On the Prowl for a Pronghorn
By Gary Lewis
When you set out to tie your tag to a pronghorn, you’ve got to be mobile and flexible. When you find the herd, they could be feeding out in the middle of a wide-open basin, or resting in the shadow of a rimrock in the badlands. It takes a lot of country to support a herd of antelope and, chances are, you’ll have to look at a lot of it, before you find the buck you’re after.
When you hunt the kind of country that you’ll find near Christmas Valley or out by Warm Springs Reservoir, be prepared for wide-open expanses. The antelope can see for miles across the prairie flats. Instead of stalking them, try appealing to their curiosity.
Indians used to wave a white flag from a short stick. The fluttering rag would draw the normally wary animals within shooting distance. That trick still works today.
Another trick that some hunters use to their advantage is to park their rig in full sight of the herd. If the animals will stay still and watch the truck, the hunter can slip out the opposite side of the vehicle and crawl within shooting range.
If you’re hunting uneven terrain, you have a decided advantage. Much of Oregon’s best antelope country, such as that found in the breaks of the Malheur River and in the Steens Mountains is rumpled and fissured. Hunt the tops of the hills, peek over rimrocks, and glass far-off basins. When you find the herd, plan your stalk to take advantage of the wind, the sun and the terrain. Stream bottoms can provide cover as well, sometimes in the form of trees. Fence posts, sagebrush and rocks can help you get close.
If the animal you are after makes a dust trail for the state line, don’t worry. Pronghorns like their home turf. The herd will come back. A little patience can help you put your antelope steaks in the freezer. Find a hide that will give you a clear view of a saddle, a wash or a river bottom that the antelope might use to return. They will be back within an hour or three if you are patient, keep your hunting rig out of sight, stay downwind and keep still.
As with most other big game, early mornings and late evenings are the best times to find antelope. The animals will be less wary as the sun is coming up. Cooler mornings and evenings generally mean a more predictable wind, making for better stalking. Know where the water is. It’s okay to hunt near waterholes, but set up your camp at least a half-mile away from the nearest water, so that all the desert creatures have a chance to go for a drink.
Much of antelope country is flat, but pronghorns live in the badlands as well. The broken country makes for a beautiful hunt and you can use the terrain features to help you get close to the animals.