By Tim E. Hovey

As a California hunter, I’m always looking to extend my
season by traveling to other states to hunt. There are quite a few
out-of-state, big-game opportunities for Golden State hunters willing to put in the time to investigate. Some states have over-thecounter tags for nonresident hunters, or high-percentage draws for just about any species you’d want to hunt. Knowing someone in the state you’re headed to helps, but it isn’t mandatory. If you don’t mind traveling a little and putting in some effort, andI don’t, you can easily expand the land you hunt and the species you chase by putting in for these hunts outside California. The tag prices for big game in other states are usually very affordable, and the amount of land available to the public will seriously leave you in awe.

Wyoming bound

In the spring of 2014, my good friend, Darrin Bergen, gave me a call. He was putting in for an antelope tag in his home state of Wyoming and wanted to know if I wanted to put in as well. He didn’t have to ask me twice. I had been to Wyoming a few times to hunt before, and as far as opportunities for sportsmen, you can’t beat it. Nonresident hunters can put in for a number of different antelope options for a reasonable price. I ended up putting in for an either-sex landowner tag, plus a second doe tag for just over $300. I arrived in Wyoming a few days before the opener of my zone. Darrin and I had put in for the same two zones but ended up getting drawn for different hunting areas. We spent the afternoon pouring over a few
maps and making a general plan. With the exception of the maps and a quick aerial view of the zone on Google Earth, neither one of us had ever stepped foot on the property I’d
be hunting.

An early start


The morning of the opener we arrived
at the area before sunrise. We encountered a couple of other hunters, but we had already decided that
we were going to get off the beaten path and hunt where others wouldn’t. After a brief discussion, Darrin and I decided to hike to a bluff 1 mile from where we parked and glass the area as the sun came up. We loaded up our large packs and headed out, single file. As we eased to the edge of the bluff, we positioned ourselves in the shade of a large tree. From our perch, we had an amazing view of the surrounding valley that was still in early morning shadows. Almost immediately we began spotting antelope. A pair stood on a ridge a mile out, slowly feeding their way uphill. Another buck was bedded a few hundred yards from the first pair, facing our way. More to the north we spotted a large group feeding in an agricultural field. There were in total approximately 30 antelope, mostly does and young animals, standing or bedded in an open field. “Too many eyes there,” I said, looking
through the binoculars. I scanned a few more of the smaller hills below the field of eyes and spotted a lone buck bedded as a lookout. My tag was good for either sex, but I told Darrin if I had an opportunity to take a buck, I’d like to
give it a try. The buck stood, chased off another smaller buck and then began feeding down our side of the small hill. He was about a mile away, but I felt like I could sneak in closer and get a shot. Darrin was not convinced. I decided to give it a try anyway. Darrin would stay on the hill and guide me through hand signals if I
needed it.

The chase

The buck was slowly feeding his way down to the flatland. I eased down to the valley, hidden in the crease of a dry drainage. Once I got to the valley floor, I glassed the buck’s position,
trying to figure out the best path from me to him. The area was essentially flat and covered with small sage bushes. There were some slight undulations in the terrain, but for the most part the area was as flat as a pool table. I stayed low and checked on the buck frequently. Each time his head was down feeding, I’d crouch down and trot towards him in any low spot I could find. As I made my way, I started to realize just how far out he was. Even through the binoculars, he looked tiny. After 45 minutes of slowly stalking towards the buck, I had cut the distance to 800 yards. I took a
break, drank some water and took off my sweatshirt. When I was ready to head out again I checked on the buck. He was essentially in the same spot, but bedded down and looking away. I quickly grabbed my gear to take advantage of the situation. Staying low, I started trotting towards a low spot I had spotted near the buck. I had gone about 100 yards at a low run when I happened to glance towards the bedded animal. When he was bedded, I could only see his horns. Now I was looking at his whole body; he was looking
straight at me. I stopped and knelt down. Through the binoculars, I could see the buck staring my way and he was stone still. Despite my camo clothing and the brush covered terrain, he had spotted me moving from over 700 yards away. We stared each other down for 10 minutes. Sweat dripped into my eyes as I stayed as motionless as gravity allowed. Neither of us moved. Finally the buck shifted his gaze from me and started looking around. I knew he was getting comfortable again and he wasn’t sure what I was. After another minute, he started feeding again and then bedded down. At the 90-minute mark, I ditched my pack and started crawling on my hands and knees the last 100 yards. I finally got to the low spot I had spotted near the buck and set my .30-06 on my shooting sticks. I slowly rose up and noticed the buck was now quartering towards me and looking at me from 140 yards away. I settled the rifle, placed the cross hairs to break the far shoulder and slowly squeezed the trigger. I heard the impact of the bullet and the buck trotted off another 20 yards, stopped, stumbled backwards, and then tipped over. It had taken over 90 yards to crawl within range, but my Wyoming antelope buck was down.

Another success story

Darrin showed up about 20 minutes later, we took some photos and began field dressing the buck. We were now about 3 miles from the truck and had a heavy load of meat to hike out. We loaded up our packs, cleaned up and started hiking. Back at the truck, we put the
meat on ice and grabbed lunch. Darrin’s tag was for a yearling depredation hunt on a piece of agricultural property nearby. We both thought that chances were slim that animals would be moving this late in the afternoon, but we decided to stop by and at least check it out. After pulling on to the property, we spotted a small herd of antelope feeding in the alfalfa. Darrin walked out on to the field, steadied his rifle on his shooting sticks and dropped a yearling antelope to fill his tag. The entire hunt, from entering the property to leaving, took all of eight minutes. Wyoming offers over 100 different antelope zones available to nonresident hunters. The nonresident application period for antelope
runs from Jan. 1 to March 15. Check with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (307-777- 4600; wgfd.wyo.gov) for additionalinformation. Besides that, all you have to do is get there. I already have plans to put in for next year, and both my daughters have stated that they’ll be coming along. That’s just fine with me. CS