Editor’s Note: Karl Badger of Salt Lake City, Utah, is Mossy Oak’s Big Game Regional Pro Staff Manager for the western states. He primarily hunts and guides for elks, mule deer, antelope and bighorn sheep. He hunts with both a Browning 7mm and a PSE Vendetta. His favorite Mossy Oak camo pattern for western hunting is Mossy Oak Brush, but that may change depending on the season. Badger says, “In the fall, our area has a lot of native grasses and sage, and most of the leaves have fallen off the trees. So, from the waist up, you may be in brown grass that looks just like Mossy Oak Brush. If you’re hunting in the mountains, this pattern also blends in with the rocks and terrain there.”
We have good populations of antelope in many places here in the West. I enjoy hunting antelope, because you can start in the middle of August when the season opens. When I’ve been waiting all year long to hunt, chasing antelope is a lot of fun. They live in wide-open spaces and have extremely-good eyesight, so making a stalk can be a real challenge. Most of the time, they spot you before you see them.
One of the places I love to hunt is around Flaming Gorge Reservoir, a huge body of water on the corner of Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. There are some really-large herds of antelope in this region. About 5- or 6-years ago, I was hunting around Flaming Gorge and had decided not to hunt over water. I really wanted to stalk the antelope. I had a lot of fun chasing those herds of antelope from one county to the next. Running from sage brush patch to sage brush patch to get within range of these critters was a real thrill. I really enjoy seeing those antelope and watching them run from place to place.
I started hunting that day before daylight, like I always do. There were about 30 or 40 antelope in the area we had decided to hunt. On this particular day, we got up well before daylight and started hunting in the direction we had seen the antelope the previous night. The sun had been up for about an hour when we finally saw the white rumps and tan bodies of the antelope grazing. The antelope were feeding and coming toward us. We had the wind in our favor and were well camouflaged with Mossy Oak Brush. We didn’t move, but something spooked those antelope. They ran for about a mile, then turned and fed back toward us. When the herd finally got within range, I took the best buck.
Watching those antelope feed, graze and run at speeds up to 30 miles per hour was more fun for me than taking the animal. I enjoy seeing and learning about the wildlife of the West, often more than taking the animal. About 4-years ago, Toxey Haas, the founder and creator of Mossy Oak, introduced the idea for all of us to become gamekeepers - stewards of the land. When Toxey came out with that agenda and sent it to all the regional managers, I really embraced the concept. It’s a thrill to test my skills, my stalking ability and my shooting accuracy with a rifle and a bow, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that a western big-game hunt should be more than just taking the animal. I’ve learned to love the experience of riding a horse through a pine-scented forest, to stop and enjoy the view of a snow-fed stream falling off a rocky cliff, to be hunting at 7,000 feet above sea level. Being in these wild places is a good way for me to clear my head and give thanks for the blessings I’ve received.