Jim's Outdoor Blog

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The Quest – Dave Heffner is a man on a mission.




The Quest – A Man on a Mission

        Dave Heffner is a man on a mission.  Thus far in his seventeen-year quest to harvest an antelope buck with a bow in every state offering a tag, he has been successful in seven and hunted in New Mexico and Wyoming twice.  Unfortunately, drawing a tag in his state of residence, Oregon, has eluded him.  Using both traditional and modern archery equipment, Dave has undertaken what would amount to a serious challenge for most any hunter.

        Dave began thinking about pursuing antelope while deer hunting over a water hole in northern California’s Modoc County.  He was fascinated by the colorful antelope, which he observed from tree stands as they stopped in to quench their thirst.  He began reading everything he could find on this fleet footed critter and channel surfed through television outdoor programs hoping to view actual hunts.  While deer hunting in pronghorn country, Dave visited the camps of nearby antelope hunters, asking many questions of they and their hunting guide.  After successfully drawing a tag and harvesting an antelope in Nevada’s 1990 archery season, he was hooked.

His next pronghorn hunt came two years later on familiar ground in Modoc County, California, near the town of Lookout.  This hunt became a grueling seven-day test of willpower in ninety-degree plus August heat.  Having sought the services of a guide, Dave would be sitting on some of the same waterholes he utilized when hunting deer.

The guide had only two archery clients and since the other man harvested a buck on his first day, Dave never saw another hunter.  It was the end of a long drought and many traditional water sources had gone dry.  Day after fourteen-hour-day, with a vigil extending from before daylight until after dark, no antelope came into view.  With the exception of a ragged coyote and a bat that spent the day in his backpack, Dave saw no other animals.  Not until the seventh day did a buck come in for a drink.  After shooting it, this antelope nearly joined Dave in the open-pit blind he had occupied for so many long-drawn-out hours. 

        Future hunts took Dave to northeast Wyoming near Casper in 1994 and he hunted just outside of Roswell, New Mexico in 1995.  He saw very few antelope and not a single alien.  His Colorado hunt in 1997 was near Maybell in Moffat County, located in the upper northwest corner of that state and Dave returned to New Mexico in 1998, hunting close to the small town of Vaughn.  In southeast Montana he was in serious Prairie Dog country near Olive.  He harvested his Montana buck early in the morning on September 11, 2001.  He revisited Wyoming in 2004. 

Dave’s ninth and most recent hunt took place in August 2007 in the northwest corner of South Dakota near the town of Buffalo.  In South Dakota he saw every kind of weather imaginable, including huge hailstones, heavy rain, extreme winds and sunshine, all inside a short five-day hunt.  The outfitter and ranch owner had four hunters on his property and Dave was the sole member of the group to head home with a buck.

        Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife can count antelope as a genuine success story.  Pronghorn numbers and available tags increase every year, but it is a work in progress.  Those seeking to take an antelope with archery equipment in Oregon have a greater chance of drawing a tag than hunters intending to use a modern rifle.  But, even with increased odds, in a given year there are still fewer than 800 antelope tags available to Oregon bow hunters.  In 2007, over 20,000 Oregon rifle hunters vied for just under 2,000 antelope tags. 

        In four of the past five years, Dave spent late summer and fall guiding antelope and deer hunts for an outfitter in Wyoming, thereby making himself unavailable for Oregon’s pronghorn season.  He hopes to acquire his Oregon resident archery tag in 2008 or 2009.  He is also seeking antelope tags in Idaho and Arizona, eager to travel to one of these states in the not too distant future. 

       Dave’s quest requires time, money and a large measure of patience.  He applies to state after state for non-resident antelope tags, knowing he will be unsuccessful for a given number of successive years.  Obviously, for this Oregon Hunter, planning for and merely obtaining this big game tag has become a good deal of the prize.


March 11, 2008 - Posted by | Deer, Elk, Antelope, Big Horns and Such

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