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Buffalo hunt (descending slide whistle)

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mahkagari

40 Cal.
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*insert trombone WOMPwomp*

I recognized my guide from pictures when he met me in the small town hotel lobby. From his cold weather gear and binobuddy, I could see we were in for a decent hunt rather than some of the ranch kills I've done for buffalo meat. I followed him for about an hour through the country roads of the reservation to the herd property. The tribes sharing the land maintain two herds. One is a cultural herd for tribal members to hunt. The other sells hunts to non-members. The proceeds from those hunts support managing both.

We loaded up in his vehicle and he told me we'd probably spend the first hour just trying to locate a family group to hunt. Didn't have much time to chat between glassing the bluffs and valleys. I did ask if the herds were kept separate. He pointed and said the tribal herd was on a neighboring 15,000 acres bordering the 13,000 we were on. He asked how I knew there were two herds and I replied that I'd been trying to draw a hunt for the past 5ish years so I'd done quite a bit of research on the place. I noted I'd heard him on a few podcasts, etc. He filled me in on some more info on the Intertribal Buffalo Council and negotiating with Yellowstone to distribute more bison to the native maintained herds on their reservations rather than cull them.

The first group we saw didn't really afford us a good way to approach so we kept it in mind for later if we had to come back to it. He had told me in advance that we'd most likely get a bull the first day but if we were unlucky, to prepare for a second day.

We spotted a good sized herd and glassed a few 2yos for the tag I'd drawn. We couldn't get closer than a mile without them spotting us and wandering off. We tucked the truck behind a hill and headed out on foot through the valley to where they were hanging out. The wind was blowing towards us and covered the noise we were making through the knee high brush. The hill we were behind shrunk as we went along and we got lower duck walking, to hands and knees within half a mile, and then finally leapord crawling the last two to four hundred yards with my 13lb .58 Hawken build strapped across my back.

He scouted up the last bit of hill and told me to crawl up prone and go for the the bull third from the right at a range of 80 yards. By the time I was close to position another bull had moved to the far right and he advised me to take that one. I couldn't see through the brush and sat up to take a sitting shot, a position I'd practiced the least. I was nervous and rushed the shot. He said he couldn't even see where it went.

I flung myself on my back and reloaded. I'd practiced reloading with preloaded charges from kneeling with the barrel over my head, but not laying down on a hillside. I felt the capper pop off the retractable cord I had it clipped to and made note of where it fell. I got back up to look over the hill and the bull moved back into the herd. They were spooked enough to move on and he said, "Don't worry, we've got all day." I picked up the capper and made sure I hadn't dropped anything else.

Took us a while to find another herd and figure out where to stalk them up from. They were spread across a shallow valley and up its hillside. We repeated a similar approach to get to the base of the shorter hill we were going to crawl over to get a shot. He pointed up the hillside and said we'd hide out behind some brush. I confirmed with him by "brush" he meant the three foot wide patch of 18" sage and wondered how the two of us would fit behind it.

I chastised myself to focus on taking my time and keeping my fundamentels under control. We waited for a while until the bull we were watching wandered out on his own. We had some cover of grass that was 8-12" high, but it was also hard to see through. The bull made to turn broadside and I sat up. Fought myself not to rush the hundred yard shot and dropped the hammer. "You hit him!" he said and I reloaded another shot. The bull turned back into the herd and their movement told us he was injured.

I didn't get an opportunity for a follow-up so we headed up the hill to look for blood. Looked for a while all over where they had stood and we were about to head toward some brush down the valley when he popped up 25 yards away. I'd reattached my capper to its chain while glassing, but he took off out of range before I could get my rifle capped. Kicked myself and couldn't decide if I should have had it capped and half-cocked, particulary when leopard crawling through the brush with the guide in front of me and the rifle in my hand.

After he got some distance on us he slowed down like he was winded and followed the path of the herd. We agreed I'd keep him in sight on foot without pushing him too hard and the guide would call in his tracker to help. He'd take his truck up around to the herd and work back. The bull ducked over a hill half a mile away and I ran up the valley hillside to try to get a view from higher ground. I heard a truck behind me and it was the tracker. I let him know where the guide went and continued on foot trying to spot him at the bottom of the valley. The guide and tracker swapped places and the guide found me and picked me up.

We spent the next hour or so going up and down the creek bottom of the valley to see if he'd taken cover or if we could flush him. Met back up at the top of a ridge where the tracker was watching the herd. He said none were acting injured. After a bit, the guide said we wouldn't be able to get close to them again and suggested we try to find another herd. I said I hated the idea of leaving an injured bull. He replied that he wasn't anywhere in the valley so he must have rejoined the herd but without blood and none acting injured after the couple of hours since I'd hit him, I must have just stunned him.

I agreed and a little while later it occurred to me that most likely I'd pulled to the side (a habit I've been breaking on my open sights, problem with how I was lining up the front sight in the rear, not the windage or a trigger jerk) and knocked him in the head. With a winter coat of wool, an inch of meat, and a skull made to be knocked around, I didn't do any real damage to worry about.

I managed to harvest a good meaty bull later in the day, but resorted to my modern rifle. Didn't end up going back to the first herd. Won't go into off-topic detail on that. When we got up on him I considered finishing him off with the muzzleloader, but decided not to let him lay there while I fetched it. I also wanted its maiden kill to be a proper kill.
 

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An honest account of a hunt gone awry. Good on you for standing tall here, and in the field. Bottom line, animals get lost sometimes, and herd animals like buff and elk are the worst if they can get back into the herd.
 

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