Category Archives: hunting

Twice the Experience: Antelope Hunting With the Next Generation

Perhaps one of the greatest experiences I’ve been able to accomplish in my life has been to introduce new hunters to the adventure of the hunting lifestyle. Taking a person on their first hunt is not something I take lightly, everything from ethics to shooting skills are things that I enjoy teaching to anyone willing to learn. My oldest son’s first hunt was quite a milestone for me, as was introducing my wife to deer hunting. Her very first successful hunt was everything I could have hoped for, and ended up giving her a bit of her own excitement for fall. And good friends alike have come along with me for their first hunt. Would the persistent experience of taking new hunters continue to enrich my own experience? Or would every new hunt be a little less rewarding, and more repetitious than the past?

This year again I was given the opportunity to take a special young man on his very first hunt. My wife’s oldest son Leo had expressed a great deal of interest in coming along with us hunting this year. Perhaps due to listening to his mother’s experience from last season. Leo had recently enlisted in the Army when the time was drawing near to apply for hunts in our state, but in the very short holiday break while he was home, he pushed through the hunter safety program online and managed to squeeze into the only class available before he had to report back for a few more months.
With his hunter safety completed and armed with his information, I added him to the same list of hunts that we all apply for every year. One of the many applications was for two doe antelope tags in the great state of Wyoming. This hunt in particular is one of my favorites for new hunters, not because it is easy, but because of many opportunities. New hunters frequently make mistakes, even seasoned hunters do it often. The rolling rugged mountains of southwestern Wyoming are filled with antelope, so many in fact that a guy could screw up over and over and still find another opportunity for a stalk.

Alpha Munitions 6GT brass loaded with 100 gr. Cayuga solid copper bullets make a wicked combo

Leo was excited to go, I’m not sure if he was as excited as I was though. But as the time drew near for the hunt, we prepared for the task I was sure we would be successful in. Plenty of practice was in order before we actually pointed a gun at an Antelope, several guns in fact. We were unsure which rifle was the best fit for him, as he unfortunately identifies as left-handed, and yet preferred to shoot a right-handed gun. We practiced with several rifles, but in the end we decided to go with the SRS M2 chambered in 6 GT. I feel no guilt about spoiling my apprentices with exceptional equipment, and the SRS M2 is certainly that. The 6MM GT cartridges were loaded with Cayuga 100 grain copper solid bullets from Patriot Valley Arms. I have used these bullets in several rifles including this one with excellent results, so I was quite confident it would work well for Leo as well.

Day One
As the sun began to rise that first morning, we were already in place. Overlooking an incredible view of brush-colored valleys and flats, the occasional trail cutting through the brush as well as prairie dog mounds scattered about. Antelope could be seen meandering through different shallow drainages, everything felt right.
We decided to move into some slightly rougher terrain, as the barren flats would offer fewer options to stalk into a shooting position. We searched instead for something with a little more topography and brush, giving us a better opportunity to sneak in.
We passed a large herd of animals, mainly because I knew they had already seen us, and with that many eyes on us we never stood a chance. So we continued searching for a smaller more secluded group, which we found about a half hour later. We sat behind a cedar tree, hiding in its shade while we devised a plan to work down a ridge where we could get a closer shot.
With our best plans made, we grabbed our gear and snuck quietly down the tree line. As we closed the distance we kept checking in with the small group of six or so animals, several of them still lay bedded confirming that they were unaware of our approach. As we reached the point we had planned on shooting from, we made one of the classic hunting blunders. Passing into the open between two trees regardless of how slow and quiet was not the move to make, and before we could get setup to shoot, the antelope leapt from their beds and ran for better than half a mile before looking back.
As we watched them off in the distance, I did the old guy thing where you remind the new guy that it cant be that easy. You gotta work for it, and put in your time and learn your lessons before you win. As we hiked back towards the truck, we discussed our next plan. But before we had gotten to the area we had planned on hunting next, we spotted a couple small groups of animals out grazing on a wide flat near a rainwater accumulation. We talked it over, and decided it was certainly worth a try. So we made our way around a rise that lie between us and the herd. We knew that we were going to be crawling for quite a ways, as the ground was too flat to even duck-walk without presenting a significant profile. We grabbed only the essential gear we would need, and began crawling across the dry dirt and prickly ground. Every few yards I’d pop up just enough to see if they were still there.

