Years ago a good buddy told me that a mutual friend was willing to take us out pronghorn hunting, we were going to his spot, blinds were already set up and the two friends he hunted with were ok with us going out to try this adventure. With no experience and not sure what to expect we headed out. After a few hours of travel and then being told I need to walk across the desert in the dark so I could get to my blind before sunrise I headed out. It didn’t make much sense to me at the time but I trusted the buddy. I found the blind and lay down to take a nap before light. When I woke I could see that I had walked across a huge meadow and pronghorn were way out in the distance. My first thought was “This is Easy” then I realized my water hole had very little water. It was a long day and I messed up the only pronghorn that came close.
The following day I was to sit with the guy that had invited us as he had had pronghorn in and out all day. He wanted a buck and I was good with just sitting there to see how this all played out. As time approached for us to leave a group came over the hill but all were does. He asked if I wanted a doe and I replied “yes”. They came up and danced around and got all nervous, which I learned later is normal. One put her head down to drink and I drew my bow, as I settled my 20 yard pin my buddy told me it was thirty yards, I trusted him and made the adjustment, and hit the animal perfectly! I think he was as excited as I was. It was my first pronghorn and a fantastic experience, I now was hooked.
I left that trip thinking this was easy to do and went in search of my own area, I was invited to that one and appreciated it so to show proper respect you just don’t go back or near that area.
After many hours of looking over maps and spending tons of hours out in the field I thought I had found the perfect spot. I went home and built a plywood blind which was an adventure in itself. After setting it up I waited anxiously for the opening day. I got in the blind early and waited at this seep for hours and watched goats go into another water hole that was on private property. My efforts failed miserably. I knew I needed to learn more about these animals and their habits. Of course I ended up doing spot and stalk.
Learning through frustration
Spot and stalk on pronghorn is without question the best way to learn amazing stalking skills. You get to see a lot of animals, most of which are running away from your failed attempts. Pronghorn have fantastic eye sight and will pick up any movement up to ½ mile away. After several days of failing and learning that this was going to be tougher than one might think after chasing mule deer. Three of the best things I found for stalking antelope, Patience, uv killer, and more patience. You will not move fast and get a pronghorn, being young I lacked two of the three and could buy the third. I say UV killer as I truly believe that it works, most of the high end clothing (Sitka or Core4Element) now have whatever it is to make the glow go away. Many tests in the field have me convinced that this is important.
After about fifty fails I was able to get close enough to take a shot and it all worked out. I finally got my first buck.
I preferred the blind so I doubled the efforts in the area I was in to try and get a better spot and finally found a couple of water holes that would work and had a couple of buddies that wanted to try with me so we covered more ground and found what we thought were good water holes. By good we thought if there were pronghorn and water it was a done deal. This is where I started to learn about hidden seeps and old pushes that were not on maps but you could find them wandering the desert, or watching the other animals. We started looking for tracks and how frequently pronghorn came into water and actually studied them to help us be successful. After a few years we had it down pretty well and ran about 75% success for our group of four, but times and patterns change. People had moved in to the area and we had not been shooting “quality” bucks. It was time to find better hunting grounds.
I searched on maps and every possible mapping program I could find on the computer and finally found one I really liked, actually I found about a dozen that I really liked. A buddy and I loaded up and headed out for a drive. Now I had a good idea of what to look for in a water hole. I had found a new home. But after years of experience here is what I look for now
Water, not just any water but good amounts of water that will last into the season
Tracks; lots of tracks that I can say for sure pronghorn are visiting even if you don’t see them
Other animals; if other animals are comfortable with it pronghorn will be to sage hen, coyotes, bobcats, and mainly deer.
Out of the way: while some of the closer water holes will produce, I like to be secluded, this used to be easy but now with google earth people have found any obvious water hole, but most are not willing to hike that far for a goat.
Good wind: watch the wind direction for a few days to know what is the primary direction not on the wind come from but the pronghorn as well, we all know how wind can ruin a hunt it is the same for pronghorn.
Limited other sources: if you have the only water for miles, you will increase your odds as well. Seems pretty obvious but sometimes there are seeps around that you don’t know about. One water hole we hunt has a seep 400 yards from it and it took us 7 years before we accidently found it.
If you find a water hole with all six of these your odds will increase. Using a good trail camera will let you know what it there and what to expect from the area you are hunting. I have done this for years and learned a few things.
Pronghorn water when they are thirsty, If they are coming to the water and, as I call it, floppy eared, they are comfortable with that water hole and have drank there before. Your odds are better than the ones that stand out at 500 yards and stare for hours.
Pronghorn do drink in the dark.
Pronghorn don’t always come in when they get close to water, with or without you there so if they spook it could just be the antelope
Windy/rainy days will be slower
Judging pronghorn takes time and you have to be able to hold them but rule of thumb for me is that if it looks really big, it generally is. It isn’t hard to tell between a 65 and a 75 inch goat.
Patience, again this is important and back when I started it was a lot harder than now, but I have found things to do to help out with the boredom. Books/magazines, I save a few to take out with me. Ipods are awesome I have multiple charges and movies on them so I can watch stuff when I get bored. Kindles are great as well you can take more than one book.
I always like to be comfortable as well so a few things to think about that can help are
Pad I have a 1 ½ pad covered in black sheets that is fitted to the bottom of the blind, this makes it comfortable and quiet.
Wilderness Athlete: if you get the one gallon Gatorade bottles and freeze them full of WA mix weather you go hydrate and recover or energy and focus they make for a fantastic drink while in the blind. I take one for each day I plan on being out there and drink it as it thaws out which is about right to keep you hydrated while sitting there. They also work great to put water in and freeze, using both they will keep your meat cold and not soak it down this is very important to get your pronghorn cold as fast as you can. It will taste better and is the best meat out there in my opinion. Plus you always have a little extra water for drinking, the desert gets hot.
Chair; I still have yet to find a perfect chair for hunting antelope but if I did it would be quiet and comfortable remember you are sitting all day long for possibly a few days, my record is five days and I was a nut case by the end of it, and not thrilled with my choice of chairs.
Buddy; this better be someone you like and have no issues with. You’re going to be close for the hunt, but company helps with naps or packing. We generally do the top of the hour bottom of the hour as to who is the shooter. Makes it fun as they close the distance and time is getting ready to change.
Many hours on the computer and many hours in the field I have found over 875 water holes and find more every year in just the units that I hunt here in Idaho. I have also been very fortunate to shoot many pronghorn. The desert is an amazing place that when you stop to look around offers some amazing beauty so never forget your camera.