column By: Brad Fenson | January, 20
Bowhunter's First Deer is a Dandy
As if planned, Corey’s big buck came out after the others had already shown up to visit the lick. The bow hunter’s first shot was a little low, and the arrow shot right through the buck, sending it running off. Corey waited patiently in the tree stand for 45 minutes, thinking to himself that he had missed, which was driving him crazy. When the hunter finally crawled out of the stand to find his arrow, it had light-colored blood on it, indicating a paunch shot. Corey started to track the buck and made it to an open face where all the bucks from the lick were about to go into the trees.
While walking across the face, Corey looked down the steep hill and spotted the buck standing in the bushes, staring downhill. The hunter put a stalk on the buck, got within 50 yards and released another arrow, hitting the buck in the right shoulder, which made it run farther down the hill.
The strange twist to this story is that Corey had left work that day and went straight to his camp set up in the high country. Cruising on his dirt bike, he had a pack strapped to his back with a bow and four arrows in the quiver. While riding up the trail, Corey ducked under a tree and ended up breaking two of his four arrows.
Corey was lucky to recover the first arrow he shot and put a new broadhead on it, which allowed him to keep after the wounded buck. The hunter snuck down the hill and peeked over a ledge, where he found the buck again. The bow hunter crept to within 25 yards and released the third arrow, dropping the buck in its tracks. Corey had successfully taken his first animal with a bow and started jumping and cheering with excitement.
When Corey realized he was on a dirt bike and wasn’t sure how he was going to get the buck out on the back of it, he ran to the top of the hill and called a buddy. His friend Ryan dropped everything and rushed to the mountain while Corey snapped some photos and quartered the deer out.
“That hunt was one of the best hunting experiences I’ve had, as it was the first animal I was able to take with the bow,” the hunter said. “I feel I was successful because I actually scouted for deer all summer long. Obviously, there is always luck involved in hunting, but I feel like I earned this deer.”
Ryan headed out in mid-September and found a nice buck just five minutes after getting into his hunting unit. After belly-crawling through the sagebrush for about 100 yards, he started glassing. The excited hunter found a good buck in his scope but decided to pass it up. It was a great public land buck, but Ryan knew there were more of them in the unit, and he didn’t want to end his hunt after just a few hours in the field.
Neeley kept looking around the unit for watering areas, knowing the warm weather would mean the antelope would have to drink. He made notes on where to look the following week, when he planned to return to continue the hunt.
The temperatures were still in the 70s, and Neeley’s strategy to find water worked. Traveling back to one of the watering holes he had previously scouted, the excited hunter found more than 30 animals nearby. There were many bucks to choose from, and it was only a matter of getting behind the glass and finding the one he wanted.
With a buck picked out, the challenge was getting within range without getting busted. The stalk on the big buck proved to be unsuccessful, so the hunter opted to check another watering hole, but no pronghorn were spotted. The decision was made to head back to where the big herd had been located, and when traveling back Ryan spotted a buck he knew he wanted to hunt. The dark-horned pronghorn was 400 yards out, and the hunter was quite excited.
Parking out of sight, Neeley quickly got ready to sneak closer for a shot. Using the terrain and cover, he snuck to within 260 yards, and just when he got ready to shoot, the buck turned and started walking away. Ryan’s quick shot hit the buck farther back than he wanted. The hunter was frustrated and told himself, “Don’t rush it! Slow down!”
Taking a deep breath and settling in behind the rifle, a follow-up shot put the buck on the ground. Neeley said “Pronghorn hunting is a lot of fun for me because of the time with friends and the number of animals you see. This gives you ample opportunity to put on a stalk. If you mess one up, just find another buck and try again.”
Neeley was successful because he studied various units to apply for, then found the best areas and water where the antelope would be.
Ryan likes hunting pronghorn because they are active all day long, which means he doesn’t need to wake up too early. The biggest reason he hunts pronghorns is for the meat. Neeley feels that antelope get a bad reputation, but when cared for properly and cooked correctly, pronghorn can be excellent.
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