It’s Bow Crawling Season
It wasn’t exactly raining.
The purple droplets that were falling from the sky left wine stains as they exploded upon impact. The hungry flock of starlings that had lifted off from the prairie choke-cherry thicket were simply spreading the seeds for the next generation of plants should the rains ever return.
I would have preferred crawling through mud created by raindrops rather than berry pulp. But hiding in short grass gives you little room for avoiding the vandalous assault of bird bombardiers. I just hoped their lift off hadn’t startled the lone antelope buck on the other side of the low ridgeline.
The archery antelope season has begun and prior to the rut, there is much crawling, and stalking taking place as bow hunters pursue wandering herds of pronghorn. Total numbers are slightly larger than last season. Plus, there is very little competition for hunters who like to spend their time afield chasing the best venison found on the prairie.
The birds reminded me to avoid their reptilian neighbors. With the weather this hot, it is tempting to keep to the shade, but the shadows found on the prairie are rare and the cooler temperatures attract the snakes. Hunters are best advised to stick to the long grass and avoid the thickets.
I love the solitude found where antelope are most comfortable. In most other seasons, I take to the field following the taillights of other hunters. Eating their dust makes each hunt more competitive and less restrained. Too much competition takes away from those moments I value most. On any lake it seems there is always another boat in sight and they are always watching to see if I have found a spot more productive than their own. On the prairie, I am almost always alone from horizon to horizon, with my only companions being the antelope, mule deer, and the seasonal herds of cattle.
Archery antelope does little to reduce the size of the herd. Less than five percent of any state’s total harvest is from bow hunting. Yet due to the ever-increasing speed and accuracy of modern hunting equipment, hunters who do take to the field are become more successful. Success rates in some Wyoming archery units approached 60% last season. Admittedly most animals are taken from waterhole blinds, but more hunters are taking their bows for a crawl. Discoveries made while on their hands and knees of fossils and micro-wildlife can be equally rewarding to the hunt itself.
On opening day, I got a text from former students on a bow hunting date. She sent me a picture of a horned lizard that reminded them of one I had brought into the classroom last season. Students in town rarely cross paths with animals from the prairie. The antelope they were pursuing is arguably the most beautiful. The horned lizard, perhaps the most unique.
The season is long and leads hunters directly into archery elk, deer and turkey seasons.
The practice required to bridge the distances offered on an archery antelope hunt can make the attempts on deer and their larger cousins seem like chip shots.
As I lifted my camera above the ridgeline in preparation for my shot, I rehearsed all the technique and patients I would need when drawing my bow. But the buck was gone.
Whether it was the sudden startled flight of the birds or the bucks desire to avoid his own purple rain, I’ll never know. Luckily there are still weeks left in the season and I have much crawling left to do.