When we finally reached a spot where Leo could lay proned out behind the rifle and see the herd, we did some preparation. It turned out there was two groups of antelope, a close group of about five animals and a larger group of seven or so further out. There wasn’t enough brush to conceal us if we moved any closer, so the call was made to shoot from right there. After we’d both given the group a thorough good looking, we determined that there was only one mature doe in the group. Keeping our eyes on her to avoid any mistakes, we watched them move along waiting for the right shot.

Leo loaded the rifle, and dialed the elevation correction. We had practiced shooting this far with no issues, so we both had confidence in his ability to make the shot. But for several minutes they moved along a distant brush line, stopping only with her white rump pointed directly at us. They were working away, after checking the distance again we corrected the elevation. It was shortly thereafter that she stopped, Leo whispered that the next time she stops he would dispatch the chambered round. I watched through my own optic as she slowed to a stop and looked around the arid country beyond. Just as anticipated the suppressed gasp from the rifle came, and I watched the trace travel across the six-hundred yard gap between us. The hundred grain Cayuga found its mark, pushing its way through the unsuspecting doe sending her straight to the ground.

We both erupted into a celebratory cheer as the rest of the antelope nearby slowly scattered. We continued watching to ensure that she had expired completely, but a curious development occurred as we watched. The other group of antelope that had been feeding further away seemed to have also been spooked by the excitement, and they moved closer to us as we lay waiting. After just a few minutes they had closed the distance over two hundred yards and they were now slightly closer than the first group had been when we started. Leo and I still laid in the low spot we had chosen for a hide, still concealed and in our shooting position. “Should we take another one?” he asked, and not being one for complicating things that don’t need complication I told him it was his hunt and his call to make. We both inspected this new group of antelope, and again found only a single mature doe mingling among a few juvenile bucks and this years fawn.
We kept track of her, and reset the elevation on the rifle for their location. Again we waited as she slowly walked through the brush, waiting for a shot opportunity where she stood still with her side to us and apart from the other animals. When the time came, we were ready. Again the GT released a burst of gas as the next bullet hastily made it across the five-hundred and fifty yards, and we watched the doe drop to the ground.
Our plan had put us in the right place for a perfect double. We again reveled in our success and shared a hug, no longer concerned with concealment or making noise. We gathered our gear up, and made our way down the drainage towards our prize, the two animals laid only a hundred yards or so from each other.

The 24″ ES-Tactical 6GT barrel pushes the 100 gr. Cayugas at just under 3,000 FPS and 1/4MOA groups are the norm

We gathered them up, and took some pictures. For Leo it was the first time handling a large animal that he killed himself, I watched as he curiously inspected them occasionally pointing out some of the puzzling characteristics of these unique animals.


It was time to give a lesson in gutting though, so with knives in hand we started whittling away. Dark storm clouds rumbled in the distance so I didn’t want to take too long. We made short work of the two animals, and into the truck they went where we had bags of ice waiting for them. We also brought along the hearts and livers to use as much as we could.

Incredibly heavy rain began to pour over the prairie as we rode out, washing blood and dirt from the bed of the truck. But as we rolled down the highway I thought about the fun we’d had and our shared experience that no amount of washing would rinse away. Our clothes on the other hand could use a good torrent and rinsing rain, but we still had work to do. Once home, we hung the two antelope in my skinning tree and skinned them out. A quick wash with cold water to get as much blood and other contaminants from the carcasses before putting them into the cooler on ice for a weeks worth of aging was all that remained.

