by Jessica DeLorenzo
Basking in the sun with shoes kicked off, is typically the start of a summer beach tale. However, this time the hiking boots were ditched to keep silent, while belly crawling against the dusty, cacti ridden prairies of Big Sky Country with the late summer sun hammering down, all the while creeping inch by inch closer to wary pronghorn.
It didn’t take much convincing by my dear friend, Montana native and proficient Big Game hunter, Amanda Caldwell, that I needed to pack up my bow and join her for a DIY spot and stalk antelope hunt. This would be my first big game hunt out west. Right from the first stalk, it was clear, this was going to be a team effort. We were cohesive partners with one of us driving and one scouting the hills or one of us ranging with the other crouching behind some sage ready to draw.
After a few full days of relentless stalks, we each had a full quiver of clean arrows. We had seen plenty of antelope but hadn’t been afforded any shot opportunities. The few bucks that we had become familiar with were getting the best of us. The doubt was starting to build, fatigue was setting in (at least for me), but the mood was kept light with tailgate lunches and cracking jokes. Crossing our fingers, we traveled out further hoping to find a solo buck we could get in on. With Amanda in the driver’s seat and Jordan our cameraman extraordinaire to my right, we headed towards new ground, exchanging hunting stories and excessive amounts of jerky.
Being used to whitetail hunting in the same type of terrain back east, managing the varying landscapes of Montana was a success for me in itself. Amanda and I had scaled jagged rock faces with the wind ripping at our faces, crawled through endless prairies of swaying tall grass, darted between farm equipment like agricultural ninjas and made our way through mazes of sagebrush and dried up drainage ditches.
Mid afternoon, our buck was spotted. We played the wind and bided our time, moving slowly and undetected, within 100 yards. We got to a point where the decision to sit and stay or risk being seen to get closer was inevitable. Luckily, the buck made the decision and started meandering his way toward us. 80 yards, 70 yards, then 65 yards, the questions again were mounting in my mind. “When will he stop? Will he take off? Will he turn and give me a shot?” 60 yards, 50 yards, and then something I couldn’t have predicted happened. The buck bedded down quartering away at 45 yards, presenting me with the perfect scenario.
After many stalks, some exhilarating and some exhausting, we had sealed the deal. Amanda and I shared shrieks of excitement and hugs over my first antelope. The feeling was reminiscent of other hunting “firsts”, and the level of gratitude I have for Amanda sharing her knowledge and time with me to accomplish it stands above all. Sometimes after a successful hunt I feel it’s the end of that season or a finalizing feeling. However, this hunt ended with a sentiment of looking ahead, knowing that I would be back again. The experience has provided me with lessons in the field, moments that will stand out in my mind, and a friendship made even stronger, that I’ll hold close forever.
The experience has provided me with lessons in the field, moments that will stand out in my mind, and a friendship made even stronger, that I’ll hold close forever.