The case of the curious antelope

Like all hunters, I start checking my mailbox in late spring to see if I drew my tag. I’d applied for an early deer tag in the high country and was looking forward to hunting. I hadn’t drawn a tag for three years and had high hopes for pulling one.

Luck was on my side. I drew the tag and called a friend who had property in the unit. She and her husband were going to be out of town and gave me permission to hunt on the property. As the season approached, I started planning time off from work and sighting in my rifle.

I normally hunt with a partner, whether it’s my husband or a friend, but this time no one could go. It wasn’t a good plan, but I didn’t really have any other choice.

When I was there three years earlier, the weather was perfect — brisk in the morning, warming during the day. This time, I could have worked on my suntan. It was super hot (but at least I wasn’t breaking through snowdrifts).

The first morning out was awful; I missed my turn, drove around for hours, and had to drive back into town to re-fuel. But I headed back out with a new attitude and hope. It worked. I found the property and headed out to sit and glass for deer.

There was plenty of sign; now it was just a matter of sitting still and watching. Nothing showed up, and at dusk, I made my way back to the truck, hopeful that the next day would be better.

The next morning I spotted a few deer as I drove in, so my hopes were high. I made my way through a grove of aspen, watching and listening for movement. I finally made it up to pile of rocks that gave me full view of the grove and a natural saddle.

While I was sitting there, a curious antelope walked within an arm’s length of me. I could have pet him if I wanted to. He tilted his head and walked in front of and behind me, snorting and stomping. Eventually, he decided I wasn’t a threat and he laid down 25 yards away and napped. A few hours later, he got up and wandered off.

After leaving for lunch, I returned to the same spot, and the same curious antelope showed up again. It happened that way for the next few days. Every day I’d see the same bunch of does, fawns, and my buddy, the curious antelope.

I changed my sitting spot, went into the aspen grove, and sat overlooking a creek hoping to see a buck. Sure enough, my curious antelope followed me. No matter where I went, it tagged along. I felt like “Mary had a little lamb,” but it was with an antelope.

I didn’t end up getting a deer, but it remains one of the most rewarding hunts of my life, from hearing bugling elk and coyotes to the soothing sound of the babbling brook. But it was my curious antelope that I remember most. And it reminded me that sometimes it’s not all about the harvest.