Annual hunt empowers women of Wyoming
In 2013, a group of female trailblazers, referred to today as the “Founding Does,” established the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt through the Wyoming Women’s Foundation (WYWF) to provide an opportunity for mentorship and camaraderie between women across the state.
The goal of the event is to provide education on sustainability and to encourage self sufficiency, while emphasizing hunter safety, hunting and land ethics, conservation and natural resource management.
Held Oct. 12-15 at UCross in Buffalo, this year’s event offered a venue for mentorship, community, camaraderie and sisterhood, while empowering women across the state of Wyoming.
Hailing from all four corners of Wyoming and everywhere in between, women participating in the hunt come from all walks of life and have unique reasons for getting involved.
For first-time hunter Alli Anderson of Cheyenne, partaking in the annual hunt always seemed to be in the cards. In fact, Anderson’s mom was a Founding Doe who participated in the first and fifth annual hunts.
“Last year, the 10th year, my mom asked if I wanted to go but I wasn’t sure I was ready to hunt at the time, so I went and volunteered instead,” she explained. “Then, I had the opportunity to be a part of a sponsor team this year, so I took the opportunity and was able to hunt.”
Conversely, Rock Springs resident Karolina Klatka, a first-time hunter as well, stumbled across the opportunity.
Originally from Poland, Klatka moved to Rock Springs at the age of 10, where her dad became interested in hunting and started to learn more about it. Although she was intrigued by the sport as well, Klatka noted she was pretty uncertain about it at the time.
“While working at a land trust in Driggs, Idaho, one of my coworkers – a wildlife biologist – mentioned, for him, hunting was the best way to get close to animals and to really understand them,” she shared. “I think I had this view that people who care about nature and the environment didn’t hunt, which I now know is not the case, but he helped me shift my view and become more interested in learning about hunting.”
Although she heard of the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt years ago in passing conversation, Klatka said she stumbled upon the WYWF while looking for something completely unrelated, which is how she got involved in this year’s hunt.
Anderson explained the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt is a four-day event, starting on a Thursday, in which participants check in and sight-in their guns at a shooting range to make sure their firearms are aiming correctly.
“On Thursday night there is a welcome dinner, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department goes over the rules, some hunter safety and explains how things are going to go,” she said. “We also get to find our guide(s) and our hunting partner. They try to pair experienced hunters with first-time hunters, but it doesn’t always happen.”
Friday and Saturday are hunting days, and women are given the choice to shoot a buck or a doe, although Anderson notes many usually opt to go for a buck.
Hunters who don’t bag an antelope on the first day have the opportunity to go back out to the field again the next day, but for those lucky enough to succeed in the first 24 hours, there are plenty of other activities to partake in back at the ranch.
“There is fly fishing, trap shooting and wild game cooking demonstrations,” stated Anderson. “Hunters can also process their own meat at the ranch.”
She further noted on Friday night, participants are invited to an auction dinner with both silent and live auctions and some raffle drawings.
“On Saturday night, after the second day of the hunt, there is a recognition banquet where they give out a variety of awards and honor some of the guides, landowners and sponsors,” she said.
For Anderson and Klatka the weekend was both memorable and successful, as both women brought home a horned trophy – Anderson on the first day and Klatka on the second.
“I was really fortunate. I got my antelope at 8:15 a.m. on the first day, and my partner was fortunate to get her antelope that afternoon,” stated Anderson.
Klatka shared her first day wasn’t quite so successful.
“We had a very ‘Friday the 13th’ kind of day. It seemed like a lot of things were going against us,” she laughed. “But, we did have some opportunities to get close to antelope, and we were able to spend some time observing them, which I enjoyed.”
“The second day was a gorgeous day. The sun was starting to come up, and there was this beautiful fog. We spotted one antelope by himself in the morning, and I was able to get him, which was really exciting,” she added.
Sisterhood of the Sage
When it comes to their favorite part of the experience, both women noted it was hard to choose just one thing.
“One of my favorite parts was being out in the field and observing the animals,” shared Klatka. “I got to know antelope better – their habits, patterns and behaviors. I’ve observed antelope for awhile doing field work in other capacities and driving by them on the highway, but it was exciting to spend some time really focusing on them.”
“I have never been against hunting, but I also never felt the need to do it. It was something new that I wasn’t super comfortable with so I didn’t know if I could do it well,” commented Anderson. “Challenging myself to know I could do it, while experiencing all of the emotions that come with it – feeling strong and powerful, but a little sad and very grateful – was really powerful for me.”
The two agree their second favorite thing was the camaraderie and sisterhood they felt during the event.
“I ended up in a group of four on the second day, and the camaraderie I felt between the four of us while working together toward this common goal was so exciting,” Klatka stated.
“They say you join the ‘Sisterhood of the Sage’ when you complete the hunt, and the event really could not amplify this more from start to finish,” added Anderson. “Everybody there supports the WYWF and are in support of women hunting. There is no judgement of first-time hunters or nerves and emotions surrounding hunting.”
“There are aways people who are willing to answer questions, share stories and make new friends, and I can’t say enough how true it is that there is really this sisterhood and community around the event,” she continued. “It is incredibly powerful how impactful it is.”
Additionally, Anderson noted she appreciates the conservation and ethics focus WYWF places on the hunt, and Klatka shared how impressed she was with the event, further expressing her hope to continue hunting and promoting women in the field.
“I hope I am able to keep hunting in the future. I would like to make it a yearly thing and maybe mentor other women or people who don’t have experience but want to learn more,” she said. “I am really grateful for the WYWF and all of the people who made the hunt possible because it was truly an incredible event.”
For more information on the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt, visit wywf.org/antelope-hunt.
Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.