Saturday, October 15, 2011

Helluva Hunt

Ed's antelope hunt!

I was fortunate enough to have been picked to participate in this year's "Helluva Hunt" antelope hunt, in Douglas, Wyoming.  The people who set this thing up, Gary and Jane Stearns ( among others), started doing this in 1985 and haven't missed a year since.  There are around forty or fifty people directly involved, and a great percentage of the town of Douglas that donate money to help.  It feels like the whole town is involved.

Though the hunt is scheduled for the first two days in October, the fun starts on the last day of September when we sight in our rifles AND get to try our hand at trap shooting,, and ends Sunday night at the awards banquet and auction.  Judi and I decided to fly to Denver then drive up to Douglas a day early.  We spent that day driving around the area to see what was there ( not much,,,, if you aren't into the stark beauty of the high plains).

We were to check in at the State Fairgrounds, where we were staying in the huge dormitories there.  Judi and I had an entire section ( fifty bunks by her count) to ourselves.  Everything was accessible, and once checked in, everything, for me, was free,,, although we had to pay for Judy ( about $6.00 per meal and $7.00 per night). The food was good and plentiful and the beer was abundant. 

Myself and the other fourteen disabled hunters, were introduced to our respective guides on Friday, and got a chance to get to know them a bit before we hit the sack before our early morning hunt ( up at 4 AM for breakfast) the next day.  After they loaded my overlarge rear into the back seat of a pickup, we headed an hour north to the section we were to hunt.  (each hunter had his/her own area for their exclusive use,,, and when I mentioned section, before,, that meant a 640 acre section). 

We saw quite a few antelope on the way,, as well as a few mule deer, tho I saw no mulies during the hunt itself.  We went through the gate off the main road, and saw animals almost immediately,, I was told to take my time,, there were plenty out there and I shouldn't try for the first I saw.  Good advice,, bad advice,,, who knows,, but we never had a reasonable shot at a decent buck till around 7AM, when near a stock watering pond, we saw what my guys say was a pretty good one.  The range was around 250 yards, and since my .270 model 70 was sighted in two inches high at one hundred,, I felt pretty good about the shot.  I pulled the trigger and the antelope didn't drop, my guides told me it was a chest hit, a little low and right behind the front leg.  I had already jacked in another round, but they all told me not to shoot again,, that he wouldn't go far with that hit ( they could see the blood from there).

He was limping toward a small valley ( what they called a gully,,, that you could have put a herd of buffalo in) and we started to drive around to intercept him and the three does he was with.  If you've ever hunted whitetails, you know that a low chest shot just behind the front leg is a lung shot or a heart and lung shot.  Apparently this isn't the case with antelope,, as we chased this limping bugger for an hour and a half, never getting closer than about 450 yards.  We finally had to admit that the shot wasn't as good as it first looked,,, because it certainly didn't slow him down much.

Having come almost full circle, and back to the watering pond where I first shot.  My guides decided that I should give up on the first buck.  The decision had no more than been made when we crested the small rise before the hole,, and we saw about a dozen more animals moving more or less toward us.  They decided that one of them was worth shooting at,, so,,, I waited for it to cross to our side,, and dropped it at 117 yds.  It never moved.   We gutted , and packed the buck with ice ( at 8:45 AM it was already 80 degrees) and took my prize back to have a picture taken, then to the processor to be skinned and butchered.

The next day my guides took Judi and I on a four hour tour of the area,, just to look around and get a better idea of what this part of Wyoming looked like.  That evening was the banquet and auction.  As it turned out,, there were prizes awarded for largest rack, longest shot, earliest kill,,, and as it turns out,, shortest shot,, which my 117 yard shot happened to be.  I was pretty surprised to find out that what I won,, was a full shoulder mount.  It will be coming east sometime after the first of the year.

Among the hunters this year, were three blind hunters, and one special needs young man.  They all filled their tags with the use of special double sights and the help of their guides, of course.  In fact,, over the 27 years that this hunt has been held,,, only four hunters have failed to tag.  I'd say that was a pretty fair record.

It is my hope, that anyone reading this, who has a disability,, or knows someone who does,,  finds the Helluva Hunt website and applies for the chance to meet these remarkable people,, and take part in what surely is,,,, one Helluva Hunt.

Ed Leeper

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