Hunting Tatanka

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The morning started at my usual time of 5 AM.  Shannon and Trent said they would be ready at 9 AM as they live in Aberdeen just 28 miles north and wanted to get the family off to work and school before coming down to join me.  That was fine with me, as I had breakfast with the hunters from Wisconsin. They reviewed how to hunt Tatanka (Buffalo) and we visited about their success.   Great people and I enjoyed their company and wished them well as they left with a load of buffalo meat, hides and heads. 
South Dakota Prairie in the Winter

Shannon and Trent got to the lodge around 8 AM and we sat down and had some coffee.  The discussion was the plan of the best way to locate and stalk the buffalo.  A lot of the snow had melted then re-froze again leaving a crusty surface.  When we walked, we would crush through it making a lot of noise.  The buffalo would hear this crunch.  It was dead calm at the time we left but wind was to come up to 15 mph from the southwest, so we would have to walk toward that direction until a buffalo was spotted.

More of the plains
We started driving around the plains looking for either a grazing buffalo or one lying down chewing the cud.  They graze for a couple of hours and rest for several hours chewing away, then start over again.  Many pastures held hay bales and I assumed they would feed on the bales.  Not so.  They would lay by the bales out of the wind and in the sun, but did not feed on them.  Instead they always grazed the prairie grasses.
More of the plains.  This will not be easy.

It did not take long to spot a lone bull back up against a rise in the ground.  He was over 1000 yards away and we would have to stalk him to get close to a shot.  The plan was for the three of us to be in single file.  Shannon in the front, me in the middle, and Trent in 3rd place.  Each of them covered themselves with white camo.  Below a rise in the ground we started walking northwest to get in line with the bull.  
They like to lay by the hale bales

The prairie was rolling in this area so we were able to stay below the top of the hills where we might be spotted.  Periodically, Shannon would creep up to a high point and check our location in relationship to the bull.  The concern was that he might hear us crunching through the snow or if we got too close he might walk away.  Please note, I did not say run.  A large bull buffalo fears nothing.
The walking was really tough.  You would step on the snow, and with a loud crunch your weight would cause your boot to go through,  In six to eight inches or deeper in some spots, the walking was really tough, and again, I had too many clothes on.  A mere balmy 15 degrees was almost like spring to the residents of northern South Dakota.
When we were 90 degrees to the wind, Shannon went up to a rise on the prairie and took a look to our location.  We were still out almost 600 yards and had not closed much of the distance, but the wind would now be right in our face.  It was cold, but not uncomfortable and that would keep the animal from hearing us crunch through the snow due to the wind.  In single file we approached the great beast.  Periodically, he would stop grazing, turn and look straight at us, but he could only see one person or maybe nothing at all as we slowly closed the gap.  Tatanka fears no one.  Each time he took a look, we stopped and crouched down.  When he went back to grazing we started our slow approach.  
The walk had me really heated up.  What I should have done when we were below the tops of the rises  was to shed some clothes and pick them up when we walked back.  This is mentioned so that some of you that do this kind of hunt or a stalking hunt in the winter will do what I did not do. 
We reached a point where we stopped just to take a breather and I took the camera and put it on zoom and took the picture below.
I do not know what the yardage was at this point, but we slid off to the left of the picture to a better shooting position.

Slowly moving up to within about 300 yards, we stopped and picked out a wind blown spot to put down the shooting sticks.  My range finder showed 325 yards.  This would be the longest shot I have ever made.  However, this was almost like shooting at a billboard.  The wind was right in our face.  I was a little higher than the target and would be shooting somewhat downhill.  We could not go any closer for fear of him leaving or deciding to come over and say HELLO to whatever was standing and looking at him.   We did not want him to come over.  
As the rifle was placed in the sticks, he turned and his back side was staring straight at me.  This would be a bad shot.  Shannon stood off to my right and close.  Trent stayed right behind me.  Each of them whispered, “Wait.” I waited.  Then he turned to the right and gave me a total broadside view.  This was just beautiful.  The scope was placed on the sweet spot and adjusted for the distance.  The round was sent on it’s way.  I did not hear the thud, but the guys did and both said in unison, “Great shot!”  He took one step and stood totally still with his head dropping down.  Trent and Shannon both recommended another round, and it was sent to the target.  Shortly after the second thud, he fell to the ground and we waited about ten minutes before approaching him.  You never know what will happen with an animal this size.  He never moved the entire time we walked toward him. 
He has a really nice big head.  

Trent on the left and Shannon on the right facing the picture.  The hunters from Wisconsin were so right when they said you will have a great time with these two outfitters.

 He was outstanding and a really healthy animal.  The guys estimated his age at around five to seven years old.

I am shooting a Winchester Model 70 – 300 Win Mag, Federal Ammo with a Nosler 180 grain bullet.

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

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