My first big game hunt |

My first big game hunt

McKinney FamilyJessica McKinney with her first first Wyoming Pronghorn.

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Almost two years before my first hunt, I attended my first hunter safety course, where I learned all about guns, ammunition, safety, animals, and most of all, hunting.

I feel very blessed to have such a wonderful dad who has taught me so much about the wild and how to hunt. Every chance I had, I stole Dad’s hunting magazines so I could read about all kinds of hunts. Sometimes, as a family, we would go out in the back of our field and practice. Dad has all kinds of targets, handmade and store bought. Even on a rare occasion, we would go out to the shooting range, which is about an hour and a half away.

Finally, when I turned 12, I knew my time had come! I could finally draw a tag. When I found out that I had drawn my antelope tag for Wyoming, I was ecstatic. I snuck in a few more shooting practices before the big week came.

The day before we left, my other siblings went to our grandparents house for the week. Dad, mom and I finished packing and we got up really early to leave. That was one of the longest car drives I can remember.

When we finally arrived in Buffalo, Wyo., I gazed in pure awe at all the antelope. They seemed to be everywhere. I started to say to myself that this hunt wouldn’t even be work, but I was very wrong.

The Wesen family had a wonderful and warm home that they shared with us. My dad said it was a VERY fancy and big tree house. I got to ride on their Honda Forester Quad’s almost the whole time and almost forgot how nice it is not to have to hike. My dad hikes my tail off every time we go hunting. The antelope were only 50 yards away from the front door. It was pretty funny. But as soon as we shot, they were off and it was a real challenge to get into them again.

After starting out that afternoon, I missed a shot at a really nice buck which I was pretty upset about but my dad told me that when you miss, don’t get upset, just try again.

Late the first night, right before dusk, I had a chance at the doe, I thought, “Oh, here is more target practice again. I’m not going to hit her.” I tried really hard, even though I was really nervous. After I got her into my scope I held my breath and squeezed the trigger. I was so shocked when Dad yelled I got her.

After we went up to see her, we couldn’t find the doe. I just told myself that I missed, but only a few minuets later, I saw dad waving at me. I walked over the ridge and found my doe. She was really nice and fat with really short little horns, which are not very common for a doe. After I got my doe, I was on fire for getting a buck.

Later the next day, Dad got his buck and doe. The buck was pretty average, but still nice. Dad’s doe was a tough little thing and made it very hard for Dad to get her. I looked, but didn’t see anything I really liked except this huge, tall buck. I wasn’t able to get a shot on him though. Mom saw him too and also had her eyes on him. We had a “little fight” over him, even though no one got him.

As I fell asleep the second day of the hunt, it really hit me hard that I only had one more day to fulfill my tag for my buck. The next day, our final day, I was determined to do my best to get a buck. I tried to hurry through my breakfast, which was something homemade, but I can’t remember what because I was so pumped and ready to “hunt.”

As soon as I finally got my parents to hurry outside, I knew it would be a tough day to hunt. It was extremely windy. Early that morning, Mom was able to get a great shot on a nice buck. After gutting mom’s antelope, Dad went down to the barn to start skinning the antelope for the trip home to Castle Rock.

I finally started to tell myself maybe I wouldn’t get a nice buck this trip, but I didn’t loose hope. Mr. Wesen and I decided to go out “scouting” for a nice buck. Hardly out of the driveway, we saw what we were looking for. The buck was big yet very skittish. He went over a ridge and we couldn’t see him any more. He popped out on the other side of the road and then he bedded in the middle of the field. He thought we couldn’t see him, but we could. It was less than a 100 yard shot and boy was I excited. The wind started back up and I shot … To my clear disappointment, the bullet landed in the dust right behind the nice critter. I missed about four times because the wind kept moving my bullet sideways. The buck got up and ran. We chased after him to the next field, but lost him. I felt really mad. I could tell by the quietness as we headed back to the house that Mr. Wesen was sad too. He went down to the barn to see how Dad was doing and said, “I don’t want to tell Jessica, but that was a nice buck.”

I felt like the Lord just didn’t want me to get a buck. We were packing up to leave, when Mrs. Wesen said, “I just cleaned my glasses and I still don’t see anymore antelope. Jeepers! Jessica come here! Isn’t that your buck walking up to the field?”

I jumped up and very surprised said,” WHAT?” Sure enough, it was the same buck that I had missed earlier that day.

Mrs. Wesen hopped on her ATV and rushed to the barn to get Mr. Wesen. I hurriedly put all my gear on. I got my 25-06 and plenty more bullets. I just thought, “Boy, the way I have been missing, I better bring plenty.” Well, after my pockets were about half way full of bullets, I figured that would be sufficient.

As we left from the garage door, we stayed close to the grass, so that the buck wouldn’t see us. After we snuck up behind a ridge, I calmed my jittering nerves and looked back at the house. I saw my mom and Mrs. Wesen looking through the window, smiling and putting their thumbs up. I suddenly realized how exciting this opportunity was. After crawling to the top of the ridge, I looked down and saw the buck grazing. After carefully watching him, I figured my shot would be about 250 yards. When I quietly whispered to Mr. Wesen that I was about ready, I kept as low to the grass as possible and loaded my 25-06 with a bullet. After hitting my safety on, I placed my gun to my shoulder and asked Mr. Wesen to back me up. I started to focus on my breathing. I said a quick prayer that the Lord would stop the wind for a second so I could shoot. The wind died and I shot. I barely missed and I quickly re-loaded. I shot again and I hit him right in the “broiler room” as Mrs. Wesen would call it! He slowly got up and looked around. He had no idea what had hit him. After the antelope fell to the ground, I screamed in surprise! I jumped up and gave Mr. Wesen a hug! I couldn’t believe it. It was almost as exciting as winning my first grand champion ribbon for barrel racing! We waited about five more minutes and then we ran to see him. After making sure he was totally dead, I gazed at my beautiful buck. “My First Big Game Buck” – those words felt so good to say. Mr. Wesen gutted him for me and I swear he could win a world record because he did it so fast. It seemed almost certain it only took him three minutes.

When Mom, Mrs. Wesen and Dad came running up the ridge, I told them that my buck was bigger than both Mom and Dad’s! They were very excited for me and I really couldn’t stop smiling. I kept teasing Dad that he would have to skin another one. He kept assuring me that it was OK.

With a big smile still on my face, we went back to the house and packed up the rest of the stuff. It was really hard for me to leave as I enjoyed the trip so much.

As we drove home, I could not stop looking back at the bed of the truck to look at my buck. My first antelope hunt was something that I will never forget and I will always look back at the found memories of stories, hunting, antelope, and family.

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