Wyoming Safari – 25th Annual

Last Friday evening, I pulled into Paradise with the meat made during our very successful 25th Annual Wyoming Deer and Antelope Safari. Interestingly, this year I headed out on 11 September and arrived back home on the 18th – exactly the same dates as that first 1996 trip to Sheridan, Wyoming. The similarities pretty much end there. That first year was remarkable; this 25th year was amazing.

Over the years, the one constant has been me. At various times, in various years, a mix of 16 friends and family members have come to play, with three to five hunters in camp during any given year. Over the last few years, our little hunting party has been me, oldest son James and Son-in-Law Chris.

This year, we were anticipating our same threesome afield, but Covid-19 dropped a monkey wrench into our plans. As per normal, oldest Huckling James drove from Boise to meet me in Missoula. This year, however, given that virtually all filming and production was shut down in Los Angeles, youngest son, stuntman, and last of the Hucklings, Edward rode with me to Missoula for our carpool (truckpool?) to the Sheridan antelope and deer hunting ground. This would be my first hunt with Ed since his 2010 moose hunt here in Washington. Son-in-law Chris is still slowly recovering from a slap of Covid-19 and was not yet able to handle the hiking, crawling and dragging involved in making meat. And there would a fourth in our party.

My oldest daughter, Nicole, drove up from Denver with GrandHucklings Josh (15), Kristian (13), and twins Faith and Kinsey (11). We moved Josh – our 2020 nonhunting apprentice – into our KOA Kabin. His mother and siblings would spend a couple or three days in another cabin before heading back to the Denver area.

It was so cool, really. This was the first time in at least 40 years of three Huckabay generations gathering at any hunting camp. While Josh set up for his apprentice year, his kid brother Kristian and the twins raced off after the bass, pike, catfish and occasional trout in Big Goose Creek, flowing along the back of the campground. In the evenings, it was pizza, barbeque and s’mores. At mid-day, when we returned from our morning hunts to hang and skin the latest deer it was lunch and chaos.

Somehow, we managed the fishing and camping excitement of that gaggle of youngsters catching fish and oohing and aahing over arriving deer or antelope. They watched the prayed-over animals rather quickly move to skinned carcasses. Then there was the butchering into boned pieces of meat (each of which explained as to cut, use, etc.) which were bagged and iced in coolers ready to go home for a final trimming, grinding, smoking, and so forth. Somewhere in there, we four went deer and antelope stalking.

Each day was warm and smoky. With a couple days’ exception, the temperature hovered around 90. We saw blue sky patches and a glimpse of the sun for less than half of one day – at almost any time, one could look directly into the bright spot that was the sun behind the smoky sky.

We had eight nonresident antlerless licenses among the three of us. James had an antelope tag and three deer tags. He would make meat for himself and his extended family. Edward had two deer tags, one of which was for meat for the family of his sister and husband Chris, who was missing our safari for the first time in 14 years. I had one each antelope and deer tag.

With Nicole and the other GrandHucklings in camp, fishing, laughing, playing and generally having too much fun for a hunting camp, the first few days seemed pretty chaotic. We three hunters plus apprentice were headed afield by 5:30 each morning, and again until dark. Somehow it worked perfectly. (Edward suggested that, given the chaos in camp, we were just that much more focused when we hit the ground hunting… Could be…)

Afield, the play was to spot and stalk game or find a favored spot to watch and wait. Each of us, at one time or another, had at least one stalk of a half-mile or more, with a final crawl into shooting position. This stalking is, I think, why we love this way of making meat. At any rate, by the end of day three, we had filled all our tags but one: I was still carrying my antelope license.

Nicole, Kristian, Faith and Kinsey reluctantly headed for Denver the morning of day four. By dark of that day our final critter – my antelope – was skinned, cleaned, washed down and hanging to cool overnight. Among us, we had two clean missed shots and eight one-shot kills; pretty much what every hunter trains and hopes to create.

Edward had planned to return to Paradise with me for meat processing and wrap up, but the Covid-19 dam broke in LA, and he was suddenly on tap for the new season of filming Danger Force, and his stunt doubling of one of its teenage superheroes. He found a rental car to Denver, returned Apprentice Josh to his mother and siblings, gave Chris his deer meat, caught a flight to LA, and resumed his stunt life. After a sweep around our hunting grounds to say so long and one more thanks to our ranching hosts and now old friends, James and I headed for our respective homes and meat processing. By Friday evening, we were all more or less back into our day-to-day lives.

Chaos. And an amazing 25th Anniversary Wyoming Deer and Antelope Safari. Go figure.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized