23 Aug 2021
He was in the perfect spot for a rod; perhaps the best opportunity I have had in a long time to chase after these American originals. It’s not often that you get such a gift to capitalize on the west, and by the size of the thick and heavy charcoal black horns he wore, he was more than worth it. But like any endeavor that involves getting close to the game with a bow and arrow, the rod should be perfect.
As I studied him from a distance through the observer, he was obviously the same male that had slipped out of reach a few days before. At that point, I was able to reduce the distance to less than 150 yards, but ran out of real estate with enough coverage to complete the job. Raising a decoy was my only option, but this gypsy had other plans.
Lucky for me, a few days later the local breeder who leased the BLM land I was hunting on was ready to share the location of the buck as I returned to my truck after my second failed stalk attempt of the morning. I guess he felt sorry for me because of my weapon of choice; and I have to admit that hunting down antelopes with a bow sometimes seems like a crazy race. That said, in my opinion, there is no better way to hunt the Prince of the Prairie than with a good stealth.
Just as the breeder described it, the male was munching on the green shoots clinging to life on the edge of a nearly dry tank. At first glance, the terrain seemed too open to do this, but when I repositioned myself for a second look, I realized that the slight elevation of the reservoir dam would obscure my approach. I just had to hope that his interest didn’t wander before I could slip within range.
Burning nearly two miles of boot leather, I looped and relaxed the wet weather wash leading up to the reservoir dam. Other than the pair of mule deer that I accidentally bumped from their beds, the rod was immaculate. The few sprinkled juniper pine nuts and the dry wash provided excellent conditions for staying hidden.
After knocking down an arrow, I glanced over the dam. To my surprise, he was still there, completely unaware that he was no longer alone. After a quick flash of my range finder, I drew and settled down. With my 50 yard pin scorched low in his chest, I hit the trigger and put a glorious end to another exhilarating bow hunt on public lands.
Hailing from North America, it’s honestly hard not to love everything about the American antelope. Not only is their striking appearance unlike anything else in North America, but their razor-sharp eyes and lightning speed make them a terrific prize in the great outdoors they call home. Best of all, the table fare they offer is exceptional, and with the hunting seasons starting in August, pronghorn is the perfect appetizer for any bow hunter’s long season.
When it comes to wrapping your tag around one, protecting a well-used water source is usually the best option for the archery hunter. Nothing draws a mature male into the range more consistently like the liquid gold of the western high desert in August. And while this may be the most effective way to drive them away, it’s not just a matter of throwing an awning near a damp spot and hoping for the best.
American antelopes are creatures of habit and they will pass through water sources instead of whatever they want. I also suspect that there are other reasons that may be related to their ability to see in a vulnerable position. Either way, not all water sources are created equal, so choosing the right one is important.
Nothing beats a good old-fashioned spotting when it comes to finding the right wet spot, and digital mapping sources like OnX Hunt are a good place to start. The less water the better in most cases, so look for sections of land with limited options. When it’s time to physically spot them, obviously pay attention to how many animals you see in a particular area. The more wise rockets you locate, the more opportunities you are likely to have when it comes to blindfolding.
Water sources can vary widely. The ones they can see well when approaching, and also have the ability to see their surroundings while sipping, are usually the best. Remember, an antelope’s best defense is its eyes and speed, and it puts that above all else. Finding trails around the water is often difficult due to the hard, compact ground, but following trails leading from them can give clues. And for the bow hunter, the smaller the water source the better for obvious reasons, but ultimately you have to be where the action is, so sometimes having a pair of blinds installed on it. a bigger drink is the answer.
Confirming what a water source gives is always your best and nothing beats what you see with your own eyes. Obviously, a good pair of optics is important, but so is a well-placed surveillance camera or two. Efficiency is essential when it comes to monitoring multiple wetlands, as well as not hitting potential target males with unnecessary activity around them; therefore, a good surveillance camera with a wide field of view is a great option. Best of all, surveillance cameras with cellular technology like the new Moultrie Delta will minimize the risk of hitting goats from their preferred water source.
As effective as guarding a waterhole is, it’s really hard to beat the excitement of stalking and using a decoy. In fact, if there is only an ounce of cover or rough terrain, that’s about the only way I can hunt them. All of the goats I’ve killed except a few came from this method, and while it’s not easy, it’s a lot of fun.
The reason is quite simple. Goats stalking goats operate from sunrise to sunset. I counted up to eight stems in one day. I won’t lie, it can certainly be a chore – especially when you see your share of white rumps heading in the opposite direction as you try to squeeze in – but it’s also the sweetest feeling when it all comes together. square.
Needless to say, coverage is an essential part of this business. Although most public land goats live on a relatively open area with sparse cover, there are usually enough bumps and ditches that give you a chance to crawl. In many areas, cholla cactus and yucca plants dot the landscape, so these types of areas can be a game-changer.
Although the more rods you can chain together the better, it really is a wild race trying to get in on super flat terrain. Instead of wasting your time and sending the goat to the next county, keep looking for the right buck in the right place to give yourself a fighting chance. Glass, glass and more glass to find the right money. Be patient and take your time to dissect the terrain. Additionally, American antelopes move around a lot when standing, so keep that in mind when planning a sneak outing. Think ahead of time where you are likely to intercept him or wait for him to set.
Just as important as having a blanket is choosing the right dollar. In hindsight, all of the males I was able to track down and kill, except one, were completely alone. These gypsy billy goats tend to be more mature and earlier in the season you can hunt them better. Often times that means finding secluded places with few roads, but burning boot leather in this rugged country can pay dividends.
When it comes to deploying a decoy, timing is everything. While they can attract a buck within range early in the season, in my experience the buck you’re trying to cheat on hangs up well out of range or heads in the opposite direction. However, once you start to see mature antelopes engaging in intense territorial scratching activity, it’s time to consider using a scythe.
As the rut heats up, mature males begin to herd large harems of deer. When intruders sneak nearby, the dominant male will chase them with lightning speed only for another male to sneak through the back door to steal a bride. I’ve seen the same buck run around for hours, and if you come across this situation it’s a great opportunity to get close to a decoy. These are usually fast paced hunts, and with all the hustle and bustle, you can move around unnoticed. Once you’ve hit the 150-yard mark or so, spawn the scythe. Seeing an intruder so close will certainly get the male’s attention, and if the time is right, he’ll explode in your direction.
If he’s really agitated, you’ll think he’s going to run over you. He’ll usually realize that something is wrong, but usually well within range of the bow. When it stops, turn it on and catch your breath. It really is the most exciting way to hunt this American original.