Wyoming Prairie Dog Hunt: Score!

Dog Hunting north of Laramie, WY

Now I can tell you what the hype is all about for prairie dog hunts!  I just returned from a customer hunt in Wyoming.  We met in Denver, stopped by the HIVIZ offices for a brief tour and meetings before heading up to Albany, WY.   The road sign says it all:A beautiful area and some very nice people!  Of course in a town of 15 people, you either get a great bunch or you are pretty much out of luck for the weekend with your alternative.   The guide met us and took us out the very first evening.  I hadn’t done this before and was a little leery of whether or not I’d even be able to have success at the yardages we would be shooting.  The shots ranged from 110 yards to 650+ yards at the different dog towns we set up at each day.  Driving up, I’m thinking, there’s nothing out there I can see.  Of course you’re talking about a the “blind woman shooting” (I think I’ll make a T-shirt!)….  But do wonders never cease?!  I hit one, then another and another !  Wahoo….. this is kind of cool!

We stayed out just a few hours the first evening and headed back in to the cabin.  The cook had dinner prepared while we settled in and relaxed.  The next morning we got up early…some of us earlier than others.  I’m early riser so I headed out to take a walk down the road from the cabin on the ranch.  Lots of ground squirrels, two young elk, and one lonely badger.  Absolutely gorgeous.

Sunrise from our balcony in Albany

After a huge breakfast, fixed by our character of a cook, Kyle, we headed out about 1 hour drive north to another ranch to set up for a full day of dog hunting.  Four shooters and the guide did some spotting for us.  Now look beyond my scope…. there is a whole lot of what looks like nothing out there.

“Wide Open Spaces…”

So, Brandon, our guide/spotter kept telling me, “you have one…look just left of the white spot by the sage”; or “there’s one in the tall grass”.  “Tall” ….Believe me, there is nothing tall on this prairie!  And white spots and sage bushes describe just about everything you can see!  We had some good laughs at his vague descriptions…  But anyone wanting a lot of trigger time, prairie dog hunting definitely fits the bill.  We had expected 2 full days of hunting for four of us and ended up with that plus 2 half days in addition.  Between the different rifles, the four of us had probably a minimum of 4000 rounds and went through nearly all of it.

It wasn’t the “killing” that was thrilling to me at all.  After all, I did have my reservations about this before hand.  But even while we were there, predators were helping themselves to the spoils.  Lots of birds while we were still shooting were coming in to feast.  The coyotes came in the evenings and you couldn’t tell we had even been in the area.  All the brass was cleaned up before we left the area.

My longest successful shot was just around 550 + yards.  Having my first elk hunt lined up for this fall, this experience really boosted my shooting confidence level.  Afterall, if I can hit this little guy at that distance, surely I can place an accurate shot on an elk at 200 yards or so – right?

Napping?…I think not!

I would highly recommend Texas Specialty Hunts, www.texasspecialtyhunts.com, to anyone looking for a reliable and friendly guide service!

What’s all the Hype with Prairie Dogs Anyway….?

Are you looking at me?!

     What is all the hype with hunting prairie dogs?  I don’t know, but when mentioning a prairie dog shoot to a buyer or rep, they are all over that!  When can we go?!   I have never done this before and had reservations about doing this…since it isn’t something you actually eat around here.  They are very destructive for ranchers and other agricultural properties.  They live in burrows and have 1-6 entrances per burrow.  The entrances, ranging in size from 4-12″ in diameter, can be what they term craters or dome craters, where they mound the dirt about a foot high.    They live in large colonies or “towns” than can cover hundreds of acres.      Plus I figured shooting them on the plains is better than poisoning them like some urban developments do and then having possible poisoning to the hawks, Golden Eagles, fox, badgers, ferrets, Burrowing Owls, and other  predators that are going to dine on these tasty little fur balls.   So, in the circle of life, I deemed this not so terrible after all.  Oh, did I mention they are susceptible to bubonic plague where many wild colonies have been wiped out from time to time.     So much for that… my boss in past years has hosted some OEM accounts to prairie dog hunts in Wyoming and they still talk about how much fun they had!  Apparently this is pretty big business in Wyoming..and I’m sure parts of Colorado and a few other states in the region.  But I was surprised to find out they actually have “guided prairie dog hunts”…tons of outfitters up there that conduct these, some complete with lodging, meals, and they combine it with perhaps a little fishing in the area over the summer months.  I had no idea this was such a big deal.  I mean, growing up back east, we shot squirrels…but I don’t think there are “guides for that”.  

