The Pitchfork Antelope
After years of talking about going, the author, his dad and some pals headed to Gillette, Wyoming for an unforgettable hunt.--By Gerry Rightmyer, Realtree Pro Staffer
I never gave much thought to pronghorn hunting. It was not until a pheasant hunt in South Dakota in 2002 with a hunting buddy of mine that I started to consider hunting antelope. My friend had mulled over an antelope hunt for over five decades. He asked if I was interested. I told him that I would look into a hunt, and would get back to him with more details. Four years later we would be hunting Antilocapra Americana.
Researching a reputable guide for antelope can be stressful. I wanted an area that would allow for extremely high draw odds, so that our hunting party of three would be able to hunt together. There is nothing worse than planning a hunt and one or more of the hunters being unsuccessful in the draw. I decided to scan the Internet for antelope guides and narrowed my hunt states down to New Mexico and Wyoming. Even though my options of hunt areas were somewhat limited, I had a fairly good idea that Wyoming would be near the top of my list. Wyoming has many excellent hunt units with draw odds at or near 100 percent—just what I was looking for!
REALTREE HUNTING RESOURCES
As I was researching outfitters, I happened to find two on Realtree's website for antelope in Wyoming. Realtree has a "Hunting Resources" section that contains an Outfitters Guide After talking to Ward Anderson of Antelope Outfitters, I knew I had chosen the right man for the job. Ward offers both antelope and mule deer hunts in various units surrounding Gillette, Wyoming.
Ward assured me that drawing a tag would not be a problem as unit 19 tags were plentiful. The four-month wait was well worth it as our entire hunting group received confirmation of a "successful" draw. Now it would only be another three months until our October 7-9 hunt date.
OFF TO GILLETTE
My father Ed Rightmyer and hunting partner Gordon Lewis decided to fly to Gillette, Wyoming. I, on the other hand, decided to endure the 27-hour drive from Upstate New York with my other hunting buddy, Charlie Deacon. Although our trek was a long one we were able to break up the monotony by sight-seeing at some breath-taking National monuments. We were impressed with the awesome beauty of Mount Rushmore and Devil's Tower.
Upon arrival to the hotel, Ward informed us that drought conditions in the area had led to less than favorable horn growth. Weather reports out of Gillette indicated that this was the fifth driest growing season since 1933. The bad news did not dampen our spirits though, as our hunting party was ready to go all out for pronghorn. After the brief meeting with Ward, and finalizing all of our paperwork, we were itching to get out and glass some antelope! We had seen many animals grazing just off of the Interstate , and it seemed as though every pasture west of Sheridan, Wyoming held large amounts of antelope. We couldn't wait to see what was in store for our group!
READY TO ROLL
The following morning produced temperatures in the 70s. Strong winds were also in the forecast with gusts approaching 40 mph. Charlie was our group's first shooter. At mid-morning a good pronghorn was located and the stalk was on. After a few tense moments, Charlie made a good clean shot on a beautiful buck. It was only 10 a.m. and we had already filled one tag. After congratulating Charlie and reliving the hunt, our focus was now on filling another tag.
Gordon was next. He was hunting with a .257 Roberts, a gun that he has owned for over 50 years. Since he was a young boy, it had always been a dream of his to harvest an antelope with this gun. It was Gordon who convinced me to go on this antelope hunt back in 2002, so I felt obligated to make sure that his goals were met as well as everyone else in our group.
MORE STEALTH MOVES
It was later that afternoon that Gordon got his opportunity at a nice antelope. Both Ward and Gordon put a sneak on a large group of pronghorn, and had to wait the better part of ten minutes, in a 40 mph wind, before he could pull the trigger. The wait was nerve-wracking, but a well placed shot from the .257 Roberts put an end to Gordon's 50-year quest.
Now it was my turn. After a short visit to the meat locker to drop off Charlie and Gordon's antelope, we drove back to the ranch. I was wondering if there were any goats left that tickled my fancy when I remembered a pronghorn that Ward had mentioned earlier in the hunt. Pitchfork was his name, and a very appropriate name it was!
I have always had a lot of respect for "character bucks." A "character buck" is a buck that stands out from all the rest. A drop-tine, a kicker point or some other distinguishing quality that gives a buck a unique look can really get a hunter excited. Ward had me thinking pretty hard about Pitchfork. There were other bucks. Old Faithful and Longhorn were two of the more memorable bucks, but Pitchfork was different. He just looked cool! It was then that I decided that Pitchfork was heading back to New York with me.
GLASSING FOR PITCHFORK
We glassed the ranch for a couple of hours when we finally found him. There he was! It wasn't difficult to see why this buck had such a special name. The buck had a set of horns that swept over his nose at a pronounced angle and curved skyward— just like a pitchfork! The more that I focused my Nikon 16-48x60 spotting scope on his majestic headgear, the more I thought about shooting this antelope. Unfortunately, our daylight was waning, and we decided to "put the buck to bed," in the hopes that we could locate him the following morning.
October 8th was clear. It was a little cooler than the previous day. The winds had also significantly subsided. I had two full days to locate Pitchfork. Ward was confident that it would not take long to spot this unusual buck. We arrived under the cover of darkness and waited for the sun to rise. In no time we spotted him.
We drove as close to the buck as we dared. I got out of the truck and tried to ready myself for a steady shot. Other bucks were moving in and out of my scope and for a second I wasn't sure which one was Pitchfork. After careful examination, I rested the crosshairs on the buck's front shoulder and squeezed. At the report of my .270 Remington the entire herd scattered, with the exception of Pitchfork. The 234-yard shot was a good one, and the buck tipped over in his tracks.
The rest of the morning was spent taking photos and video to preserve the moment. Three very respectable antelope had been killed in a little over a day. The trip was a huge success. Our guide, Ward Anderson was the consummate professional and a pleasure to hunt with. I have hunted many states over the years, and have met many different guides, but I can honestly say that this was the most enjoyable hunt that I have ever experienced. Mr. Anderson made it all happen.
If you are interested in a fantastic antelope or mule deer hunt, give Antelope Outfitters a call @ (866) AOBUCKS or check out their website @ www.antelopeoutfitters.com