After 3 separate stalks, on 3 different bucks, my wife harvested on the opening day of the antelope season 2023. While there are a lot of factors that go into antelope hunting, and I’ll touch on those in a bit, there is one good tip for antelope hunting that applies to most big game hunting in general.
What Not to Do
While it’s meant to be funny and sound like trash YouTube video clickbait, it’s also very true. Don’t be a lazy ass.
I frequently see hunters park a car, only to walk 25 feet from a parked vehicle, spook an animal from a couple hundred yards away, and push them to a distance they are unable to shoot or unwilling to pursue. The opening morning was no exception to this sad, sloppy, and lazy tactic of roadside hunting, while my wife and I made the effort to manifest success.
Antelope hunting in Wyoming offers hunters an opportunity to glass long distances from dirt roads, and cover a lot of ground in the vast and open spaces of our state. However, with such vast open distances to find antelope and clear lines of sight, they are almost equally aware of you as you are of them. A vehicle stopping in the distance is an instant red flag for antelope. Simply stopping a vehicle in sight of antelope, even five hundred yards away, is often enough to get them up and moving.
The best approach we’ve found to hunting antelope is to drive beyond a hill or into a depression where your vehicle is out of sight, before stopping. Get out quietly, and execute a plan on stealthily getting closer to the antelope you intend to shoot. Be mindful of wind, and any other animals that might spook and alert your target to your presence.
Also, private and public lands aren’t always indicated, so be aware of where you are, use an app like OnX Maps, and make sure you aren’t accidentally hunting on private property that isn’t marked.
The first good looking buck we saw on opening morning was near private property, and by the time I had dropped my wife off at a good point to start her approach, the buck had already made its way to the edge of unfenced private property. When she came up on it at less than 60 yards, it was too close to private property to risk shooting it, only to have it run onto private property before expiring. So she practiced self control that I’d like to think all hunters would practice, and returned to the truck.
We continued driving on dirt roads, and saw a few more nice looking bucks. The best shooter bucks were on private property, so we continued our search until we saw a decent buck and parked beyond its sight, so that my wife could get her second stalk going. With the wind in her favor, she followed a depression then got within 100 yards of it, just in time to see it spook when 2 other vehicles stopped hundreds of yards away in the opposite direction. The vehicles stopped in plain sight of the antelope, then hunters proceeded to hop out and glass from next to their vehicles as it took off.
A few moments later, one of those vehicles stopped and talked to me as I held my 10 month old and hung out at the truck, still completely unaware that they busted my wife’s stalk with their poor tactics, and further adding “it seems like they are all pretty long shots”. While being good at taking long shots can be helpful hunting antelope, so can putting a little leg work in, as my wife had already proven, by getting within very comfortable shooting distances to two decent bucks.
With my wife somewhat irritated by other hunters, compounded by a baby now a little fussy from car rides and an irregular morning schedule riding dirt roads in the truck, she suggested we scrap it for the day. I suggested we keep trying and if nothing seems like a great opportunity, we won’t make the effort. Ten minutes later we spotted a very distant group of antelope with a poor road heading in the general direction. I decided to follow it since it closed a significant amount of distance before it veered away from the group of antelope to an opposite side of a cluster of small hills. Without stopping, we spotted a decent buck before placing the truck well out of sight.
The wind was generally in my wife’s favor as she stealthily approached them from the opposite side of the hills. After a couple hundred yards she was slightly disoriented by cattle she had used as a waypoint, when she discovered even more cattle. Unsure of her precise position and distance from the antelope she climbed a hill before being spotted by a doe. Immediately freezing, she waited until the doe didn’t perceive her as a threat, then continued stalking a bit further to the side of the group of antelope where she had last seen a buck.
She climbed back up to the ridge of the hill, but as soon as her head cleared sagebrush she was made by her target buck. It spooked and ran to about 150 yards before pausing broadside and looking back at her, giving her the perfect chance to take a shot from an AR15 chambered in 6.5 Grendel.
Hearing the shot from the vehicle, me and my 10 month old approached to get a vantage in the event an animal needed to be pursued and recovered. I watched five does run a few hundred yards, pause then run another few hundred yards before dropping out of sight. I never saw anything drop, but continued to the location of the shot to find my wife looking for a buck. Minutes later, we found her buck, it had collapsed into a depression in the landscape, only a few yards from where it had been shot. We immediately worked at field dressing, then carrying it to the truck before returning home to start the process of butchering.
Roadside hunters may get lucky once in a while, but I prefer to stay positive in the face of frustrating hurdles, to be diligent about formulating a plan of approach, and to make a real effort in order to manifest success. We wrapped up the opening morning at 10:45 am with an antelope in the bed of the truck, and the majority of the weekend left to take care of other tasks. In most cases, just like many things in life, hunting will give back what you put into it. While you can get lucky roadside hunting, it is just better not to be lazy and put in a little bit of effort.