Once again I was lucky to share the spoils of a new hunter’s prize, we had antelope for dinner the next day and it was good. Not just because of the flavor, but also because of the adventure and satisfaction we shared in getting it. I don’t think I’ll tire of helping new hunters anytime soon, and I cant wait for the next opportunity.
-CBM

Perfectly rare antelope tenderloins were delicious

Major League Chucker’s 7

The latest installment of your favorite series of varmint hunting adventures:

Todays chucks were mostly hunted with My SRS M2 in 6 GT, lots of springtime weather including snow and wind made this one a little more challenging than others. Hunting Marmots (woodchucks, rockchucks, groundhogs, etc.) is an incredibly fun hunting activity, if you haven’t tried it, you need to try Springtime Chuckin’.

Blessings in Disguise: A deer hunting story

This was originally written in October 2011

As some of you may or may not recall, after a lot of health problems and a Kidney transplant, I took my Dad hunting with us this year. He drew a cow elk tag, and a Buck tag, myself and my brothers had similar tags to go along.
Well, this year things were a bit off. Everything that has ever worked for me in the past didn’t work, we were always in the wrong place or something else happened to screw it up. My elk hunting honey hole seemed to have plenty of elk, but never any close enough for Dad to feel comfortable with. We usually get a bull or two, and always the cows. But this year we didn’t get a thing, I felt horrible because Dad was so excited to go, and there was simply nothing that could be done. We still had as good a time as we could, and enjoyed the time out.

After a dismal elk hunt, the deer hunt started. I had high hopes, but I was worried after the elk hunt turned out to be a bust.
The deer hunt turned out to be quite the same, the first four days we didn’t even see a buck. I gave up on that spot and we left and headed home, I asked Dad if he wanted to try another spot a little closer to home. The next day we went to another of my old standby hunting spots, that was a bad move. Not only did we not see a single deer but on our way out, we were climbing up an ugly hill on the 4wheelers and Dad hit a rock just right and knocked his machine over. His pride and joy Grizzly rolled over the top of him and end over end for a hundred yards or so until it luckily stopped in a tree. Had it not it would have been gone forever. I stopped to see what was keeping him, and I thought for sure he was dead when I heard his bike rolling down the mountain behind me. He wasn’t hurt too bad, just scratched up and a bit bloody. I was working in a panic to get his bike out, gather his stuff that was scattered all over the hillside, including his broken rifle, just in case he needed medical attention, but by the time we got out it was pretty clear that he was gonna be ok. After that mess, Dad was pretty much out of excitement for hunting, and I had pretty much given up as well.
My brother in law called me Friday night and asked me if I wanted to go out with him Saturday morning, I didn’t know what to expect but I knew I’d never get a deer sitting home doing honey do’s.

So I went out with him, we saw a lot of this kinda stuff:

But we kept after it, and went on looking. After a couple hours and a good nap, we found a bunch of does out on a brushy flat. Several more kept appearing in the distance. I kept watching, and at the end of the flat I saw a deer that was too heavy to be a doe, I looked hard and quickly put antlers on him. I couldn’t tell how big he was, only that he was a buck, and that was good enough for me at this point in the game.
I hit him with my rangefinder, and he was around six-hundred and fifty yards moving just fast enough in the wrong direction. I watched him go into some deep and tall sagebrush, my brother in law sat and watched, while I sprinted towards the brush patch. On my way there, four more doe’s jumped out and started running towards the buck’s last known position. I knew they would tattle on me as soon as they got there so I kept running. The fleeing does seemed perplexed that I continued running but not after them. As I moved, I scanned the terrain ahead for a good shooting position. I found one, a clear spot in the grass slightly elevated with a good view of the patch where the buck was still hidden. I laid down and ranged the doe’s as they began emerging on the far side of the brush patch, just shy of four-hundred yards, one after another they came out, I figured he would be last. He came out of the brush like a ghost, he just appeared, I had already dialed my elevation, I was doping the wind which was left to right. I held my wind correction and pressed the trigger, the buck reared up on his hind legs as though I’d hit him, I listened for the familiar smack sound to return to me, but it never did. I settled back upon him and to my surprise he was still there, I ran the bolt fast and sent a second shot. I watched through the recoil and saw only his shape settle in the tall grass, his feet up in the air. My brother in law was still four-hundred yards or so behind me, and didn’t even know I had taken a shot. I had to do a victory dance with my hat in the air for him to start making his way down.

