Wide-Open Wyoming

Late September is the time of year we go to Wyoming for pronghorn antelope hunting. That is, assuming we are fortunate enough to draw a hunting license for our favorite hunting area in Shirley Basin, Wyoming. Pronghorn doe/fawn licenses are relatively inexpensive even for out-of-state hunters like us. With an abundance of BLM/public land and small resident population, Wyoming makes a great place to hunt, especially with kids.

We departed from home on Sunday Morning, September 24 in our blue Chevy Avalanche and met PJ (Paul), driving his white Jeep Liberty and trailer, along the way. We headed north on I-25 to Fort Collins, exited and got onto US 287, which takes you to Laramie, Wyoming. If you’ve never traveled on this stretch of highway, I recommend it. It is very scenic and in fact, is much more scenic than the alternate route between Cheyenne and Fort Collins via I-25.

We arrived in Laramie and stopped at a station to buy fuel for the truck. I made the mistake of buying at the first gas station off of I-80. It was the most expensive in town. We stopped at the K-Mart at the north end of town for conservation stamps and .22 cal ammunition, but they were out of it. What a disappointment! We were now limited to the 700 rounds we brought with us. If you’ve ever shot .22 at targets with several boys, three rifles and a handgun, you know 700 rounds is NOT going to be enough. Anyway, conservation stamps are required when hunting in Wyoming and we were able to purchase those with no problem. The stamps are a little bigger than postage stamps and have some sort of wildlife picture on the front. This year’s stamp has a swimming trout on it.

We proceeded north out of Laramie on US 30 traveling about an hour to Medicine Bow. From there we turned north on WY 487 and traveled 27 miles till we reached mile marker 27. On the west side of the road is Shirley Basin and is about one hundred square miles of BLM (Bureau of Land Management)/public land.

With light winds we set up camp. We brought the 12’ x 14’ wall tent and the wood burning stove this year. With the three helpers (Joshua, Luke, Paul) we were able to get the tent set quickly and then got the cots, sleeping bags, cook stove and lantern all set in short order.

The National Weather Service Radio forecasted light winds and temps in the 20’s to low 30’s, so we were glad we brought the stove. The sky was clear and the Milky Way and stars were incredible. The boys played cards for hours, stoked the fire in the stove, and generally goofed off.

It was just as clear Monday morning, and stepping outside the tent and taking a quick scan of the landscape revealed pronghorn all over the place . . . as usual. We ate bagels and cream cheese, loaded our packs and our rifles and headed out. I let the boys switch to large caliber rifles once they get to high school, so Joshua and Luke are now hunting with a 30.06 and .243 respectively, while Paul hunts jack rabbits with a 22 rifle. I took Luke and Paul with me, and sent Joshua north along the base of some hills. The three of us came up on a herd of around 15 animals. We stalked them for a while and finally Luke took a shot. The shot was off the mark, but it was at a long distance for a first time hunter. I stopped counting paces at 200 yards, and guessed that the shot was closer to 300 yards. We found a blood spot on the ground and knew that the animal was hit, but that we just needed to catch up to it. Meanwhile, Joshua took a shot at just over one hundred yards and the animal dropped immediately. Nice shootin’. We continued tracking Luke’s animal and after another 30 minutes heard another shot from Joshua’s direction. Then another shot. We radioed Joshua and PJ, and PJ now had his animal down too. Several more hours of giving chase and passing up several opportunities to fill my tag, we finally got Luke’s pronghorn. It was a good trip for his first time with the large rifle. I hunted my way back to camp stalking some pronghorn crawling along the ground and intermittently spent time plucking cactus thorns from me knee. Ouch!

Monday evening was very nice. There was almost no wind, clear skies and it was considerably warmer. We ate our homemade chili, made by Lisa and some cornbread brought by PJ. It was quite tasty and filling. The mountain of sweet green grapes brought by PJ was nearly devoured by night’s end. The boys were more tired this evening and were in bed pretty early (10PM).

Tuesday morning brought high winds. The common saying is that there are only two things in Wyoming . . . wind and antelope. And, both were there that morning. I had Joshua drop me off a few miles from camp to start my hunt. I crept up on a few groups thinking that I could take a shot, but decided that with two already back at camp, I really didn’t need another. But, I figured if one just happened to come really close, I’d just have to take it.

Around 11:30AM I was laying in a gully surrounded by sagebrush watching the pronghorn mosey by, when three bucks stopped and turned straight towards me. I was laying still and watching them thinking, too bad I don’t have a buck tag. Well, this thing continues to move my way, and I mean RIGHT AT ME. It got so close that I was getting concerned that it was going to step right on me. So, I popped my head up and it stopped in its tracks. Then I stood up and all three bolted at full speed. How funny! Shortly thereafter, I had PJ come by and pick me up with the Jeep and we headed back to camp.

By the time I got back to camp the boys had already plowed through 600 rounds of 22 cal ammunition. We tore down camp, packed up, finished the 22 ammo using the handgun and took a few pictures.

The trip home was pretty uneventful, with the exception of stopping at a fireworks store and buying a few bottle rockets and other miscellaneous fireworks. We arrived home around 8:30PM. Couldn’t ask for a much better trip.