***For some reason, this was completely deleted off wordpress. So I had to use an emailed copy to repost. I did add in a section at the end where I explained the business module that they have to follow to be successful in regards to a comment of ‘It’s like hunting in a zoo.” ***
Our planned Wyoming Hunt was a bust, but we turned it all around.
After eight months of meticulous planning… See: Pew Pew Pew. Nom Nom Nom! And less then 36 hours before we left on our 26 hour drive across country, loaded for pronghorn and excited for adventure… We noted a large snow storm moving from Washington towards Wyoming and the forecast was snow, ice, sleet, wind and misery the entire time we would be out there.
And everything quickly fell apart as I contacted the Rancher whose place we were going to hunt, as well as the local Game Warden to see what they advise we do. If our chances of success were low, we were going to simply eat $800 worth of non-resident tags instead of throwing more money into an unsuccessful hunt.
While debating on whether we should risk it or not…
I reserved a full-size SUV about four months ago. Because I drive old paid off Jeep’s. (Car Payments are for the devil!) But we had a limited amount of time to hunt and if one of my Jeeps broke down, we would stand to lose a substantial amount of hunting time.
Annnddd – Enterprise couldn’t find me a vehicle. Because apparently, when you get online and reserve a vehicle months in advance, that doesn’t mean there actually IS ONE Ho… humm… This included every Enterprise within a two hour drive radius around me. I know, because we checked.
But they found a mini-van for me. Which I’m sure would have been just dandy in a western snow storm.
So after speaking to the Wyomingites about our chances, and the debacle with the vehicle, we called the trip.
Then it was scramble time. Because we both had our gear packed and the entire week off. And my wife demanded I go kill something, even though that meant she’d be a single mom for the duration of the trip.
So something, somewhere, needed to die.
We went to plan B, which was literally ‘Find something to do, with no notice!’
Going on a coastal fishing trip was ‘floated’, but since Hurricane Florence pretty much wiped out the flat-lands of NC and the coast, that wasn’t happening. Then we started looking at exotic game ranches.
Right off the bat, we had reservations about it. I’d heard the horror stories, even seen a few videos showing ‘fence hunting’. Which is basically, like this:
But, after looking at a few ranches, including the huge ones down in Texas, we decided to drive about four hours across the border into my second favorite state (Tennessee) and try Caryonah for Boars and Rams.
I called and we didn’t have any problem getting in. Apparently, fall is their busiest season, but most hunters come on the weekends. So we would have the entire ranch to ourselves.
Sunday morning, we loaded up my 21 year old Jeep Cherokee with coolers, gear, guns, and our large bodies and away we went.
We had a blast.
It reminded me of white tail hunting, but better. More… luxurious.
Instead of being confined to a small track of land, we had 2,000 plus acres of property full of cool stuff to hunt. It was nice to not have to worry about wounding an animal and chasing it through your neighbors yards, only to finish it off in front of little Johnny waiting for the school bus. And the hotel rooms were nice, as was the food. They really stuff you full of good eats. I think I gained 5lbs during our stay.
Oh, and they give you home made cookies and bottles of water with your room. COOKIES!
And the people, holy smokes. Everyone that worked there was as pleasant as could be. Our hunting guide had been there almost 30 years. The place was family run, but I couldn’t really differentiate between who was family and who wasn’t. They all got along that well.
The first morning, we sat on small knolls waiting for peaceful furry woodland creatures to happily bound in front of us and take a bullet through the chest.
About two hours in, Dad took a sow at 25 feet with a 30-06 round through the eye with a nice Belgium made Browning BAR (A Family Heirloom since 1965). She had some nice cutters too.
As for me, I didn’t see anything all morning. But I did hear a hog snort and something blow, so there be critters in them woods!
After lunch, we changed to spot and stalk in search of a ram for myself.
Earlier, our guide told us about a ten year old girl the weekend before who spent 11 hours stalking a pretty white ram with a black throat and never getting a shot. In the end she took another ram instead.
So I wanted that one. Because even though the chances of coming across that ram was slim, beating a ten year old girl at hunting is the stuff 35 year old men dream of. Or something. I dunno. It’s always better to be better than others. Regardless of any advantages, like experience or age.
But I wanted a pretty ram, and that one sounded promising. And I lucked out on those slim odds…
After almost an hour of stalking through the woods, we came across a group of three rams and I took that little girls ram with a perfectly placed shot through the heart. While I’d never hunted sheep before, I did study their anatomy the night before. Their vitals are located a bit differently than deer. (Always do your homework!)
He was a Painted Desert Ram. His horns were busted up from fighting, he had facial scars and some fresh wounds. By far the prettiest thing I’ve ever killed. If we had room, I’d have wanted a full body mount. He was that pretty. Since the ram had it’s winter coat, he had the beautiful white ‘beard’… which is more like a mane that runs down his chest.
I wore orange by the way, because I don’t want to get shot. I just took it off for pictures.
