Celebrating Tradition: NRA Members Win 2023 Lander One Shot Antelope Hunt

Celebrating Tradition: NRA Members Win 2023 Lander One Shot Antelope Hunt

Above: The Bourbon Banditos, an all NRA-member team including, from left, Tom Stoddard, Lauren Downum and Travis Junion , took top honors at the 2023 One Shot Antelope Hunt.

A Wyoming tradition since 1940 that promotes hunting, marksmanship and conservation, the annual One Shot Antelope Hunt held near Lander, Wyo., in September 2023 was won by Bourbon Banditos, a three-member team made up of NRA members. Not surprising for an event involving dedicated hunters, the One Shot winning team, composed of Tom Stoddard, Lauren Downum and Travis Junion, not only had strong all-American NRA connections, but Junion is an NRA employee.

Prestigious, selective and highly competitive, the event commonly referred to as the “One Shot” has seen international teams compete from all over the world, including teams from Germany and Hungary, and celebrity participants including Gen. Chuck Yeager, World War II ace; Medal of Honor recipient and NRA President Joe Foss; and cowboy singer Roy Rogers, to name but a few. Organized by the One Shot Antelope Hunt Club based in Lander, the event is hosted by the governor of Wyoming, often along with the governor of Colorado. The 2023 event saw Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon hunting on Team Wyoming.

Wyoming governor mark gordon
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon enjoys participating in the One Shot hunt every year as a proud member of Team Wyoming.

The Hunt’s History and Overview

The origin of the One Shot Antelope Hunt goes back to 1939 when two hunters—Harold Evans of Lander, Wyo., and Hank Dahl of Golden, Colo.—sat around a campfire at the end of a day’s hunt in the Rocky Mountains. The two talked about how difficult it must have been for the early settlers to hunt the region using their muzzleloading rifles and having, in effect, a single shot to bring home game.

By the end of the conversation, Evans and Dahl had challenged each other to a hunt where contestants could only take a single shot to bring down a game animal. In this case, they decided it would be a pronghorn antelope.

The first One Shot Antelope Hunt was inaugurated on Labor Day Weekend 1940 in the Lander area, with two teams of hunters. Each team had five members, and each member could only take a single shot. Shoot and harvest, and you were on the board. Shoot and miss? You were done.

And, so, a hunting and conservation tradition was born.

More than 80 years later, the event remains true to its roots. As noted on the One Shot Antelope Hunt website, “The purpose of the hunt is to promote the ideals of good sportsmanship and game conservation, while placing significant emphasis on comradeship, ability in the field and accuracy with a big game rifle.” Today the tradition continues, now in the form of three-member teams with a total of eight teams participating in the one-day hunt. Building on participants’ anticipation, the hunt is always held on the opening day of the Wyoming antelope season in the vicinity of Lander, which last year fell on Sept. 15.

A hunting party is composed of two vehicles, each with a hunter and a guide. The two hunters in each party are from different teams, so they are indirectly competing with each other.

A drawing is held to determine which hunter shoots first. If the first hunter has not had a shot within the first hour, then the second hunter has his or her turn. The two hunters then alternate every hour until one has a shot opportunity. Once a hunter takes a shot, regardless whether an antelope was killed, the other hunter then has the shooting privilege for the balance of the day. The One Shot works with the Wyoming Game & Fish Department to ensure a safe and ethical hunt. The event supports the Lander-based Water for Wildlife Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that promotes hunting and conservation, particularly in creating water sources to sustain wildlife and their habitats.

More than 500 permanent supplemental water sources have been developed by the Water for Wildlife program in the increasingly arid and drought-stricken areas of the American West. Each water project is uniquely designed to take maximum advantage of the location, conditions and topography.

