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by a.k.a. wheeler45 Last updated: 2011-10-10 10:54:20
This antelope hunt began in November of 2010 as I sat in a deer blind in southern Indiana. The morning had been uneventful so I anticipated a better afternoon. It was a cool day as rain softly fell. While awaiting a deer to appear my cell phone rang. Oddly enough it was my taxidermist, Tom Cooper. He asked if I was interested in hunting pronghorn antelope. It had always been a desire but had never come to pass. His outfitter in Wyoming had just made him aware of a free guided antelope hunt for handicapped hunters. As I was sitting in my wheelchair this sounded like a great opportunity. He would get me an application and give it to me when he returned. Later that day as the sun was setting I shot a doe with my Contender 7-30 Waters . Tom emailed me a website for the He**ofahunt antelope hunt in Douglas, Wyoming. After perusing the site it seemed too good to be true. Annually 15 disabled hunters are selected from applicants. The all expense paid hunt includes guides, licenses, lodging, food and meat processing. The hunter must get himself to Douglas where all else is provided. One non-hunting guest was allowed. I had nothing to lose. My brother Jay wanted to go. The hunt was scheduled for October 1-2.
In anticipation I read as much as possible about hunting antelope. I bought a video called Handgunning Mule Deer and Pronghorn Antelope by Greg Richter. It was replete with hunting and gun information. I spent much time on the Handgunhunt.com website asking questions. My 7-30 was a good deer gun, but I was concerned with needing more reach. Ah, what to do? Why, buy a new gun, of course! I found a Remington XP-100 in .308 Winchester that begged my to buy it. It was my first internet gun purchase. My local dealer gave me an FFL and it was sent with the money. Lo and behold, I soon had my first bolt action pistol and what a beauty it is. The original owner had been a silhouette shooter as the gun had a post-in-globe front sight and an open notch micrometer rear. To the range I went to fire some factory loads and establish a preliminary zero until a scope was obtained.
The recoil was mild and accuracy was good at 25 yards. From Natchez I ordered a Leupold 4X and Leupold base and rings. Once assembled I discovered that more eye relief was needed. I am only 5'-6" tall and weigh 130 pounds. My short little arms could not extend the ocular lens far enough from my face. An EEG extended base and appropriate rings were then ordered. Once installed, I could just get enough eye relief.
What load to use? I like Nosler Ballistic Tips in my 7-30. I settled on 150 grain Ballistic Tips for the .308. Varget is my favorite rifle powder, so 47 grains of it atop a CCI primer was loaded for testing. At our local DNR 50 yard range I was shooting 1/2"-3/4" groups. Sighted 1" high at this range would give me a 200 yard zero. I did learn that this load recoils much more than factory ammunition. It is not painful but needs a muzzle brake after hunting season.
The summer was spent practicing and readying myself for the antelope hunt. I had not flown since 1998 when I went to South Africa. Transporting my guns had not been a problem as TSA did not exist. All summer I heard horror stories from those telling me not to even attempt to fly with guns. I was determined to not only take my XP-100 but also my S&W Model 60 .38 special. As a retired police officer I go armed at all times. HR218 is wonderful, bless G.W. Bush’s heart. My 1911 .45 would remain at home but the pocket .38 was going with me. My brother’s 6" Taurus .357 was going for him also. After talking to the airlines about the guns I was not concerned. I did not have a suitable pistol case so we packed the three pistols in my aluminum rifle case. Our departure date arrived and a friend drove us to the Indianapolis airport. I was pleasantly surprised to observe the ticket counter ladies reaction to the guns. They were very nice and helpful. After verifying that the guns were unloaded, the case was whisked away with our other luggage and we were set. Hoosiers are gun friendly folks. The TSA agents were helpful and polite as they searched me as I sat in my wheelchair. Being a retired cop, we were able to talk shop. Once aboard the plane at 1545 hours we settled for our long journey and many plane changes.
The airline personnel were patient and helpful as my brother would lift me from the wheelchair and deposit me into my seat. Jay is a great guy and stout as a bull even though he is shorter and lighter that me. We flew, napped, talked and generally enjoyed the voyage.
We finally deplaned in Casper, Wyoming at 2357 hours local time to be met by Jane Stearns and another lady who was the former Chief of Police of Douglas. We talked as we drove to Douglas and learned of the next few days’ activities. We were taken to our dorm at the Wyoming State Fair Grounds. The accommodation were not what I had imagined. I had not attempted to sleep in a bunk but since I was a kid. Now being a 53 year old paraplegic, it looked problematic. Praise the Lord I was able to get into the bottom bunk.
