Sunday, July 7, 2013


My quest for a pronghorn took me to Wyoming in 2009.

            The hum of tires on pavement lulled me to sleep as my friend, Ron Wagner, drove our rental van out of the Denver airport and north on I-25. I had been snoozing for a while when I suddenly felt a tap on my shoulder. “Andy, look.” Ron said. “Antelope!”
            Seeing my first antelope brought me out of a slumber to begin living the dream of our Western adventure. We saw more than 100 pronghorns on the two-hour drive to Cheyenne, where we stopped for dinner and a good night’s rest in a hotel. When my head hit the pillow, I couldn’t believe I was finally in Wyoming.
Ron and I grew up in Pennsylvania and had always dreamed of a hunt out West. In 2008, with ALS eroding my body, I knew it was time to quit dreaming and start making definite plans. Encouraged by our success in hunting whitetails as a team, I told Ron I was ready to try for mule deer and antelope. “Just say when and where, buddy,” he replied. “I’ll be there for you.”
After reviewing license costs and hunter success rates for several states, I decided on Wyoming as our best bet. Hours of research on the Internet and about a dozen email inquiries led me to an outfitter who eagerly accepted the challenge when I explained my disability and the way Ron handles the rifle for me. I booked a deer/antelope combo hunt for October 5 to 9, 2009, and applied for our tags according to the outfitter’s instructions.
Coordinating travel plans required an exercise in logistics because Ron lives in Pennsylvania and I reside in Brazil, but we worked out a good solution. My wife and I flew from Rio de Janeiro to Atlanta and met Ron and his wife in the airport; from there we all flew to Denver and picked up a rental van. By the time we reached the hotel in Cheyenne, my wife and I had been on the go for more than 24 hours.
The next morning we enjoyed an unhurried breakfast and got back on I-25 to continue north to a truck stop near the town of Douglas. There we met outfitter Pat Phillipps and followed him on a 90-minute drive to the hunting camp. On the way we saw more antelope and our first mule deer. (Man, they have big ears!) Ron and I—typical Easterners used to hunting whitetails in thick woods—were impressed with Wyoming’s vast openness and the number of game animals we could see from the highway.
Ron, Pat and I held a strategy meeting over dinner the first night in camp (Sunday). We told our guide that we weren’t looking for record-book trophies, but we wanted respectable examples of mule deer and pronghorns. We would trust Pat’s judgement in deciding which animals to take. We also recognized that my condition would make open-country stalking quite difficult, so we might not have the luxury of being very choosy.
After receiving my antelope and deer tags, I had applied for and received a Disabled Hunter Permit. Provided to qualifying individuals free of charge by the Wyoming Game and Fish Dept., this permit authorizes the holder to shoot from a stationary vehicle.
Ron rigged my equipment on Pat’s custom-built .243 with 4x scope, and we began our hunt under cloudy skies on Monday morning. We had ample room in the back seat of Pat’s Dodge Mega Cab pickup to maneuver and shoot out either side. The rifle’s chamber remained empty and the bolt open until we decided to shoot.
Clear skies and excellent visibility made Tuesday the best day to hunt antelope. We soon located a small herd in an oat field. Although used to farm machinery, the skittish speedgoats wouldn’t let the pickup get closer than 250 yards. Our guide shadowed the group and finally gave us a good opportunity at half that distance. We waited patiently for the dominant buck to present a broadside shot.
The big boy, whom Pat dubbed “Elvis,” kept chasing two young bucks away from his does. Pat showed his knowledge of antelope behavior by predicting their actions with an entertaining play-by-play commentary.
“Elvis is gonna chase off those other bucks...He’ll try to nick that one in the butt with his horns...Don’t worry, he’ll come back into range because the does stayed put...Here he comes...Now he’ll walk up to a doe, tilt his head back and say, ‘Look at my shiny horns.’ He’s in the clear now, so let him have it when he turns. The range is 120 yards.”
We heard the bullet hit, then watched Elvis stagger and fall. With all due respect to Long John Baldry, we laid some serious boogie-woogie on the king of rock and roll!
When I touched that antelope’s horns I felt a rush of emotion at having finally fulfilled a longtime dream. Sharing the moment with a great friend made it even more significant. About an hour later I had the pleasure of watching Ron bag a fine speedgoat for himself with a 200-yard shot.
Our Wyoming adventure taught me that dreams can indeed come true, but nobody delivers them to your doorstep. Despite my disability, I was inspired to keep planning hunts and putting forth the effort to achieve my goals.
Here’s a slideshow of our antelope hunt.

Covering 97,814 square miles, Wyoming ranks as our tenth-largest state yet hosts a lower population (about 576,000) than any other.
Wyoming’s pronghorn population is estimated at more than 500,000.
The North American pronghorn makes a truly unique trophy because natural selection has eliminated all of its close relatives, leaving Antilocapra americana as the only surviving member of its family.
Formed by a hairlike substance, an antelope’s horn sheath grows over a small, bony core. Unlike cattle, goats or African game such as kudu, pronghorns shed their horns annually. Don’t plan on searching the prairie to collect sheds, though. Unlike hard deer antlers, the thin-walled, hollow antelope horns decompose quickly.

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