I was recently on a public land antelope hunt in Colorado. Like most Colorado tags, I had waited several years to draw this tag; five to be exact. I was very excited and enthusiastic about getting out and chasing around some speed goats. Antelope hunts are not only fun, but they are usually full of opportunities and no lack of animals. This hunt was not like that at all. As a matter of fact, it was one of the worst hunts that I have ever been on. I thought that a hunt that required this amount of preference points would be relatively laid back, considering the amount of public land and the limited number of licenses.
Our first day quickly put that thought to bed. The first morning was full of anticipation. We quickly found a large group of antelope which had two nice bucks in it. I was hunting with another hunter who had used 13 points to draw his tag. He also brought his two sons who were excited to just be along for the ride. Antelope hunting is a great way to introduce kids to the outdoors.
Once we located the bucks that we wanted to hunt through the spotting scope, we got prepared and made our way towards them. We weren’t in any hurry; the antelope were not worried about us and we had two sets of little legs that had to keep up. We managed to get the whole crew, four people, within 300 yards of the antelope. We were deciding how we could cut off a few extra yards when we saw a truck about 600 yards from the antelope come over the top of a hill and park.
We assumed that he was going to watch us attempt to get a shot on these animals. However, he opened the truck door and three orange vests exited the truck. I figured that they were going to see if the spooked antelope would head their way after the shot and give them a chance. The “hunters” just sat by the road and the truck continued toward us and the antelope. The truck passed us at 100 yards, at this point all four of us were standing on the top of a small rise standing in hunter orange waving our hats at the truck. The driver just looked at us and waved as he drove by. He then proceeded to herd the antelope with his truck, which is very illegal in Colorado. He pushed the antelope within 200 yards of the people that he left sitting on the side of the road who then shot the two bucks out of the group.
I was astounded by what I had just seen. The hunt continued like this for the rest of the short season. The unit was overcrowded and crawling with people. It is hard to stay positive in these kinds of conditions, but just when I was about to get down on experience, I noticed both of the kids were in great spirits.
They were having fun chasing around tarantulas and catching horny toads, they could care less about shooting an antelope. They were just enjoying the outdoors for what it was. It really placed how lucky I was to have the opportunity to be out hunting into perspective, regardless of the experience. We are so fortunate as Americans to have such large amounts of public land to hunt and fish. It may feel like they are overcrowded sometimes and in situations like this, it can be frustrating, but it still beats a day at work or not having the chance to get out at all.
So, the next time you feel like you are overrun with the “orange army” on a hunting trip, just take a deep breath and realize how fortunate you are to have the ability to be out chasing around bucks and bulls on public land. Remember that there will be a next time, as long as we have the ability to hunt and fish on public land, and just enjoy being out in nature. Don’t let the ulterior motive of filling a tag cloud the experience. I mean, don’t get me wrong, filling a tag and the freezer is always the goal on my hunting trips. Sometimes I think we get so involved in accomplishing the task, that we forget to take in what is happening around us and miss some truly awesome experiences that nature has to offer.