It’s still hard to capture all the emotions and adrenaline rush experienced this last week with my youngest daughter, Olivia – age 13. This being my first report for IDO Hunting, will probably be my most memorable hunt ever!
This hunting trip all started well over a year ago. Olivia wanted to do a Wyoming hunt, and asked frequently to go. Given that she had not yet taken a large game animal, I wanted her to get more experience. She had sat with me for numerous days in the treestand for whitetail, and watched me take a number of animals here in WI. So I made a very simple deal with here. “If you take a whitetail this season, I’ll take you to Wyoming for Antelope” Well, that proved to be a costly proposition that I don’t regret. She made short order of putting a huge whitetail down in the CWD zone for the Earn-a-Buck process. With no hesitation or second thoughts, she put a Barnes TSX right through the boiler pump. Right there I knew she wouldn’t hesitate to seal the deal on a Wyoming antelope tag and that was the prelude to this trip.
With high anxiety, we applied and drew our buck tags for a small unit in Central WY. With that, the preparations began. My Brother-n-Law Paul had hunted a number of BLM and State land in the area and gave us a good indication of what to expect. Olivia had only been shooting up to 200 yards and that needed to more than double before this trip. At my farm in western WI., I set up a practice range up to 700yrds that included many different shooting angles and would also capture the prevailing winds as a “cross-wind”. Olivia quickly excelled in shooting up to 450 yards with up to a 30 mph cross-wind, which proved vital for this trip.
Our 1100 mile (each-way) journey was much more than just a WY hunt. It was truly a time of reflection for me as a father and great quality time for Olivia. Like the old phrase that “Youth is wasted on the young”, I had finally reach a point in my life where my daughters’ accomplishments mean so much more than my own. Haven taken Olivia out of school for a week, I wanted her to get the most out of this trip. We left Friday after school let out and drove through the night to the Badlands. From there, we re-visited a few monuments, and explored new areas to us. The drive through Custer, Wind Cave, and surrounding areas never gets old!
Saturday night, we finally met up with my (BNL) Paul, and set up camp at a near by camp ground. I can’t even begin to imagine what was going through Olivia’s mind or how she even got a wink of sleep that night. We set out our clothes, packed out backpacks, gassed up the atv’s, and doubled checked our gear. Paul was along for the ride since he only lives a couple hours away, and I was vowed that Olivia would be the designated shooter until she sealed the deal on her buck.
Sunday morning greeted us with temps in the low 40’s at sunrise and an adrenaline rush that is nearly indescribable. Olivia was the first to be dressed, breakfast eaten, and loaded up in the truck. You just couldn’t be more excited to be a father and watch your child so excited like on a Christmas morning. We arrived at a section of State land that Paul and I thought would give us the best vantage point for glassing the surrounding area. To me, hunting is a lot alike to fishing. By paying very close attention to details in animal behavior, you can sense a pattern that will generally duplicate itself. This was no exception. Along our entire drive from SD through WY, we watched mature antelope bucks standing solo a short distance from their herd of does. In most cases, a good sized buck that had been ran off from the dominate buck was by itself, a longs ways off from the herd.
We took a short run on the ATV’s up a two track to the top of the first hill. Like a fairy tale, there stood a very quality buck, a herd of does/fawns, and off in the distance was a lesser buck. I think Olivia was in shock to have come across a shooter within only minutes of her hunt. But that was short lived as we were spotted as quick as we saw them. In a cloud of dust, Olivia was watching how they got their nickname of speed goats.
Over the first couple hours, we continued to move from vantage point to vantage point glassing about a half dozen descent bucks. Each time, Olivia would ask me if it was big enough for me to shoot. I always responded the same.” It your buck to take, I would look for something a little better, but it’s a good buck if you want it”. With that, she said to pass and “let’s move”.
At about 10:30am, I think Paul and I both gave Olivia a little too much excitement. We had just stopped to drink some water and chow a snack when we saw the horns of a huge buck just poking up over the horizon for a hill that we had passed. I think simultaneously we both grabbed Olivia and said “SHOOTER”! Single filed, we made our way around a draw that led up to the back side of the hill that this buck had walked around. Not knowing if he was solo or not, we tried our best to move slow and caution. As we approached the crown of the hill, we knew our efforts were in the toilet as we heard the does bellow out and then run. We watched the does cover about a mile of ground as we searched the horizon for the buck. Confused, we continued to sit there glassing the area down below. (For anyone that has never hunted antelope before, you would be surprised how easily a speed goat can use any little draw or coulee to slip out of your view. Very much like the sly ability of a coyote)
Breaking the silence was Olivia voice with “UP THERE”. To our amazement was the buck we wanted and two other very quality bucks standing on a rocky hillside across from us. Paul immediately dropped the bipod on “Flash” a 7mm RUM and got Olivia into position as I got my range finder on him. “416 yards Far Left” will be engraved in my mind for a long time as I regret also saying “It’s a Booner” Paul contributed to the excitement with a confirmation that “It’s a Boon and Crocket”…It’s the one…take him, take him” In that moment, we adults became the kids. That distinctive roaring boom of old Flash filled the air as we watched a rock about a foot over that goats back get blown to dust. It seemed like slow motion that huge wide rack we were in awe over sped away into a contrail of dust. Gone! The look on Olivia’s face was horrifying as she muttered out “I didn’t breathe”
Paul and I both apologized to her and we both felt so guilty for not trying to walk her through the shot. At that point, we were thankful that it was a clean miss and it was time to move on. We walked back to the ATVs and loaded up. Just as we began to move, Paul hit his breaks and pointed to a nearby hillside. There stood about 6 does and a couple of very immature bucks. Out in the open, we had no cover and no way to move much closer for a better look. We bellied up on the ground and looked them all over with a spotting scope – no mature buck, so we stood up. Weather good or bad, that was the best thing we could have done. The does began to chatter and get skittish. That prompted the mature buck that was down in a shadowed draw to show himself. We grabbed our stuff, and began a very slow crawl towards them. The does that spotted us trotted off to the top of the hill, and the buck remained in the draw looking up at the does. Finally after about 5 minutes of crawling, the buck took notice of us. Olivia slowly got into position and took a good long look at this buck. Again she asked us if it was a shooter. I told her “its not as big as the last one, but it’s a real even looking rack and a good animal” Olivia –“OK, how far?” “368 and about 4” right if your going to take him” I whispered. I heard her mutter “almost one dot…just right, BOOM and nearly immediately that buck dropped dead in its tracks.