I made my way to the buck, still unsure of how big or small he was. I was quite surprised when I saw this:

He was definitely past his prime, his teeth were about to fall out. I was nonetheless happy to have found him, and we took him home happy as we’d been in weeks. It was a rough hunting season, and he is perhaps the ugliest buck I’ve ever seen, but he was a blessing in a very ugly disguise.

-CBM

Off Season Activities

Who doesn’t get just a little sad when hunting season is over? Springtime for me can be somewhat depressing, perhaps its the colorless and winter torn look of the high-country I love to play in. But spring also is a new beginning of a whole new type of activities, as it begins to warm up and green begins flourish through the hills, there is still much to do. And I love spending time out in the wilderness. This is a video I did with the folks at Recoil, in the video we go into some of the fun and challenging activities that can still keep you on your toes until hunting season is back.

My Wife’s First Buck

Women are perhaps the fastest growing group of hunters, and they makeup a large subculture in the gun community overall. Being myself a staunch advocate for the hunting lifestyle, I always embrace the opportunity to add another hunter to our community. But in today’s case it was part of my own family that would join the fold.

My wife grew up in a family where hunting was not the norm, but it was common enough for her to be familiar with the idea and even a little excited to try it. The 2020 hunting season was her very first opportunity to take her first big game animal, together we made it an adventure that was nothing short of a perfect introduction to hunting as a lifestyle. She has since been preparing delicious meals for our children with meat that she took herself.

This year was her first time going after a Mule deer buck, and our goal was to make it as fun and meaningful as possible. A large part of this plan was to make her a self sufficient hunter, able to accomplish the task on her own merits. Since she has used my rifle in the past, a rifle of her own would be fundamental. And as it happens, the perfect rifle just happened to join our collection. My wife is quite petite, so a rifle small enough to manipulate and carry would be crucial for her.


The Browning X Bolt Hells Canyon Speed

The Browning X bolt is a fine rifle, and the Hells Canyon (HC) model is a fancier version of the base rifle. The X Bolt HC Speed came to us in a twenty-two inch 6.5 Creedmoor, in a composite ATACS camo stock and burnt bronze Cerakote. It is a very refined hunting rifle, with many great features such as a detachable rotary box magazine, recoil reducing muzzle brake, and a soft recoil pad at the rear. It’s quite a handsome little rifle, and it functions as good as it looks. The sixty-degree bolt throw is shorter and faster to run, and the adjustable trigger breaks like glass rod. There is much more to say about the X Bolt, click here to read all about it.

In order to match the rifle to it’s new owner, I mounted a Crimson Trace Hardline 3-12 scope in a set of low Warne rings. I wanted the rifle to fit her as best it could, I would have liked to chop a couple more inches off the barrel but time wouldn’t allow. Using a thread adaptor from Xcaliber Firearms I was able to mount a suppressor to the rifle, which is also another advantage for someone new to hunting. I mounted the very lightweight Yankee Hill Machine Nitro N20 suppressor built from all titanium, the recoil reduction and comfort far outweighed the ounces added to the rifle.

