I actually wrote this first part at work the day I we were leaving for Wyoming....
"About 7:45 last night it finally hit me. Up until then, this deer hunting trip to Wyoming has seemed like just another one of my schemes. It seemed like something I had always said I was going to do and even made tentative plans for. But, last night, sitting on my couch looking at the weather in northeast Wyoming, it hit me like a .300 Win Mag! I was suddenly filled with so much excitement and anxiety I almost threw up. I dropped my phone and jumped up off the couch like I had been bit by a snake. Then, I just stood there paralyzed for a minute looking at the pile of gear ready to be packed into the car. A thousand hopes and doubts flooded my brain all at once. I felt lightheaded and had to sit back down. My scalp felt like there were a hundred turkeys scratching around on it and my arms felt as heavy as lead. I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths. Slowly my arms lightened and the turkeys stopped their scratching. A huge smile began to spread across my face and I thought to myself “I’m going hunting in Wyoming.”
This whole thing started years ago. I have wanted to do a DIY western hunting trip since 2005. Several times I have begun to make plans. But, I would always begin to falter. I would lose interest. The cost would seem prohibitive. I would become intimidated. Then, I discovered a man that would change the way I saw western hunting trips. His name is Randy Newberg. I had watched a few of his videos on YouTube last winter. Toward the end of May, one of those videos popped up on my YouTube “watch again” feed. So, I watched it again. In that video he said something that would literally change my life. He said, “Hunt when you can. You’re gonna run out of health before you run out of money.” I literally started crying. You see, at the time I was almost 41 years old and weighed almost 500 pounds. I couldn’t walk a hundred yards without getting out of breath. I had lost almost all my interest in hunting and fishing because it was too much work for me with all the extra weight I carried around every day. Right then I decided to make a change. I cleaned up my eating and started exercising. By mid-July, I had lost a significant amount of weight. For the first time in a long time I had hope. Hope that I would be able to continue becoming more healthy. Hope I would live longer. Hope I would be able to do what it took to have a successful DIY western hunt.
In late July, I started doing research on the states where I could get a tag. I knew it was late in the year and tags would be limited. I also knew that, even though I was getting stronger and healthier every day, I still wouldn’t be ready for a strenuous, back-country mountain hunt. At the advice of Randy Newberg via his video series, I purchased a membership to the goHunt.com Insider program. I spent hours researching states, units, and seasons. Finally, on July 28th, I logged onto the Wyoming Game and Fish website and bought a left-over deer tag. As soon as I clicked the button to complete the purchase, I broke out in a cold sweat. What had I just done? So many things could go wrong in the next three months. What if I got hurt? What if I got sick? What if there were no deer in the unit? The doubts filled my mind but, I was only $300 into it. I could still back out without a huge loss.
I broke the news to my wife later that night. She was excited for me and supportive as always. After some discussion, we decided to make it a family trip. I had planned on camping when it was just me going but, now that all four of us making the trip, other arrangements had to made. We looked at renting an RV and hotels in the area but, neither option seemed feasible. We finally found a cabin on the eastern edge of the hunt unit near the South Dakota border. On July 31st, I paid for the cabin and we told the boys about the trip. There was really no backing out now.
The next three months were a whirlwind of preparation and planning. I had plenty of hunting clothes but, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I was losing weight so fast most of them were going to be too big for me by the time the trip rolled around. I hated to buy a bunch of expensive hunting clothes for just one trip so I decided to just make do with what I had. I decided to take a rifle I had gotten from my wife’s uncle right after he was diagnosed with cancer and realized he was not going to be able to hunt. I had never had a scope that cost over $100 so, I decided to splurge for a Nikon to go on that rifle. The other item I decided to spend some money on was a new handheld Garmin GPS unit. I had purchased the onXmaps app for my phone however, I was worried about the cell phone reception being spotty so I also purchased the GPS chip for Wyoming. My wife busied herself making preparation and plans for keeping a 3 year old and a 9 year old busy during the 1700 mile trip. We also planned to cook most of our meals at the cabin to keep costs down so, she worked on the menu.
Up until the end of October, I looked at the trip with hopeful anticipation. I kept exercising and eating right. The pounds kept falling off. I listened to every podcast and watched every YouTube video I could find on western hunting to keep my excitement level up. The preparations and planning were coming together and, by the first of November, almost everything had fallen into place. That’s when the clouds began to gather. I found myself slipping into a dark place. The excitement was gone. I began to focus on all the negative. I lay awake at night thinking of all the things that could go wrong. I felt guilty that my family was sacrificing so much just for me to go hunting. I imagined illnesses and felt injuries coming on that would surely ruin my trip. Work began stressing me out. On November 4th, I was ready to pull the plug on the whole trip. That’s when my wife sat me down and had a talk with me. She explained to me something that I knew was true but, was unwilling to admit to myself. This dark place that I had fallen into was a defense mechanism. It was my way of bailing on the trip simply to avoid the possibility that things may not go as planned or that the trip may be more work than I originally thought.
Even though I knew she was right, there were still so many things that could go wrong in the next few days. I continued the final preparations and packing with a sort of detached attitude. It was almost like I was packing for someone else to go on the trip. I packed my backpack at least twice. I packed my hunting clothes and my rifle but, in the back of my mind, I still wasn’t going.
Then, like I said earlier, it hit me last night. This is really going to happen! Now here I sit on my lunch break at work feeling like a kid on Christmas Eve. The minutes feel like hours, the hours like days. The car is at home loaded and ready. My last minute checklist is open on my phone and most of the items are marked complete. The turkeys on my head are calm. I check the weather in Wyoming every few minutes. It is almost time….."
After work, I headed home to finish packing the car. We had planned on leaving about 8pm but, we were anxious to get on the road so we pulled out about 6pm.
We drove through the night Thursday night and most of the day Friday. We stopped for the night just south of Sioux City, Iowa. Saturday morning we got up early and headed for Wyoming.
Here are a few pics of the first antelope we saw in South Dakota