Wyoming, Antelope and an Offal Stew

 From Left to right, Mike, Andy, Me, Monte, Ben, and Drew

Most of my life I have been pretty content hunting in Minnesota. I have hunted deer and ducks and pheasant and grouse and been very happy hunting them all. Someday I would like to hunt black bear and wouldn't mind hunting moose but I can do all of that in Minnesota. I have never had much desire to go out of state hunting mostly because Minnesota provides everything I would like to hunt. With one exception, Antelope, I have always wanted to shoot and antelope. Don't get me wrong here, I would love just as much as the next guy to hunt moose, elk, caribou, sheep and goats but the one animal I would actually hang on my wall would be a beautiful buck antelope. This year that dream finally came true.

In the fall of 2005 while on deployment with the Minnesota National Guard I met a man named Monte Haddix. Monte is from Wyoming and was attached to my unit as a nurse. It didn't take long before we were trading stories of our past hunting exploits and for almost two years while we were deployed we kept ourselves busy talking about hunting, watching hunting videos and planning future hunts. We were also very fortunate because Monte's father in law, Papa Dan, owns an archery shop so he sent us a couple of recurve bows to help pass the time and we would spend hot evenings in Iraq shooting bows behind an old airplane hangar.

When we got home the idea was that we would all head out to Wyoming and hunt together and several of the guys we were with did. Sadly because of school and switching jobs and finding a new job I was unable to go, until this year. Finally everything was set and I was going to be heading out to Wyoming for my first antelope hunt.

There were six of us going this year, five of us army guys and one 13 year old girl. My friend Andy has been taking his daughter Audrey on every type of hunt he can and she has done pretty well so far. Last year was her first year hunting and she got a squirrel on her first day hunting and shot a white-tailed deer on her first deer hunt. We took off around 9pm on a Wednesday night and drove 12 hours straight through to Gillette, WY. We arrived at Monte's house around 8 in the morning had a nice breakfast and took a nap. We spent the rest of Thursday getting everything in order for our hunt and planned to head out to out hunting spot first thing Friday morning.

I was up at 430 am on Friday morning early enough to get an egg bake in the oven and have it ready for everyone before we left. Around 530 am everyone was up and ready to go, we had a quick bite for breakfast and were on the road once again to a spot about an hour south of Gillette. After unloading our gear and getting the camp site set up we headed out into the endless expanse of rolling hills and valleys that would hide our antelope.

On our first stalk we had seen a small heard of antelope duck behind a ridge so we started walking up a hill in the direction they disappeared. As I came to the top of the hill I saw eight antelope in a small valley about 200 yards below the ridge. I was in position to shoot but everyone else was still making their way up the hill. My buddy Mike was right behind me and we could have taken a few of the antelope but we waited for Andy and his daughter to get into position. The problem with this was that Andy and Audrey had come up in a different spot than Mike and I and from their vantage point they couldn't see the antelope. What they saw was another heard much further down the valley out of range. I tried to get their attention but was unsuccessful. By the time I had decided to take the shot it was too late and the antelope were gone.

I learned a couple of things on that first stalk, first don’t hesitate if you can get within range of antelope you have done the hardest part and need to take your shot. Second, antelope are the fastest land animal in North America and I got to see that first hand.  There was no hope at a running shot; they run so fast it is hard to keep them in your scope. Knowing these two things made my next opportunity a lot easier.

That afternoon we had two antelope in camp, one that Drew had shot and one Mike had gotten.  So when Ben spotted 3 antelope on the far side of an old barn we were all itching to get another shot.  We snuck in from the downwind side of the barn, using the barn to cover our approach.  Ben was in the lead and when he peaked around the corner he quickly ducked back and said they were right there.  I walked around the corner and they had taken off running but stopped about 100 yards away. I wasn’t going to hesitate and took my first shot. I dropped the doe right where she stood.  The other two ran down an embankment across a dry creek bed and stopped.  I ran up to the edge of the embankment and took my second shot and missed, but my third shot connected and dropped the second antelope.  My buddy’s daughter, Audrey got up to the edge of the embankment and also shot her first antelope.  At the end of day one, we had five antelope and had one more day to hunt.

We woke up day two to an inch of snow on the ground but not a cloud in the sky.  It warmed up in a hurry and we were off to hunt again.  Andy and Mike each got an antelope that morning and Drew and Ben each got one that afternoon. We had stopped for a late lunch and made the decision to pack it up and head back to Monte’s house that night and start butchering our antelope.  Before we packed up I threw together a quick camp lunch of fresh antelope hearts and liver stew.  I had limited resources but it turned out fantastic and was the perfect way to end our hunt.

That night we butchered 9 antelope and spent the evening talking about our time overseas together and other hunts we would like to go on.  There is a certain brotherhood between men and women who serve together and even though we don’t get to spend a lot of time together we always seem to be comfortable around each other and have something to laugh about.  That same camaraderie exists in hunting so it seemed quite natural that we would all be together hunting.  I have said it before, the biggest difference between a hunting party and a military patrol is the hunting party will always have sandwiches.

Antelope Heart and Liver Camp Stew

3 antelope hearts (thinly sliced)
1 antelope liver (thinly sliced)
1 onion
2 apples
6 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup Cholula hot sauce
1 bottle Finnegan’s Irish amber beer
4 tablespoons butter

Chopped the onions and the garlic and slice the apples.  liberally salt and pepper the hearts and liver and add the hotsauce.  Let the meat marinade for 15-20 minutes.  Melt the butter and add the onions, apples and garlic, saute until the onions are soft then add the meat.  cook for five minutes until all the meat is browned then add the beer and let cook until the beer is mostly reduced and the stew has thickened up a little.