Practice Practice Practice

Despite having spent a fair amount of time behind a riflescope, I wanted to make sure she was comfortable as possible with her own rifle. So we spent a few trips going into the mountains to ensure she was familiar with every aspect of the rifle, and how to operate it quickly and under pressure. We took shots at targets out to five-hundred yards, and once she was comfortably hitting them with predictability, we added a time crunch. Putting a ten-second time limit to get on the rifle and make a good shot became a fun and useful game. With both rifle and shooter working in harmony, we counted down the days till the deer hunt started. Continue Reading Here…

Hard Effort and Elk Hunting

As hunters, we seem to revel in the challenge and frequent suffering that accompanies the efforts of hunting. I believe this comes from deep in our DNA handed down from our ancestry, from generations of exceptionally hard people that lived on the edge of survival. Pushing ourselves to that same absolute edge of our abilities during a hunt seems to tap into the very root of our hunting heritage, and the feeling intensifies the closer we get to the precipice of danger and complete collapse.

I was lucky enough to refine this discourse with a partner during one of my most recent hunts. Hard labor and putting in the time are a must when hunting Rocky Mountain Elk, and we were already deeply committed to a stalk high into the snowy mountains at seventy-five hundred feet. Nick and I have been friends for years, but this was his first time with me hunting elk, his first elk hunt period in fact. He had only taken his very first big game animal a few months prior during the Utah general season mule deer hunt, so this hunt was as much a learning experience as anything else.
The weather that day was brutal to say the least, a winter storm had been producing freezing rain all night as the wind howled across the mountain range stacking the snow anywhere it could. Our time to hunt was short, so we’d decided to go for it since success favors the brave.

As the light of day continued to brighten around us, we climbed a ridge spine that promised to put us in shooting range of a small group of cow elk spotted from the bottom of the canyon. The wind seemed to increase with every step, at times causing us to lose balance and slip in the deep snow. We took the opportunity to talk, as the noise of the wind could cover up a Peterbilt at fast-idle. I regaled Nick with hunting stories of the past, hardships endured, triumphs after failures and so on. Nick being quite eager to learn and be successful as a hunter was happy to discuss all the fine points that make for a fortunate hunt. The wind battered our faces with bits of hail and snow as we lumbered up the ridge, and our discussion turned to a different subject. “At what point does the suffering endured during a hunt cease to be fun” in the traditional sense. After all, most of us hunt because we enjoy it despite the difficulty.

My inquisitive colleague also asked how this hunt stacked up against other difficult hunts I’ve been lucky to endure. If I recall correctly he asked; on a scale of one to ten, ten being the worst hunt I’d ever been on, how are we doing today?

Like a veteran of some awful war, my eyes glazed over and immediately took me back to a freezing cold evening on a slippery mountain deep in Montana’s Kootenai National Forest. For days we had hiked countless miles through clouds and freezing rain, taken several spills down rocky scree-piles and still had nothing to show yet. I found myself clawing up an incredibly steep and treacherous mountain, slipping and sliding grabbing at sticks to gain traction. I would have given up long ago but we’d taken a shot, and I swore to myself that I would either find it or confirm the fear that it was a miss. My heart pounded like I’d never felt before, rain and sweat both ran freely down my face. I couldn’t have cared less since the point of full soak had passed hours before. My patience and exhaustion threshold had been reached, and using my rifle as a crutch I dug into the hillside for every taxing step. After what seemed an eternity, I finally reached the landmark only to find that the better part of the day had all been a waste of effort. I was ready for complete surrender, ready to throw my rifle down the hill and leave my tag hanging in the nearest tree.

I flashed back to the windswept ridge where Nick stood awaiting my answer, I quickly evaluated the labor and suffering we had seen already that morning. And I multiplied it as I looked at what lay ahead, compounded by the unknown that was sure to stand out later. I told Nick, right now we’re at about a six. And we carried on.
The snow got deeper, and we found ourselves moving from one hole to another, digging our feet out with each step. I found myself looking for small trees and bushes protruding from the snow, and stepping on them to use like a natural snowshoe. If only I’d been smart enough to bring a pair I could use for every step.

