I decided to join my brother and some of his hunting buddies who continue the tradition a pronghorn/mule deer hunt in eastern Wyoming. My brother has been out here five times previous, having always come out with our Dad. But, Dad could no longer go. It was my turn to see what this was all about. Armed with a couple of cameras and an ambition not to get in the way, we set out on the twenty-hour drive west.
These are distances you hope you don't need to practice sighting in, but in these expansive lands where there is little cover, you'd better plan on it.
We're hunting on BLM land. We drive out in the morning while it's still dark. My brother, having been here several times, knows where he wants to be at daylight. So we drive the two-tracks, open livestock gates and shut them again behind us. It's slow driving, you're tired, and the truck swaying back and forth is a little too motion much for this time of morning. But, the hope of the big one out there in the dark helps you count it worth it.
We come across a nice size buck, but he's a long ways away, and high above us. After a long stalk, my brother gets a shot and takes it down. It was dark by the time he began to quarter the deer. As my brother rolls the deer over, I hear a guttural noise. I ask,
"What's that sound?"
My brother stops what he he's doing, listening as the sound continues, and replies with alarm,
"That's a cougar!"
He springs up, and I shine my headlamp around to no avail. My brother fires his rifle into the ground as I scream to the air "Getouttahere!" We abandoned the kill for the night knowing it was cold enough to preserve the meat, and we left Courtney's vest on the carcass to keep a human scent nearby. It proved alright as we returned the following morning, finding everything untouched. It was a heck of a rush knowing that a big, hungry cat had tried to intimidate us off of a fresh kill.
We enjoyed a beautiful evening followed by a similar morning, but our weather would turn. Here, October is hard to dress for.
We're looking. We're on the move all day as we progress through the week with unfilled tags. But it's time well spent. Together with my brother, walking through the quiet plains. Eventually we come across a herd of pronghorn with a good buck. But as pronghorn are wont to do, they catch wind of us and bolt. Lucky for my brother, they aren't more than 250 yards away when they start. But they're in full sprint as my brother aligns his rifle. I found out that day how good a shot he is.
In the morning, sixty miles southwest a three-thousand foot mass reveals itself as something holy in the landscape.
Hunting is a gruesome business. Really, it's living that's a gruesome business. Still, this has been about much more than a hunt. It has to be, because I'm not hunting!
I'm loving this landscape. This barren, treeless, sage ridden plateau. Its palette. Its forms. Its escarpments, buttes and distant mountains. Its constant horizon. I hadn't planned on being wooed. And I loved the time together with my brother. We'll be back here again.