The funny thing about this trip to Wyoming was that it had been one that was a long time coming for Joe and I. Several years had gone by that had given me plenty of time to envision how a trip like this would be with him. We would discuss on plenty occasions what it would like to explore western mountain ranges together, brave the elements, and seek the heights. I couldn’t believe that I was finally going to have the opportunity to seek out, stalk, and embrace everything that western hunting for pronghorn was with him by my side.
The day started out in the most beautiful of ways. It was one of those sunrises that makes you meditate on how lucky you are to be living a life that allows you to soak up the magnificent attributes that the great outdoors and public land has to offer. The sun gleamed a warm orange aura across the landscape that surrounded us from every angle. A fence for cattle stood ahead that allowed for the sun to peak through in a way that elicited such emotions of raw simplicity in my mind. Above all, nothing could compare to the way that the sun emphasized the striking blue tone of Joe’s eyes as he peered across the topography through his binoculars for pronghorn grazing on an early morning meal.
Following lengthy morning stalks that resulted in an unfavorable outcome for us, we decided to convene on top of a hill that facilitated an incredible vantage point overlooking a watering hole. Here we opted to make some coffee using a jet boil as we glassed for antelope in the valley below. The wind began to pick up and I felt my eyes fill with tears from the brisk air hitting them. There has always been a degree of aliveness that overcomes me when I feel cool wind batting my skin. I presume that it speaks so predominately to a place in my soul that marvels over the indigenous hunters that lived out primal lifestyles of hunting and gathering before us. I truly believe that this pastime runs strongly in all human beings and would beam outward in each and every one of us if we allowed it to.
Shortly succeeding several refreshing sips of coffee, a friend hunting with us mentioned that she saw an antelope in the distance. Rather nonchalantly, Joe asked that I pass him his rifle that was resting on a bipod to my left. As soon as the rifle entered his hands, I peered past Joe to see that the antelope was actually running directly towards us, and the distance was closing fast. Joe then quickly assumed a prone position with his rifle tucked into his shoulder. I felt the wind continue to pick up speed and was comforted to realize that we were downwind from the direction of the antelope. The antelope continued to close the gap between us. I frantically fumbled for my range finder to calculate the distance for Joe, as I realized things were happening so quickly that he didn’t have the chance to grab it for himself. 250 yards.I could see Joe’s subtle and precise movements as he tracked the pronghorn through his scope, slowly shifting to mirror the animal’s brisk movements. I then ranged the antelope again – 220 yards now. To my utter amazement and shock, the antelope then came into range at 120 yards and began its incline on a small hillside immediately to our right. It appeared to have no awareness of our existence. Then, rather perfectly, the animal stopped and turned broadside at the crest of a small hill. In this moment, time seemed to stand still. The beauty of the pronghorn’s demeanor, horns, and colors overtook me. Seconds felt like minutes, I could not and did not want to move a muscle. I took a breath in, making a memory of this very brief moment before Joe took his shot. Just then, I watched Joe beautifully place a shot directly behind the pronghorn’s front shoulder, and down he went.
When I think about the many things that I admire about Joe, several of them quickly fall short to what I deeply admired about his reaction following the antelope falling to the ground. Rather than running to his kill, he collected himself, gathered his gear, and allowed himself to thoroughly enjoy the moment that we were in right then and there. He spoke with us, embraced us to share in the memory, and reminisced on what an incredible experience that it was. After some time, we headed towards the antelope to see up-close what he had harvested.
What a beauty the pronghorn buck was. In these moments, I always feel a concoction of many emotions, and looking over at Joe, I knew that he was feeling these too. A common misconception expressed by non-hunters and anti-hunters alike is that hunters are those who do not love animals, and for this reason, kill them. However, in reality, hunters are actually individuals that embody such a deep-rooted respect and admiration for animals. So much so, that they dedicate their life to conservation and ultimately becoming one with nature. We all owe the experiences, the passion, and the food that sits on our tables to the animals. Without them and their innate intelligence, this lifestyle would not be possible for us. These blissful memories, but also the profound level of solace that overcomes us hunters following a kill, would not be felt without these creatures. The joy, relief, and excitement is never without a stark emotional association to reverence with hunting. Each time that I enter the field, I am never left without being reminded of the inherent and inseparable connection between food, hunting, and an utmost level of respect.
As I watched Joe field dress the pronghorn, I could see without having to be told that he was wrapped up in a moment of pure euphoria fueled secondary to reverence for this animal. We had not only been blessed with an amazing hunt, but now this pronghorn would feed us for many meals to come. We would be able to reminisce on the hunt each time that we sat down to consume this kill, which to us, is an invaluable experience to be able to share. We could feed our family and friends with this animal while recalling the events of our trip to Wyoming with them. Thanks to this hunt, to this animal, and to public land, we were provided with an unforgettable memory that we will cherish for years and years to come. This is what we love, this is why we hunt. For us, it is truly the little things in life that make all the difference.