    We had one distributor in particular that just grew phenomenally last year for us!  The Buyer there has done a fantastic job!….oh…and our rep too.  I invited them to join us this summer for a prairie dog hunt.  Their eyes lit up immediately!  They’re in!       Now I need to get geared up for this…I only have a tricked out 10/22 that I use in competitions…ok for closer yardages, but I didn’t have a “varmint rifle”.  So late last summer I picked up a Remington 700 model .22-250.   Everyone I asked had different opinions on the proper scope I needed… how confusing!   I decided to go to the top and spoke directly with Cyndi Flannigan of Leupold to get her recommendation for the proper scope.   How could I go wrong there? 

   The Leupold scope is a 6.5-20 x 50mm ….very nice.  One of the guys in here instructed me on mounting the rings, and lapping them before attaching the scope.  I learned so much!  I’m sighted it in finally when the weather warmed up a bit here in Colorado.  This was the first time I had shot this caliber…a little more “punch” to it than what I expected!  As I was doing this by myself at the range one day, I started at 50 yards and shot one to see how far off I was, made the adjustments on the windage and elevation.  Shot one more that was very close and moved over to the 100 yard range.  Shot a few more with minor adjustments and had a good group, slightly high at 100 yards, but then I am expecting to shoot closer to 200 yards on some of these shots anyway.  I called it good, …yadayadayada…so I’m not a perfectionist.  The groups were good!

  The scheduled hunt (shoot) is next weekend already!  Ammo supplies were getting tight this spring.  Luckily I had ordered the different calibers we were all bringing early before they were all running out of stock.  (Gee, could be an election year.  Anyone else seeing a pattern here?) A few days up at the base of the Snowy Mountain Range in Wyoming, out to the plains for lots of shooting during the day and a stop over at the Saratoga Hot Springs on the way back!  Not that’s how I see a nice finish to a fun couple of days!

Oh the Stories at Babes With Bullets Camps…

Danielle of Smith & Wesson and Maggie Reese Instructing

The third week of April I attended another Babe’s With Bullets Camp in Shreveport, LA at Kay and Jerry Miculek‘s range.  This camp was a rifle/pistol combo instruction.  Of course the M&P pistols that S&W provides for the camps all have the HIVIZ sights installed on them. 
We had about 30 women, some of us sponsors of the camps and/or women of the industry attending, S&W, HIVIZ, Atlanta Ammo, Ducks Unlimited, etc.  One younger girl that came on at the last minute had been quite competitive and played international soccer a few years back.  Long story short, she had been in a bad car accident which ended her budding soccer career.  She is one of those natural athletes and her dad wanted to see her get back into a sport that would drive her competive nature once again.  Well, some of us stayed in the bunk house on the range, there being several bunks in our room.  I was the oldest of the women in there.  I was elected for the top bunk, the very TALL top bunk.  We let the young 20 year old girl, having permanent rods in her legs from the accident and Maggie Reese, one of the instructors and former Top Shots alum coming off knee surgery, have the two bottom bunks.  I’m the early riser in the bunk house…so I’m slowly trying to climb down in the dark.  I must have been making some creaking and groaning, old-lady-struggling-sounds, when the 20 year old on the bottom calls up “can you get down alright?!”  Bless her heart, rods in both her legs and all…but boy did that make me feel old and darned it made me want to beat her time on the stage when we got out there!  I may be “older” but certainly not “OLD”!  The other “older” ladies there got a kick out of that story though. 

Instructors, I don’t think you could ask to be in the company of any better!  Kay Miculek I believe holds the most National and World titles of any woman shooter!  Maggie Reese and Athena Lee, both top competitors and Top Shot alums.  Annette Aysen, Master Class revolver shooter and Lisa Munson another National and World title holder and Shiela Brey.  All amazing from different walks of life but with this one common thread, shooting sports.  Athena is originally from the Phillipines and one late evening a small group of us was sitting around relaying stories and using an old adage to describe someone we all new.  We laughed and laughed…Athena laughed…and after awhile stops dead face serious and says, “what does that mean anyway?”  Too funny.  What an incredible group of ladies. 

USA Shooting came out the last two days to film us running the stages.  Of course those camera guys have a way of sneaking up on you when one lady finished her stage and was relaying her feelings about a little blip she had on a few of the targets…..well, lets just say those little “blips” are now going to be “bleeped” from any airing!  Ooops!  She will now be forever known to me as ______ “FREAKIN” ______ , (who shall remain anonymous in my blog).

