What to Expect When Hunting One of North America's Cagiest Animals
The American pronghorn antelope is a notoriously skittish animal with excellent vision. Approaching them across open country can sometimes present a significant challenge to hunters. They are also one of the most difficult animals to judge on the hoof, presenting an even greater challenge to those seeking an antelope buck of trophy quality.
We sat down with a few of the guides at SNS Outfitters in Wyoming and asked for their number-one tips when it comes to successfully hunting antelope. Here is what they had to say.
The greatest trick to getting within range of an antelope is not being seen. An antelope’s best defenses are not the same as other western big game animals. An antelope has eyesight and speed. Those are the defenses they rely on.
Hearing and smell are often secondary when it comes to antelope hunting. You can stalk antelope with the wind at your back and still be successful. And you can make noise unlike you could with an elk or a deer. But if they catch you moving, even at long distances, you’re likely to get busted.
When you embark on that antelope hunt, forget what you know about deer. Forget what you’ve learned about elk. Antelope behave very differently.
Since the most important factor in antelope hunting is staying out of their line of sight, it is critical to plan a stalk and find an approach that allows you to get close enough for a shot. Ultimately, that plan will depend on the antelope. Wherever he is and whatever he is doing, you must plan your stalk around that.
In many situations, the terrain may look flat. But when you study it more carefully, you’ll discover undulations and features that can allow you to get close. Use anything you can to get within range. Usually, that means having to do some crawling on your hands and knees. Antelope country is often cactus country, so don’t forget those knee pads!
Because getting within range can be difficult, that makes shooting skill even more important. Sometimes your only shot is a long one, and the more comfortable a hunter is with their rifle at long distance, the better their chances of taking a quality antelope. In addition to being in wide-open country, Antelope are surprisingly small animals if you’ve been used to hunting mule deer, elk or other species across the west. Antelope present a much smaller target.
Shooting is important with any type of big game hunting, but guides stress this all the time for antelope hunts. You should be shooting your weapon year-round and be extremely comfortable with its performance out to 300 yards.
One of the most important things to remember about antelope, is that you can blow a stalk and still get another chance. When an antelope takes off at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour, he’ll cover a lot of ground. But to that antelope, out of sight is out of mind. Eventually he will forget about you, and you might be able to get a second chance.
After a long, hard stalk gets blown, it’s easy to feel a big letdown. It was a lot of work and it can be hard to stay motivated. But stay focused and determined. Persistence definitely pays off when in pursuit of a mature antelope buck.