Clear as Mud
Jordan Seitz

I've never heard of anyone hunting pronghorn in the rain; probably because the ground immediately turns to mud with any moisture, and because there are usually a plethora of sunny days to choose from. Weather is rarely a deterrent for me...the nastier the better. So I spent a week of mornings getting soaked, crawling through mud during the monsoon that plagued Wyoming and Colorado during the September of 2013. That week was just like the weeks before it: too close, too far, the wrong angle, the wrong place, the wrong time. Despite my empty tag, it had been a fun season with many close and unique encounters. Like the morning a buck and I almost ran into each other as I snuck around a hill to cut him off, or the group of pronghorn bucks I saw chasing three bighorn sheep for a mile until they dropped into a canyon.

Days away from the rifle opener, it was apparent I needed a backup plan involving a gun unless I wanted to relinquish my goats to someone else. Thanks to a change in Wyoming regulations, for the first time my .223 coyote gun was legal, provided 60 grain or heavier ammo was used.

I had doubts about its lethal capabilities (I'm used to toting a .375), so I did my research and then tested several loads before I was confident with a 62 grain hollow point.

Opening morning for rifle season dawned without rain, and my chosen hunting spot all to myself. I was glassing as soon as it was light, and spotted one of my bucks grazing on the skyline with a small group of does. Maneuvering out of sight, I jogged uphill until I could see the ears of the group. Then I crouched and eventually crawled up to my last piece of cover. Off my bipod the buck was clear in my scope, but my rangefinder read 220 yards...20 yards past the distance I'd determined as my maximum range.

I watched them feed over the hill, then trotted down the draw, up the other side, and snuck over the rim, hoping to catch them still feeding within range. Instead, I saw them a quarter mile away and still moving along the south side of a big hill. I took off running, hoping to catch the group in the saddle on the other side.

As I circumnavigated the hill, I prayed I wouldn't bump into any other goats who could take off running and take the other herd with them. Minutes later, almost within sight of the saddle, I snuck around a large sage bush only to be confronted by a young bedded buck at 35 yards.

You've got to be kidding me!

He slowly stood from his bed, broadside, patiently letting me raise my rifle twice to inspect him through the 9x magnification. I cursed my luck. It was the easiest, and only, shot suitable for archery tackle that I'd had all season. I'd definitely have taken it. But now toting my rifle, I wanted to let him grow. I could only stand there and beg him to move off without spooking the entire hillside. That's when his twin stood up right behind him, followed by a spike. We all stared at each other for another minute before they snorted and trotted over the hill. I quickly crouched and headed for the saddle, hoping to catch the main group and leader. He wasn't there. I cursed the young bucks.

A rock clattered in front of me, and I watched as the three came back over the saddle and ran up the hillside to my right. I dropped prone with my bipod already extended, and rifle ready because a fourth had been added to their posse, and he was much bigger!

Nearing the crest of the ridge, only 100 yards distant, they stopped to look at the weird looking object lining up his crosshairs on the chest of their newest member. He was quartering to me. Taking that shot with my small caliber didn't suit me, so I took the extra seconds to control my breathing. One of the twins spun to drop back into the saddle and the rest shifted positions. I had a one or two second window where my buck turned broadside and the others were clear of him and my bullet.

With crosshairs on the 90 degree angle where the white meets the brown, my .223 cracked and the buck's shoulder heaved before he pivoted to join the others in a sprint. He showed no other signs of being hit. I leaped up and sprinted further around the hill so I could see them. The group passed the 200 yard mark on the other side of the saddle before my buck slowed, went stiff legged, and toppled over! With relief, I plopped down and took a closer look with my binos. Grinning, I jogged half a mile back to my truck to move it closer and grab my photo and field dressing gear.

I tried not to rush my photos, and forced myself to slow down when I dressed him out; but the clock was ticking, literally, at the school I work, several winding miles away. Most people don't have to suck wind hunting goats, but I certainly did as I picked up my rifle and pack in one hand, and a horn in the other as I slung my buck over my shoulder and stumbled uphill to my pickup.

I was dressed and ready to teach when the bell rang...barely...and I got a few weird looks since my red stained hunting shoes didn't really match the rest of my garb. To start off my first class period we had a short discussion on the effectiveness of the .223, and then observed the results of a double lung shot laying in the back of my truck!