In my opinion, Pronghorn Antelope are one of, if not the most underrated animals to hunt in North America.
The terrain these animals live in, along with their keen sense of sight makes for a real test of a hunter's patience. With only a few failed attempts at sneaking in on these critters, a hunter realizes the importance of capitalizing on any opportunity.
The anatomy of Pronghorn Antelope is amazing. Their abnormally large eyes make for some of the best eyesight in the animal kingdom. With each animal supporting a very nice set of eight power binoculars as vision, sneaking up on an antelope is extremely difficult. Additionally, the location of the eyes on the animal's head allows them to see nearly 360 degrees. All of that makes antelope one of the toughest spot and stalk hunts in North America.
Ever since I was a young boy, hunting antelope was always one of my favorite hunts of the year. Opening day of Montana archery antelope season starts a few weeks before general archery, meaning an exciting kick-off to the beginning of our fall hunts. The challenge of harvesting an animal built with the survival instincts like antelope have brings extra meaning and excitement to a hunt for me. I love taking trophy animals but I find the harder the hunt, the greater the satisfaction of taking even the most average of animals. So the challenge is what I chase, and that is why I love antelope hunting with a bow.
This particular hunt was about as last-minute as I was able to throw together. I left my house well after 1 p.m. just to make the 3 ½ hour drive to my antelope hunting area where I could only spend the evening and part of the next morning hunting. Being the middle of September, I knew the rut was well underway on the prairie.
My first encounter was with a small buck, no more than 6 inches from base to tip. With such short time to hunt, normally I would have tried to harvest the buck. But thoughts of a bigger antelope kept my release from grabbing my string and elected to keep moving in search of something more mature. As I began to continue covering ground, I found a herd of six or seven antelope including one solid rutting buck. Glassing them from a half-mile away or so, I knew there was no way to get to the buck. With his does spread out running every which way and him diligently following behind in an effort to keep them together, I figured there was no possible way to get within bow range. There was no terrain feature that could hide my approach or any brush to hide behind, so I elected to keep moving with hopes that if I returned later, they would be in a more favorable position.
I drove past the antelope nearly a mile before looking back. I noticed the buck chasing does more frantic now, trying to keep them together. I decided to head back and give it a try. There was a doe that had separated from the group and I figured I could possibly make a move on her. I drove back to a washout ditch which led to the base of the big hill the antelope had been perched on. Working my way down the ditch, I could see the buck running back and forth in a 300 yard line attempting to keep his ladies together. I decided my best option was to get as close as I could and hopefully catch the buck running his does close enough to get a shot at him.
I waited until all antelope were out of sight and made my move. Climbing over a little rise, I got to a patch of taller sage brush that hid my outline. Perched along a fence line, I knew this could be a likely path for the antelope to go. The only problem was fairly limited sight. I had no idea when or if the antelope would even come my way. As soon as I started thinking about the odds still definitely stacked against me, I saw a doe running directly at me through the shallow draw I was sitting above. My arrow was knocked and my release was on the string. The doe came into 30 yards, but I elected to pass and wait. Thinking back, I may have even drawn my bow, but she wasn’t the antelope I wanted.
Waiting a few more minutes with nothing happening made me think herd had moved off. I elected to climb the gradual hill and see if I could locate the antelope. Dipping into the bottom and gradually moving up the other side of the wash, I kept a sharp eye. I happened to be looking right when over my shoulder to my left I heard the familiar sound of an antelope buck grunt. Whipping my head around, the buck was paralleling me and moving the opposite direction. I was immediately confused about what was happening. The buck was not but 60 yards out and to my knowledge, he never even looked my direction. It could have been the Kryptek Highlander series camo I was wearing. Between the Camo and intense rut action, I guess I was nearly invisible. The buck ran right to the trail the doe had taken maybe 10 minutes earlier, presenting me with a beautiful broadside shot at 74 yards. One well-placed arrow and the buck expired within seconds.
Experiences like this are what fuels my passion for antelope hunting. In open country, there’s a million things that can go wrong on a stalk. But every once in a while, there’s a bit of luck on your side. That is what keeps me coming back for more.