The Lander one shot antelope hunt is one of the most unique sporting events in the world today. The event was born around a campfire, high in the Rocky Mountains in 1939. Seated around that fire were two hunters—Harold Evans of Lander, Wyoming and Hank Dahl of Golden, Colorado. The two men, along with their companions, had finished a hard day of hunting and were letting their dinners settle before turning in for the night.
As much western talk goes, the conversation finally came around to the pioneers, who crossed this wild desert and mountain country a century before. The talk turned to the difficulty of hunting in those early days, with the old muzzle loading rifles, where only one shot was possible before the game would disappear from sight. Thoughts of the Indians, hunting with bow and arrow, conjured a mental picture of the same predicament. Harold Evans and Hank Dahl thus challenged each other to such a hunt, choosing the wily, swift antelope as the game to kill with one bullet.
The two men talked more of their idea and when the hunting trip was over, Harold Evans went back to his home in Lander, where he formed a committee, and by the fall of 1940, the Lander One Shot Antelope Hunt became a reality. The first “One Shot Antelope Hunt” took place on Labor Day weekend, 1940, in the Lander area and consisted of only two teams, Wyoming and Colorado. Each team had five members scoring three harvests against the Wyoming team members’ one harvest.
In 1941 there were three teams, one team represented Colorado, another Texas, and one for Wyoming. The hunt was suspended from 1942 through 1945 due to World War II, but resumed in 1946 and has been a much anticipated annual event since that time.
Since the first hunt in 1940, the One Shot has become world renowned and has been the spawning ground for several other similar events in the both North America and Africa.
Hunt rules are basically the same as they were in 1940. Changes enacted by the board of directors are designed to further the basic purpose of the hunt. That purpose is to promote the ideals of good sportsmanship and game conservation. Much emphasis is placed on comradeship, ability in the field and accuracy with a big game rifle.
Teams from practically every state in the union have participated at one time or another. Other teams made up of entertainers, diplomats, foreign dignitaries, businessmen, astronauts and cosmonauts have taken part in the event. While it was not the practice in the early days of the hunt, the governors of the respective starts are now required to serve as the captains of their teams.
Teams are selected to participate on the basis of challenges issued either to the One Shot Antelope Hunt Club’s board of directors or through the Governor of Wyoming. Three teams are automatic entries in each year’s hunt: a Wyoming team, a Colorado team and a team sponsored by the Past Shooters Club (but not consisting of Past Shooters). Qualifications for challenges may be obtained from the One Shot Antelope Hunt Club, P.O. Box 95, Lander, WY 82520.
In recent years, rule changes have established three-man teams with eight teams participating in the one-day hunt. The hunt is always held on the opening day of antelope season in the vicinity of Lander, with all the team members gathering on the day before the hunt.
Pre-hunt ceremonies include sighting in rifles, along with some competitive shooting for the team members. In the evening an impressive Indian Ceremony is held in the which the hunters hear the “Legend of the Hunt” and are made blood brothers of the Shoshone Indian Tribe. Each hunter is given an Indian Name, which usually corresponds to his vocation. He is also given a sacred Indian Medicine Bag and his bullet is blessed for the hunt.
Following Friday’s ceremonies, the hunters generally retire early. At 4:30 am Saturday morning, they receive a knock on the door for a call to breakfast prior to the day’s great hunt. Hunting parties make every effort to be in the field by dawn, which is around 6:30 at this time of year. Some of the antelope hunting grounds are between 40 to 50 miles from Lander, so this means an early start for the hunters and their guides.
Two vehicles, each with a hunter and a guide, comprise a hunting party. Since the two hunters in each party are on different teams, they are indirectly competing with each other. A drawing is held to determine which hunter will shoot first. If the first hunter has not had a shot within the first hour, then the second hunter has his turn. The two hunters then alternate each hour until one of them takes a shot. When a hunter has taken a shot, whether he has killed an antelope or not, the other hunter then has the shooting privilege for the balance of the day. At 6:00 pm the hunt is over for another year and scores are tallied by calculating the elapsed time of each hunter. Only buck antelope, killed with one shot, are credited in the hunt.
That evening, hunters, Past Shooters, local members and guests gather for a Victory Banquet normally attended by over 500 people. During the banquet, awards will be given to the hunters and Past Shooters for their prowess in the competition shooting held the previous day. All of the hunters have the opportunity to tell the audience of the impossible shot they made to achieve their kill or to explain the adverse conditions causing them to miss.
Only about one-third of the hunters score kills, so there is much talk about high winds, long distances or running shots, and innumerable other excuses….. Some of them quite original. While many of the hunters are expert marksmen, the pressure of upholding the team reputation, plus the fact that three people are looking over their shoulder, is enough to unnerve the most skilled shooter.
During the more serious side of the victory banquet, those hunters who scored a harvest are awarded with a plastic–encased silver bullet. A laughing antelope plaque is given to those who missed the wily pronghorn with their first shot. To climax the evening, the members of the winning team participate in a victory dance with the Shoshone Braves. The winning team is determined by the highest number of kills. In the event of two or more teams having an equal number of kills, the team with the least elapsed time is designated the winner.
The women who accompany the team shooters to Lander are also kept busy during the day. The Hunt Club’s Board of Director’s wives, and/or members of the Hunt Club, treat the ladies to lunches and brunches and escort them on scenic and historical tours in the Lander area.
The feeling of sportsmanship and camaraderie is felt throughout the hunt activities and a bond is renewed each year as hunters on past teams return to Lander for three days of fun and competitions each year. A hundred or more past shooters return each year to hunt and renew old acquaintances with other hunters and the residents of Lander. The past shooters have formed a club, and it goes without saying the membership is quite exclusive.
Incorporated in the elite membership list are some very famous names, including; the late, great operatic tenor and screen star, Lauitz Melchior, and the famous movie star and TV’s greatest cowboy singer Roy Rogers, as well as the ace fighter pilot responsible for the first person to break the sound barrier, General Chuck Yeager. Other famous people who have shot include; music, movie and televisions stars, astronauts, cosmonauts, foreign dignitaries, generals and businessmen from around the world.
Famous people… the wily and fleet pronghorn… brought together each year by an idea born around a lonely hunting camp fire, and nurtured by the hospitality of the citizens of Lander. The Lander One Shot Antelope Hunt… one of the great sporting events for men in whose hearts the pioneer spirit still lives.