Between stages and waiting your turn to shoot one lady, Jennifer was teaching some of us her belly dancing moves.  I don’t know how she moved like that…apparently not to be on my lists of talents!  After awhile another lady is joining in….gee I never had the guys I shoot with be this entertaining! In fact, I really don’t want to see any of the guys at my range belly dancing!

Oh…the stories we could tell!

The Hunt is On Baby! ….(for Women’s Hunting Apparel!!!)

My daughter and two other hunters maybe...all rolled into one!

I just put down a deposit on my first guided elk hunt for this fall!  I am so excited.  Bison, black bear, and now my third hunt EVER…bull elk in Colorado.  Bit by bit I’ve been acquiring hunting gear, as I was starting from scratch not long ago.  Must haves first, my Remington 700, 30-06 rifle and Luepold scope.  Nice rifle sling, range finder, and some Primos Trigger sticks, www.primos.com.

The first hunt I was fortunate enough to be at the Prois, www.proishunting.com,  shop in Gunnison during a WOMA Retreat, www.thewoma.com, nearby and picked up some fantastic women’s RealTree camo pants and jacket.  Great fit and feel.  They did it right!

The second trip for bear, as it was being filmed by TNT Outdoor Explosion, www.tntoutdoorexplosion.com, and their other sponsor was Mossy Oak, I was now scrambling to find some Mossy Oak pattern clothing to wear.  This entailed a little more searching on the internet as just about every major outdoor retailer carries Mossy Oak patterns, not as many carry women’s sizes.  I thought maybe I can settle for a men’s small.  Well, the smallest they carried was a men’s medium!  I finally found some at Russell Outdoors that still carried Women’s Mossy Oak …and one of those items was now discontinued.  I did find pants and jacket in my size, but it wasn’t my first choice at the time.

Now as I am preparing for my fall elk hunt, I need the blaze orange vest and hat.  Hat no problem…vest is another story.  I know I don’t need to be fashionable out there, but the first couple outdoor retailers I visited had 3XL and 2XL.  Really?  I finally found a men’s medium…again the smallest they had out.  Took it home and it was huge even over my heavy camo jacket.  Three retailer visits later, I ended up returning the vest.  This running all over shopping is making me tired…I’m thinking I’m going to have to train hard this summer if I’m ever going to keep up on an elk hunt now!   In my searching I came across one lone ladies vest.  Nice but $160 was not getting me too excited here.  Now my physical ailments have just been compounded with a headache!   This vest hunt will continue at a later date I’m afraid.

Last week I returned from the NBS show in Fort Worth.  While there I came across another vendor, Kenetrek Boots, www.kenetrek.com.  They had some fantastic insulated women’s hunting boots.  I had boots already, but not good quality insulated boots.  I know if I’m going to enjoy my hunt, warmth is a big plus in my world!  I spent a little time in their booth.  He measured my foot and let me try on a pair.   I’m sold!  I was able to purchase my boots the following week and have had them out twice so far. Very comfortable.  He suggested I put about 30 miles on them before the actual hunt to break them in.  Plenty of bike trails close to the house and as the temps warm up a bit, I can hit the trails in the foothills by Fort Collins.  I’m determined to be in shape and have comfortable boots!

Gloves:  I have some “youth” hunting mitten/gloves that aren’t too warm.  I found plenty of men’s huge  gloves….which is ok if I don’t have to actually handle a rifle or use the reins on the horse I’ll be riding in on for the hunt….gee two things that may be slightly critical.  I did come across another vendor, Manzella www.manzella.com.  At the end of the show when I had a little time to look around, I stopped in his booth and noticed he had only men’s large sizes in his booth.  I spoke with him a few moments and shared my plans for this fall.  He remembered and at the next trade show he brought over 2 pair of women’s gloves for me to try!   Outstanding!  My fingers actually fill in the gloves!  I can be functional with these.  Such a little thing, but it means a lot to have fit and functionality for hunting.

While I am piecing together my clothing, the outfitter sent a checklist: minimum 0 degree sleeping bag.  I thinking if he is suggesting 0 degree bag for his usual big burly hunters, -30 degree bag is going to be my minimum to stay warm at night!  I found one online at MidwayUSA, www.midwayusa.com.  It delivered this past week and my gosh, am I glad horses are packing us in!  This is huge!  Definitely not your backpacking size bag; very toasty though!  Along with this, I am taking an insulated foam pad to put beneath the bag on the cot.  This will keep the cold air from permeating through.

I have one more item to get, a good hunting pack.  I have my eye on a Badlands pack model 2200.  It has the hydration pack available and the gun pouch for the butt of your rifle when strapping it to your pack.

