I have put in for Antelope tags for 14 years in Oregon and still to this date have never been successful. It has been on not only my bucket list, as well as my long time best friend Scott Brown as well. Every year we kid about the fact that one of us is going to be hunting Antelope while the other is the sherpa, and every year we are both riding pine. About four years ago, Kevin Kelly, one of my clients and friend had offered to have us hunt his families ranch in Wyoming provided we could draw the tags. Well this year, we finally drew them for unit 76 and we made the phone call announcing our big success. Kevin made the arrangements with his parents, because he would be unable to attend the dates we were going to be there. This is our story.
Scott and I flew to Cody, Wyoming. First thing we had to do is document the hot flight stewardess. How often these days, do you get on a plane that has a hot airline stewardess? Basically NEVER. So my first mission was to get a photo with Scott and the stewardess with out her knowing with my I phone.
We arrive in Cody and got our rental car which was a Ford Explorer and I had to sign an extra document stating I would not off-road in this vehicle. I signed it knowing that I was already going to break that rule. We then had to drive about 1.5 hours to Thermopolis, Wyoming. However, we have been on the road since 4 am that morning and needed a little pick me up lunch.
After Lunch at the Cowboy Bar, we headed to our host ranch house Pat and Leona Kelly who own the 4K Paradise Ranch. Let me tell you something about this couple, they are the nicest two people on the planet. If you look up gracious and kind in the dictionary you would find a whole page dedicated to them.
Upon arriving that afternoon, there were other hunters staying at the bunk house and offered to show us the way to the Kirby unit. So off we went and that evening we ended up spotting a lot of small herds with marginal billy antelope among them. We were there for trophy antelope, since it has been both of our dreams for a very long time. We ended up taking the wrong road and got lost in the mountains above Kirby for a few hours.
The next morning, Pat took us out to Kirby again and we poked around, then went to the other side of the highway to inventory up some more antelope.
We spotted a few small herds, but still didn’t see anything that qualified as something we wanted on our walls. We did see about 1000 sheep roaming the country side, which we never seen before and I learned something pretty interesting. The sheep herd had several Pyrenees dogs watching over them. Pat informed me that they actually stay out there with the sheep and never come down the mountain. They live out there on their own and provide their own food off the land. As you can see, does not look like there is a lot of dog food in that high desert country.
We hunted spent the day glassing over several areas spotting good goats, but nothing was worthy of our precious lead. Scott did meet a new girlfriend out there, he was a little smitten for a while.
So every night, our gracious host made us a fine dinner with wine. The Kelly’s hosted a lot of hunters, and they never take a dime in return. It is their nature I suppose to give back to friends and to share their lives and ranch with open arms. Most of the people were from California, we were the only out cast from Oregon but they were all very nice people. Some were hunting elk, some were hunting deer, and some of us were looking for our first antelope but we all enjoyed the company, the food, and the wine.
Pat with his trailer BBQ he had built for special occasions.
Brad and Mike brought Buffalo New York steaks for Pat to BBQ. Wow, what a meal.
One of the icons of Thermopolis is that it has the worlds largest hot spring. Our hotel even had a spa full of its miracle water. Let me also tell you that it smells like rotten eggs or a truck stop. They say you get used to it, but it brought us to our knees every time we returned to the hotel.
The next morning Pat and Leona took us to their mountain property to look for high mountain Billies. Leona also had a goat tag and she had her eye on this special billy that had unique horns. This mountain ranch was spectacular and had a little cabin that slept 8 with little river that was full of Brooke trout behind it.
It did not take Scott long to digress and lose focus and find a fishing pole, a bobber, and a grasshopper. He said “I need to add this to the list of things I have accomplished in my life.” Off he went with me and the video camera in tow. He did catch one that I captured on video.
Soon after we caught the fish Mike Chavez came off the mountain and said he spotted a nice billy. I said to Mike “Where did you see him?” He then turned around and pointed straight up a nasty hill with rock out cropping. We headed up that mountain and my lungs were burning at 7500 feet elevation. Mike just finished a 100 mile Mt. bike race at 10k elevation so he pretty much kicked our asses up that mountain. We found a Billy but still was not worthy of the pull of a trigger. We saw a few nice bucks up there and headed back down to the cabin.
Pat and Leona were waiting for us, we ate a lunch that Leona had made for us and we headed for Potter Canyon. We were only there for about five minutes when Leona spotted three nice billies heading up the back side of the mountain we just came down. We packed our gear and went after them thinking they were going to buckle down in saddle at the top. It was my turn to shoot first so I was on point and we came around the rock cropping and had an easy nice 276 yard shot. We both discussed which ones we wanted after glassing them for a while and had our game plan. Once I shot, Scott would fire a second after I did. Wham, wham and guess what. The goats were standing there looking at us! Two seconds later they were over the mountain free as jay birds. What in the heck just happened? I NEVER MISS. When we came out of the rock crib we also noticed the 40 mph winds up on top, but it wasnt enough wind to make us miss at that distance. We looked for blood, but saw where our rounds hit rock and I was just sick on what just happened. Pat and Leona arrived at the crime scene and I was just beside myself. I knew better. I knew that we should have sighted in our weapons despite the strong gun case I had upon our arrival. I decided to return to base camp down the mountain and get on the range with my weapon, no use wounding an animal or educating them. Leona did her best to make us feel better and said “It all happens for a reason.” I felt like a boxer that was still fighting in his 50s and didn’t have the athletic ability to compete anymore, physically I must be losing it.