The NRA Connection
Travis Junion works in the NRA’s Office of Advancement fostering relationships with the Association’s major donors in the Southwest. Based in Scottsdale, Ariz., he has served in this role since 2015. Active in many hunting, shooting sports and hunter-backed wildlife conservation organizations, Junion found out about the One Shot Hunt from his hunting colleagues and was an observer at the 2022 event.

Inspired by the tradition and the excitement of the challenge, Junion and his hunting buddies Downum and Stoddard, both from California and both NRA members, chose a team name and put together a “challenge letter,” which went to the One Shot Hunt Club Board of Directors who choose the participating teams. The competitive and highly sought-after event draws many more applications than there are slots so it is not uncommon for a team to submit multiple challenges before being accepted.

Team Bourbon Banditos’ challenge was accepted, and the three hunters were named as one of the eight teams selected to participate in 2023. The excitement over being chosen only added to team members’ anticipation as they practiced and trained for the hunt. A critical part of the team’s planning included strategizing on how it would approach the hunt. Not only is only one shot permitted, but slings, sticks or any other “aids” are not allowed during the hunt. Success hinges on the abilities of the individual hunter, his or her firearm and whatever nature provides in the form of shooting support—despite the fact antelope live in open country that provides little in the form of shooting rests.

The Hunt
The clock was ticking on Junion. His fellow hunter from another team had harvested an antelope during their first hour of shooting, leaving the rest of the day open to Junion. Although he and his guide hunted very hard, and got on antelope several times, Junion experienced firsthand the wily nature of pronghorn—thanks in part to their eyes being positioned on the sides of their heads, which gives them a near 360-degree field of vision. Junion’s multiple stalks also underscored why these animals are referred to as “speed goats,” as they can reach speeds of 60 mph when evading predators and are the fastest animal in North America.

Junion only had until 2:30 p.m. to hunt that day. If he didn’t take a shot by then—or if he shot and missed—he would score a zero. But right about 2 p.m., he and his guide spotted a lone, mature buck standing in the sagebrush. Junion had to crawl through several hundred yards of brush to close the distance and got within 200 yards.

He took his shot, using a sagebrush for support, firing a single shot from his bolt-action Browning X-Bolt chambered in .270 Win., and topped with a Leupold VX-5 HD scope. The Hornady Precision Hunter 145-grain bullet did a through-and-through on the buck, which dropped where he stood.

Junion was on the board with literally 15 minutes to spare.

nra employee travis junior
Travis Junion works in the NRA’s Office of Advancement fostering relationships with the Association’s major donors in the Southwest. Based in Scottsdale, Ariz., he is active in many hunting, shooting sports and hunter-backed wildlife conservation organizations.

The Winning Shots
It turned out that both Downum and Stoddard had also scored bucks earlier in the hunt, which meant that, with Junion’s buck, the Bourbon Banditos were the only team with all three team members scoring an animal. With minutes to spare, they won the 2023 One Shot Antelope Hunt.

“It was a complete team effort,” Junion told “We prepared for the hunt hard together and focused on taking the right shot. This is an achievement we will remember the rest of our lives and one for which I am most proud.” On a personal note that underscored why we hunt, he added, “I remember the hunt each time I pull a piece of that delicious antelope out of the freezer to cook for family and friends.” Now a member of the Past Shooters Club along with other former participants, Junion will get to return to the One Shot event in September and hunt. There is still a lot of adrenaline that goes into every “one shot” even if the past shooters are not part of the competition.

“It will be great to return and take part in this amazing annual tradition for years to come,” Junion said with a laugh. “It’s such an incredible event, the shooters competing become friends for life and everyone involved in the One Shot is welcoming and wonderful to work with. I can’t wait to get back.”

Junion echoes the sentiments of countless others who have participated in Lander’s One Shot Antelope Hunt through the years. As noted on the event website, it remains “one of the great sporting events for men in whose hearts the pioneer spirit still lives.”

For more information on the annual One Shot Antelope Hunt or to learn how you can submit a written challenge to participate in a three-member team of your own, please click here.