It was early afternoon when we finally neared the ridge-top where I expected we might have a shot, and it was time to make ready. The wind had only gotten worse, and our condition hadn’t improved, but Nick prepared his rifle for the shot we hoped would come. Removing ice from the rifle to ensure everything was ready, Nick dry fired it several times to make sure we wouldn’t have a malfunction, and then finally chambered a 338 Lapua Magnum cartridge. He backed of his riflescope to six power, and we crept across the crunchy snow between the scrubby trees.

Everything moved with the wind and blowing snow, so I cant be sure when it happened, but almost without any indication, there stood a cow elk a mere forty-yards in front of us behind a small tree. I motioned Nick who was in the process of raising his rifle to bare, but before he could, she bolted from view. We followed her with our eyes as more elk appeared from behind the trees, and moved in a huddled mass away from us. As clouds blew in between us, we used the cover to move below the tree-line where we might have a clear shot at them. We found a tree trunk that provided a solid shooting position and peered into the cloudy breeze waiting for an opening. As Nick continually wiped the snow accumulating in the objective of his scope, I peered through binoculars to where I’d last seen the elk. Through several courses of clouds we waited, getting ghostly glimpses of them but nothing long enough to make a shot. The wind was now blowing at us directly from twelve o’clock, and pelting our eyes and faces with every look. But just as we had nearly reached our threshold for the bone-chilling cold, the wind blew another patch of clear air into our canyon, exposing a few of the elk that stood among the trees. Nick spotted them through his scope, and I watched through my binoculars. When both of us were ready, he finally let the Lapua off the chain. The muffled shot wasn’t particularly loud with the roaring wind around us, but my ears were focused downrange. Among the sounds of ice bouncing down my ear canal, I over heard the old familiar whap come back a second or so after the shot. Both Nick and I watched through our respective optics as the cow stumbled backwards then faceplanted into the snow before her. The three-hundred grain Scenar had broken one shoulder and perforated her heart, and she slid down the steep slope leaving bright red snow patches along the way.

It took us another grueling trek through the deep snow to get to where we last saw her, the whole way we spoke of the excitement and our individual perspectives. As we laid eyes on our prize finally, we went in for a high-five that turned into a bro-hug halfway through. And like we had hundreds of times that morning, we again fell over, finally able to laugh at our hardships.
“Now it was all fun” Nick said as he descended towards his first elk, up until that point it had been indeterminate extreme effort and endurance. That magical act of laying your hands on a prize that you’ve worked your ass off to get, the one you’ve daydreamed about since last season, when you finally have a tangible trophy you can take home and justify all the effort you put in seems to tie it all together into an adventure you will never forget. In spite of the overwhelming imbalance between exertion, suffering, and the few minutes of celebration, that simple act of winning seems to atone for every negative challenge endured to get there.

Our frozen hands were soon warmed as we again set to work on dressing the animal, and the even harder work of getting her out began. Luckily I have some good friends who volunteered to help us get her out, and as I write this she is quietly aging out in my woodshed.
There are few things I enjoy more than sharing this incredibly rewarding and at times crazy lifestyle of hunting, watching Nick take his first elk was the ice cold icing on the cake for me. Watching him dig deep into the snow and pushing beyond what may have seemed rational. I’d like to think he reached his roots down in that deep snow, and felt the same connection I often do when we join the circle of life around us.

I expect Nick will hunt again, I think the affliction of big game hunting has grabbed ahold of him. And he surely has become too accustomed to the taste of venison to stop now.

I too will be back next year, by then all the aches and pains will have been forgotten. And I’ll again be ready to make seemingly poor choices that will put me in range of my objectives, and I look forward to sharing it with new friends and family.

-CBM

Elk Hunting Carnivores

I had the great opportunity to take Iain Harrison (editor of Recoil Magazine and Carnivore Magazine) on a cow elk hunt here in the Utah mountains. I got sick during the trip (turned out to be Cofeve) so I was hurling literally minutes before the action went down in this video. Surprisingly I was able to make it through the whole thing without getting any worse, and even managed to help pack out. Give it a watch, hope you like it.