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2008 TRO Hunting Trip

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Hunting with Trophy Ridge Outfitters (TRO)

May 25 - 30, 2008

Copyright 2008, Christopher Long - use of pictures and content by explicit permission only


After the great time we had last year in Carlile Wyoming with Ralph and Lenora Dampman of Trophy Ridge Outfitters,  we made reservations for the 2008 hunt in May:

Again, as with last year, the goal of this trip (besides having a great time) was to get in some long range (1000+ yard) opportunities, and possibly even a shot over 1500 yards, in order to qualify for the VHA 1500 yard certification. Last year, we were hamstrung by very tall grass, making the long shots essentially non-existent. Our plan for this year was to arrive in mid May, hoping to get there before the grass got too tall, and hopefully have a bit cooler weather. Well, both items in that plan were realized, but we neglected to account for the "Mother Nature" factor.

This year, not only did Chris from western Virginia join the hunt, but he was accompanied his dad Tom, and Greg West of West Custom Rifles. I had just purchased another beautiful Lowrider stock from Greg, and was delighted to be able to meet him face to face.


The town of Carlile is located in the north western range of the beautiful Black Hills, and is the home to the unique Devil's Tower National Monument.  Ralph and Lenora at TRO are primarily big game outfitters, and have access to hundreds of thousands of acres of private ranch land, chock full of deer, elk, turkey, and other game. They have just started providing services for guided prairie dog hunts, during their nominal off season, and the above mentioned ranch lands are home to some prodigious dog towns.

The terrain is beautiful, with lots of hills and Ponderosa pine trees.


I arrived in the early afternoon, and Chris, Tom, and Greg arrived in the early evening, just in time for dinner. As expected,  Lenora's dinner offering was excellent, and I ate too much. Again...

This time, we were bunked in Cabin Two:

This comfortable cabin had two bunk rooms, with three beds each. It was nice and warm, which turned out to be a welcome thing.

We were watching the weather closely, as it looked like the big storm system that followed me all the way from Seattle was finally arriving. The predictions were for nasty conditions on Monday, Memorial Day, as well as Tuesday, with Wednesday iffy, and Thursday looking good. Unfortunately, this time the forecasters were spot on.

The issue was that there had been a lot of rain the past few days, and all the country land and access roads were soaked. This turned out to be our biggest challenge this trip. The field and road conditions were so bad that we were severely restricted as to the locations we could access for shooting. Ralph had some good towns that he had chosen for us, but  the good ones with long range shots were unreachable due to the standing water and the mud. Ralph is extremely contentious about not tearing up the ranch land that he leases, which we all appreciated. However, even with the limited access, Ralph was able to offer us some great shooting.

We watched the weather move in that evening. It gave a nice sunset, but our expectations were not high. "Red at Night..." didn't hold true this trip.


The weather, as expected, was cold (very low 40's) and raining. All the rain the previous few days had left the dirt roads and ranch land in a mess, with mud everywhere. Even with these  limitations, Ralph was able to take us to a very nice dog town. There were obviously lots of dogs, and ranges out to about 400 yards were available.

Across the road to the west there is a very large ranch that raises pure Spanish Mustangs, one of the only places left in the country where you can see wild horses running free, just like 150 years ago. It was great to see them running back and forth, constantly. They never stopped running it seemed. You can just see one in the picture below, above and behind the two cattle:

Another view of this town:

The wind was blowing about 15+ MPH, and a light rain started up just after we arrived. Note the wind flag:

We did some short range shooting with our ARs, and 22 rimfire rifles. I had some fun sniping at dogs using my Sig Trailside 22LR target pistol.  After a bit, the rain and cold was getting to us, so we retreated to the cars for a few minutes to see if it would subside. After a short while, without any sign of the rain abating, we called it a hunt and packed it in, just in time for the rain to start in earnest.

Upon arriving at TRO, we met the other party that had just arrived from Georgia, making it in two straight days. Amazingly, they were still able to form coherent sentences and remain vertical, but I have no idea how they did that after that long a drive. So, that is how Philip, and his two sons Brian and Scott came to be part of the TRO saga of 2008.


The rain kept up all evening, and we awoke to more of the same cold and wet conditions. After a protracted breakfast, we decided to go back to the town from Day One and do a walkabout with the 22s. On went the rain gear and every layer of clothing that I had brought. I didn't expect that it would be that cold and wet, and simply didn't pack clothes for those conditions. It was worse than I usually see here in the Pacific Northwest during the winter.  Many times during the rest of the hunt, I was kicking myself for leaving the nice polypropylene underclothes, winter coat, cap, and gloves hanging on the hook at home.

It was so wet that we parked on the road to avoid tearing up the ranch road. We walked about in the town for a couple of hours, and the others had some luck with their 22 rimfire rifles. I didn't bring my 22 rimfire rifle (another "kick yourself" moment), so I was reduced to harassing the dogs with fire from the 22 target pistol again. We eventually packed it in and headed back to TRO, before noon.

I took advantage of the down time to go over to the Devil's Tower National Monument, and give it a thorough inspection. I didn't have the time in 2007, so this was high on my list of things to do this year.

