Mule Deer and Pronghorn Combo
By Gary LewisConstructed in 1867 to guard the Bozeman Trail, Fort Fetterman was used as a jumping-off point for expeditions against the Sioux. The Fort in southeast Wyoming was considered a hardship post, but it must have been a great place to be a hunter.
As it was in the 1860s and '70s, small bands of pronghorn stake their claim out on the tops of the ridges and mule deer feed out of the coulees.
"This isn't the place you come to when you want to take a huge mule deer," Scott Denny said. "Those bucks are here, but we only get a chance at one every two or three years. But when you want to see a lot of bucks, we can show them to you."
Scott Denny, of Table Mountain Outfitters,Tel. 630-1622, has hunted the ground north of Fort Fetterman, a hundred miles north of Cheyenne, for the last seven years. Three years ago, he and his wife Angie, his partner and fellow guide, picked up a lease that tied their smaller holdings together. Now they control 142,000 acres.
At first glance, the prairie is bleak and desolate. But through binoculars, the white spots on the hill become antelope and the nut-brown branches in the sage are mule deer antlers.
Hunters arrive the evening before the first day and are greeted by the guides or the cook or one of the children. There could be up to a half-dozen kids in camp at any one time.
The bunkhouse, a converted manufactured home, is spacious, with a kitchen, a large living room and bedrooms with bunkbeds. Connected to the bunkhouse is the main house where the guides sleep and meals are served in a communal dining room.
The day starts with a family-style breakfast. A lunch is packed in the cooler. After dark, the hunters gather in the dining room for steaks, ribs or fettucine alfredo.
Hunts are conducted from vehicles. Most of the guides use late model Toyota Tundras. Guides drive ranch roads and glass from the truck. When a buck is spotted, the guide evaluates it through a spotting scope mounted on the window.
If a buck warrants a second look, the truck is parked out of sight and the stalk begins.
On our hunt, we looked at 40 mule deer bucks the first day, including several 4x3s. My partner tagged a deer that, from far away, looked like a 3x3, but had several ‘cheater' points. A tall-racked buck, it was over 24 inches wide.
At the end of a stalk the second morning, I passed up a 22-inch wide 4x3 and shot a gray-faced 2x2. At lunch time, we found a group of bucks in a canyon and the last of our deer hunters tagged out with a 23-inch wide 4x3.
One of the hunters in our group of four had an antelope tag. After looking at dozens of bucks, he finished his hunt on the first day.
According to Denny, trophy quality on the ranch is improving. A hunter can expect to see dozens of spikes, forked horns, two-points and 2x3s. It is common to see 4x3s and several small 4x4s.
As ours did, most hunts end after a day and a half. Some hunters leave early, while others stay around to shoot prairie dogs or hunt for coyotes.
Many of the hunts are filmed for the outfitter's TV show. With game in abundance, this October hunt is a great opportunity to take a young person or a first-time hunter.
Archery hunts take place in the first ten days of September. Rifle deer hunts are held in the first two weeks of October. Rifle antelope hunts are held from mid-September through mid-October.
A three-day rifle antelope hunt costs $2,200. A four-day rifle hunt for mule deer is $3,850. A combination hunt costs $4,950. There is a management deer hunt option for $2,500.
A hunter planning in advance, should apply in the Wyoming Controlled Hunt draw with a March 15 deadline, which gives the hunter the best chance to secure a tag. In the past, this area, with its high percentage of private land, has mule deer tags left over after the draw. Leftover tags are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
A nonresident deer tag costs $312.00 A nonresident antelope tag costs $272.00 There is a $14.00 nonresident application fee.
The best time to book this hunt is in January. Mule deer hunts are likely to sell out before the tags do.
Antelope hunters stand a good chance of securing a leftover tag after the draw, which can be purchased on-line or over the counter. Some ‘any antelope' tags are available.