The timbered mountains of Wyoming’s Black Hills were calling.
I first visited the region to cover the 55th annual Buffalo Roundup in Custer, South Dakota, in late September. This time, I would chase white-tailed deer next door.
I arrived at Denver International Airport Friday afternoon and road-tripped seven hours to Hulett, an small town nestled in northeastern Wyoming known as the “Best Little Town in the West."
We stopped in Cheyenne, the state capital, to purchase fishing and hunting licenses at Sportsman’s Warehouse. I bought a Nonresident Landowner Doe/Fawn Tag to hunt at Solitude Ranch and Outfitters LLC. I would also try my hand at some fly fishing at The Golf Club at Devils Tower, where I stayed for the duration of my trip.
Once I was accounted for, we were off.
Opting to take the backroads, I got a glimpse into eastern Wyoming’s rugged nature. It deeply contrasts Jackson Hole a lot, where I’ve been twice before, but was beautiful in its own right.
Little did I know Hulett would define a life changing hunting trip.
Solitude Near America’s First National Monument
Situated in the Belle Fourche River Valley, Solitude Ranch overlooks Devils Tower National Monument— a massive granite structure measuring 1,267 feet tall. In September 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower the nation’s first national monument.
Owned and operated by Mike Schmid, Wyoming Fish and Game Department (WFGD) Commissioner for District 3, the ranch offers guided hunts for trophy white-tailed deer, mule deer, and Merriam’s turkeys.
Mr. Schmid told me the name derives from the Lakota-Sioux expression for “peaceful place”—with solitude being the closest matching English word.
Indeed, solitude is a state of mind that guests—both hunters and non-hunters alike—will experience.
Our hunting party was divided into smaller groups.
I was paired with former Green Beret Scott Steiert and his 13-year-old daughter, Savannah. Wyoming Arms’ John Burns served as our trusted guide.
The hunting conditions weren’t ideal by any means, as wind presented itself. This condition, however, made the hunting more interesting.
After scouting several locations, we fit in some range time. We sighted-in our rifles: a 6mm Creedmoor Wyoming Arms Armalite Rifle (AR) retrofitted with a 4-square aluminum suppressor. Shooting at 157 yards, I hit the target just to the right of the bullseye. Not too shabby for someone a bit out of practice.
Our group then drove to a field facing Devils Tower. It was there we saw a herd of does to our right. Scott noticed a lone one to his left and proceeded to take the first kill shot. Once confirmed dead, he started field dressing it so Savannah and I could get our respective deer.
After we settled on an area, it was time to spot and stalk.
Scott’s daughter lasered-in on a doe and took a great shot. I was up next. Admittedly, I had to reposition myself before taking a shot. After making some adjustments, I caught whiff of a doe 130-150 yards in front of me. Her face was fully concealed by a tree but her body was perfectly broadside. I looked through the rifle scope to ensure good placement around the shoulder, confirmed with John I was ready, slowly pulled the trigger, kept my eye on the target, then made the shot.
Bam! She dropped close to where I hit her, making it a fairly easy retrieve.
While I didn’t get overly emotional— I remained calm and focused— I was aware of what I just did. At last! I finally harvested my first big game animal.
After posing for some photos, it was time to field dress. This process is customary for hunters to ensure their meat doesn’t spoil. In the past, I would have hesitated. Now, I was taking the initiative to gut my harvest—provided with some basic guidance, of course.
Riding high from the previous day, it was time for processing.
David Wilms, co-host of Your Mountain and National Wildlife Federation’s Senior Director for Western Wildlife, offered to help me process my doe. It was an enlightening experience, I must say. In the past, I’ve field dressed upland birds and waterfowl but never tackled anything like this.
He showed me how to safely extract prime cuts of meat from the deer’s carcass. Then the fun part: grinding and packaging ground venison. David’s 12-year-old daughter, Ella, joined me in festivities, and we made quite the team.
The process was arduous—three rounds of grinding—but proved rewarding. After hours of laboring, our work was done. Venison was ready to be frozen and later geared for transport.
Saturday was a turning point in my young hunting journey. I returned home to Virginia with newfound confidence, memories, some lifelong friends, a full heart and 30 pounds of venison.