By: Jim “Ike” Eichinger

By: Jim “Ike” Eichinger

The flight was off the ground, arriving in Colorado Springs the sun was out, it was in the seventies. Purely a rocky mountain high. I was heading south to Trinidad with the majestic views of the mountains, prairies and even a couple of “speed goats” I arrived at camp, met up with the other hunters. We were at Fred and Michele Eichler’s Full Draw Outfitters for antelope.

It was a few years ago that we had Fred and Michele Eichler at an area banquet. Always an interesting speaker, Fred shared some of his adventures and Michele was tending to the new member of their family Trent. I had spoken to Fred in regard to doing an interview with them for Full Draw magazine. I was able to interview both Michele and Fred and even learned a little more about what they do and how passionate they are about archery hunting. Even with their busy hunting and filming schedules they find time to run a complete outfitting business, Full Draw Outfitters.

I had spoken to several members who attended the Eichler’s outfitting camp in Colorado and in Nebraska for the turkey hunts. Sounded like a great time and something I had always thought of doing. All it would take would be to get the schedule to work out and just go. It was last spring that I met up again with Michele Eichler at the Pope and Young convention in Pennsylvania. We got to talking about the camp and what was available to hunt, she just said I have to come out and experience it, I was totally convinced on the Pronghorn hunt. It was time to make the commitment; I was hitting the big five zero in February. I thought now’s the time to go. Forgoing the big Birthday bash my deposit was in.

After going through cataract eye surgery on both eyes in April two thousand and eight, back surgery in June (two ruptured discs in two thousand six), I began to speculate as to whether I would still be able to go, My Doctor said four to six weeks recovery on the back, which would put me right on schedule to make the trip, With a little luck and lots of desire and determination I anxiously past the days with recovery.

August arrived, and the Friday before I was to leave I got a call from Fred, he said that the weather had been terrible and just wanted to know if we still wanted to come out, three inches of hail, rain and even Tornado warnings. Well I was determined to go, so I decided that this was my vacation time and told Fred I was heading out no matter what the weather was like.

The flight was off the ground and on my way, arriving in Colorado Springs the sun was out, the temperature was in the seventies it was purely a rocky mountain high. I was heading south to Trinidad and after a scenic drive, with the majestic views of the mountains, prairies and even a couple of “speed goats”. I arrived at camp and met up with the other hunters from New Jersey, Idaho, Kentucky and Arkansas. Bunks were assigned and it was time to absorb the surroundings.

This was my first hunt outside New York, my first trip to Colorado and the view and atmosphere just drew me in. High on the top of a mountain there was a beautiful view of a lake and more mountains in the distance. After taking in the views we all went up to the main house for dinner and instructions and rules of the hunt. We had a nice dinner with the Eichlers and had the opportunity to tell a little bit about ourselves. I felt like we all knew each other. As hunters and especially archery hunters we all seem to have a special bond. As we were leaving the Eichler’s home I was greeted by a magnificent sunset.

After breakfast it was off in the truck with our guide Lee and onward to our blinds. We got to pick out of a hat who would be hunting from which blind, I had picked Pish Number two. Getting in just before six, I checked the inside made myself comfortable and placed everything in its place. Binoculars, camera, plenty of water, some lunch and snacks and the bow. Then I waited for the sun to rise.

This was the blind the author sat.
You start glassing the prairie as soon as the sun comes up and about nine o’clock three buck Lopes came in from the south. I aptly named them the ‘Three Amigos’. So the day began. They had come around the back of the blind which really didn’t offer any shooting ports but enough of an area to slip the camera lens out. I remember packing a book in my pack, as they say the days can be long, well I don’t think I sat down for more then 10 minutes as each time I peered out the small portal, there were more antelope. At one point there was a bird just outside the blind that called so loud it was like it was perched on my shoulder. Wondering what it was I peeked out the window and there it was perched on one of the bars, looking down sure enough two more lopes grazing about thirty five yards out. They were there but not one came into the water hole a mere ten yard shot out the front.

As each hour passed, more and more appeared, forty seven yards, thirty yards and some in the distance, I was up to twenty two antelope as I noticed a storm brewing in the west. It was still a way out and it was magnificent to watch it form, break up and then start again. The colors in the sky were as if the spirits had just painted a mural for me. So what could possibly be next?