The next morning was Friday 30 September. After breakfast the 15 hunters and guests were taken to the local rifle range. I suspect that this was a two-fold venture. Not only did the rifles need to be zeroed, but the guides needed to see if we could shoot. Targets were posted at 100 yards as rifle rests and sandbags were positioned. I was the only pistol hunter. A double leg amputee named Marvin was assigned to help me. He is a bench rest rifle shooter and long range rifleman. He was skeptical to say the least. He had me fire a round while he spotted. It was 2" high and ˝” right of center. The second shot hit the first. Marvin was amazed. He told me to adjust ˝ minute left and fire another. This was perfect windage and elevation wise. He could not believe that a pistol could shoot 3 shots into 1 inch at 100 yards. I said a prayer thanking the Lord for the group. From the rifle range we retired to the trap range for round of trap. Guns were provided so I chose a Savage 12 gauge superposed. I only broke 20 of 25 as this gun shoots differently than my Ruger Red Label. It was all fun. The days activities included fellowship and food.
The next morning we awoke to a gorgeous day. I left Indiana at 60 degrees and rain. Today proved to be sunny and a high of 93. My Guide was Terry Emmert. We boarded his Ford 4X4 and headed to the ranch. It was odd to not begin hunting until after the sun had risen. We drove to the ranch seeing many mule deer and antelope along the road. At the ranch gate was a nice antelope buck and four does. I ranged him at one hundred yards as the fed contentedly. It would have been an easy shot but Terry hated to end the hunt so quickly. Toward the day’s end we reconsidered that decision.
As we drove around the ranch looking for antelope I was awestruck at the terrain and openness. This was my first trip to the west. It reminded me of South Africa. We saw a few antelope but not great numbers of them. Terry was disappointed. The population was lower than normal. We did get to see several hawks and one coyote. We got into position for a shot but he was too skittish and never stopped moving. We drove and drove spotting distant antelope and tried to intercept them. Finally we spotted some in a draw and worked the truck into position. Anyone who thinks that shooting a pistol from a truck’s back seat is easy has not tried it. I would get a buck in the scope only to have him move a few yards. Terry would creep the truck a few feet forward and left of right as needed. I finally got the buck in the scope at 180 yards downhill. He was fidgeting and twisting as I squeezed the trigger. The round hit just above his back and off he flew. I was devastated. I had just blown my opportunity and was embarrassed. Terry, bless his heart, was not upset with me. He encouraged me and did his best to put me at ease. I just knew that I had ruined my hunt. We proceeded to drive and spot more antelope. At one point we saw a buck with a drooped horn. We would take him later if need be. We say a buck and several does heading across a bowl and decided to intercept them. A few miles around the bowl later we could see them approaching, but there was no way to get the truck near the lip without being seen. Terry plucked me out of the truck as Jay carried my gun. Terry carried me 50 yards to a rock formation where I could shoot from the prone position. While we were attempting to make ready,the antelope ran up the side of the bowl and were gone. I was getting pretty discouraged by now. It was the early afternoon and I had blown it. Terry never lost hope. We drove and glassed more until we spotted another buck and some does. Slowly creeping the truck towards them we stopped. Terry ranged the buck at 170 yards. I do not mind telling you that I was nervous. I have killed a slew of deer and a dozen head of African game. Right now I was shaken. The reticle settled on his chest as I slowly pressed the trigger. At the shot the buck dropped! Suddenly he staggered to his feet and stood wobbling as the does ran for cover. He would try to take a step but falter. Terry started driving towards him. The hillside was so steep we could not go far. The buck turned uphill and started staggering our way. I was shaking like a leaf. I loaded a new round and tried to get him in the scope. I could not hold the gun still. Terry and Jay were trying to calm me as the buck walked uphill. AT 118 yards he stopped and turned broadside, facing to the left. He was in the scope but the cross-hair were dancing all over his chest. Terry asked me if I was all right as I had stopped breathing. Slowly I pressed the trigger as the cross-hair danced. Wham! It was a surprise break. Before the sight picture was lost I saw the buck hit the ground belly first. I knew that he was dead and thanked God for it. There was no easy way to drive to the buck so Jay bailed out of the truck and ran to him. He was DOA. The 150 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip had hit his neck killing him instantly. The first shot had hit a little high in the chest nicking the spine. It had pole-axed him but not killed him. Shooting down extreme hillsides from a truck is not easy. After we finally got to the buck I could admire him and thank Jesus for another wonderful gift.
It was humbling being stricken with such a bad case of buck fever. I always get excited when hunting, but it has not been this bad in a long time. If the time ever comes when hunting no longer thrills me, I will quit. Hunting is a natural high that no drug could match. Hunting in 90 degree weather in T-shirts was different.
The next day we took a .17 HMR Savage rifle and a Winchester Model 70 .22-250 prairie dog hunting. That was a blast. We killed prairie dogs out to 217 yards. It was interesting having to dope the wind. It would blow the .17 bullets 4"-6" and the .22 bullets 2". I lost count of the ones I killed but it was over 50. Jay shot 3 with his revolver.
The next day we flew back to Indiana where it was still 60 degrees and raining.
Any handicapped hunters interested in this hunt should contact:
Gary and Jane Stearns
1562 Easterbrook Road
Douglas, WY 82633
They are good folks. This was the hunt’s 27th year.
I praise my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for all His blessings,
Tony Huffman #8113
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