Hunting

A Western Hunt

By CV Cherry

There is no better representative of the American West to me than the Pronghorn Antelope. Its the first animal that comes to my mind when I think of the Western states. The journey to hunt Pronghorn began in 2010 when my professor my professional mentor, colleague, friend and father figure Grady Stilley and I were discussing hunting when the topic of a pronghorn came up. Grady said when he was growing up there was a gun digest with a photograph of a pronghorn on the cover. This was our omen. We began saving money and planning. I researched outfitters and settled on Southeastern Wyoming. We chose to go with an outfitter as opposed to a DIY because the outfitter has the experience and we did not. 

The hunt was booked and planned for September 22 through 24, 2012. We were to check into the lodge on Friday, September 21, 2012. Our idea was to take our time and see the country and leave spare time for any unseen issues. Grady and I planned to drive across the country and see America. We loaded my 1997 GMC Yukon and left New Bern, North Carolina at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday, September 16 and began our journey. We were filled with anticipation of the pending hunt. We discussed work, firearms, hunting in general and antelope hunting in particular. 

Along the way we stopped at the Cabela’s located in Kansas City, Kearney, and Sydney, Nebraska. The visit to Cabela’s was a minor pilgrimage all its own. We looked like tourists from another country, wide eyed and taking photographs.  Once we were west of Sydney, Nebraska we began seeing pronghorn. Sometimes one or two and sometimes herds of over a hundred. And turkeys, hundreds of turkeys in the fields along the way. It was a surreal experience.

 

"The Pronghorn is the fastest land animal in North America, reaching speeds up to 70 mph for short distances and sustaining speeds of 30mph for around fifteen minutes. The pronghorn has horns, not antlers, made of keratin, just like human fingernails. They shed those covers each winter like deer do antlers, but the actual horn core continues to grow for the animal's lifespan."

We soon learned we were way ahead of schedule and slowed down arriving in Laramie, Wyoming on Thursday, September 20, 2012. We discovered the Altitude Chophouse and Brewery in downtown Laramie. Everything on the menu looked great, especially the chicken noodle soup. The soup seemed to ease the effects of the elevation. Being flatlanders from approximately one foot above sea level and traveling to over 7,000 feet, the soup certainly seemed to have medicinal properties. We learned later at the lodge we needed to hydrate and drink plenty of water. 

We arrived at the lodge around lunch time on Friday, September 21.We were checked in and shot our rifles to make sure they held their zero during the trip out. Grady had a Thompson Venture chambered in .270 and shot a Hornady SST 130 grain rounds. I was shooting a Federal Ordnance sporterized Mauser chambered in .30-.06  and shot Remington Core Lokt 152 grain rounds.  Once we were dialed in we went back to the lodge and put our gear up. 

Hunters abounded with nearly everyone hunting antelope and one archery elk hunter. One antelope hunter from Pennsylvania tagged out with a dandy buck. His hunting buddy tagged out the day before. The success rate on antelope ran 100%. The archery elk hunter never got a bull within range. 

Curious about antelope as table fare, we asked everyone’s opinion about antelope meat. The majority of the guides said it was horrible and gave us a recipe that included bourbon, wine and several seasonings and cooking time. Well as you guessed, the joke ended with throwing away the meat and drinking the gravy. The outfitter said he would rather eat antelope than elk, mule deer or white tail deer.   The Pennsylvania hunters were donating their meat to Hunters for the Hungry but asked the camp cook to prepare some of their meat before they flew out the next day. The camp cook grilled backstrap steaks seasoned with Tony Chachere’s Cajun and Creole Seasoning. Friend, let me tell you, it was fantastic

The outfitter called us in the main room and handed out our tags and licenses and gave us a blaze hunting hat.  We stayed up and talked and listened to hunting stories and relieved all the hunts of everyone that tagged out.  

We were told the elk hunters would eat breakfast first, at 3:00 a.m. and the antelope hunters would eat at 4:00 a.m. We would go out, drive the hunting property, scout the area, glass the antelope and stalk for a shot. Grady and I turned in way too late with a way too early wake up call. The kitchen was next to our room and the noises of a hunting lodge and cooking breakfast had us up with the elk hunters. We ate our breakfast and had bag lunches consisting of a sandwich, apple, chips, and a canned drink. We were ready. 

Our guide met us, we piled in a pick-up truck with our gear, rifles and rode out to the hunting property. I was riding shotgun and we decided Grady would take the first shot. We were driving and saw a shooter buck just walking down the side of the highway. 

We hit the property next and right off saw two or three herds of 50 plus animals. We did not go far when a nice buck was herding approximately 20 to 40 does. They ran off and the guide said they may come back. A few moments later, the guide slammed on brakes and said get out, the buck was on top of a ridge and looking at us. 

We exited the vehicle and Grady propped on the roof line of the truck and the buck backed away from the lip of the ridge.  The guide said get ready, they’re curious animals, and the buck will be back. Not even five minutes passed and the buck looked over the lip again and Grady let fly, striking the buck in the left side just behind his shoulder and the exit wound broke the right front shoulder. Pronghorn Antelope Buck down!

We glassed several bucks and came upon a single buck drinking out of a water source at approximately 200 yards. I propped on the hood of the guide’s truck and made my shot, taking him broadside. We repeated our earlier routine by taking photographs and field dressing the buck. We drove back to the lodge and the guide caped out our bucks for taxidermy purposes and we quartered the meat for travel.

Grady spent the rest of the afternoon at the lodge while I went trout fishing. The weather forecast predicted an early snowstorm within 48 hours. We left the following morning, stopping in Laramie, Wyoming to drop our capes and horns off at the taxidermists. We also spent the rest of the afternoon at the Wyoming State Penitentiary Museum. The most notorious inmate was Butch Cassidy, of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid/Hole in the Wall fame. This was a great hunt and experience and I would not take a million dollars for the experience.

In memory of 

Grady Stilley

9/17/1946 – 12/9/2020

Vietnam Veteran and Lieutenant Craven County, North Carolina Sheriff’s Office

Cecil Cherry

Cecil Cherry

is an avid outdoorsman and sportsman originally from Eastern North Carolina. He grew up on a tobacco and hog farm and still loves the rural lifestyle. Cecil loves waterfow,upland, and big game hunting. He loves the idea of field to plate and enjoys cooking and dreaming of his next day afield!