If you have seen the Easton Bowhunting shows with Fred, you know all too well when the cows come in, no lopes will come to the water holes. Sure enough here came the herd. They came, drank some water, gazed at the blind and then wandered back to the prairie. Since taking up archery hunting I have read several books on the Native American lore, how they utilized the earth, the animals and even the spirits. It was time to take some cleansing breathes, absorb the surroundings and I had asked for a sign, show me something that would lead me to believe I was meant to be here. It was within minutes that the next visitor and what I thought was that sign, arrived. A huge black Raven, I have seen many a crow in my time in the woods but this bird was absolutely huge. It landed on the outer edge of the tank and drank some water, scraped his long beak along the edge. I was totally mystified. Hopping around to the front side of the tank, he stopped looked right into the blind and proceeded to let out one of the loudest cackles you could imagine. I was mesmerized and didn’t even think of taking a photo. Then just as fast as it came, the Raven flew off.

I thought, if this was, indeed a sign, what did it mean? At that point I wasn’t having much luck seeing anything at the tank. Just about all day the lopes appeared either to the left, right or behind the blind, none giving me a shot. I decided to shut the front windows and open the ports to the my right. I slowly opened the first one, there were two does grazing just twenty five to thirty yards out.

Is that what the Raven was telling me? I peeked around to the front and saw a beautiful buck waltzing up about fifty yards out. My first instinct was to grab the camera. I did and got three pictures of him before I realized, this guy was coming in right behind the does. I quietly set the camera down, picked up the bow and lowered the windows carefully so as not to spook the does. I wanted to make sure every window but the one I was going to shoot out of was closed. The storm in the west was putting on a show of lighting with some serious dark clouds. Yet even in all this, there was something happening here, I was supposed to be here, the Raven sent the message.

Author photo as this buck slowly approached the blind. 
The buck came in facing the blind and then at about twenty five yards, turned broadside. I came to full draw, tried to calm down and put my sights on the kill zone. This was the shot I had been practicing for months. This was my moment. Down on one knee, fully anchored a slow deep breathe a moment of thought and in an instant the arrow was off the rest. With a loud “whack” I saw the arrow hit its mark, and the buck and the does were off and running. Watching the last move, I marked the area with my arrow as to the direction and immediately called my guide Lee. Excitedly I told him I just smoked one.

In only a few short moments we had the pronghorn. What a sight. After loading it in the truck all I could smell was the sage that was embedded in the horns. It was such a sweet smell and such an incredible feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Author with his Colorado Pope& Young Antelope.
The storm was moving closer as we got a few pictures and then the call came in on the radio, one of the other hunters, Kathy with her husband Bud in the blind with her, had also just arrowed a lope. It was getting pretty windy at this point and it was decided we would come back in the morning for that one. In talking on the way back to camp, I had told them the story of the Raven landing on the tank. The other couple who had just arrowed one, had said; “Funny thing, we had a Raven land on our tank before the shot too”. The Raven came to call on this day.

Back at camp the excitement had started, hugs high fives and I was told my antelope would make Pope & Young. The euphoria set in. It was a night like no other. This was a Rocky Mountain High, My original plan was to take the rest of the time and tour Colorado and I had such a great time on that first day that I asked Lee if I could just hang out and see what they do all day and learn a little more about the operation. So I volunteered to go help recover Kathy’s buck. I was to act as the spotter as they approached on the recovery.

Every day was just as exciting as the other hunters were able to take antelopes as well. As each was taken they all got bigger as each day went on all Pope & Young bucks and some very unique horns.

On Friday, we still had one hunter from week one with us John, Lee took him into blind one and Michele had come out to film for the her TV show. That left me in Lee’s truck to act as guide. I was able to do some spotting for not only Lee and John but for Michele who was set up in the same blind I had used. I spotted several “goats” throughout the day and was able to witness a TV show in the making. Michele was filming alone on this day as her cameraman, Martin, was about a mile down the trail on a hunt himself. After watching several lopes get within yards of her blind, I kept wondering why no shot. Finally I asked and Michele said the camera was in the wrong window. You see if you are filming on your own, you have to have the camera set up in one spot and hope your shot comes in that direction. It was about five o’clock when we had communicated that it might not happen today. I told Michele that this is about the time it all started the previous days and sure enough, shortly after that, a nice buck appeared. I wondered if this was the one as several had come around the tank previously but no shot taken. You could almost sense it coming and looking to the sky, I see circling above us, a raven. Not long after that I saw the buck jump and realized I had witnessed the hit. Buck down! It was a great being able to be a part of a hunt that would be on TV next season.

Michele Eichler with her Pope & Young Antelope.
Michele’s excitement was obvious. The passion she and Fred have for hunting and respect for each animal they take, makes you feel good about the sport of archery. The week ended with a great meal at the Eichler’s house. Michele cooked us grilled Antelope tenderloins and they were so good.

This trip was more then what I expected and I enjoyed myself so much I am planning on going back. What great memories and what great people. From the Eichlers, Fred Michele and Trent, Jenny our cook, Lee and Dick our guides, the other hunters, Nick, Kathy, Bud, Justin and Martin it was truly a hunt I will not soon forget.