A second trip to Wyoming brings back good memories -- and doubly good success on pronghorns.
Scott Landwehr (right) and I took these bucks the same day. This was Scott's first antelope.
ROLLING DOWN THE ROAD, I found it hard to believe it had been a year since my dad, Gail Martin, and I had hunted here together. This time my companion was good friend Scott Landwehr, general manager of Martin Archery. While I scanned for antelope, Scott was doing his best to keep his eyes on the road. He was driving.
Ah, yes, Wyoming with its rolling hills along the freeway, dotted every few miles with those wonderful white-and-tan critters we would soon be hunting. This was Scott's first antelope hunt, and he'd been amped up and getting ready for months.
After 930 miles on the road, we spotted the last sign to Kaycee, Wyoming, where we turned off the freeway and drove the last five into hunting camp. Chuck Cureton, who operates Ridgemaster Outfitting, met us there. As Dad and I had learned the previous year, Chuck spends a lot of time scouting for the best spots to put blinds and treestands. As we met the rest of Chuck's crew, Chuck pointed at the ominous black clouds headed our way, and said, "It looks like we could get some rain tonight."
Chuck was right. Mother Nature decided to throw a curveball into our hunting plans by dumping rain most of the night. As anyone who has hunted in this part of Wyoming knows, rain makes the dirt roads undriveable in a hurry.
Since most of the ground blinds are several miles off the paved roads, we wouldn't be able to get to them that first morning. Ah, but Chuck, being the guide that he is, already had another plan in mind. He knew where to find several bands of antelope close to pavement. While Chuck took some deer hunters out, he put us in the capable hands of guide Clint Lembke, who helped Scott and me put the sneak on antelope the rest of the day.
Scott got close to a nice buck with a harem of does feeding on sagebrush flat. Getting within 40 yards of the buck, Scott slowly made his way up a 15-foot bank to the last few feet separating him from a 30-yard shot. Like a flock of birds in flight, all the antelope busted off the plateau at the same time, leaving Scott to simply watch as they seemed to fly across the sagebrush hills. What a way to end our first day of hunting!
Back at camp we met up with other guides and hunters, including Bob and Susan Filbrandt, who first told Dad about hunting with Ridgemaster Outfitting. The camp is a bit on the rustic side, with an old farmhouse that serves as the main gathering and eating area, along with several trailers where hunters stay. Just don't pick the one that Bob and Susan have used for four years; it's like home to them.
NO MORE RAIN had fallen by day two, so, with only a few slips and slides in remaining muddy spots, our guide delivered Scott and me to ground blinds on two waterholes nestled 100 yards apart in a sloping draw. From there we had a great view of the surrounding hills.
"Wait a minute. This is the same place I shot my antelope at last year," I said. "Hey, Scott, it was good luck for me, so why don't you take that one, and I'll use the other one up the draw."
My dad, Martin Archery Founder Gail Martin, took this fine buck the year before.
LOOKING AT THE FAMILIAR surroundings, I couldn't help but think of the previous year when Dad had shot his Pope and Young-class antelope. Killing my antelope on the first day that year gave me opportunity to sit with Dad as he hunted. As he and I watched ducks swimming around the cattails, we could see three distinct trails coming to the water. With my rangefinder, I measured the farthest at 52 yards and the next at 42 yards. The third trail was so close, the rangefinder wouldn't give a reading. I don't know why I bothered with the rangefinder, since Dad shoots instinctively. He'd had a hard time deciding whether to use his recurve or compound. He'd brought both, but that day he had the compound in his hands.
About three hours into the hunt, Dad was eating his sandwich and watching the ducks when a fawn antelope raced in and started drinking five yards from our blind. I reached up and grabbed the sandwich right out of Dad's mouth. He gave me a strange look, but then he saw the fawn and slowly moved into action. If the fawn was in, the does would follow and then, hopefully, a buck.
Sure enough, in came a doe, then other does and fawns. Then Dad motioned to me. From his vantage point he could see the buck coming. The buck reached the water just as the first doe and fawn were leaving.
I glanced over at Dad. He was already at full draw, and instantly the arrow zipped out of the blind and completely through the buck. I scrambled out of the blind and, staying low, binoculars in hand, I saw the tips of the buck's horns just over the sagebrush. He stood about 100 yards away. Then the horns disappeared into the tall grass. Walking over to where the horns had disappeared, we found the marvelous antelope, ready for Dad's tag.
SCOTT AND I SETTLED into our blinds. Our guide was to check on us every few hours from about a mile away. If we put a coat or flag on an old fencepost, he was to come in to check on us.
For the first hour, three chubby prairie dogs entertained me with their antics. Suddenly they quit playing, and all three stood on their hind legs and stared to my left. The focus of their attention was an antelope buck, 150 yards out.
Stayed in the trailers.
The buck quickly closed the distance, but instead of stopping at my waterhole, he walked right on by, heading toward Scott's. When he stopped 40 yards broadside from Scott's blind, an arrow flashed from the blind and hit the buck. The buck ran 20 yards, stopped for a moment, and then disappeared over a hill. Scott waited 20 minutes and then came over to my blind.
"Should we go track him or w
ait?" Scott asked."It wouldn't hurt to give him another hour," I said.With that we got back in our blinds, and not 20 minutes later, my prairie dog friends again stood on their hind legs and looked to my left. A buck and a doe were coming on the same path Scott's buck had taken.
The doe reached my waterhole first and started drinking, 12 yards from my blind. The buck, meanwhile, had stopped to beat up some sagebrush with his horns. When he was done releasing some pent-up energy, he moved closer. With the buck now broadside at 15 yards, I came to full draw -- and at that very instant the doe backed up and blocked my view of the buck!
I held at full draw, and when the doe finally stepped forward, my arrow was on its way, catching the buck low in the chest. The buck spun in a circle, and as soon as he stopped I released another arrow. He took a couple of steps and fell dead.
After tagging my buck, we put a flag on the fencepost to signal our guide. When Clint showed up, the three of us took up the trail to Scott's buck. The antelope had traveled farther than we'd expected, but with a little persistence, we found him.
The next day found us back on the freeway, headed 930 miles for home. I was the one behind the wheel this time, while Scott scanned for antelope -- and I did my best to keep my eyes on the road.
An old farmhouse served as the main gathering and eating area in camp.
Dan Martin thinks he has retired from Martin Archery, but he continues to test equipment and materials for the company.
Author's Notes: I used a Martin Firecat bow at 68 lbs. draw weight, Cheetah 3-D arrows with 4" Duravanes, 4-Blade Slick Trick Magnum 100-grain broadheads, Cobra sight, Ripcord arrow rest, Round-A-Bout stabilizer, and Jim Fletcher Fletchunter release.
Scott used a Martin Pantera (prototype) bow set at 64 lbs. draw weight, Victory arrows with 2.5" Fury Vanes, Shuttle T-Lock 100-grain broadheads, TruGlo Rover sight, NAP 360 arrow rest, Round-A-Bout stabilizer, and Tru-Fire Edge release.
For a great bowhunt for antelope, mule deer, and other species, contact: Charles Cureton, Ridgemaster Outfitting, 2811 Saratoga Road, Casper, WY 82604; (307) 265-8229; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ridgemasteroutfitting.com