Four Tips For Arrowing Pronghorn
October 1, 2018
Editorial Staff (256 articles)
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Four Tips For Arrowing Pronghorn

Pronghorn season runs through Oct. 7

By Brandon Ray

Building on past experiences from myself and my friends, here’s a good four-step plan for getting a buck this pronghorn season. These are the rules I followed that eventually resulted in a punched tag.

No. 1: Hunt the loner

The common question asked about bowhunting pronghorns is, “How do you stalk a herd of antelope?” The easy answer is, “You don’t!” Except when the rut is peaked and mature bucks with a herd of does might charge a decoy, I focus on the loner. Fewer eyeballs means better odds for success.

I find loner bucks the most vulnerable during the first and last hour of the day. At this time their heads are down, feeding for long periods of time giving a hunter time and opportunity to move unseen. A smart bowhunter can also position the rising or setting sun to his advantage. Stalk with the sun at your back, in the buck’s face.

That blinding sun makes it harder for the buck to decipher what you are. Stalking bedded midday bucks is another option. Be sure to glass the surrounding landscape for unseen, bedded animals that might spoil the stalk. Antelope don’t stay bedded for long, so be decisive in your stalk before he gets up. Use a puff bottle of powder to monitor the wind.

No. 2: Hunt the brush and terrain

This is a hard lesson, but it’s critical to consistent stalking success. If you see a fine buck in open, untouchable terrain, drive right past him. Do not educate him by trying a low percentage stalk. Go find another buck in broken terrain.

If he’s the buck you want, watch him—all day if necessary—until he wanders close to a shallow ravine, patch of tall sage or behind a hill. Put that cover between you and the buck. Use a shallow draw to conceal your stalk.

A friend of mine once killed a fine buck in otherwise open terrain by watching the buck’s morning routine through a spotting scope. The buck fed out in the open in crop fields, but eventually bedded in the shade of a couple lone elm trees on an old fence when the sun heated up. He did this three days in a row. By being patient and waiting for that buck to get close to the only cover for miles, my friend got that buck.

No. 3: Fool ’em with a fake

Decoys are very effective during the mid to late September rut. The idea is to use a small buck decoy to intimidate a mature buck guarding a harem of does. When the big buck sees the dink invading his space, he will run off the intruder, giving the hunter a shot. But decoys work outside the rut, too.

The difference is the response behavior. Instead of an all-out rut charge, a buck in August typically slowly walks to the decoy as if to see what it is. Pronghorns are herd animals and like company. They are also as curious as a cat.

When a stalk falls apart in those last 100-150 yards and the buck spots you, that’s when a decoy can save the stalk. Once the buck sees you, just hold your ground and let the buck stare at the fake and make his approach. Hide your face and torso behind the decoy, peaking around it only to use your rangefinder.

Bucks expect some movement from the fake. Bucks will usually approach from the downwind side. I’ve successfully used vintage Mel Dutton decoys and Montana decoys, but those designs work best with two people.

Modern bow-mounted decoys like Stalker and Heads-Up decoys make this a deadly solo tactic. In my testing, these bow-mounted decoys do not affect bow accuracy.

No. 4: Gear up

According to the Pope & Young Club’s 29th Recording Period Statistical Summary Book, 47 percent of pronghorns were shot at distances of 40 yards plus. Only five percent of whitetails entered in the same period were shot beyond 40 yards. Clearly, the well-prepared western hunter should be ready for longer shots.

Carry a rangefinder close to nail down exact yardages. Keep it either around your neck or tucked in a shirt pocket. It does no good in the bottom of a backpack during a stalk. Range the target animal whenever possible, not nearby brush.

Brush that looks close to the animal can be deceiving. Range the buck’s head, not the body as tall grass might give you a false reading. I prefer a moveable pin sight for long-range accuracy. I practice diligently all summer for antelope season, mostly on a 3-D animal target to simulate the real deal.

Fairly light, but not too light arrows keep pin settings and arrow trajectory tight. I’ve found a finished arrow weight of 400 grains to be a good compromise of speed and enough weight for deep penetration. Skinny micro diameter arrows cut through crosswinds for less drift.

Suit up with a ghillie suit or lightweight, 3-D leafy jacket to break-up the human outline. Kneepads and elbow pads can protect from unseen cactus. Double-stitched pants like Carhartt’s also work well for stalking.

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