We came around the corner on the way down the mountain and we found another group of antelope with one shooter quality billy in it. Of course, we didn’t have any weapons that apparently worked in the pick up. Leona slid her one shot .270 WSM out of her scabbard and offered it to Scott. Pat was glassing the billy along with me and said “Wooahhhh that is a long way out there and up hill to boot.” I ranged him at 320, he broad sided then went up an additional forty yards and Leona whispered to Scott as the Billy gave another broad side shot, “Put the cross hairs straight on him Scott.” Bam! Scott stoned him dead as a canary with one shot. He surprised all of us to include himself and replied “I have to get one of these rifles.” On the way up the small mountain he was telling everyone he loved them. He often gets emotional after he harvest an animal.
We packed him up and headed off the mountain so I could get to the range with my rifle. I think that is when Leona adopted Scott because he mentioned he lost his mother a few months before with a bout with cancer.
As they prepared Scott’s Billy for the meat cooler, Pat and I went to the range. My rifle was off 16 clicks at 100 yards. Must have been a PETA person at the airport jumping up and down on the gun case because both of our rifles were pretty bad off.
That night our knees and legs hurt from the hiking and the Indians said the spa water was therapeutic for the body we actually climbed in the smell water. I am not sure if it worked, but we did smell like eggs when we went to bed that night.
The next day Pat took us out to another hunting spot to no avail. We then headed back up to the mountain. As we drove I got the sandwiches out of the cooler and noticed that Leona wrote something on the sandwich bag. Pat and I also noticed that Scott got more meat on his sandwich than us.
One of the things you should know about Scott and I is that we are competitive and we live by a code of honor. That code of honor is also directly connected with the game “Ro Shon Bow” also known as paper, scissor, rock. We have been playing it for more than 30 years. There is a lot of gates to be open on this ranch, and I set a record of 9 straight gate victory. Pat kept saying after each victory “Again???” I think for a moment that he realized he may have adopted a kid that rode the short bus to school because no one goes 9 losses in a row.
After we did some hunts and looked over the mountain ranch, we saw some billies but nothing I that I wanted for my wall. We had about 1.5 hours before dark and Pat thought we could make it to Kirby for a quick 30 minute hunt. So he pointed the “Beast” down hill and Scott got to opening the gates and off we went.
We arrived in the Kerby unit with 30 minutes to spare of day light, The Beast was right on time. I really did not think it was going to happen. The time frame was a little short but then out of no where a herd with a big billy runs in front of us, goes down a drainage and stops. We glass him for 5 seconds and determine he is big enough. I range him at 436 yards, no problem 9 inches over his shoulder and send it on its way. High 3″ on line. What in the LORDS NAME IS GOING ON HERE???? I have been snake bit since I saw that baby rattler. I range again, after they took off over the hill, 326 yards. I range again 416 yards. I think there is something going on with my range finders in my Leica Binocs. Scott says “Yeah that happened to me yesterday with your binocs, I think your battery is going dead.”
“Really? Really Scott is this a good time to tell me you noticed it yesterday?” Pat puts the Beast in gear and we drive around the drainage and spot the herd heading into another drainage. I have Pat stop and pursuit on foot. I get to the opening and see that the herd is heading North but is rolling around a hill broadside. I estimate it to be over 800 yards and after this week there is no way I am going to take a shot. I see another herd heading my direction parallel to the herd with the big billy in it. I think, I got 5 minutes to do this. Is it possible to turn him into that other herd heading my direction. I set up and decide to shoot 10 feet in front of him to turn him. Perfect hit, right in front of his nose 10 feet and he turns exactly into the other herd heading at the back of the pack towards me. Scott is filming this entire thing and begins to say “He is heading your way, get ready.” I reply “I know shut up before you blow this.” He is covered in a group and I have to wait for an opening in the herd to make the shot and POW. Down he goes less than 100 yards.
I could not believe that the stars aligned themselves to pull it off and all the things that went wrong did, and all the things that went right did. I was on an emotional roller coaster that gave me the end result of a major headache. Scott and I pulled off some great speed goats against all odds and turned it into a successful hunt with the support of Pat and Leona.
That night we had our final dinner with The Kelly’s in which their friend Bev made us a delicious zucchini “apple” home-made pie and home-made ice cream. That is correct, an apple pie with no apples but zucchini and it was DELEESH. Though I was not adopted by Leona…I did score the recipe. I will share it on the blog later.
We left Wyoming excited and a bit sad to leave our new friends. We made some great memories last week. I personally would like to thank Pat for driving us around for 4 days and working from sun up to sun down, he was like a bull, he never quit us. I would like to thank Leona for loaning Scott her rifle, the dinners and lunches, and most importantly her smile that kept me going when I was ready to break my rifle over a rock. Finally, I would like to thank my long time best friend of 30 years Scott, for opening all those gates.
The Hunting Chef