by Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily
Famous actors, astronauts, and sportsmen have been featured at the Lander One Shot Antelope Hunt, coming up later this week, but a hunt 22 years ago by then-Gov. Jim Geringer was one of the most unusual ever.
Astronauts Jim Lovell and Frank Borman, actors Roy Rogers and Larry Hagman, sportsmen like Joe Foss and Chuck Yeager, and others have annually populated the event. Locals justifiably call it the Super Bowl of Shooting Sports.
Back in 2000, Gov. Geringer had one doozy of a hunt. It was full of tenacity, horrible weather, poor decision-making, miles and miles of hiking, tourists scared out of their wits, and more.
Geringer was using his son-in-law’s loads and perhaps over-estimated their power. When he aimed at his antelope, it started moving and when he led it, he scored a hit but only wounded it. The buck ran over the hill.
What to do now?
Normally, the guides get back into the four-wheel drive vehicles and drive very fast trying to keep up. Antelope are the swiftest animals in North America, capable of running 60 mph, and there is no way a human can stalk one on foot.
Until this Saturday.
Stalking An Antlope On Foot?
Geringer told his guides Bill Gustin and Travis Moffat that he would take off on foot and he encouraged them to go find a buck for his hunting partner, the former Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson of Alpine, Tex.
It took Jackson, a tall rangy, slow-talking feller, just 29 minutes
to bag his antelope with one shot. Then that group took off trying to find the governor, who had taken off on foot at a brisk pace.
The group could occasionally able to talk by cell phone and once in a while, could see Geringer walking along the tops of the high hills and ridges in the Sweetwater area about 40 miles southeast of Lander.
The guide caught up with the governor at one point. He had been
on his own for over an hour by then and had walked up and down hills four miles from his original starting point.
Geringer jumped into Gustin’s pickup and they drove for about two minutes before he decided the country was too big and he felt he had been on the buck’s trail of small blood spots. He said he would meet the group at Diamond Springs, which was a long, long ways off but it was in the direction the antelope was going.
So, they left him there on the ridge line and headed back to Joaquin where Moffat was cleaning his animal.
Of course, cell phones would only work when folks were both on top of ridges or hills, which is sort of hard to do since most roads follow the valleys.
The hunting party (minus the governor) gradually headed over to a high area and waited. And waited some more.
Never Lost A Governor Before
The guides on the One Shot are among the best around. They often joke that they’ve never lost a hunter in almost 80 years. Gustin may have been thinking aloud when he said, “I wonder if anyone has lost a governor before?”
Finally, word came that Geringer was on the Oregon Trail, which was over five miles away, as the crow flies, and more than that by the circular roads needed to navigate the area.
Once back in the guide’s vehicle, Geringer was getting impatient and suggested they turn around and head back in the original direction. Then he got out and walked over the ridge. Pretty soon, he motioned that he thought he had found that wounded buck.
Sure enough, it was the same one.
Geringer quickly loaded up, took aim, shot and put the injured buck out its pain.
That night at the One Shot Victory Banquet, Geringer said, “That antelope would have died a natural death – he would have been eaten by a coyote, probably eaten alive. I didn’t want that – I wanted to put him out of his misery.
“I passed up several other big bucks as I was stalking the injured
one. It sure would have been easy to just blast another one and go
about my business, but that isn’t the ethic of Wyoming hunting and the ethic of the One Shot.”
It was estimated that Geringer had walked 12 miles over four hours on some of the roughest terrain in Wyoming on probably the hottest day in the history of the One Shot. He crossed the deadly and famous Rocky Ridge three times. His cowboy boots had several big holes in them.
Geringer had told his audience Saturday night about how his dad moved to America from Russia because he wanted to own his own land.
Geringer obviously is tough and he obviously has strong feelings
about how things should be done here in Wyoming. He got a standing ovation from the hunter-friendly crowd when he
wrapped up his talk by saying: “They can pry my gun from my cold, dead hands . . . but that can’t take the spirit from my heart.”
His shooting partner Joaquin said about the governor when he used one of his old Texas Ranger expressions to describe Geringer, “He’ll do to ride a river with.”
Earlier at the Saturday night banquet Geringer told the 650 people present how he and his hunting party had finally connected by cell phone. ” Where are you at?” the governor asked?
“I’m at Rocky Ridge.”
“We’re at Rocky Ridge, too,” replied Gustin. “I am standing next to the sign that says Rocky Ridge. “Where are you?”
“Well, I’m standing with a group of Mormon folks from Utah
next to the Rocky Ridge monument, where are you?”
Mormon Tourists Were Stunned
Geringer had met three carloads of Utah Mormons retracing the Mormon Trail. The day had gotten very foggy. They saw this orange-clad apparition walk up to them from a hillside – no vehicle in sight (they didn’t know it was opening day of hunting season) – and this apparition, with a gun over his arm and a funny medicine bag around his neck, greeted them.
Geringer related this story to the Saturday night crowd. “I finally
broke the news to them that I was governor but they didn’t react to very well to it. Finally, one of them got his Wyoming highway map out of the car and said: “By golly, he really is the governor!”
“What the heck are you doing out here all alone?” It took the cell phone ringing to finally convince them that things were all right.
Geringer had even helped them guide their vehicles over the rough rocks at Rocky Ridge and had his picture taken with them. He was about a half mile from his hunting party over the next hill.
His guide told him to start walking and he’d pick him up.
He was still game. And he was still looking for that doggone
antelope. So they drove for about ten minutes along a ridge, but no luck. The group was now ten miles from where the original shot was taken and both Bill Gustin and Moffat were wondering just how determined is this guy?
Later, Joaquin (who had spent a career stalking people) admiringly said he thought Geringer was “the stubbornnest guy I ever did see.”
Earlier on Thursday night of the One Shot, the former One Shot shooters hold a banquet.
Geringer had stunned that crowd when he told about what had happened to his Wyoming teammate from three years earlier
Young Orlando Roan Eagle had impressed the governor by winning the Wyoming history day oratory contest with his recitation of Chief Seattle’s famous farewell address. Geringer picked him to compete in the One Shot Hunt on his team in 1997.
Roan Eagle had gotten a standing ovation from an impressed crowd when he repeated his state-winning presentation at the One Shot banquet.
Geringer then told the crowd about how young Orlando Roan Eagle had run afoul with the law, been sentenced to prison, and later committed suicide.
A sad ending to what should have been a triumphant life.