Every so often, over the last many years, living in Sweetwater County, neither my wife nor I drew antelope tags in this fall of 2020. We enjoy antelope in many ways as our favorite meat for making breakfast sausage. Sometimes we have failed to draw antelope tags near home and then found them elsewhere.
One of the downsides of such a hunt in eastern Wyoming is to find that the area is where rancher permission is most often required to hunt. Yet, two of the upsides of hunting on a large ranch are finding good people, ranchers who are kind enough to grant permission to hunt, and then finding a spot where you have never hunted before.
Without licenses this year, I am reminiscing. Thirteen years ago, I went on an antelope hunt five hours from home in eastern Wyoming. The ranch with thousands of acres of land, had very few roads and many fences. It provided one of the most strategizing hunts I have ever experienced. The final joy of the hunt itself was taking the prize I was after right on the tracks of the old Oregon Trail. It was my joy having grandsons along to accompany some of the long walks and to spice the hunt with their own unique sprinkles of thought that made the hunt memorable.
One of the most fascinating parts of the hunt was watching antelope run until they came to a fence. One antelope jumped the fence. All the others crawled underneath the fences, including the bucks. This behavior is apparently built in by God. Antelope possess adequate ability to jump high, but they seem preconditioned most often, to avoid jumping. Pronghorns are the fastest North American big game animal and can reach speeds of up to 55 miles per hour.
Pronghorns also are relatively disease and parasite-free, not suffering from chronic wasting disease as many of the deer do. Losses occur from predation, primarily coyote, and starvation during severe winters with prolonged deep snow.
While hunting on the ranch, we talked to the wife of the rancher’s son. She told of being surrounded by four coyotes a few days before. She boldly shot and killed two of them, and the other two coyotes made tracks. With the ability to run as fast as they do, coyotes could never outrun antelope. Nevertheless, coyotes have craft and cunning to surround an antelope and they take their share.
One part of the antelope hunt I enjoyed was meeting deer hunters who came year after year to this same ranch to hunt. One of them had come from Michigan 30 years in a row to hunt, and another had come 20 straight years. We talked to five of those Michigan hunters and inspected their nice five-point deer buck they had hanging in their deer camp.
Our antelope hunt with my grandsons, was intense and exciting. It was fascinating to see how many of the antelope learned to mix with the cattle near the ranch. They find there, in so doing, a perfect refuge from hunters.
Healthy pronghorn populations are seldom found more than 3 to 4 miles from water. The ranch we hunted on was no exception. It had a clear creek running through it, and the antelope were often at the creek, getting a drink. The ranch was mostly grassland with many different beautiful tall native grasses. Sagebrush usually makes up a large part of a Wyoming antelope’s diet, but the antelope on this ranch had to make do without sagebrush, for I saw none on this ranch. Antelope are dainty feeders to watch, plucking only the top, tender, green shoots, and leaving the rest of the grasses and herbs for deer, cattle, and elk.
The whole area of Converse County is historic with unincorporated towns like Lost Springs, Bill, Esterbrook, Orin Junction, and Shawnee. I enjoyed learning about this new area, but it made me very thankful for all the wonderful hunts God has allowed me to have in our own Sweetwater County. Not all counties are the same. If you long to go elsewhere where it is more beautiful, I understand your feelings, but I will never agree with your assessment. Sweetwater County is my home and no doubt, your home too, and Sweetwater County has been my home for 44 years.
Best of all, the people, where we live, are among the finest people around — and that includes each one of you. I laughed as one man in eastern Wyoming told me Wyoming has two outhouses — Rock Springs and Gillette. I smiled.
Let him surmise as he will. Our secret is easily kept when others see us in that light. None of us can ever stand before God and say, “You deprived me of beauty and scenery where I live.” No! We live in a land of rugged beauty that is unsurpassed, second to none. Enjoy hunting here this fall. It is a mighty blessing from God.
Richard Carlson is the pastor of the Rock Springs Evangelical Free Church. Of his 53-plus years in ministry, he has pastored locally for the last 44 years.