This September I had the opportunity to join Dan Currah, co-founder of Hunting with Heroes, on a Central Wyoming pronghorn antelope hunt.  Hunting with Heroes is a non-profit and charitable organization, formed in 2013, that provides unique hunting, fishing and other outdoor experiences to our nation’s disabled veterans. Hunting with Heroes offers a safe environment for fellow disabled veterans to share experiences with each other – and an opportunity to heal.

Disabled veteran hunters sharing experiences

Disabled veteran hunters sharing experiences

Working with state agencies, landowners, and local volunteers Hunting with Heroes offers custom programs designed for the unique needs of each disabled veteran – programs designed to boost our disabled veterans’ morale, build lasting memories and enduring friendships.

Partnering with the Wyoming Game and Fish, and using their big game donated license program – a program that allows anyone to donate a big game license to be reissued to a disabled veteran – Hunting with Heroes matches veterans with a license, provides guide services, rifles and other gear, game processing and room and board if required.

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2016 Hero Daniel Barnes Antelope

Hunting with Heroes functions with the generous support of sponsors and volunteers who are partnered with veterans during the first night’s gathering.  For my hunt, I was assigned to hunt with landowner and guide Rob Philp on his ranch near Lysite, Wyoming. That evening I followed Rob several miles on gravel and dirt road to a rustic cabin at the desolate foothills of the Copper Mountain Range.  It is rough, dry land covered with nothing but cactus and sage brush—perfect antelope territory. During my drive to Lysite, the day before, I saw the range dotted with antelope herds acting tame as domesticated cattle. From the stories I had heard I thought this was going to be an easy hunt. However, the next morning proved to be another story.  The pronghorn in the area I was assigned were very skittish. The first group of pronghorn, which should have been familiar with Rob’s pickup, instead ran over the nearest ridge not letting us get closer than 750 yards.  A nice buck joined seven does as they scampered out of sight.

The next antelope herd we spotted also spotted us at nearly 1000 yards. There were eleven or twelve accompanied by a very respectable buck and a doe that ran around frantically until she had compelled the entire herd to run out of sight. The word must have gotten out that it was opening day of hunting season.

Alas, we ran onto a third herd which was comprised of ten goats, as antelope are referred to, at about 550 yards.  The lead buck was acceptable…but not exceptional.  Considering my luck so far this buck was looking just fine.  I think of myself as a good shot but 550 yards is a little out of my comfort zone.  This would require a spot and stalk.  According to my Leupold rangefinder the antelope are looking down at us at a 10 degree angle.  They move further away as I begin my stalk through and around sage brush and cactus while using as much terrain cover as the bleak landscape will afford.

Landscape near Lysite, Wyoming

Landscape near Lysite, Wyoming

I am winded by the steep rugged terrain, altitude and excitement of the moment as I finally reach an outcrop of rock.  As I appear around it I see at 270 yards the buck is rallying his girls. He is pushing them over the hill.  I lowered the rangefinder and used the rock ledge to steady the image through the Leupold scope on my 6-lug Weatherby Mark V.  He would soon be out of sight.  As the buck approached the crest of the ridge and his freedom I realized that this was my last chance.  I set the Custom Dial System to 275 yards and place the crosshairs at the intersection of the body and front leg. I squeeze the trigger sending the 25-06 bullet on its way.  From my tenuous position upon the rock, which I was perched, the recoil pushes me backward onto a pile of cactus.  Not realizing the pain at the moment I ask Rob what had happened.  “Good shot” were sweet words to my ears.  As I looked again through the scope all I saw were feet in the air.  The 90 grain Hornady GMX bullet had traveled true and I had my first Wyoming pronghorn antelope.

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The author with landowner and guide Rob Philp

That evening the local residents hosted a steak dinner for the veterans and presented Quilts of Valor to those who had not previously received ne. I compared stories with my new friends and found that even though I did not get the largest antelope…I did come away with the feeling that there are people out there who really care that the sacrifice and pain of our disabled veterans was not in vain.  There are people who care, and I recently met several of them in Wyoming on a hunting trip with Hunting with Heroes.

 

 

For more information about Hunting with Heroes check out huntingwithheroes.org or visit Facebook at

Hunting with Heroes Wyoming.

 

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