Devil's Tower was our nations first National Monument, established by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. From the visitors center, you can hike on a 1.3 mile loop trail, circumnavigating the Tower. Here are some pictures taken around the Tower:



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The morning of Day Three was still cold and damp, but no rain was falling. The weather forecasters called for clearing later in the day, with temperatures in the mid to high 50's. Well, it didn't rain, but it remained overcast and in the mid 40's all day.

Ralph was able set us up in a good sized town, one that we had a chance of getting into even with all the mud and standing water. There were a lot of dogs, and we had ranges out to a bit over 500 yards.

We set up on the eastern edge of the town, on the side of a slight knoll, mostly to keep out of the wind. From left to right are Chris, Greg, and Tom. Chris was shooting his AR, Tom had a 223 Remington, and Greg had his new 6X47 Lapua that he had just built before the trip. That rifle was a real tack driver, as Greg demonstrated numerous times that day and the next.

Here is Greg with the 6X47L, and I am fishing for a dropped piece of brass in the background. I was shooting the 6 Dasher which had a newly set-back and re-chambered Broughton 5C, 8 twist barrel, finished at about 29". This barrel was the one that allowed me to set two F-Open National records (300 & 800 yards) in 2007. After the setback it shot just as well as it did when new . Notice that both Greg's and my rifles are stocked in the same Green Mountain Camo Rutland laminate. Give Greg a call or email to find out more about these excellent stocks, and custom rifles.

Here I am working the Dasher. It wasn't raining, but the wind was cutting cold, and the rain shell was all I had that would do a good job as a windbreaker.

Another picture of the Dasher. The longest shot I made that day was about 510 yards. Lots of targets, but the wind made that range quite challenging.

We packed up with barely enough time to get back to the lodge for dinner. You definitely don't want to miss dinner at the TRO. Later that evening we saw one of the many wild turkeys inhabiting the area around TRO. You them hear gobbling many times during the day.

Before turning in, we checked the weather forecast again, and it was still calling for very nice conditions for the next day. After about 3 days of cold, rainy conditions, a warm day with sunshine would be quite welcome.


Day Four broke with a beautiful ray of sunshine, broken clouds, and light winds. The temperature at 0630 was nearly 53 degrees - a positive heat wave! We had blue skies, near 80 degrees, and light wind by the time we got to the shooting location, which was a welcome change from the past three days.

Again, Ralph had found us a great location, right near the Keyhole reservoir. The best spot would have given us at leat 1200 yard opportunities, but, it was unreachable due to standing water. The normal access road to a closer shooting location was literally underwater, so we had to go around via a higher and dryer road. Once there, we could see lots of dogs, out to about 820 yards. The dog town is only partially visible from this location with a large number of mounds hidden by the sage covered ridge seen below, just above the cars:

Greg and Chris set up on the uphill side of the cars, Greg with the 6X47L, and Chris with a 6BR. Greg had a set of Big Eyes, which were excellent for spotting:

Another view down range to the ridgeline at about 800 yards:

Greg getting a bead on a target:

As was mentioned earlier, our first location was optimized for the longer shots, but not for reaching a large part of the town shielded by the near ridgeline. Later in the day, we packed up and moved down onto that ridge for some closer shooting. We didn't want to tear up the very wet land, so  a couple of tables were lugged in for Greg and Tom, and Chris and I went with shooting mats. From left to right you can see Tom, Greg, and Chris (prone), and my AR-15 on the far right. We had a lot of fun at this location. Ranges were out to about 500 yards, with lots of targets:

Toward the end of the day, we watched a couple of large thunderstorms building off to the west, and blowing our way. To keep from getting caught in the storm, we packed up, then Chris and Greg went down range to get pictures of some of the dogs that they had shot at about 800 yards . Here is Greg in front of a few of their successes. Notice the size difference between the adult (left) and the pups (right). We saw very few adults during our four days, and most of the hits (probably 95%+) were on the much smaller pups. Quite challenging even at 800 yards:

Here is Chris in the same setting:

One that got away!

That evening, after another great dinner, we got the whole group together for a picture. From left to right are Tom, Scott, Philip, Brian, Chris, Chris (me), and Greg. This was taken in the lodge area of the TRO facilities. Notice that there is no furniture or other items. We arrived just as Ralph and Lenora were starting a major upgrade of the lodge facilities, and they had cleared the room in preparation. They are raising the roof to give the common area a vaulted ceiling (more room for some of Ralph's beautiful mounts), and adding a couple more bedrooms and a bath in the new second story. This will be complete before the next hunting season this fall. I am looking forward to seeing it next year.


Even with the not-so-good weather, we all had a great time. It is hard not to with hosts like Ralph and Lenora, and the beautiful country they live in. Chris and I are already booked for July of next year. We decided that it is better to deal with a bit of tall grass than take more risk of loosing the weather lottery again. July weather there is usually very dry and hot.

If you want a great experience, give Ralph and Lenora a call:

Next year I'll be back for another go at the 1500+ shot !


Thanks to Chris for the additional pictures.

Copyright 2008, Christopher Long - use of pictures and content by explicit permission only

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