The hunt starts on October 1 but the fun begins on September 30. My parents and I took off for Douglas on the 29th, stayed in Spearfish the first night and arrived in Douglas on the 30th. It is 676 miles from our house. The hunters have the choice of either staying at a dorm room for free at the fairgrounds in Douglas or staying at the motel. I chose the motel. I have to have ESPN. On the first day it is a meet and greet, and also to finish the paperwork for the licensing. All licenses are paid for. After lunch we all went to the shooting range south of town and shot a handful of times. To make sure we are still on and to have the guides get familiar with our shooting styles. There were 11 hunters this year including two blind hunters. The hunters come from all over the US. I believe the farthest one was from Kentucky. The wind was blowing a constant 30 mph with gusts over 40 mph while sighting in. But I was still able to manage to hit the bull's-eye at 100 yards. Forgot to mention even the bullets were supplied. After shooting in the rifles we all went to the Douglas Trap Club and some of the hunters tried their luck shooting clay pigeons. Then we all went back to the fairgrounds for supper. At the supper they also recognized some of the guides that have been there for years. Some of them have been there the full 29 years. They gave away five rifles to guides that have been guiding for 20 years. Most of the guides are from the Douglas area but some of them travel all the way from Illinois, including two of mine, Joe and Andy. My other guide, Jake Stearns is from Douglas.
Breakfast was served on October 1 the first day of the hunt at 5 AM. I met with my guides at 6:30 AM and we were on the road to where I was going to hunt at the Scott Ranch east of Douglas about 5 miles. When we got on the oilfield road into one of the pastures we saw our first antelope buck. This was around 7:10 AM. He was a loner. The guides, Jake, Andy and Joe asked me if he is big enough and if I wanted to try and take him. I am not picky. I said yes. All the hunters received permits to shoot out of vehicles. So my dad was in the passenger seat, Joe was driving, Andy was in back, Jake was sitting beside me and I was facing out of the back passenger door of the van. Once we got all of the rifle mount attached to my chair we tried to get in to position for a shot. He was to the east of us and the sun was just breaking over the bluffs. The goat was a little over 300 yards away. We had to maneuver the van quite a few different times in order for me to get onto the antelope. Once we finally did, the sun was directly into my eyes. Jake took his hat off and put it over the scope for sun protection. And I let a shot fire. Clean miss. I think I shot over him because I saw no dust fly. He took off and ran about 50 yards and then started walking again. He ran into a draw and we lost him for about ten minutes. Then he popped up and started walking to the West. Which was perfect, away from the sun. We had to move the van about a quarter-mile until I could get lined up with him. This time he was 215 yards away. I had a little trouble getting my scope on him but Jake grabbed the front of the rifle and pulled it towards him a little bit. When he let go the scope was directly on Mr. Antelope. He asked if I was on him and at that time I pulled on my trigger and heard that great sound, "smack." The ran about 10 yards, did a somersault and was down for the count. This was at 7:40 AM. It was the quickest hunt and the most enjoyable that I have ever been on. After some jumping and hollering we had a celebratory Skoal and we went and checked him out. He was a old fighter. The back of his neck was rubbed raw. The guides told me he has probably been pushed around by some younger bucks. But he has great character. His horns are 10 & 9 3/4 inch.
After they gutted him, we had to wait a little bit for another guide to come by with his pickup to bring him back to the trap club where they take the official pictures. When we got there we thought for sure we would have the first one but another hunter got one about 7:05 AM. Crazy. After pictures we went to the meat locker in town that donates the processing and filled out the paperwork. The meat was ready by Thursday morning when we left. After the meat locker I decided to go back to the motel. I took a nice three hour nap. The other hunters had lunch at the trap club that was sponsored by one of the groups from Douglas. That night there was a supper and auction at the Moose Lodge in town. There were close to 60 items on the auction. They raised over $10,000 in about two hours. It is crazy how that community supports this program. One guy from Savage Arms brought a knife for over $2000. It had a giraffe sheath and I do not remember what type of bone the handle was made of but it was beautiful.
On October 2, breakfast is supposed to start at 5 AM unless all of the hunters fill on the first day. But breakfast started late. All 11 hunters filled there tags before noon on the first day. That goes to show how good the guides are. Totally unbelievable. Each hunter gets about one section of land to hunt on. Some more, some less. Depending on the number of animals. All of the land down there is private. And this is the only time in the season that the landowners do not charge for hunting. After talking to some of the landowners, they think the numbers are down about 70% from just last year. That really goes to show how good the guides are. 11 for 11 is nuts, especially when you consider all of the factors going into some of these hunters disabilities. That day in the afternoon the guides took us for a tour to see the sights. There is some awesome country to see down there. Also on this night they had a supper at the American Legion. After the supper they give away awards to hunters. They gave free mounts to the longest shot, shortest shot and the biggest antelope taken. Biggest antelope was 14 3/4 with ivory tips, shot by Jon Lee from Alabama.
They also gave each hunter a plaque with a picture of their antelope and guides. We each also received knives from Blind Horse Knives. They are beautiful.
I didn't stay too long at the awards banquet because we knew there was a storm coming the next afternoon and we wanted to get the heck out of there before they closed any highways. Which is a good thing, because I 90 is closed today. We made it home yesterday about 8:40 PM. It was a long drive but it was worth it. I can't say enough about the Helluva Hunt organization. It is top notch all the way around. I knew I was going to like the guys there when I saw them drinking Busch Light at 11 AM the first day. They are also putting on a hunt for Wounded Warriors that starts today. Too bad they don't have as good a weather as we did. I can't say enough about Gary and Jane Stearns. They helped start this event 29 years ago and are the ones that keep it going. Along with the community of Douglas and people from all over the US.
Anyway that is all I can think of right now to put on here. If you know of any handicapped or wheelchair bound hunter that wants to be a part of this great event, have them contact the information on the link below.