I’m more fortunate than the average person. Working the trade shows in the industry, I am able to at least see what is available for women. Granted it is still somewhat limited, but the women’s market is definitely growing.  Don’t give up and settle for the men’s clothing that doesn’t fit!  A little time researching and you will find what works best for you.  Really, it has to be better than the men’s 2XL and 3XL’s adorning all the local retailers racks!

Evolution of my “princess” …..

My "Girlie-Girl"

My daughter at 22 years old, came with me to her first Babes with Bullets Camp, www.babeswithbullets.com. We hopped in the truck with all my gear loaded and began our road trip north from Colorado through Wyoming and Montana, ending in Plains, MT, north western side of Montana and 14 hours drive for us from Fort Collins, CO.  I have my concealed carry permit and two ladies driving alone in no-mans land that far, I had the seat holster and my M&P 9mm between my knees.  I can only imagine my daughter thinking what did her mom get her into here!

My daughter has never shot nor really had much interest in going to the range to watch me shoot any of my competitions as of yet.  Somehow I talked her into signing up for the camp.  She was the “girlie-girl”in camp when we got there.

She had no idea before hand what to actually expect.  Keep in mind you have Kay Miculek and other top competitors teaching the camps.  We shoot 600+ rounds in two and a half days.  The first day about noon, my daughter tells me she is tired and thinks she’s had enough shooting for one day.  Oh no…dear, you aren’t close to being done with these ladies!

I see a little lip quivering and I’m thinking, please don’t cry in front of these women… Had it not been my daughter I would’ve been thinking, get your big girl panties on and get with the program already!  But this is my baby, and somehow she sucked it up and when it was all over, had a great time and has shot more since attending her first camp. It was a fantastic mother/daughter trip that neither one of us will ever forget.

This past year I went with her when she purchased her first firearm!  My princess has evolved!  From “girlie-girl”, which she still is….to purchasing her first firearm. What a journey for her, and it’s only beginning! 

Montana Babes With Bullets Camp

I am so proud of her and excited for her journey that lies ahead, not just in shooting sports, but all the opportunities for her to experience new adventures in life.  Don’t be afraid to reach beyond your comfort zone!

“Bearly” There for Christmas!

 The week before Christmas and also happened to be my birthday..the taxidermist called to let me know my bear rug from my May hunt in Canada was finished!  Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to me! 

Being this was my first big taxidermist work, I was very anxious to get it back. I felt like a little kid waiting for that big present at Christmas…. then again, what’s wrong with being a kid at heart? 

Well of course I had to put him on the floor in front of the fireplace for a picture first.  Who hasn’t heard of the nice bear skin rug in front of the crackling fireplace in the middle of Colorado with a bottle of Merlot and… oh…oh another story..ha!

Pictures taken, my daughter came by and helped me hang him on the wall in the livingroom.  After some laughing and a few errant nail holes in the wall, we finally have him placed just right!  Some how on the wall, he looks more like this enormous flying squirrel!  Looked better on the floor, but the wall turned out to be more practical.  We’ll live with it.

Now as I sit back and enjoy the bear skin, I’m eyeing up other wall space for elk….it’s on my list!!!

Count your blessings…

Yesterday brought sad news with a call from one of our reps that Ray Murski had passed away in an auto accident.   Ray, among many other things, owned Murski-Breeding Sales.  I was just getting to know Ray a little more with each show or visit.  He was very kind to me and was the first one with words of encouragement when I returned from my first hunt.   It was maybe not significant to others, but it’s one of those moments that meant something and will stick with me.  Of course later he shamed me into buying my first Remington rifle! 

I know Ray had touched many lives and my heart goes out to his family and the Murski-Breeding group I’ve come to work with.  “Extended family” as it may be, the pain felt for those is real.  I can only be thankful that I was fortunate enough to have my path cross with Ray’s…even if it was for a short time.  

This morning brought more sad news of another rep’s passing, Tim Schlatter with Ferguson-Keller & Associates.   Tim and I did the Bass Pro meetings together….another very gentle and kind man.   They referred to him as their “Gentle Giant”.   It is truly our loss.   This time of year only seems to compound the blow.  Death is very much a part of life, however difficult it is to accept, yet we must. 

I can’t say enough about the short time we spend here.  Celebrate each day and count the blessings of those friends you’re able to share part of your life with along the way, no matter how brief it may be.  Life continues with cherished memories of their lives.

The Corporate Side of the Outdoor World