On a blustery bone-chilling Sunday morning with weather aiming to snow, Jim Allen, his son Cash, and friend and hunting advisor Stan Sophia, set out to make a dream come true: a buffalo hunt and a trophy bull. There was more at stake than just the meat and the massive trophy head. Allen, a dry-wall contractor who lives in Sutherlin, Oregon, had won his hunt through an online auction to benefit Wallowa County’s Creating Memories: a 501C3 that provides outdoor experiences to disabled youth. All of the $6500 that he had paid to hunt the bull on the Stangel Bison Ranch would go to the charity. Stangel donated the bull. Valley Meats cut and wrapped the meat. And a Prineville taxidermist would mount the head.
All that was needed was for Jim Allen to bring in his buffalo.
The bull was six years old, an animal in his prime. But bulls of that age are prone to wander. They are not the best breeding stock, said Marta Stangel, who is one of the ranch’s chief buffalo wranglers and works with her dad, Bob, to manage the herd. This particular animal had a few other quirks, including one eye that was not functioning properly. While he was a prime specimen for a hunt, he was not high on the Stangel’s list to become a dad. The Stangels turned the bull out for a last few days of solitude on grassland east of Ant Flat Road.
Allen gladly took suggestions from the Stangels. On the property there’s not much to worry about except an old tractor that bullets might ricochet off if you miss, and a house that is more than a half-mile away. When you hunt a buffalo, the best kill shot is well below the hump, at a spot behind the elbow. Allen nodded. Then a small caravan of trucks headed up Ant Flat Road.
Allen, and everyone else, wanted this to be a hunt, not a drive-by shooting. And so the group stopped on a hilltop, where Allen, 10 year-old son Cash, and friend Stan Sophia, began a hike to find their quarry. A few minutes out from the vehicles, Allen stopped abruptly and pointed to a small brown dot on a distant hillside. The group paused, determined the wind direction and approximate distance and planned their long stalk. They crossed a valley, and climbed a hill, keeping downwind of their quarry. But it’s hard to remain undetected on a windswept, open grassland, even if you are wearing camo.
By the time they reached the top of the hill, the buffalo had noticed the presence of humans, and ambled across the valley and back up the hill they had recently descended.
The hunting party followed, keeping their distance. Allen tried once to set up a shot, but the now-wary bull’s position did not allow a clear shot. The group moved again. This time, Allen used his backpack and his son’s as a brace. He sighted in the bull. He took his time. He exhaled. Cash put his hands over his ears. One shot from Allen’s Nosler 30 shooting a 180 grain round took the bull down. He stayed where he fell. It was over.
Allen is no stranger to bringing down big game. Last year he traveled to South Africa, where a hunt with Joubert ProHunt netted him a cape buffalo, sable, jackal, stem buck, water buck, heart beast and a blesbuck. But he had never hunted an American bison, although it was a long-time dream. “Creating Memories is a really worthy cause to support,” he said. “I’m glad I could help them out, and make my own memory at the same time.”
Creating Memories board member, Jack Burgoyne, said that the hunt and Allen’s contribution, along with the contributions of Stangels and others, would greatly help the nonprofit continue its programs for disabled children and their caregivers. Creating Memories provides outdoor activities and adventures for disabled children, including fishing, hunting, archery, and time outside in the back-country. Their board of directors and volunteers includes former big game guides, fishers and hunters, award-winning trap shooters, and others versed in outdoor activities. Recently, Creating Memories acquired the 97 acre Boy Scout Camp at Wallowa Lake, and has renovated the buildings to be handicapped accessible, and in fact, handicapped inviting, Burgoyne said. “Donations and contributions like Jim Allen’s help us maintain our programs, and provide great experiences for kids who otherwise might never get a chance to be ‘way out in nature.”