When your home will be a tent and your goal is a wily Wyoming speed goat, it’s time to check in with The World’s Foremost Outfitter.
Come mid-October, dawn in north-central Wyoming can mean many things to many people. But when a view like this greets you as you emerge from your quaint tent camp, ready to hunt the area’s plentiful pronghorns, well, you’re among a very fortunate fraternity. Such was the case recently, as I shared a camp with several dedicated pronghorn hunters that included Nathan Borowski of Nebraska, and Utah’s Ryan Neeley. In total, eight of us were primed to chase the West’s undisputed prairie speedster, hunting out of one of the most well-appointed tent camps I’ve ever experienced.
Our camp setup was indeed special. For starters, we had a huge wall tent that served as cook tent/dining hall/gathering place, filled with various, new, Cabela’s Polar Cap coolers stocked with food and provisos to last us a full week. Also packed in there were some serious propane-powered stoves and outdoor cooking gear from Camp Chef, and even a full battery of on-demand lighting, the work of Goal Zero and its unique outdoorsman-friendly Yeti Solar generators.
You can’t hunt pronghorn effectively on an empty stomach, so we made sure to start our mornings off right. At this writing I can count on one hand (OK, one finger) the times I’ve had French toast in a pronghorn tent camp, and for that, all members of our group could thank the talents of Ryan Neeley. Neeley wasn’t working alone; his “help” came in the form of Camp Chef’s Pro 90 Deluxe three-burner stove, and Pro 60 Deluxe two-burner stove. Between the two stoves, and accompanying griddle, there was little we couldn’t prepare. Depending on your perspective, we either ate like kings, or blue-ribbon barnyard swine.
This area of Wyoming offers some neat rolling hills, and a variety of seemingly hidden draws of varying steepness and depth—where bands of pronghorns would sometimes take shelter from strong winds. Hiking just a few minutes off the lonely dirt ranch roads offered some real appreciation for the land’s unique topography—and an almost endless string of pronghorn hiding places in otherwise desolate-looking country. My Cabela’s Instinct Euro HD 10×42 Binoculars were a constant companion throughout the hunt; and while some in our group used models with more and less power and larger and smaller objective lenses, the 10×42 proved a nearly ideal combination of size, weight and game-finding power. As several of us stood glassing together, it was rare to be the last to spot distant goats, or accurately judge trophy quality. This is great glass (that is currently on sale), and it was always handy with help from a Cabela’s Hybrid Binocular Harness—a highly recommended “no-brainer” accessory that also happens to currently be on sale.
We found more than just pronghorns and prairie dogs during our daily travels. On Day 1, on the way to a remote hunt area in our Chevy pickup, I spotted this rattler in the dirt two-track, just ahead of us. “A snake? Where?” asked Steve, the driver at the time, coming to a quick stop. “Right now it’s under our right front tire,” I answered, while listening to the buzzing tail kick into overdrive. As we backed up, the snake, now mortally wounded, continued to sound its warning rattle. The scary part? Just minutes before, Steve and Rick had hiked over the very same stretch of dirt road while stalking a band of pronghorns. A few yards further on, the two had been belly crawling. We dodged one there.
Mornings dawned brisk and cool, in the high 30s and low 40s, but by 10 or 11 a.m. the blazing sun would warm things considerably. To deal with those varying conditions, the answer was simple: high-performance layers. To ward off cool mornings, we donned Cabela’s Instinct Predator Hybrid Hoodie with 4MOST WINDSHEAR, covered in Cabela’s Zonz Western camo that literally melted into the prairie backdrop. Another fine choice for cooler conditions is the Cabela’s Instinct Predator Softshell Jacket with 4MOST WINDSHEAR, also covered in Zonz Western camo. While hunting through the hottest part of the day, or for long stalks carrying a loaded pack, it was hard to beat a versatile, lightweight Cabela’s staple: Microtex Six-Pocket Pants and Shirts, covered in Zonz Western camo, or time-honored Cabela’s Outfitter camo that seems to blend nicely into most any terrain.
You don’t need a lot of firepower to anchor a pronghorn, but it certainly helps to have a flat-shooting tack driver that can reach out and touch a good buck in areas where you’ve run out of stalking cover. And that can happen quite a bit. We found a nearly ideal solution in the value-priced Ruger American rifle, chambered in the flat-shooting 6.5 Creedmoor. When paired with a crystal-clear, powerful Cabela’s Instinct Euro Riflescope (we used the 6-18x50mm), your deadliness on the prairie is largely dictated by your practice time and personal shooting skill. If your aim is true, this gun/scope combo will do its part.
