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Women’s hunt addresses food security

by admin

Wyoming women have a long history of being hardy and not easily deterred, whether in the political arena or in everyday life. When it was learned that food insecurity affects children and families throughout the state, women in Wyoming helped step up to address the issue.

The Wyoming Women’s Foundation (WYWF) was established in 1999 to raise funds to benefit local women and the communities they live in. The association’s mission is to invest in the economic self-sufficiency of women and opportunities for girls in Wyoming.

To this end, the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt was created in 2013 as a platform not only for hunting but also for mentoring and developing camaraderie between women.

A valuable annual event

Hunting is a tradition in Wyoming, and teaching women the skills it requires can help them succeed in providing their families with nutritious food. This event emphasizes hunter safety, ethics and the conservation and management of natural resources. Hunters of all skill levels are welcome, including first-time hunters.

With the help of many generous sponsors, WYWF offers scholarships for about one third of the typically 40 plus hunters from across the nation who attend. Non-scholarship women may choose to self-pay or obtain either corporate or private sponsorships.

2020 Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt

This year’s hunt was held Oct. 8-11 at the ranch at Ucross near Clearmont. Forty hunters representing 10 states were in attendance. The two youngest hunters were 13 years old. 

Upon arrival at the ranch, hunters checked in and were transported to the gun range for sight-in of their rifles. Some hunters brought their own firearms, while others used loaner rifles. There was also a field skills course for those who wished to participate.

Meals were served and programs held in a tent at the ranch. The first evening hosted a welcome dinner, where hunters had the opportunity to meet their hunting partners and the landowners who would be hosting them. Most landowners either acted as guides or trained their own. Generally, there were two hunters per guide, although some had three due to changes regarding possible COVID-19 concerns.

Hunters were up early Friday morning to begin their adventure. Guides transported the women to mostly privately-owned land surrounding Ucross. Hazy air prevented clear views of the Big Horn Mountains, but there was plenty of pronghorn habitat to the east, including alfalfa fields and sagebrush-covered hills scattered with volcanic lava rocks. Much of this rock was atop the hills in large piles, making them handy to hide behind when sneaking closer to get a better look at an animal.

Throughout the day hunters returned to the ranch as they filled their tags. Mentors were available for those who wanted assistance in processing their own meat, or the animal could be taken to Big Horn Meat Cutting in Buffalo to be processed. A third option was to donate part or all of the meat to the local food bank. For those wanting taxidermy work done, Rusty’s Taxidermy of Gillette was on hand as well.

Other activities were available over the weekend for women whose teams had finished hunting. These included fly tying, fly fishing, archery, trapshooting and a wild game cooking demonstration.

The Friday evening program featured both live and silent auctions plus raffles. Gov. Mark Gordon was present to address a festive audience and proclaim Oct. 8-11, 2020 as “Commitment to Wildlife Conservation and Equality Days in Wyoming.”

Saturday morning began again with hunters leaving the ranch to fill remaining tags. Hunting partners were encouraged to accompany those who hadn’t yet harvested in the spirit of mentorship and camaraderie.

That evening was a celebration of the entire weekend. 

After dinner, hunters were recognized for exhibiting competence in specific areas. This included all new big game hunters harvesting for the first time, hunters taking their antelope with one shot, the individual who shot at closest range, a personal character award and finally, the team with the closest average shot distance. 

Hunters and guides alike then told stories about their experiences in the field. Many of these were comical as well as thought-provoking, and they were enjoyed by all.

During the night, the weather changed drastically, and everyone woke on Sunday morning to rain and high winds. After breakfast, people prepared to leave, promising old and new friends to stay in touch.

One of the most important aspects of the entire hunt was the 254 pounds of boned out and processed meat donated to the Bread of Life Food Pantry in Buffalo.

For more information on the annual Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt, visit wywf.org or wyomingwomensantelopehunt.org.

Melissa Burke is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to roundup@wylr.net.

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