On this year’s Colorado antelope hunting trip I implemented a number of strategies I had learned prior to the hunt, and I picked up several new strategies during the hunt as well.
Here are 13 lessons, in no particular order of importance:
Watch where they end up just before dark
Pronghorn don’t like to move much once it gets dark. They rely so heavily on their eyesight as their primary mode of defense that they’d rather stay put until dawn. So see where they are just before dark and plan to set up nearby in the morning.
Antelope will turn and look back at you, even when spooked
If the animal you’re stalking sees you and runs, give it 50 yards and I’ll bet it turns around to try to better identify what you are and if you’re a threat. If you’re not standing upright and looking human-like, you’ll likely get another chance. Their curiosity is their achilles heel.
Antelope aren’t likely to move from one ranch to the next
We saw the same group of 7 and 10 both during scouting and during the hunt. Now week to week they might move from ranch to ranch, but during a couple days of hunting, if you haven’t spooked them too much, they’ll likely return later in the day or the following day.
One set of eyes is easier to sneak up on than 10 sets of eyes
My spot and stalk would not been successful if all of the pronghorn in that group wouldn’t have left the one behind. I don’t care how ninja-like you think you are, avoiding 20 eyes all looking for danger is a tough challenge. Better to work on a single or a smaller group.
Sight your rifle in at 200 yards
If you’re zeroed at 200, you’ll have a successful shot at 100 yards without any adjustment and you’ll put the crosshairs on the animal’s back for a 300 yard shot. A 400 yard shot will require a hold over and the only way to have confidence in this long of a shot is to have put in plenty of hours at the range before the hunt. Which leads me to my next tip…
Spend time at the shooting range
Don’t just show up the week before hunting season, sight in your rifle, and call it good. That might be enough for animals under 300 yards, but antelope don’t always let you get that close. Figure out your holdover for a 350 yard shot, a 400 yard shot, a 450 yard shot. Though I personally won’t shoot at anything over 400 yards away, plenty of people do…many successfully. But they know the capability of both their gun and themselves. It’s not worth wounding an animal at 350 yards if you’ve never shot paper at 350 yards.
Even the slightest roll in the land is enough to work a stalk
When you see pronghorn on the plains of Colorado or Wyoming, you wonder how in the hell you could ever sneak up on them because the land appears so flat. Believe it or not, that flat land does have some slight rolls to it and if you stay low and slow, crawling on your hands and knees if necessary, you’ll surprise yourself how close you’ll be able to get to your target.
Crawling 300 yards on your knees through cactus isn’t difficult
This is a lie. It hurt.
Have good binoculars or a spotting scope
Aside from your tag, ammo, and rifle, binoculars are the most important piece of equipment to have when antelope hunting. They were glued to my face the entire hunt, and the entire day before the hunt. I understand budgeting, but buy the best glass you can afford. It’s better to spend $200 more now to get the right pair, than to skimp and have to buy a second pair to replace them later. I cannot stress this enough. My binos are Vortex Diamondback, and I’m in the market for a good spotting scope…but they don’t come cheap!
Don’t drink too much coffee before the hunt
We spooked a group of pronghorn we had been watching because of a full bladder. Even though we moved slowly, their eyesight is ridiculously good and they are always looking for something out of place. So unless you’re more talented than I am and you can pee while laying on the ground, skip the coffee and water, or at least drink it early enough that there is time for it to pass through your system prior to settling into the hunt.
Keep the tenderloins, even if you process the rest of the animal
If you plan to take your antelope to a meat processor, remove the tenderloins out before you drop it off. I’m not sure why we didn’t do that this time, but because one of our pronghorns was gutshot, the tenderloins got digested grass, etc on them. The processor didn’t notice and they processed and packaged the loins, and they are ruined. This might only happen to you on rare occasions, but it happened to us and it’s worth remembering for future hunts.
Be careful with a Havalon knife
It’s sharp and it can cut a finger. Nuff said.
A bipod is a must
This is the first time I’ve ever used a bipod. Though my shot was just 200 yards away, I only had a head/neck shot available to me, so the bipod provided a steady rest for a perfect shot. My hunting partner missed his first few shots at a doe because he didn’t have the steady rest. If you’re going to hunt Colorado pronghorn, do yourself a favor and pick up a bipod. If you do a search for Harris Bipod at Amazon.com, you’ll find plenty to choose from. I personally use Harris model 1A2-H Solid Base with 13.5″ – 23″ retractable legs.
Do you have any tips or tricks you want to share to help antelope hunters and future antelope hunters? Share your comments below!