Pronghorn Antelope eye is bigger than that of cow or horse, nearly as large as that of an elephant; they provide him somewhat the appearance of a huge beetle. It can see half or three-quarters of a mile away, with a range of vision keener than that of an 8 power glass. I have seen a herd fairly fly across the plains up to the foothills and trees, then scorn the cover they have reached and circle back and back again as if playing a game of tag with your bullets. The pronghorn is a real sportsman. He runs, but he never hides.
The Pronghorn Challenge
Antelope shooting is the kind in which a man most needs skill in the use of the rifle at long ranges; they are harder to get near than any other game—partly from their wariness and still more from the nature of the ground they inhabit. Still, good hunters consider on applying 6 or 7 cartridges for all prong-horn they kill; for Pronghorn antelope are continually presenting standing shots at very long distances, which, nevertheless, it is a big temptation to try, on the chance of luck favoring the marksman.
Sit Over Water
You can avoid strenuous stalks during midday heat if you switch to hunting a waterhole. Pronghorns are creatures of the dry, high plains, but they need to drink periodically, and will often show up during the hottest hours to slake their thirst. If you know which water sources they’ve been using you stand a good chance of ambushing one.
Set Your Decoys with Stealth
When hunting Pronghorn Antelope with a bow, a decoy can make the difference between a fruitless stalk and a successful hunt. The trick is to creep close enough to set one up, and then to set it up without being spotted. Wait until the buck you’re hunting is busy chasing a doe, or obscured from view by a clump of sage or other brush. If he sees your decoy rise up out of the grass he may grow suspicious of the unnatural motion and fail to come closer to investigate.
Give Your Blind Time
If you plan to hunt from a blind overlooking a water source, make sure the blind has been in place for a few days before you plan to sit in it. Pronghorns will be wary of this new addition to the landscape after it first appears; you want to hunt from it after they grow comfortable enough with its presence to wander within bow range.
Glass from Your Truck
Most pronghorn antelope have yet to associate vehicles with the hunters who drive them. This makes your truck an ideal platform from which to glass for a trophy. Once you’ve spotted a buck you want to stalk, glass out the route you plan to stalk, and then drive your truck far enough away that the animal won’t see you getting out.
Some Facts of Pronghorn Antelope Biology
A male pronghorn weighs, on average, about 120 pounds. Females are slightly smaller, averaging 105 pounds. The animals are not large, standing approximately 3 feet at the shoulder. Both males and females have horns, though the males are significantly longer, averaging 13 to 15 inches compared to the female’s 3- to 5-inch horns. Pronghorns can live up to nine years in the wild.
Long Shots is Not Important
The key to getting up on lies in the seemingly flat land they inhabit, which is actually broken, cut and intersected by coulees, ravines, gullies, washes, draws, ridges, hills, and divides. A smart antelope hunter can take advantage of this tortured topography to get close—almost always less than 200 yards, and very often less than 100.
The Pronghorn Antelope’s Range
True Americans, pronghorn are found only on the plains and grasslands of North America. Like bison, seemingly endless numbers once covered the west, stretching from Saskatchewan to just north of Mexico City. And like bison, they nearly became extinct. Populations declined from an estimated 30–60 million in the early 1800s to less than 15,000 by 1915. A moratorium on hunting lasting until the 1940s and a federal tax on firearms and sporting goods funding conservation efforts are credited with stopping the decline. Today there are almost 1 million pronghorn. 5 subspecies are recognized:
- American/common (found in most of the range, Canada, and northern Arizona)
- Mexican/Chihuahuan (found in New Mexico, Texas, formerly southeastern Arizona)
- Oregon (found in southeastern Oregon)
- Peninsular (100–250 animals, found in Baja, Mexico)
- Sonoran (endangered, 500 animals found at Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and Sonora, Mexico).
How to Field-Judge a Pronghorn Antelope
A trophy antelope’s horns will be longer than 13″, which is the distance from the base of an average pronghorn’s ear to the tip of its nose. Horns that appear to be twice as long or longer than the animal’s ears are likely to break the Boone & Crockett record books, especially if they are curved, crooked, and look wider at their bases than the width of the animal’s eye. Look for horns that split into prongs above the tips of a pronghorn’s ears. You want an animal whose front prong extends at least 4 inches forward from the main horn.