More About the Colorado Antelope Hunt

A snow flurry hit about the time our plane landed in Hayden Airport. I met one of the guides and the other two hunters as we waited to gather our luggage. It was about 10:30 PM, the night before the opening of pronghorn season.

Not a problem, as there were plenty of antelope. My guide John and I checked out the main hunting territory by climbing to the top of a ridge and glassing in all directions. Within an hour we had spotted twenty or thirty antelope. In addition deer were abundant. They stood out against the snow-covered landscape.

My best guess is that we saw four or five legal antelope in the morning, but nothing that inspired me to take a shot. We didn’t harass them at all, in fact only one antelope spotted as best I recall, and that one we approached to check it out better.

After lunch we checked out another property and then returned to the ridge and resumed glassing. One small group of pronghorn was in a good position for a stalk, so we checked them out from about 125 yards, but elected to leave them alone for the time being.

We first spotted this group of pronghorn in the morning before the snow melt began.

We first spotted this group of pronghorn in the morning before the snow melt began.
In the afternoon, the snow was disappearing. Here's how they looked from 125 yards.

In the afternoon, the snow was disappearing. Here’s how they looked from 125 yards.

John and I took turns using the spotting scope attached to my shooting sticks. The sticks worked well for spotting, photographing and shooting.

Here's John using the sticks and spotting scope.

Here’s John using the sticks and spotting scope.

As the afternoon progressed, John decided we should be more aggressive and check out a few nooks and cranny’s. We found more antelope.

We found a couple bucks that I wasn't sure about. Figured they would probably be around later if we didn't find anything better.

We found a couple bucks that I wasn’t sure about. Figured they would probably be around later if we didn’t find anything better.

It must have been an hour before dark when we came over a rise and John shouted, ” You better shoot that one!”

I didn’t need the encouragement. I was already getting ready to shoot. From 250 yards I hit him, but he didn’t go down. Then I missed him as he was walking away. At 284 yards, I fired, and he dropped – not moving again. The shooting sticks were quite valuable.

Here he is again.

Late on day one, my guide John led me to this buck. I was quite pleased.

Late on day one, my guide John led me to this buck. I was quite pleased.

On day two, I joined our outfitter, Eric Hamilton, and two other guests, Ken and Ray. We checked out another property where Eric was able to lead Ray on a successful stalk. From 125 yards, Ray waited for his pronghorn to stand up. Finally Eric let out a yell and the buck was on his feet. Ray had not trouble making a perfect heart shot.

Ray shot this buck on day two after a nice stalk along a ravine.

Ray shot this buck on day two after a nice stalk along a ravine.

The hunt continued as Ken still had an unfilled tag. The county was broken, but not rough. The hills were covered in varieties of sage and other good feed. Grass and forbs were prevalent. The recent rain and snow was producing new growth.

We stopped near a raptor sitting on a sage bush. After I few minutes of watching it, I realized it was a prairie falcon and Eric paused while I snapped photos. Click on this photo to get the best view.

This photo is interesting, not only because the falcon shows well, but because a jet happened to create a vapor trail to enhance the shot.

This photo is interesting, not only because the falcon shows well, but because a jet happened to create a vapor trail to enhance the shot.

We didn’t get every antelope we went after in fact there was a miss or two. Here’s a video clip of one of the misses. Just click on the link.

http://youtu.be/Fcb0NJ7qMVk

Day two ended without another pronghorn, but we still had a day to go.

Eric had other commitments for day three, so he hooked us up with his father, Greg, who was a real good guy. We enjoyed his friendly, enthusiastic and easy-going style. He told us a few stories about his sage grouse adventures, and it wasn’t long before we found one of his flocks.

We saw a couple flocks of grouse. They weren't very wary.

We saw a couple flocks of grouse. They weren’t very wary.

At the first property we went to, we ran into antelope. Ken had a couple close calls and then the whole herd ran by us and stopped just inside 200 yards. Ken knocked the dominant buck down, but by the time we got to the spot, he was on his feet again.

What ensued was a two-hour track and stalk job that ended with Ken finishing the buck off from 169 yards. It proved out to be the best buck of the trip.

Ken knocked this one down at 169 yards. This buck has impressive mass and great cutters.

Ken knocked this one down at 169 yards. This buck has impressive mass and great cutters.

Nevada and California make game management decisions based upon Science.

Recently, the California Fish and Game Commission approved limited sage grouse hunting based upon DFG surveys that showed the sage grouse populations stable or rising in the hunting zones where grouse hunting will take place. This decision shows the wisdom of the Department and Commission.

Game management decisions based upon scientific knowledge produce a product that serves wildlife and the public interest. If game management were based upon emotion and politics, who knows where we would end up.

In a recent press release, the Center For Biological Diversity published the following misguided statement about Nevada:

“Nevada is making it OK to hunt a species that federal biologists say needs more protection. What does that say about the state agency charged with protecting Nevada’s wildlife?” said Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based ecologist at the Center for Biological Diversity, which is seeking federal protections for the grouse. “State and federal wildlife agencies should be working together, rather than at cross purposes, to help this magnificent bird survive.”

Hunters agree that the sage  grouse is a magnificent bird, but they also know its population is primarily based upon remaining habitat. Regulated hunting that takes into account population trends has no adverse effect upon grouse numbers.

Nevada’s decision to hunt grouse shows that, just like California, they believe in making science-based decisions.