I've been fortunate to draw a couple of Wyoming doe/fawn pronghorn tags each of the last three years and this hunt has rapidly become a family favorite because I can take any and all of my kids that decide on that day that they want to come along.
Loaded up the ol' Chevy Equinox with my 10, 7, 6, and 3 year old boys and headed over to Wyoming, my 9 year old daughter on this day decided to stay at home with Mom and her 20 month old baby brother to have a "girl's day." We got out of the driveway about 30 minutes later than I had wanted, but we would find later that wouldn't matter one bit. Critters were in no short supply and we basically just bounced from bunch to bunch... action was fast enough to keep the boy's attention all day which was extremely considerate of those goats to do for me. Now, as one might guess, putting on a stalk with such an entourage can be quite problematic but if nothing else it's entertaining.
Shortly before noon I spotted a little herd just up on an alfalfa bench and parked the car. We bailed out and started walking down the old two track that would lead to the creek where we would need to cross. Fifty yards or so down the two track a pickup pulls off the road next to my car and a guy jumps out and hustles his way down to me. He let's me know that they had just shot one in the field to the north and they were going to take an old ranch road that goes right between my current position and the pronghorn herd. He wanted to catch me before we got too far because he didn't want to ruin my stalk. I thanked him for his thoughtfulness and told him to just go ahead... if it worked out it worked out but animals were so frequent that I figured one more blown stalk wouldn't really matter.
Off he went back to his truck and I turned to the boys and told them that if this was going to work we were going to need to hurry. So off we went, I quickly ferried the boys across the stream and made it through a ranch gate quickly enough. Nearing the edge of the alfalfa field the little herd wasn't alarmed but they were alert to our presence. I didn't look like too difficult a shot and several hundred yards to our south I could see the pickup truck driving slowly on the ranch road towards us... we had made good time and had beaten them to the spot so we were definitely going to have a chance.
I told the boys to lay down next to but slightly behind me and I took a prone rest on my pack. I picked out one doe and she stood statue still long enough for me to take several good breaths and took the shot.
The herd took off on a dead run with her trailing but after just a few yards she stopped and toppled over. The boys were thrilled and started running towards the downed doe. I turned and picked up everything that they had left behind in their excitement and began to make my way over. I have a funny image in my mind of four little boys in hunter orange hats running single file, tall to small, across the alfalfa field. They had to negotiate a barbed wire fence, which the littlest two got tangled up in pretty good, but they were able to work themselves free and run up to the doe.
They stopped several yards short because of the graphic nature of the bullet wound. As I'm trying to negotiate the barbed wire fence and cover the last 100 yards or so to catch up with them my 7 year old turns and yells to me, "Dad, she's not in good condition!" Well, actually it was a perfectly effective shot... she expired quickly and there was very little meat loss. The doe had expired not 40 yards from the old ranch road and before I had even reached the doe and my boys the pickup truck finally drove past and gave me a couple quick congratulatory honks and thumbs up out the windows and they continued on to their kill.
I began to work quickly getting the doe quartered. As I was working my 3 year old started to feel sick, he wasn't handling the butchering process well and he laid down hiding behind my pack. He ended up throwing up then falling asleep while I finished quartering.
When I was little more than halfway done the guys in the pickup drove by again and they got out and came over and chatted with me. They thought it was pretty awesome that I had brought all the little kids and congratulated me again. They had watched the whole thing play out from about 400 yards away and had stopped the truck when they saw that I was getting ready to shoot. They offered to throw what was left in the back of their pickup and take it back to the car for me which was a generous offer. Since I was quartering it out I figured I could just get it all taken care of right there and leave all the pieces on the mountain. I thanked them for their offer but declined, they did let me know that my car would have no problems on the old ranch road. Off they went on their way... good guys.
I didn't want to haul back a bunch of quarters and a sick/sleeping three year old... so I decided to leave the boys there at the kill site and run back to the main road and get the car. By the time I got the car up to the kill site the 3 year old had woken up and was feeling much better so they were chasing each other around the field when I got up to them. Just a few short minutes later we were loaded back in the car and headed off looking for another doe to fill my second tag.
A couple close encounters later we came upon a good sized herd less than 200 yards from the road. I ran over to one of the fence posts, and waited for a clear shot on anything legal. A fawn near the rear of the herd lagged behind just a little too long and gave me the opportunity I needed.
I turned to the car and told the boys we were done. We walked over to where it lay and I was a little leery of starting the butchering process with the 3 year old nearby so I made a deal with them that I would drag it over closer to the road and they could sit in the car and play on their tablets while I did the butchering.
In short order I had two pronghorn in my cooler and we headed for home.
On the drive home the boys remarked that they are my "good luck charms." Every time my oldest son has come with me we've shot something... a cow elk a couple years ago, a little buck deer this year, and a handful of pronghorn does/fawns spanning a couple years. Somehow I've got to get it into his head that we're not always going to be so fortunate and in my lifetime there have been far more days that I've come home with just memories.
I've got some processing to do at home now... the boys can't wait for the hickory smoked jerky and we're going to give the new Hi Mountain Spicy Lime flavor a try this year. Thanks Wyoming!