Three planes and 7 hours later we touched down in Casper and as promised, Kelly Glause, proprietor of Cole Creek Outfitters was there to greet us and take us to our hotel. Kelly guides for antelope, whitetail and mule deer, prairie dogs and pheasant and his clients often include various shooting sports manufacturing companies such as Swarovski Optics, Bushnell Optics, Horton Archery and Hornady Ammunition who would be hunting there later this week. Ironically I just happened to be using their 130 grain GMX SUPERFORMANCE bullet in my Century Arms 270 rifle. Ballistically this bullet leaves the barrel at 3190 feet per second and with muzzle energy of 2976 foot pounds.
Kelly has been managing this 80,000 plus acres of prime hunting land for over 23 years; and we found out just how good it really was the next day. Since I was going to be in Wyoming I arranged a Merriam turkey hunt also; which, if I was successful, would help me to qualify for my 7 th National Wild Turkey Federation Grand Slam. Kelly said he would set me up with the best turkey guide in the area; his son Kody; the owner of Heart Spear Outfitters (www.heartspear.com). Kody also guided for elk, mule and whitetail deer, bear and mountain lions. Kelly also said if I did not want to bring a turkey gun he could set me up with a special one; an offer I accepted.
It was only a short ride from the hotel when we drove through the gate leading to the hunting grounds; and I don't think that the gate was fully closed when we saw our first buck antelope that quickly disappeared over a hill. The pronghorn antelope is the fastest land animal in the Western Hemisphere reaching speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour. Equally amazing is that they have a 320 degrees field of vision and their eyesight sees what humans do when looking through 8 power binoculars. Definitely a challenging animal to hunt.
Our plan was to ride the range and Kelly would stop and glass boss bucks in each group looking for the biggest horns. Then if he found a "keeper" he would tell us it was a good one and then ask us: "What do you think?" This is something I have never had a guide do before."
We had glassed about 20 groups with bucks I had thought were good but Kelly just smiled and said: "We can do better." And later, we were glad he did. It is hard to describe how big this ranch really was; in term of miles it was roughly 25 by 20 miles.
I was about 7:45 a.m. when Kelly spotted and glassed a buck laying down and said that it definitely was a good one; but he had a small piece missing from his left cutter horn. What I saw was a mature antelope buck that has been fighting to keep the young bucks away from his harem; and his big swollen neck was definitely a sign of the rut. It was my call and I didn't hesitate: "I’ll take him, “I said.
As quietly as I could I slid out of the truck and before my feet hit the ground I could feel the adrenalin rising as I chambered a round into my rifle. Slowly I readied for the shot and was glad that I had added the Caldwell bipod to give me a steady level rest.
The buck was lying down in the grass which covered several inches of its lower body but I had enough to shoot at as I sighted him in. He moved but did not get up. The only thing that I remember after I pulled the trigger was the chill that ran up my spine: I MISSED! Now prior to this trip I spent time sighting in the rifle with its new LUCID L5 scope and the Hornady ammo; and when I finished I could cover my 3 shot group with a penny 2 1/2 inches high of center at 100 yards. This was the proper setting for this gun. Therefore the miss was not the gun's fault.
As I chambered another round he jumped up and started to trot uphill; but he made the mistake of stopping at the top and looking back; it was a deadly mistake. Shot number 2 put him right down where he stood. WOW! I did my best impression of a Tiger Woods victory pump and accepted the handshakes of Kelly and Steve. It was just 8:17 a.m. on the first day.
Kelly estimated the antelope to be about 3 1/2 years old and weigh about 140 pounds. The horns measured 13 1/2 inches. Now earlier that morning I presented Kelly with the Viscerator knife by FieldTorg Knives which I asked him to use to field dress the antelopes. Later that day he commented that he was very impressed with the knife’s performance and its construction.
Looking back at my miss I believe what happened was that I had incorrectly used one of the BDC (ballistic drop calculator) lines in my Lucid L5 scope rather than the center of the crosshairs, causing the shot to go even higher than the 2 1/2 inches. I am not use to the BDC (ballistic drop compensator) drop lines in my new Lucid L5 scope; but I will be with a few days at the long range practicing and rolling over a few coyotes.
Back in the truck Steve told Kelly that he needed to shoot an antelope with horns that measured at least 13 5/8 ths. This is typical competition that we have developed over the years. We did not have to go far to find more antelopes. If I were to guess we had already seen at least 80 or 90; and we hadn’t seen half the ranch yet.
I don't think we traveled more than a few miles and glassed a dozen more groups when Kelly spotted a "shooter" laying down; but as we approached he was up and moving. Kelly and Steve exited the truck and started their sneak and peek. They had gone about 50 yards when Kelly set up the shooting sticks for Steve’s shot. At about 150 yards he fired but it was too low; and his second shot at 200 yards was high and the buck disappeared over the hill and disappeared into a gorge.
It was about 20 minutes later when we spotted another which we believe was the same one Steve had missed earlier. Quickly he set up and at 250 yards he was again high; but we were not done with him yet.
Watching his hasty retreat we jumped back in the truck. Kelly's sharp eyes and knowledge of the ranch knew where he was going; and he knew how to get in front of him. When we spotted him again he was 250 yards out and Steve's shot was horizontally perfect but he believes he jerked the shot off to the left. Now we got to see how fast an antelope really is; and how good Steve really is.
Following the flying buck in his scope Steve pulled off what was the best shot I had ever seen. We heard the bullet impact on what turned out to be a perfect heart shot. I think it died of fright; but Steve says he always takes a few practice shots at the “range” before he shoots anything.
Lots of hoots, congratulations and photos followed. It was truly a great day; except for the fact that I sat on a cactus when having my photo taken with Steve. He did however generously offered to take a photo of me removing all those needle-like prickers from my butt. As for the horn measurements I rounded them up to 13 1/2 inches. It was noon, on the first day of the hunt. This is one GOOD guide.
We did do a little more shooting before leaving the ranch at a few prairie dogs; and these little ranch pests are fun; especially when you do it with a .270.
After I got my turkey license Kelly said he had arranged a meeting for me with Robert Stone of RGS Custom Rifles (www.rgsllc2010.com) which is where I picked up my turkey gun. Robert’s guns were outstanding and the one that I would be using was the first one he had even made. It was a single shot .22-250 that, if he had to replace it, would range around $6,000. At the range I put two rounds through the same hole and figured the turkeys were in trouble.
Kody had definitely done his homework for my turkey hunt because the river bottom he had chosen had plenty of Merriam turkeys; most of which were mingling with the cattle. This was definitely going to be a spot and stalk hunt; something I do not do a lot of when hunting for turkeys. Kody glassed the flocks looking for a good tom and found several feeding closely with the cattle. It was obvious that with all the cattle activity the shooting window would not be open long and the shot would have to be threaded carefully. To say I was a bit nervous would be an understatement; not only did I feel nervous about scratching his beautiful rifle but also in not hitting a cow.
But the gun was definitely up to the task and at 5:30 p.m. that afternoon I shot through an opening in a hedgerow and toppled a Wyoming Merriam tom that carried a 5 inch beard and tipped the scales at over 20 pounds. All this on our first day of hunting!
THANK YOU Kelly, Kody, Robert and a special thanks to the Wyoming Business Council from Steve and me. For photos