Where The Antelope Play

November 17th, 2008 / Posted by edersbow.com
Where The Antelope Play

Taking A Pronghorn Is One Of Bowhunting’s Greatest Challenges, But Armed With A Few Key Tactics, You’ll Take The Speedsters Down.  By Judd Cooney

Bowhunting pronghorn antelope is an adventure of patience and perseverence from start to finish. From the time you start pouring over maps and literature trying to locate the very best area to bowhunt these beautiful, prairie speedsters, to choosing a blind location and making it look like part of the environment, to the final “moment of truth” when you release an arrow at a record class buck, your greatest asset is going to be PATIENCE!

Pronghorn bowhunting opportunities have never been better. There are more pronghorns roaming the prairies of the west, at present, than at any time in history and all of the antelope producing states have liberal bowhunting seasons.

There are more pronghorns roaming the prairies of the west, at present, than at any time in history.

Without question the top pronghorn state is Wyoming with some 70,000 total licenses available to hunters. Montana with 29,000 licenses and Colorado with 13,000 licenses also provide plenty of quality antelope bowhunting. During the 1995-96 recording period for Pope & Young, Wyoming produced the most record class pronghorns with 248 entries, followed by Colorado with 127 and Montana with 54 entries. However, six of the top ten including the top FOUR were shot in Arizona with New Mexico, Nevada, Wyoming and Alberta posting one each. Be patient, do your research and choose a pronghorn hunting area that best fills your fantasies. Contact the state agencies, local ranchers, wildlife personnel and sporting goods stores for further detailed information on your specific hunting area.

Most antelope reside in semi-arid prairie or desert with minimal ground vegetation and mile after mile of open country. With their acute vision and awesome speed, (70 mph top speed and 30-40 mph on cruise) they can be difficult to approach within bow range and even tougher to hit once you get close. If a pronghorn is watching you, your chances of hitting him with an arrow are slim and none. A pronghorn’s reaction time and speed make a whitetail or mule deer look like they’re moving in slow motion.
The Stake-Out 

Pit or ground blinds may help keep your scent down, but best of all they hide you from the big eyes of the pronghorn.

Pit or ground blinds may help keep your scent down, but best of all they hide you from the big eyes of the pronghorn.

The wide, open spaces and dry country that make pronghorns tough to stalk successfully, usually has a limited supply of one ingredient that allows serious bowhunters to position themselves where the antelope will come to them, and that’s WATER! Roughly 50% of the pronghorns entered in the record book are taken from ground blinds, which means a blind overlooking a water source. A waterhole during the dry, hot, summer and early fall is the center of the pronghorns universe.
Unlike other big game animals, pronghorns don’t move much at night. They’ll be up and about at first light and start feeding their way toward the nearest waterhole which may be 3 miles or more away. The most active time on a waterhole during warm weather is from 7:00 to 12:00 noon and again from about 4:00 to 7:00 in the evening. If the weather is scorching hot antelope will often loaf around a waterhole for several hours watering several times before meandering off. Pronghorn bucks are extremely territorial and will chase a buck encroaching on their stomping ground with extreme prejudice. However, waterholes seem to be a “neutral ground” where rival bucks not only tolerate each other but water side by side.
It’s easy to spot the blind of a neophyte pronghorn hunter. They expend a minimum of effort digging a shallow pit and building a front wall of brush to hide behind. They may get lots of shots at running antelope but their chances of picking and choosing a record class pronghorn of their choice and then making a clean shot are slim indeed! A shovel and pickaxe are your best weapons for waterhole blind hunting for pronghorn. The more time and effort you expend on a proper blind the luckier you’ll get. Choose a location on the waterhole where you can cover the most heavily utilized section of the shoreline as evidenced by fresh sign.
Antelope or antilocapra americana usually weigh less than 110 pounds. If you want a trophy make sure the paddles are above the 'lope's ears.

