Pronghorn Antelope are Fun
I’ve hunted antelope since I was a kid, and have to say, they’re one of the funnest big game animals to hunt in North America.
They’ve got great vision and hearing, and can run miles when spooked. Being the fastest land animal in North America, they can create distance between themselves and whatever the perceived threat is in a hurry. It’s not very hard to spook them either, then they’re off at speeds reaching over 53 miles per hour. They’re also one of the smaller big game animals in the West, so being able to get a little bit closer than you would to an elk is pretty important. Pronghorn antelope are also herd or “band” animals, which means where there is one there is almost always more. Hunting them after they’ve started to experience weather, causes them to herd up and gather into groups that can be in the hundreds and be more difficult to hunt. When you combine that with their having been shot at during the season opener and ready to run to the next county at the sight of you driving down a country road three miles away, you’re going to have to work for it.
But here’s where it gets fun. Antelope tend to forget pretty quickly about whatever it is that spooked them and go right back to grazing in the open sagebrush. I’ve literally been able to put six or seven stalks together on the same group the same day (story follows). It’s a great hunt for someone who enjoys spot and stalk hunting and multiple opportunities a day to get it done. So if you mess up and spook the group you’re after, sit back and watch where they go. Chances are, as soon as they can’t see you anymore, they will forget you were ever there. Be prepared for some low crawling and cactus needles. As I said before, they’ve got really good eyesight.
Take a decoy
If you can’t sneak within range, there are a few other things you can try. Pronghorn bucks are extremely territorial and curious by nature. You can us an antelope decoy to bring them into range. Putting a decoy up on a skyline or in a wide, flat and open area usually produces the best results. Waving a white flag arouses their curiosity. There is an art to it and usually a fine line between too little and too much. The flagging technique can cause a pronghorn to run right towards your location so it’s important to have your weapon ready. Whether they’re looking to chase off another buck, or their curiosity has gotten the best of them, most antelope just can’t refrain from coming in to check things out.
Last year I had the opportunity to chase these prairie speedsters in Colorado with one of our best outfitters. I was pretty excited for this hunt to say the least. It had been a few years since I’d gone antelope hunting and the outfitter had been sending me pictures of some of the animals they’d been seeing all summer. Not to mention, this was a tag that can take 15-16 years to draw for Colorado residents. Opening morning found us glassing rolling hills and hay meadows along with a few other lucky tag holders. We were seeing a lot of antelope and passed on probably 30 different bucks the first couple of hours. We had been looking for a buck that had been hanging out in a particular area all summer. No sign of him anywhere.
There were a few campers in the vicinity of where he was a few days before so we figured he’d moved in a little further away from the roads. I wanted to find this buck because he was unique. His horns were about 14 1/2 inches long, but they laid out making him about 18 inches wide. We looked over several bucks those first few hours. A few of them I would have been more than happy to take but was told we could do better. I decided to listen to my guide and wait for him to tell me when one was good enough.
We finally spotted a buck about a mile and a half away that fit the bill. We ended up trying to pull off several sneaks on that buck, some were foiled by other hunters going after that same buck. He would spook and it would be right back to trying to glass him up again. Finally, the buck found his way into a group of about 100 antelope that were right in the middle of a wide open flat surrounded by several groups of hunters waiting for an opportunity at one of the several great bucks that were in it. We watched the buck move back and forth through the herd, sometimes walking straight toward a hunter almost giving them a shot. A couple times I watched guys get into position to take a shot, then he would turn and walk straight back into the middle of the herd as if he knew what was about to happen. He finally did break away with about five other animals and got past all the other hunters waiting in ambush.
We moved to a different vantage point to see where he was going, and then quickly tried to move into position in front of him. We failed the first time, finding he’d already moved past our location. We backed out and tried again. This time it worked and I was able to get just inside 300 yards with him presenting a perfect broadside shot. I was able to harvest a 76 inch pronghorn on the first day of my hunt and made some great friends in the process.
by Casey Jensen