First Wyoming Hunt
Kaitlyn Tucker is all smiles after shooting her first mule deer on a public land hunt in Wyoming. It was her first hunt after moving to the state, and she knows it won’t be her last.
Kateline Tucker grew up in Minnesota where she hunted white-tailed deer with her family. They targeted deer in forested areas, meaning they spent most days in a tree stand to increase visibility. Even with an elevated stand, most shots were 50 yards or closer. After moving to Wyoming, the vista changed to wide-open country, and practicing for shooting longer distances was simply good planning.
Kateline put in for a mule deer special draw and got the license. It was her first year as a Wyoming resident, and it would be the first time she had ever hunted mule deer. Scouting was a good way to learn new areas and explore more of the state. The days and weeks crept by, but scouting was proving that there are big bucks in “The Equality State.”
Opening day couldn’t come around quick enough. The weather was typical for the middle of October, with temperatures in the low 40s. Kateline’s husband, Brian, was along, and so was her father Dave, who had traveled from Minnesota to be part of the adventure. They arrived before sunup at one of the public land areas where they had seen several good bucks. The hunting party worked its way into good deer country and put its optics to work looking for a better than average buck deer.
Although Kateline saw lots of mule deer, she didn’t see the buck she wanted to give up her tag for, especially that early in the hunt. There was plenty of time, and after several days of covering country and looking at many deer, she finally spotted a buck that grabbed her attention.
The deer was found on a piece of Wyoming Game and Fish public access property, and she ranged it at 900 yards. Kateline had practiced shooting long distances, but the buck was too far away. The hunters came up with a plan that took them behind a tree line to stay hidden from the deer. A slow and methodical approach meant they walked and belly-crawled until they cut the distance to 365 yards. They knew they were as close as they could get.
Kateline got behind her .243 Winchester rifle and found the buck in her scope. With a great coach on one side of her and her dad, who mentored her, on the other, she took her time lining up her crosshairs. They ranged the buck again, and when it turned broadside, the rifle barked.
Everyone knew immediately that the shot was good. It was difficult to tell who was more excited, the hunter or those in her party. “This was my first mule deer ever, and the first year I had ever hunted in Wyoming. It was a pretty special hunt to have my dad and husband with me. This is a hunt I hope I can do every year or as often as I can draw a tag,” she said.
As they approached the downed buck, its antlers just kept getting bigger. The buck sported four evenly-matched, deep forks and carried lots of weight from the bases up, making it a trophy in anyone’s book.
Kateline’s hard work and persistence paid off, perhaps in a testament to Wyoming’s history as the first state in the U.S. to allow women to vote and promote equal rights for women.
Spot-and-Stalk Archery Antelope
Thomas Grill did his homework to help him fill his Wyoming antelope tag on a great public land buck on the first day of the season. Scouting new ground and practicing with his bow helped the seasoned hunter find a heavy-horned buck to put his tag on.
Thomas Grill applies for a Wyoming limited quota pronghorn tag in Unit 53 every year and was finally successful in 2018, and again in 2019. The lucky hunter was thrilled to draw this permit two years in a row and prepared all summer for the August 15 opener. The early hunt date means an extended season for most hunters, getting into the field with a bow before the majority of hunting seasons open.
The first hour of last year’s opening morning consisted of glassing and covering ground by foot and truck. Thomas and his friend Jamilee slowly covered ground and found clusters of antelope throughout the sagebrush country. They saw plenty of smaller bucks in bachelor herds or groups comprised of doe and fawns. Finally, they found an area where they saw a higher concentration of solitary, older bucks.
This area was scouted the day before the season, so Thomas expected the odds of tagging a more mature buck to be better in this region. Thomas hunts primarily on public land and loves to hunt elk, deer and antelope with his bow. Unit 53 provides plenty of access, and with healthy ungulate numbers, he has had a great success rate.
While rigorously covering ground and glassing, the duo finally got a glimpse of one of the better bucks they’d seen. It was traveling solo through some sagebrush. After relocating the buck, the stalk began. Thomas aligned a larger bush between the buck and himself and nocked an arrow. The hunter slowly and quietly worked closer to the pronghorn and eventually made it to the bush to see the buck still there and standing perfectly broadside. With his Vortex Fury rangefinding binocular, Thomas ranged the buck at 51 yards. Having practiced at 50 yards all summer, he felt confident with the shot.
The hunter carefully drew his bow and then stepped out from behind the bush, giving him an unobscured view of the buck. The antelope looked baffled and stood there, staring curiously. Before the buck could make a quick run for it, Thomas quickly lined up his sight picture and released an arrow. The hunter watched his arrow pass through the buck and travel far into the distance, causing the pronghorn to sprint close to 200 yards before it collapsed.
“It was such a humbling feeling walking up to see him lay there. There I was, three hours into the opening morning of antelope archery with my permit already filled out and on the way to the local butcher for processing,” Thomas recalled.
Thomas believes spot-and-stalk antelope hunting with a bow can be one of the hardest hunts in North America. Fooling an antelope’s eyes and getting close in open country is such a challenge. It is an amazing hunting feat to stalk a buck to within bow range and get a shot opportunity. “This hunt was the first hunt my girlfriend and I have shared in a few years, due to conflicting work schedules. In the end, she was the good luck that contributed to great-tasting antelope meat in the freezer,” he said.