Perplexing the Pronghorn – Antics to Arouse the Curiosity of Antelope
By Gary Lewis
It takes patience to hunt pronghorn. In Oregon, years of patience while you wait for the card to show up in the mail. When the season arrives, you've got just a few days to find the buck you're after. You need a few tricks in your bag to close the deal on a buck. If you can perplex him, capitalizing on the animal's innate curiosity, you can get in position to make the shot.
Good antelope country is not always good for hunting. Pronghorns stake their lives on their phenomenal eyesight. Raise your head and binoculars above the sage to study a distant buck and you will see him gazing back at you. On flat ground they are nearly unapproachable. Unless you resort to trickery.
One approach is to make them think that you aren't interested. At a thousand yards, sometimes they'll stand still and watch you. Walk away from them for awhile, then turn at a right angle and let them watch you as you slowly close the distance. Never walk directly toward them. While you're zigging and zagging, moving ever closer, make sure that you stay downwind. It may take an hour or more, but you can move close enough to set up for a shot.
Another trick is to park your rig in full sight. If the animals will stay still and watch the truck, you can slip out the opposite side of the vehicle and crawl within shooting range.
Stalking may be done on hands and knees to get below the sagebrush. So bring kneepads and gloves for protection from cactus and other nasty things.
Much of antelope country appears flat. But appearances can be deceptive. Look closer and you will find washes, gullies and ditches that you can use for cover. Stream bottoms provide cover as well, sometimes in the form of trees. Fence posts, sagebrush and rocks can be all the cover you need.
When other hunters, or your own efforts, have made pronghorns skittish, back off and watch from afar. If you can monitor the animals from late afternoon to dark, you can be reasonably sure to find them in the same place at first light. Pay special attention to your surroundings, take a GPS reading and return, on foot, well before first light. Set up downwind and wait for dawn.
If the animal you are after makes a dust trail for the state line, don't worry. Pronghorns like their home turf. They'll come back. Find a hide with a clear view of a saddle, a wash or a river bottom that the antelope might use to return. They'll be back within an hour or three. Keep your rig out of sight, stay downwind and keep still.
It was patience that earned you your tag. A little more patience tempered with flexibility and the boldness of a confidence trickster can help you put your antelope steaks in the freezer.