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Billy Hudson is a cattle farmer in Courtland most of the year, but works as a hunting tour guide in the fall.
Daily photo by Emily Saunders
Billy Hudson is a cattle farmer in Courtland most of the year, but works as a hunting tour guide in the fall.

Trophy hunter
Courtland man leads double life as farmer, guide to Western game

By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily.com · 340-2443

COURTLAND — Wearing a brown suede vest, blue jeans and a belt buckle larger than most people’s fists, Billy Hudson of Courtland certainly looks like a cowboy.

And he has the resume to prove it.

Hudson spends most of the year tending to his cattle farm in Courtland, and every fall, he travels west to Wyoming to take antelope hunters on tours through the vast expanse of the Great Plains.

Billy Hudson, right, guiding an antelope hunt. Pronghorn antelope, Hudson says, are the second-fastest land animal in the world and can move at speeds up to 60 mph.
Courtesy photo
Billy Hudson, right, guiding an antelope hunt. Pronghorn antelope, Hudson says, are the second-fastest land animal in the world and can move at speeds up to 60 mph.
Hudson, 63, has been guiding hunters for about 30 years but has been travelling west almost all of his life. A college buddy roped him into hunting in Wyoming in 1967.

“I was 23 and had no idea what he was talking about,” said Hudson, whose lineage includes some of the first Courtland settlers. "I had hunted quail and rabbits as a kid, but I had never even thought about big-game hunting."

Despite his lack of experience, his first attempt at big-game hunting was a success. While hunting outside Jackson Hole, Wyo., he killed his first mule deer, which was large enough to earn him a mention in the record books. It was the third-best deer kill in Wyoming in 1967, he said.

"That took the pressure off for the rest of my life," said Hudson, laughing. "No matter what I kill, it'll never be as impressive as that. It wasn't only my first kill — it was my first shot."

Having mastered deer hunting, Hudson took on a more challenging opponent — the pronghorn antelope.

Deer are slow-moving animals found mostly in woodsy areas, however, pronghorn antelope, the second-fastest land animal in the world, can move at speeds up to 60 mph.

The only animal that could beat an antelope in a foot race is a cheetah, said Hudson.

The antelope's primary defenses, its speed and eyesight, make for an entirely different hunting experience compared to hunting deer in the Southeast, he said.

A deer will run for cover, hiding in trees and brush in the forest, as soon as it spots a potential threat. An antelope, on the other hand, must rely on its speed to get out of range because it grazes and waters in wide-open fields.

"The primary use of the country out there is cattle. There aren't many trees," said Hudson. "You can see (antelope) off in the distance about a mile or so, and they won't pay attention to you if you're moving. But as soon as you stop and get out of your car, they'll be gone."

Many bow hunters

The majority of antelope hunters that Hudson guides use a bow and arrow, making the task even more difficult.

Archery season is in September, and gun season is in October. Last year, Miller Outfitting, for whom Hudson works, guided about 46 bow hunters and 16 gunmen. Hudson was directly involved in a little more than a third of them.

"A lot of people will ask how that's possible, but you have to consider that water is scarce in the high-desert country. We hunt them by placing ground blinds at the water holes and waiting for them to arrive," he said. "That's how we get a shooting range of 20 to 30 yards."

Ground blinds are basically tall pop-up tents with windows that can be unzipped to shoot through, said Hudson.

Hunting guides set up the ground blinds days before the bow hunters arrive so the antelope won't learn to fear them, he said.

Unlike deer hunters, antelope hunters don't have to get up at 3 a.m. Antelope feed during daylight hours and sleep at night.

"During a typical hunt, the hunters will go into the blind at daybreak," said Hudson.

It usually takes two or three days for a successful kill, he said.

Hunters using rifles take a different approach called "spot and stalk," said Hudson.

The hunters, along with the guide, will ride around in trucks until they spot a herd.

"Once we spot one, I use specialized optics to qualify the animal," he said. "If it's something we think we should pursue, we'll keep it in sight with the vehicle until we can stalk utilizing whatever cover is available to get into reasonable shooting range."

The typical gunman is proficient at shooting from 100 to 300 yards, he said.

Since taking up antelope and mule deer hunting, Hudson has never gone home without success.

"The kick to it is you can see the game so much more readily," he said.

"I'm not successful every time I shoot, but I've never had a permit that I didn't fill."

His "trophies" record antelope and mule deer heads with horns up to 15 inches and are testaments to his skill and years of experience.

Hudson said hunting is deep-rooted in humans and one of the best ways to get in touch with nature.

"If you love nature, and you love the outdoors, it's one of the most intimate ways of experiencing it," he said. "I think a lot of that is part of the human equation, the primal instinct of man."

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