No Draw Tag? No Problem
Like many hunters, my life since college has turned into one long exercise in managing the chaos that is my schedule. While I do try to set aside time for one or two hunts a year, I often find myself sitting at home on weekends, envious of the subjects on my Instagram feed. This fall was no different. After completing an unenthusiastic move from Alaska to the east coast, my work schedule caused me to eat one of the most coveted draw caribou tags in the world, as well as a road accessible moose draw tag. In short, I needed a win.
I checked the calendar, and saw I had a four-day window in October. The mad search for an excuse to get back West ensued. It was a tall order, as it was far too late to apply for any tag lotteries, so I began to check the leftover tag lists. Every row showed the same result: Sold Out. Then, there she was, 542 tags available. How terrible must this tag be if it’s the only one left, and they remain in this quantity? It was the Wyoming Type 2 Antelope Tag: Private Land Only – something I dreaded. While I have nothing against private land hunting, it is definitely a more expensive option than my preferred usage of Public Land.
I began my research phase and read every discoverable forum that referenced the unit. The general consensus was the same, “If you’re not hunting with a guide, good luck finding a place to hunt. Guides lease out all the land.” I called the local Game and Fish office for some kind of landowner list. They had a doe only list, but all of those landowners were full. This pushed me to desperation. I started calling small ‘mom and pop’ sporting good stores in the unit. I called a motel. I even called a diner.
“Hi, my name’s Nate. I have a random question that is in no way related to your business. Do you have two minutes to spare? You wouldn’t happen to know a rancher…”
This continued for some time with only dry leads. I finally went on the Chamber of Commerce website and saw a link to the County Assessor page. There was the holy grail of rancher resources I had been searching for. Every ranch in the county was outlined on a map, exact acreage, and landowner name listed within its boundaries.
It was much like a desperate young man trying to get a phone number at a bar – I was given a myriad of resounding “NOs”. They were either in a relationship (leased to a guide) or they just didn’t want to. One pleasant old timer even cussed me out for having the audacity to call him around dinner time. Finally, I caught the break I needed.
“Hello, sir, I’m sorry to bother you this evening, but could my family and I come hunt antelope on your land?”
For a very reasonable trespassing fee, we secured 16,000 contiguous acres with no one else hunting on it. That’s roughly 30 square miles all to ourselves.
We saw in excess of 1,500 antelope in two days, had access to a bathroom, and filled our coolers with four antelope. All this for the price of a Colorado elk tag. The moral of this story, don’t give up after you get rejected one or two, or 20, times. There are good hunting opportunities everywhere for the last-minute unguided hunter if you are bold, creative, and persistent.
Good luck, and happy hunting.