Antelope or antilocapra americana usually weigh less than 110 pounds. If you want a trophy make sure the paddles are above the

Antelope depend mainly on their keen eyesight and speed to keep them out of trouble but their sense of smell is as good as any other big game animal, so keep the prevailing breeze in mind when picking a blind location. I much prefer a pit blind and will put one in where there isn’t a leaf of cover around it and get immediate results. I dig the pit portion 6′ long x 6′ wide x 3′ deep and carve a bench seat along the back side of the pit. I then use 4′ x 3/8″ rebar rods at intervals along the back, sides and front of the pit strung with a single strand of baling wire to hold up the brush and keep it from leaving the vicinity with the prairie winds. I generally put two shooting lanes in the front to cover as much area as possible. By leaning the rods toward the center of the pit I can cover most of the top with tumbleweeds or camo netting to darken the inside of the blind. Wearing camo, face paint or a headnet to blend with the shadows or darkness eliminates any chance of the nearby “goats” spotting movement. It also makes for a cool, comfortable wait even under the hot mid- day sun. A good pocket novel will help pass the time, keep you from dozing off and maybe missing that buck of a lifetime.
Pronghorns can drive a bowhunter crazy on a waterhole! They normally HATE coming to water ’cause they instinctively realize their vulnerability at this point. They’ll choose a flat, muddy waterhole in the open where they can see, over a cold, clear, spring in the bottom of a wash where they can’t observe their surroundings. Quite often they’ll come within sight of the waterhole, then mill and browse an hour or two within sight of the waiting hunter. Not good for a bowhunter’s mental state, specially if one or more of them happen to be a monster buck.
When the antelope do get to water, BE PATIENT! Don’t rush your shot! Normally a pronghorn coming to drink will stick its nose in the water then jerk it’s head up to look around. They may do this several times before settling down for a long drink. I once timed a buck that drank for four minutes without raising his head, but it took him two hours to cover the last 200 yards to water. Be patient, wait for the right shot and make it count.
Placing The Shot
Antelope were designed for bowhunters and putting an arrow behind the shoulder on the distinct line where the white belly hair meets the brown back hair results in a downed pronghorn in short order. You’re hunting open country where visibility isn’t a problem so keep that hit pronghorn in sight after your shot. Once you determine the exact hit you can plan a course of action. A bowhunter should NEVER lose a hit pronghorn unless it is of the most superficial type and even then some of these can be turned into a trophy on the wall with a little persistence.
Spot ‘N’ Stalk
The author, with a trophy Antelope believes that one of the best ways to take a 'lope is to hunt from a dug-out ground blind.

The author, with a trophy Antelope believes that one of the best ways to take a

Successfully stalking and killing a pronghorn with a bow and arrow is the epitome of the bowhunting challenge and can be accomplished in the right country where there is sufficient cover for a stalk. The key to this type of hunting is locating the animal of your choice before it spots you. This venture requires the best optics you can afford in the form of good binoculars from 7-10X and a spotting scope for judging the trophy qualities of the buck and planning your stalking route with finite precision and detail. Here again patience and persistence is of extreme importance in executing a successful stalk. You may have to spend hours or maybe even days glassing and waiting for the buck of your dreams to get in proper position for a successful stalk. Get impatient and try to push the envelope and all you’ll get is a look at the south end of an antelope buck headed north! Remember, keep the wind in your face, the sun at your back and luck at your side and you just might get a shot. ‘Course then all you have to do is worry about hitting the critter before he sees the arrow coming.

Decoying pronghorns is becoming more popular each season and if you’re looking for plenty of unmitigated action and plan on bowhunting pronghorns during the peak of the rut, about mid-September, give decoying a try. As I stated earlier, pronghorn bucks during the rut are extremely aggressive and territorial and will put the run on any buck that crosses into their domain or approaches their harem of does. To be effective a high percent of the time you should be within 200 yards of a herd buck before you pop up your decoy. Here again good glassing technique and the patience to wait for just the right opportunity will greatly increase your chances of success. Utilizing the “buddy” system for decoy hunting is a much more effective than going it alone ’cause the action can be immediate when you pop up the decoy and an agitated buck can cover that 200 yards in something less that 10 seconds. This doesn’t give a lone bowhunter much time to set the decoy and get ready for the shot. One hunter manning the decoy while the other takes the shot is much more effective. Making a good shot on a buck charging at 50 mph isn’t the easiest thing in the world to accomplish under the best of conditions. The more variables you take out of the hunt the better your chances of putting it all together and making a clean kill.
Regardless of where or how you plan to bowhunt the unique pronghorn antelope, you’re in for one of the most challenging and exciting ventures of your bowhunting career.
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