With her rifle back on safety, we all had a moment of celebration. An awesome moment time that will forever be a great memory for the rest of our lives. As Paul and Olivia walked back up to the 4 wheelers, I just stood there looking at that buck on the opposite hillside from us. Months of thinking, preparing, dreaming…..all came together and I all could think was Dam, that’s my girl!!! Not realizing it at the time, I had pulled out my trusty little pocket camera and got a shot from her shooting position at her buck on the hillside across from me. I picked up her single brass and slipped it into my pocket as a souvenir. I then trucked my rear end over to watch her dress out her speed goat. Couldn’t help but smile and laugh as she told me to stand back as she got right to work. In our tradition, before dressing a buck it had to have a wall name. “Prince Paul” was her wall name for him, and she got back to work. Like any father, it was be careful, look out for the knife…. and before my eyes, was my little baby girl is growing up.
We took the rest of the 90 degree afternoon to get her animal butchered and iced. With it packed away, we spent the early evening searching out some other sections. We found a few nice bucks, but nothing mature enough.
The following morning, we returned to the same hills that we sought Olivia’s buck from in hopes of an encounter with “That Wide One”. I passed up four small bucks that morning and saw a few more that we just could not get into position for. We stopped for a late morning break and discussed our game plan. Paul and Olivia each had a doe tag for a different unit that we had never hunted before. We wanted to spend a day up there scouting for future trips and hopefully fill out one of the doe tags. Semi-joking around, I told Paul if I saw Dusty (a buck that we kept encountering) again, he’ll be dinner. We cracked up laugh about this buck. It seemed as if destiny kept putting him in front of me. We would run him off a hillside, just to spot him again later somewhere else. I guessed at the time he would score in the 60’s, but could see his rack wasn’t anywhere near as symmetrical as Prince Paul.
It was only minutes later that I watched him again chase a doe up a draw and onto a hillside. Paul knew I was serious about taking him when I sprawled out on the ground. Paul was barking out distances for me as I watched this buck chase that doe up the hill. 300…350…370..410….500…580…600 went by as it seemed every time he stopped, the shot wasn’t there. Either the doe was behind him , sky-lined, or just didn’t feel right. When in doubt, never shoot! So I watched them walk over the hill. Out of sight, I made my way up a two track leading around the hill where they had been. To my surprise, rather than going down the hill like the pattern of others had been, he chased her unto a small plateau. I crawled in the track of a two track until I was in a position for a clear shot. As Paul called out the range of 325 to me, they turned and presented a perfect opportunity. A perfectly placed bullet and he dropped in his tracks. Dad got to show off a little for his kid.
We ended the following day of hunting with Olivia taking a horned doe at 195yrds. A very well placed bullet double lunged her, and she dropped right where she stood. Now I began to realize I have a spoiled daughter. “Dad, can I put in for a Elk tag in Colorado?” Sure……..as long as you pack it out!
Great Report. Thanks for sharing the hunt
I realize the reports a bit long, but so hard not to elaborate on such a perfect trip. I’m a lucky guy!
BTW – Olivia figured out that if you put your point and shoot camera (for us a Nikon Cool Pixs) up to the spotting scope, you can use it as a telephoto lens. The pics aren’t as clear, but for snapshots, it works. The P/dogs is an example of that.
I read some of your report to my oldest daughter and showed her the pics tonight. Jocelyn is 6, she asked when do we get to go on a hunt together? I welled up a bit when I told her not soon enough!!
What a great trip you two had!! Thanks so much for sharing your special time with us.
Wow congrats on a very memorable hunt for both of you
Congrats on a very memorable hunt for both of you
Anyone with kids can relate to the excitement you felt, both pre-hunt and after success. Thanks so much for sharing!
Excellent report Randy! It’s easy to tell that the hunt with your daughter was not all about a kill. It’s a cherished memory that you two will have forever. Big congrats to both of you and thanks for being such a positive example for those of us who are parents just like you.
Well said Congrats on a great hunt
Fantastic report and awesome photos! Congrats!