Hunting out west can be a great adventure. There are a lot of animals to see and hunt. The scenery is so different from the east and the states vary greatly east to west.

I remember the first time I saw those crazy little prairie dogs, so unlike our woodchucks back home. Farmers here hate the undermining created by our groundhog. I can only imagine what the ranchers out there think of the prairie dog with his vast cities. Their cities can stretch for miles on these vast ranches.

The size of a prairie dog is about a third of the size of a groundhog. If you take a gun to shoot prairie dogs, you better prepare to shoot an accurate rifle, one that doesn’t burn a high volume of powder. I shot a lot of prairie dogs on my last trip. They are everywhere and do carry diseases. Never handle a prairie dog because they carry plague.

Then there are the antelope, which hop about on these plains. They are unique and easy to identify because of their size and color. They are the fastest animal in the United States. I shot an antelope in Wyoming. They move so quickly that you must wait for them to stand still. Your success rate on these animals is high as they are plentiful.

If you move to the more mountainous regions of the west, then you are sure to spot the large mule deer. Mule deer are related to whitetail deer. They are named for their large mule-like ears and can weigh up to 300 pounds. They range up to 30 miles, though usually 4 to 5 miles is normal. West of the Mississippi you can find them with their black tipped tails. Their antlers have branches on them, and they can have magnificent racks. A mule deer has a very different gate. They hop on all four legs. There are two different type of mule deer: the Rocky Mountain and the Desert.

Elk also can be hunted out west and are the largest species within the deer family. They are massive, weighing up to 500 pounds and can be 9 feet tall. That’s a lot of elkburgers, which are very tasty.

An elk is not a Caribou. They are two different species. Elk lose their antlers in March but grow them back in May. If you do go hunting for elk, be prepared for their huge antlers that can’t just be stored back in a plane; they are too big.

There are some stories about our area having mule deer. I do not believe so as I have never seen one. These animals out west really are the biggest hunted but there are plenty of other interesting things to hunt out west including coyotes, goats, and sheep, to name a few. No, I am not talking about the sheep or goats we have here. The sight of a mountain goat or a big horn sheep is thrilling. Grizzly bears are protected and not hunted in the United States.

Why was I thinking about hunting out west? Well, my friends are out there hunting this week. Burt and Kaitlyn Snyder, Bob Ament from Bradford, Hunter and Mike Weber of Scenery Hill. They are hunting at Montana Outfitters at Bear Paw Mountain, Montana.

Hunter’s beautiful mule deer was bedded at 1,900 yards. She stalked him for one hour and took her shot at 160 yards. Mike Weber saw the buck a mile out and did a half-mile sneak. He was bedded down by some pine and Mike shot him at 60 yards. The buck ran 40 yards before dropping.

Congratulations to all of them and I hear that Burt’s buck was the biggest.

The pictures tell the story and I enjoyed them very much. They brought back memories of a great hunt out west. If ever you get a chance to go out west, you should prepare properly as these areas are vast. Licenses are not a problem, and if you go on a hunt with an outfitter they will have all the details for you.

George Block writes a weekly outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.

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