By Tony Peterson
It’s all about elk and mule deer. Especially now that most bowhunters have been priced or preference-pointed right out of the sheep, moose, and mountain goat game. Lost in all of this is the lowly pronghorn, the most fun-to-hunt game animal out there that most of us will never hunt.
It’s a shame, really. You’ve got a critter that spends most of its day out in the wide open and visible for the world to see. He’s as arrogant as they come when it boils down to getting away from predators, and for good reason. He can see better than any critter you’ll hunt, and outrun them too.
This strength can be a weakness, if you’re willing to spot and stalk and open to the idea of getting your butt kicked nearly every attempt you make. You can exploit his other weakness, too, which is that living nowhere near patch a shade all day long tends to make him thirsty. If the conditions are right, he’ll go get a drink and if you’ve got the patience, you can kill him when he does.
Either way, you should go antelope hunting.
The Hunt-Planning Logistics
In bowhunting, we’ve found a sneaky way to lobby hard to screw our fellow hunters - at least if those hunters live across the state line from us. While we preach about staying together to fight the good fight, the reality is that given the chance most hunters would vote to punish nonresidents so they can have easier hunting at home.
This mentality is moving the goalposts farther away from many of us when it comes to elk, mule deer, and whitetail opportunities. Antelope, at least for now, aren’t much of a concern. If you want to travel to hunt them, this is good news for you.
You’re not likely to find a cheaper and easier-to-obtain nonresident license than that which is good for an antelope. The seasons tend to open earlier than anything else, they are abundant on public land, and you’ve got several options. This means that while you might not be able to afford an elk hunt this year, or take the time from work and family to do it, you can probably swing an antelope hunt.
Simply find a state that will sell you an OTC tag and do a Google search for big chunks of public land in that given state. If there is enough land and it’s in a place with an antelope population, you’re in business. Antelope are not hard to find on public land, so it’s more a matter of finding a good place to camp or a cheap motel to crash at.
Sit Or Crawl, Sit Or Crawl
Water holes are the way to go if you want to kill an antelope. It’s not nearly as easy on a DIY hunt as it looks on TV, however. Remember those folks you see arrowing antelope on TV have typically shown up after all of the scouting work is finished. Someone else probably ran cameras on several waterholes or glassed them for a couple of weeks before setting up blinds and continuing to monitor the activity. The actual killing of an antelope there is the easy part once the work is in the rearview mirror.
You won’t have that luxury, so if you want to waterhole hunt find as many spots as you can on your aerial photos. Plan to hike in to each when you show up and look for plenty of sign. If it’s worth a blind, pop yours up in any cover that’s available. If there isn’t any cover available, move your blind farther off the water than you’d like. Antelope can find other places to drink if they need to, and a shiny blind showing up 15 yards off of their favorite pond will often keep them away.
If you want to stalk, plan for longer-range shooting than you’ve got at home in the whitetail woods. And plan to fail, a lot. Stalking antelope is crazy fun and ridiculously difficult. It might take 10 or 15 attempts to get within range of any antelope, which is especially true if you’re dealing with sparse cover - and you undoubtedly will be.
Look for a loner buck if possible, or a small group of them. If they are tucked into the base of a hill or happened to bed anywhere near some cover, you’re in business. Play the wind, go slow, and keep your eyes peeled for cacti and rattlesnakes. And be open to shooting any legal antelope that is nice enough to let you crawl within bow range. For your first hunt, or your first 10, leave the trophy mentality to the TV guys. If you lower your standards you’ll stalk more antelope, have more opportunities, and enjoy the whole trip a lot more.
Go antelope hunting. It’s the cheapest traveling hunt you’ll ever go on, and once you do you’ll realize that it’s a lot of fun. It’s also a good primer for the time when you finally burn your elk points or simply decide that you’ve got the time and money for a bigger western adventure. If you’ve already hunted antelope a few times, that next step will be much easier to take.