If you've ever looked across an open prairie under western skies, seen a white form in the distance and then a moment later have it vanish from a seemingly flat piece of pasture, then you've experienced the phenomenon of the prairie ghost, aka antelope. It can be a frustrating thing for a hunter, but at the same time I find myself respecting this animal even more... the way they survive on an open piece of land amazes me.
There really is a perfectly good explanation for why antelope seem to be swallowed up by the tall grassland. After walking for several miles in the open pasture this weekend, I now have a better understanding for the land I normally view from the pavement. It's not flat. There are series of gullies and ditches that run through the open pasture. Even the slightest ripple in the ground can allow a form to be hidden from view, and if you learn to use these to your advantage, the chances of putting a successful stalk on an antelope will greatly increase.
During one of my hunts this past weekend, I watched a group of antelope from the distance through my binoculars. There were several dozen all lumped together. A group of white specs sleeping and grazing in the prairie below me. What was interesting was how three or four would literally take turns watching for any sign of danger. They positioned themselves with their backs to the herd - standing on lookout. (I let them be - I tried stalking a herd of antelope last year and it was impossible... way too many eyes.) I'm not sure how far an antelope can see, but I swear there were a couple of times I felt like they were looking right back at me, peering into my binoculars. Amazing!
What peeked my interest was a prairie ghost in the other direction. I was on the top of a hill planting my Montana decoy in the ground and I saw him the same time he saw me. I froze. However this ghost wouldn't disappear. I needed him to disappear so that I could find a hiding spot nearby. Instead, I was stuck behind the decoy, like a beacon on the hill. Clearly the white spot I was crouched behind had his interest. Something looked off to him.. probably the big blob behind the decoy. Ugh. After what seemed like forever, he went back to grazing and when I looked back he was gone. Vanished.
Since I didn't see my little friendly "ghost" spook off and run over a distant hill there was hope he was still in the grassland below me. So, I slowly moved away from the decoy, found a comfortable spot and waited. Upon one of my sweeps of the prairie with my binoculars, I spotted him. Sleeping amongst a small group of cows. There was a drainage just below where he was at.. the stalk was on! I made a mental note of a piece of land I needed to navigate to and worked my way through the small rolling hills. As I approached the designated spot, I could just make out the tips of his antlers. I was close.
Then I heard it. Groans. Snorts. A big black blob had spotted me and wasn't happy that I was invading his little pond and grazing spot. I had just gotten over my fear of cows; however, upset bulls are still not my cup of tea. Luckily I had made my way to the other side of the little pond and was just below my sleeping antelope. So with the bull groaning and coming my way, I decided it was now or never. My approach was a little to fast b/c as I was at about 100 yards, my buck stood up and sped away.. swallowed up by the grassland. I hate bulls.
The antelope on the prairie will have to wait for a week or two since we are preparing for our Mule deer hunt in a couple of days. I am getting really excited, but there is still a lot to do!! If I have some extra time this week, I'll post my backcountry list. I'm honestly not sure how everything is going to fit in my pack. It is going to be interesting.
Daybreak this morning marked opening day for antelope season in Colorado which means our hunting adventures for this year has officially begun! The weather on this special day greeted us with a blast of morning mist that swept across the prairie slowly releasing multitudes of tiny water droplets upon whatever lay in it's path. It was a slow soak. Like condensation building on a cold glass on a warm summer day, the fog taunted my very not waterproof pants to try and stay dry. The mist won.
I reached my waterhole around 5:30 A.M. As light began to unveil my surroundings, I settled in with hopes that a speed goat or two would come my way. A girl can hope! I've been watching a couple of bucks that visit this spot frequently over the last couple of days, so chances were good that they would make their way to within arrow's range this morning. They also seem to be hanging with a group of cows and the cows were heading my way. Have I mentioned that I don't like cows? I don't like cows. They scare me a bit. Anyway, after giving myself a pep talk that the cows will not hurt me and to lay as still as possible against the embankment I was against, my peripheral vision alerted me that there was an animal at about 40 yards. Yep - cows. So, for the next hour (maybe 1/2 hour, but felt like an hour) I spent a game of "please don't look at me" with cows. The thing about cows though.. they are curious. So, I had to stare them down at very close proximity. I never realized how much cows burp and sling snot. It was actually a bit comical. Finally after my "little" cud chewing friends meandered off, I slowly looked over the burn and realized 3 antelope were grazing not far off. However, they never made it over to my spot. It wasn't meant to be this morning.
With my mist drenched pants, I picked up my antelope decoy on the hill, bid farewell to the speed goats that had vanished somewhere into the fog and called it a morning.
As I was driving home anticipating filling my grumbling stomach with breakfast and a hot caffeinated beverage, I spotted two really nice antelope grazing toward a ravine not too far off. I knew how to get to the ravine quickly. Breakfast would have to wait... I pulled over, grabbed my bow and range finder and ran down the ravine. However, as I crested the top of the steep dirt incline, I realized that I didn't time it quite right. The goats had made their way further down than I thought. So I sat and watched as they walked along the fence line grazing away from me. I was not about to give up yet - with the goats at about 200 yards off I had to give it one more try. Now, completely soaked with the fog following every footstep I wondered if it would be possible to simply walk up to within range. I had just watched another hunter do the very same thing on a hunt captured on video, and I thought it was worth a try. As the goats took another step into the fog, I took another step forward. However, the mist swallowed them up before I could gain any ground. The mist and goats won this opening morning.
We are headed to an afternoon barbecue and hopefully will be back for an evening hunt! More to come...
The other weekend, I had the privilege of spending the morning wetting a line in the Arkansas river. Have I confessed that I'm a river rat? I love water - especially rivers. It had been awhile since I've put my feet on a river bank and enjoyed all that comes with it... there's the sound of rushing water cascading over rocks not fully submerged by the force of the water. Huge rocks glance from under the veil of the white water, peaking through as if to say I played a part in shaping this stream. And there's the joy of stepping in the water to experience the melted mountain snow forcing it's will by attempting to knock you off balance. The persuasion of the current invites you to give in, turn around and let it take you down stream. However, I know better to give in to this temptation not knowing what is around the corner... rapids, eddies, perils of an unknown course ahead.
Isn't that just like life sometimes? The beauty of it is that we don't know what lies around the next corner in this thing called life. The thrill of the mighty current of life sometimes causes you to "let go" and trust that the flow will take you down the intended course making you pause to realize that you are not really in control. There is something bigger at work. Something better. It's as if we are all part of the stream - each of us as one drop contributing to the whole. There is a bigger story. A larger story. And the best part is we are all asked to play a part. So, play it well beloved.
I'm sure this is where some great spiritual lesson or inspiring message could be inserted, but I'm a bit tired and the not feeling that inspired. So, take from this what you will.
Did I mention that I lost my flip flop down the river this day? Yep, I waded in to rescue a fishing lure securely stuck on a rock. When I turned around, the current almost took me but instead it only "claimed" my $1.00 Wally World special flip flop.
Happy fishing and reflecting on the rivers of life.
"There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells." Ps 46:4
From the Draw
A website devoted to sharing bowhunting stories. From the draw in the mountains to the draw on paper, the moments live on.