By: Prois Staffer Dannielle Moore
“Why do I do this?! Why must hunting always first push me to the brink of lowest of lows?! Can’t it be easy just this one time?” Those were my thoughts yesterday as I picked my way around rolling hills in search of what was exceedingly becoming a unicorn hunt for me.
No, hunting isn’t always about successfully harvesting an animal. I’m ok letting a season play out and not immediately filling a tag. But when that tag is a 12 year wait for a 6 day season and you throw in the fact that I only had 3 days to get it done, the pressure was getting to me right off the hop. My own words to my son from the day before echoed back to me; “nothing that’s ever worth it comes easy.”
We racked up the kilometres on the truck spotting very very few antelope my first day. A last light stalk on a big herd left me both disheartened and optimistic as things didn’t play out as well as they could have, but seeing so many antelope in one spot was promising. The terrain was difficult in the sense that it was the very definition of bald prairie where you could see the horizon stretch on and on. But it was a chance, and Lloyd Christmas would have been very excited at the slim prospect of that chance.
The second day I put boots to the ground to the tune of 17,504 steps. One stalk was foiled by I’m not sure what…their shadows in the gale force winds? Another truck that slowed to take a look at them? A tumbleweed that cooked across the field? Who knows, but I had a feeling I was going to be battling the wind, terrain challenges and spooky antelope all day. Unfortunately my fears came true as stalk after stalk failed. I did more walks of shame back to the truck where my husband and kids waited than a freshman set loose on a college campus. The closest I came was 413yds to settling my crosshairs on a buck, but the wind was relentless and it didn’t feel right. I passed on a pretty small buck that I told may not have a last day free pass. I went to bed utterly exhausted, we decided not to set an alarm in the am as rest is so important to me right now. Fatigue isn’t me just feeling tired, it causes my muscles to literally lock up, the weakness feels like I’m made of jello and worst of all is that my vision goes blurry, double, flashing lights and the vision loss comes back. It was a play it by ear kind of morning.
Saturday found us all up a bit later than previous days. Rested and excited for the day ahead. We realized that we forgot our ‘what kind of day is it going to be?’ routine the last few days so we made sure to focus on that. Everyone found lucky underwear and decided today was going to be the day before noon. We finally spotted a small herd grazing up and over a hillside and I set off eager to make a play. I finally had terrain that I could work with and a herd that wasn’t afraid of their own shadows! Fast forward a few hours later to me questioning my own sanity and having to talk myself out of walking back to the truck 2 sections away. I got into rolling hills where I could only see 100 yds away. I had crawled countless hilltops convinced the speedgoats were just over that next hill and I felt like I was losing it. I sat down, took a breath and just let it all be. I tell my kids that if you don’t believe in yourself then nobody else will all the time…it was time for that pep talk to myself. It was all a reset and one that I needed. Because that’s what hunting is to me every year: A reset. When I’m hunting the world stops. It’s time to lock in on something other than the daily grind. Something that consumes my soul and fills me with energy and experiences that you can’t find anywhere else. I reflected on how much action was packed into the last three days and felt that familiar shift in my soul. I was content and let the pressure I had placed on myself go. I decided I was playing hide and seek with the world’s #2 ranked players and I was going to find the buggers.
Just as all this played out, I almost made a crucial mistake but caught myself just as I picked my way around a hill. Boom! There they were, and I wasn’t sure if I’d been pegged or not. I backed out around the hill and took a look around. I could backtrack, crawl over the crest of the hill and peek down into the little valley and see what was doing, all with the wind in my favour. It took close to 20 mins as I painstakingly crawled across the flattop, apparently raked my stomach across some cacti and came to the point where I had eyes on some antelope!! Most were looking at the spot were I first popped out around the hill, but one doe was scanning my way. I scanned and found my buck. He was the only one in the herd and the first that I was able to settle the crosshairs on and feel good about. Then the waiting game started as he was bedded beside a doe who’s rump covered his vitals. After another 20 mins I moved to range them again and that’s when things went from 0-60. She stood and pegged my movement. So I settled in behind my gun on my buck, aimed far shoulder and dropped the hammer. I heard that tell tale thwap and as he tried to bolt I racked another round. It wasn’t needed as he only went 5 steps before crumpling.
As it all fell upon me I’m not going to lie, I hit the wall. This was by far one of my hardest earned animals. Completely exhausted and full of emotion I cried as I realized that a 12yr Alberta tag was filled. Calling Dustin and the kids to come meet me and hearing their cheers was truly awesome. There’s something very special about this hunt that wouldn’t have been the same if it was easy…and yes, it was worth it.