as this was Fred's 1st trip we teamed up. The day warmed up quickly and we spotted several small groups of antelope feeding & bedding down in the distance across an expanse of the ranch. I decided to make a 2 1/2 mile circular stalk on a group of a dozen lopes feeding in basin a mile distance. Fred would head along a powerline on the opposite side in hopes we'd bump them to each other. Around noon I was at the base of a small sand ridge that overlooked the basin the lopes had been spotted in. I crawled 20yds up to a notch in the top and peeked into the basin. The large group was gone but two doe were bedded several hundred yds out from the ridge. I ranged them at 387yds and decided to take a shot as I would be shooting directly into the strong headwind. Even shooting straight into the wind I was surprized just how much the wind affected the 165gr 30-06 . I had held at the top of the shoulder and still hit just left of the bedded doe's tail...maybe 20" drift. Both doe ran about 40 yards to the right and my 2nd shot also missed but they were confused and raced back towards me. LOL, I rolled onto my back trying to stay out of sight as they ran up to within 25 yds of me and stood staring for several seconds before trotting down off the backside of the ridge. I eased up into a sitting position and the doe stopped broadside below me, one of them offering a sweet neck shot at 148yds. Later I filled my 2nd tag with another 200 yd neckshot, nice having no meat loss...just a couple long drags to the highway! Fred scored late in the afternoon on a really nice buck lope and Keith missed a long 500yd+ shot with his 338 ultramag. All told we spotted over 100 antelope that day.
We ended the evening with steak dinners at the Virginian hotel.
Next morning (fri) we headed to CO to see Larry & Melody Money for a quick visit and drop off our lopes at processor near CO Springs. A short but scenic drive later we arrived at Huck's elk camp.
Opening morning I headed up top with Will and Tony(Texas boy some here know). Unforunately a big rock got the best end of an encounter with the right rear rim & tire of Will's Ford at 12,500ft...1st experience changing a tire at that elevation in the dark. We got rolling 45 minutes later but arrived to late to get to our pre-chosen spot. We headed across the top to try and intercept elk heading back into the timberline to bed down. Tony was dropped off to hunt a shelf around the rim and Will & I went another 1/2 mile before stopping. We hiked a couple hundred yds down over but Will decided it was too late to reach a small ridge below at the risk of spooking elk. I ranged the point of the ridge he pointed to and it was 308yds below. The shelf Tony was supposed to come out on was 423yds to our right. After only about 10 minutes Will spotted an elk heading into the timber far below us. Man...if we could have reached the spot he had hoped to, it would have been a great oppurtunity. Will advised me to sitdown and get ready. No time to use the rangefinder as elk began filtering through the opening below...6 more cows, then a nice branch antlered bull stepped into view. We guessed the range at around 500 yds and I knew that the downhill incline was 13 degrees slope. I held for 250yds and took the shot. The bull immediately angled into the timber out of sight and 2 more cows ran through the opening. We hiked down and looked for indications of a hit. We found the bull's tracks and where he wheeled at the shot without any signs of hair or blood. Following his tracks through a 30 yd wide band of snow and another 50 yds through the trees it was determined a clear miss. I went back to were the bull was walking when I shot and was able to use the rangefinder to check the distance to the small scrub pine we'd been standing by up the slope, 607yds ...nothing in PA anywhere can fully prepare a hunter for shooting under the extreme circumstances hunting the CO mountains!
Many cow elk & mule deer encounters over the next few days saw 3 cow tags & 1 bull tag filled. Pastor Keith filled his muley tag on a small spike the 2nd evening so he could pack up and join some friends down near Pagossa Springs CO for a wilderness horseback hunt for elk in an OTC license area. Fred scored on a really nice 16" high 16" spread mule deer buck (his 1st) on the third day. I covered miles looking for a bull and bumped a few elk each day and had some stalks on spotted elk but they ended up being cows. The last day ended with Fred & I back at the truck, rifle unloaded and shells put away, when we spotted 2 spike bull elk crossing the gasline 325yds way.A frantic comedy of trying to retrieve shells ensused. We decided to try and catch up to the bulls so I skirted the new growth timber they had headed into and Fred went to cut the tracks. Turned out that we'd only seen the tail end of a group including a big bull, 2 spikes, 3 cows. We tracked them approx. a mile before catching glimpses of tan & brown through the timber ahead. The wind was perfect but something(possibly another hunter) made the elk suddenly veer to the left. All I could spot was shoulders/legs/2 cow heads moving through the pines at 150yds before they dropped down into a ravine and out of sight. We opted to give up the chase as a snowstorm was upon us and we had to head to Denver for an early flight home to PA. Pastor Keith saw several bears/ a lynx/ cow elk but o bulls on the remainder of his trip. Fred & I saw a couple herds of bighorn sheep/several elk/mule deer/blue grouse/White Partridges (can't spell tarmigan)/ snowshoe hares/ jack rabbits/ eagles/ millions of squirrels of several varity. It was a great hunt and perfect first adventure for Fred !

Edited by Phil, 05 November 2012 - 07:54 PM.

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#2 PA RIDGE RUNNER

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 04:23 PM

Sounds very much like an adventure to me.
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