Tough guy horns:
As for trophy scoring – I suspect he’s a bronze class. But I don’t know. I didn’t measure his horns before dropping him off with the taxidermist. I will when he comes back, just out of curiosity. But trophy score wasn’t a priority for me.
It’s funny. While I was out there, calling my wife to tell her how awesome the place was, she decided she wanted to go and kill a boar. She insists she can’t kill anything pretty, but boars were ugly enough she thinks she could pull the trigger on one. Then she saw my ram, and it went from “I can’t kill anything pretty!” to “That’s so beautiful, I want to kill one!”
But two good hunts with two perfect, painless kills on fair chase animals in one day. You can’t ask for anything better than that.
As for weaponry – I used a Ruger Gunsite Scout in .308 with an Andy’s Rhodesian Scout Sling, and a Vortex Scout Scope.
This Scout is my new favorite hunting rifle. The trigger is outstanding… so crisp. Like a glass rod snapping. The rifle is light and handy, as a scout rifle should be. (I tried a Ruger American before the Scout, and the difference in design and quality is night and day. The extra $ is worth it!)
Speaking of money, we went full Monty and paid Caryonah to butcher the boar with both shoulders and neck going into sausage. We took 55lbs of meat off her. The ram, we simply had caped for mounting and quartered for eating.
Because they warned me that most people don’t like the taste of mutton.
But if you’re going to kill something for fun and sport, you should at least try to eat it.
Unless it’s a person.
The boar sausage was excellent though. The best I’d ever had. Haven’t tried the ram yet, maybe this week. I gave some to a buddy, he said it was chewy. But good.
Overall, best hunting trip I’ve ever had. It may seem expensive, a Ram and Boar is about $1,000 each. But that’s a couple of car payments for most people. And far cheaper than what the Wyoming trip would have cost in terms of vehicle rental, trespass fee, lodging, fuel, food, etc.
I’d rather have a great memory of hunting with my old man than the money.
We’re definitely going back next year with the entire family.
By the way, I used a 150 grain Winchester PowerPoint softball. This is the hole it created in the Ram’s opposite ribs after punching through the first side, some squishy organs, and out the other. (That’s an ESEE-3 MIL knife to the left for size comparison.)
EDIT #1 – The meat was delicious. The ram, soaked in a brine, was better than venison… if a bit more saltier. The boar… yummy as well.
EDIT #2 – I’m going to add in a response I gave on a forum that I should have put in this article:
Poster XXXX: “I always looked at it like going big game hunting at the zoo.”
Pretty much. Except it’s a couple thousand acres, so things are in a much bigger enclosure.
There’s some stuff about it that rubs me wrong, but from the Capitalist and Businessman in me, I understand why it’s done that way. For example, everything but the boars are stocked. And everything stocked is male.
Which I suppose make’s sense.
If you’ve a certain size Elk Herd, you can only reasonably take a few a year that are produced and matured from the herd. That’s hard to run a hunting business on. Same for buffalo or red stags.
From what I gathered, they tried turning running herds of sheep once, because they can reproduce several lambs a year. But the coyotes kept wiping the kids and ewes out. It was cheaper to buy them and relocate.
That kind of bothers me. But it’s no different than going fishing in a stocked pond or stream. Where I grew up, the fishing demand for trout was so high that the streams had to be repeatedly stocked by Fish & Game or we wouldn’t have any left.
It’s a business. You have to have inventory. Easiest and most efficient way to do that, is stock only males. Few people will want to hunt a female or young one, and those animals will just suck up limited resources and eventually you will have to cull them out as the herd becomes unbalanced as only males are being harvested.
I don’t begrudge them for that. It’s the way it has to be done. But I also understand its not for everyone. Some folks like spending ten days back pack hunting through the Rockies. Go for it and hats off to you.
I don’t have that sort of time available. Then there is the non-resident tag prices.
For Wyoming, non-resident moose are around $2,000 to put in for a drawing. Bison, $4,400. Mountain Goat, $2,600. Big Horn Sheep, $2,300. (Comparably, a Buffalo is $3,000 at Caryonah. Significantly cheaper than just the tags.)
And for most people it takes over a dozen years of applying before getting drawn, if even that. And I believe Mountain Goats are limited to 1 per lifetime.
That’s also money you’ve got to have upfront to apply with, if you aren’t drawn it’s returned to you six months later. That’s hard for most people to do. And you’ve got to have that money available year after year after year to rack up the needed points to get drawn.
Some critters, like Elk at $750 for a non-resident, that’s a much better deal than paying $6,000 at this game ranch. But you’ve still got to get drawn and most good areas (That produce big Elk) require a lot of points (which equates to lots of years putting in and waiting.)
Now as for the boar – They’re a money tree. They reproduce so fast, that they are a nuisance. But they are also the most sought after hunts they offer. So they seem to have a balance of sorts. But they require $0 investment. No stocking fee, no minerals or food plot costs to build up antlers. A lot of profit to be had there.
Just food for thought.