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May 2024
Story by Jason Guenther
Hunters: Ethan Guenther
State: Wyoming
Species: Antelope - Pronghorn

This story all started four years ago when my oldest son, Ethan, was 8 years old. I had been archery elk hunting a few times in Idaho, and he would ask me, “Dad, when do I get to go hunting with you?” My response was always, “In a couple of years, buddy.” Well, a few more years than a couple have passed since then, and he just turned 12 in early September. Not old enough to hunt in our home state of California, I was left applying him for junior hunts earlier this year. Wouldn’t you know it, he drew a New Mexico Junior Forked Antlered Deer (FAD) tag. In the meantime, I had been checking the leftover tag list and any other opportunities that may present themselves. While taking my lunch break one day in late August, I found what must be a returned tag that hit the Wyoming leftover list. It was an antelope type 1 tag, and with a quick search of the unit, I bought the tag almost immediately for my son. Planning and preparation ensued immediately.

Fast forward to Thursday September 28th right as school let out. I picked him up packed and ready to make the journey to Wyoming. After a short sleep off the highway on some BLM land, we were up early Friday the 29th for the remainder of the drive to the unit. We made it to his unit, and we pulled off the main road and found a chunk of public land amongst the checkerboarded northern section of the unit. A yard sale out of the back of my truck ensued while we got ready for his first ever big game hunt. While getting ready, we already had antelope within 200 yards of us. Twenty minutes later, we were ready to hunt. To say my son was jacked up is an understatement. Just arriving and getting ready to hunt, he agreed that it must be a buck taller than his ears for him to harvest an antelope on the first day. After that, anything goes. We did have eight days to get this done.

We started glassing and instantly started spotting antelope in almost every direction we looked. Within 45 minutes, we spotted a pretty nice buck that was clearly taller than his ears. I ask Ethan if he was sure he wanted to try to harvest him. He immediately responded, “Yes, Dad, of course.” We made a game plan to sneak up and around a high spot in the terrain that would allow us to stay hidden. We got to about 120 yards from the buck, and he knew something was up because he went from bedding out of sight to on his feet, looking right at us. That stalk was over as fast as it started. We continued with his hunt, and his confidence was now riding high.

It had been about an hour since our failed first stalk, and we stopped on a small hill to glass. Ethan spotted two does and then two bucks followed. One of the bucks was shorter than his ears, but the other was taller. I said to Ethan, “You know that if you harvest that antelope buck, your hunt is over.”

His reply was, “I know, Dad, but that’s a good buck.”

The hill we were sitting on went south about 300 yards towards the sage flats the antelope were currently traversing. I told him that once they disappeared, we would make a break for the edge of this hill but stay low. Once we got close, we’d pick some sagebrush to break apart our silhouettes. We got to the edge, and all we saw were the two does. We scanned the area and saw no bucks, but then I remembered reading about antelope before this hunt since I had never hunted them. I remembered they are curious sometimes and will come in close to investigate. I bet they went around and were behind us, and they were. I told my son to slowly turn around and rest his gun on the top of my pack. As soon as we turned, they slowly trotted off and that was that.

We decided to move south to an access road that I had e-scouted before the hunt and immediately we saw a bunch of antelope, but they were all on a private chunk within the checkerboard, so we slowly drove past them. We then entered a block of public land with a little buck right off the road. As we continued down the road that split a 633-acre chunk, we saw four antelope at the north end of it and along the fence line. We stopped and turned the truck off to see what they would do. We glassed them and noticed one of them was a nice buck. They didn’t seem to even notice us, or so we thought. Being about 500 yards away from us, I told my son let’s just sit here and glass to see what we could find. About 10 minutes later as I was glassing the other direction, my son said, “Dad, that buck is right there.”

I looked up, and he was 100 yards down the road in front of us. We sat there and watched him chase around another buck that was noticeably smaller that must have joined them while we were glassing the other direction. I told him let’s wait to see what they do. They went back the way they came, and as soon as they disappeared down the side of the road, we jumped out, grabbed our stuff, and walked straight to where they went down. Once we got about 20 yards off the road, they were about 325 yards out, feeding and rutting. My son now had the infamous buck fever. He was shaking and breathing heavily. I had him try to rest his rifle on my pack and see if he could calm down. After getting him on the buck a couple times, he told me that he couldn’t make that shot.

I said, “That’s great you can realize that, buddy, and that’s OK.”

I told him when they went down into that coulee and disappeared, we would go straight at them and try to cut off some distance. We did and ended up 250 yards from them before the smaller buck came out and pinned us down with his stare. I told him this was it once that buck showed himself again. The buck came out, he racked one in, and got on him. He was shaking like crazy, and I could see his vein in his neck pumping from his heart rate. I told him to breathe long and slow deep breaths. I zoomed him in and out as he tried to hold on the buck about four times. Finally, the buck stood broadside, looking down in the coulee at his does. My son told me he had him, and I said to just make sure he did everything I taught him before taking it off safety. While watching the buck in my binoculars, I could hear him click off the safety and then my heart rate started to go a little crazy. I whispered to squeeze the trigger when he felt it was right. I heard the shot, and the buck crumbled where he stood, never moving a muscle. It was a perfect shot at 256 yards.

The celebration that ensued was priceless and something he and I will cherish forever. After taking care of the buck and hiking back to the truck with my pack loaded and my son carrying the game bag full of backstraps and tenderloins over his shoulder, he said, “Dad, I like hunting.” I just smiled and replayed what he said in my head the rest of the evening.

What a great hunt and experience to share with my son. This is something I will never forget, and I look forward to many more adventures with him and his two brothers when they get old enough.