If you’re looking for a base-camp-type tent able to deliver both roomy comfort and impressive stability in high winds, Cabela’s Ultimate Alaknak Tent fills the bill. The 12-foot by 12-foot models we used were nothing short of spacious luxury for two geared-up hunters, and in one case, shown above, they easily accommodated three hunters, all their gear, and three extra-large cots. The cots we tested were the most comfortable I’ve used, and it’s no wonder. The Cabela’s Outfitter XL Cot with Pivot Arm measures a huge 85x40x20.5 inches, easily the largest I’ve tried. I consider most any cot pure luxury in a hunt camp, but the Outfitter XL is the tent-camp equivalent of a premium queen bed. If you crave crazy comfort, put one on your Christmas list.
Anyone up for ham steaks and potato/vegetable stir fry? By the end of Day Two, all of us were ready for some much-needed nourishment. The miles were adding up, and the area pronghorns were proving somewhat elusive. With just one good buck hanging in camp, we hunkered inside the dining tent, cleared off the Camp Chef griddle passed around full plates, and made a new gameplan for the morning.
By mid morning of Day Three, the previous day’s long and largely fruitless adventures were long forgotten. The reason? Steve, Nathan and your reporter soon spotted several more good pronghorn bucks, with one slight problem: They were a LONG way off. But then, as they sometimes do, things just seemed to come together. I drew the long straw and decided to pull a stalk to the left on the farthest buck, bedded toward the eastern end of a huge, wide-open bowl. Even from afar, the buck’s horn mass looked impressive. Nathan chose to circle right, and stalk a small herd of pronghorns that included a few very good bucks.
After covering nearly a mile, Steve and I got lucky and found a long draw that led us more or less right toward our target buck. And then, near disaster. After another quarter mile, we virtually stumbled into an unseen pronghorn. As we neared the bowl I glimpsed just the back of a feeding pronghorn; as I ducked and whirled backward, Steve, following behind me, did the same. In seconds, I had the Ruger on my sticks and was awaiting—hopefully—confirmation of a good buck. Seconds later, up came long, ebony daggers—then the Ruger’s sharp bark. Just that quickly—and unexpectedly—I’d filled my tag.
Did I mention things just seemed to come together on Day Three? While I waited near my prairie trophy and Steve (God bless him) hoofed it back to the truck, it wasn’t 30 minutes later when I heard the unmistakable crack of a rifle shot. Throwing up the Euro binos confirmed the shot had indeed come from a 6.5 Creedmoor Ruger; soon I glimpsed a very tiny Borowski and his bouncing orange hat emerge from a shallow draw. He slowly made his way to what would turn out to be a fine trophy buck of his own. We had doubled on a pair of great pronghorns just minutes apart, after a pair of long and fairly intensive stalks. “Perfect” is a word writers are mostly advised to avoid, but few others adequately capture the essence of such a remarkable morning adventure.
Back at camp the work was just beginning. I was the first to take advantage of two of our camp’s most unique (and invaluable) accoutrements: A Foreverlast Tripod Game Hoist that we placed in a large, airy Cabela’s Quick-Set Screen Shelter. This smart combo could not have been more slick. If you plan to process your own animals, including caping your trophies, this combo, or something similar, is a wise investment. With the handy hoist and a gambrel, I was able to completely skin/cape my trophy off the ground, reducing what can be a long, tedious chore, to just minutes. And then, boning the meat was quick and easy, even without water, which is often in short supply on the prairie. Throughout the process, the Shelter provided welcome cooling even during the hottest parts of the day, helping to preserve both meat and cape quality. That’s a serious win-win in my book.
Did I mention our tent camp was well appointed? With help from a Cabela’s portable generator, we were even able to vacuum-pack our boned-out meat, using a Cabela’s Pro-Elite Vacuum Sealer. A vacuum sealer is truly a luxury in a tent camp, but if you’re also toting a generator, why not?
Back at home, some final preparation ensured a freezer packed with fresh, recipe-friendly pronghorn meat. My family finds burger one of the most versatile ways to incorporate game meat into the widest array of recipes, and for this process, I depend on my Cabela’s Commercial-Grade 1 HP Electric Grinder. Durability of this unit has been fantastic; I’ve had mine for some 7 years, and it’s helped process a whole lot of game animals in that stretch—without one breakdown or hiccup. Cabela’s grinders consistently draw 5-star ratings from customers, and for nearly a decade, you can count mine as well.