Published by Frank Biggs on 23 Apr 2015
Through time in the field, knowledge comes to all!
None us come out knowing everything. So over the years I have absorbed a great deal of knowledge about hunting Pronghorn – Antelope that roam the high plains and arid lands of the United States. One of the most magnificent mammals that has served since the Ice Age. It is one of the few living links to the Ice Age. They are an ancient species dating back about 20 million years and are the lone survivors of a family of hoofed mammals found only in North America (Antilocapridae) A little history class for hunters!
Oregon truly is a sleeper state for hunting Pronghorn – Antelope – Lope or Dinosaurs! Problem is getting a tag for resident or even non-resident. Many non-resident hunters put in for many states, with the hope of drawing. As for those of use that live in Oregon, getting a tag runs from 8 to 25 years for a rifle tag and 1 to 3 years for archery. Sometimes you might be lucky and draw a tag based on the hold back tags put in random draw. As a biologist friend of mine once told me Oregon’s Pronghorn units all hold Boone & Crockett warrantable bucks. Biggest problem is holding out for the big buck, judging bucks, know the whereabouts and what unit has the best possible chance for a trophy buck.
When I first started out with my first tag for an Oregon Pronghorn, I had help from a Naval Officer that I knew while on active duty in the Navy, he had great deal of knowledge, plus his friend a young BLM summer help student that knew the area. His name was Rod Briece, who later became my Commanding Officer and was a long time hunting friend.
We did not go blindly into the hunt unit, as there was a game plan to check out many different areas of the unit in a short period of time. We did get into the unit prior to the hunt by one full day to scout. We had about 4 game plans with the A, B, C, and D plan changing with the sighting of bucks. The final plan of the day became a A plan for the opening morning. I was successful on my first Pronghorn hunt to get a buck that scored 85″. He and his does had come into the same waterhole that we had seen them at, the evening before. At about 0715 the buck came to the waterhole. Over the following years in this particular unit it put out many trophy Pronghorns. This does not include the ones that a few missed during the hunts and the hunter came up empty handed…
One of the greatest lessons that I learned with hunting Pronghorns is the use of the binoculars and patience. Finding vantage points and glassing over massive areas. Pronghorns have always been the animal, you don’t see me now, but wait long enough I will be standing there. Amazing creature that has intrigued me for many decades. Even on that first hunt, we glassed from afar and it paid off. I always look for mass from a side profile of the head. If warranted, I have a spotting scope to do a better judgement of the buck. Many times the heat waves in the high desert are so bad that there seems to be an illusion of what you see. So seeing the side profile is most important. Length is not always as important as mass and the high of the prongs (cutters) on the horn.
Mapping is very important for hunters, whether it is Pronghorn hunting or any other movement in the outdoors. I find it is almost as important as the optics and the weapon of choice.
Until recently, lets say 1998, most of use would have B.L.M. maps or other maps to find places to hunt. The GPS came along and it was ok, to know where you were, but not much good to know where to go. A few software companies tried back then, but were crude and not very accurate. Along comes onXmaps HUNT a few years ago and what a success story for the company and the people that use their products. It is a lot of fun to have knowledge of places to hunt (landmarks), take them and mark them in the mapping software on the computer and then move them to the GPS. A great way to share information that is accurate. Like having a snapshot of a hillside that you have seen, but now you get to remember where it is. Better yet, at times when using the software and Google Earth via the laptop to Garmin GPS, it like watching TV… Remember by using this software, you might even be able to find a rancher or farmer that dislike Dinosaurs and will give you permission. For DIY you’ll find that you just might not need a guide for out of state hunts. Many got it figured out how to hunt public land for Pronghorns!
For those that Rifle hunt, the following are my thoughts:
We all have options on what caliber to hunt with for Pronghorns and my thoughts are no different. Having many calibers to choose from, I am a firm believer to go big on this medium size mammal. It is not the fact that a 243 Win, or 257 Weatherby won’t get the job done, but I don’t remember to many times that the wind was not howling after the sun comes up. My favorite light caliber is the 257 Weatherby, but if I get one chance to get a tag in 15 years and I have to make that 500 yard shot due to not being able to crawl within 250 yards, I will take my 30cal to get the job done. Shrugging your shoulders with that comment, just think about not getting there with the shot… There are many great calibers and my first was taken with a 7mm Remington Mag. Overkill, ya it might be, but still a 30 cal 180 grain that is going to make a hole in and out most likely. I do know I will have a kill shot and and not have to track the buck very far in most cases. One has to be comfortable with the rifle and trust what it will do or what you can do.
This brings up another subject: Making sure you have great shot placement and anchor the Pronghorn down. Tracking for trying to find a Pronghorn in the sagebrush after a hit from afar, might just lead to not finding it. Years ago one of my hunters that I gave waypoints to shot a monster lope in a large sagebrush flat. It was late and darkness was fast approaching. He decide to wait for morning! A great mistake as one loses focus of what he or she might have seen with the shot. With a Pronghorn left overnight, the coyotes have already taken are of it. You might be lucky to find the horns, but in many cases the horns have been taken care of also. Anchor the animal as with any animal in it’s tracks or close proximity.
Bowhunting for Pronghorns can be the best hunt of a Liftime.
In my time I have done a great deal of scouting and researching of Pronghorn or Antelope as most call this great animal from the past in Oregon and the rest of the Western States, where they roam in hunt-able numbers. For archery hunters in many of the Western States you have a chance to hunt every year for Antelope. Where as with a rifle you might have to wait some 8-25 years to draw a tag, at least in the Oregon. I have hunters in Oregon that are now hunting almost every year with the bow. A great challenge to hunt with the bow, but what a rush and accomplishment to harvest up close and personal. You’ll find hunting with the bow for Antelope a great sport that you won’t be able to stop doing. I have been told by my hunters that they have had the best experience hunting Antelope over anything else they have hunted in North America. It could be that they see a lot of Antelope while hunting them. Since competition for tags is so great, some of use will wait the whatever years to get the rifle tag, get it done and the following years put in for a bow tag. Not many years ago in Oregon and I am sure in other states, you put in for a rifle tag and make your second choice a bow tag. I do believe that I did this at least 10 times over the years. Very fortunate to have harvest a number of great bucks with the arrow. Now I find that many are taking great bucks with the arrow in many hunt units in many states. With less competition to hunt with the bow and arrow, plus the greater chance to get a tag, my suggestion is to take up bow hunting if you haven’t and get it done! It easier than you think to harvest with the bow. Pronghorns can be stalked pretty easy with cover, or you lay ambush in a ground blind.
I one thing I have learned after all these years and not even being in some of my old haunts for many years, is that Pronghorn are animals of habit from generation to generation. They cover the same ground and do the same things from one generation to another. Most of the land in which they live never changes. There was one buck that my friends & hunters chased for about three years and never got. I really wanted him for myself is what all thought. He would be located in the same spot within a 1/4 mile and escape basically the same way. His escape route was not one you could cover and he knew it. Now if we ambushed him in his normal spot he could have been taken. He was one of the biggest Antelope I ever hunted. I did get one hunter on him at very close range with a standing broadside, but he missed. The only thing that had changed is the B.L.M. put a solar power water pump on a water hole in one of my favorite spots. Even the old ranchers sign was still there and he had been gone for a long time. The sign had stated in so many words that you were crossing into his lands. This happen to be B.L.M. that he leased, but did not own. Now you know one of the reasons to have a mapping and gps system that lets you know your legal. Many times my hunters tell me, “WOW”, you were right on the money for Lopes being there…
I have seen mature bucks standing in the middle of a back country road in B.L.M., marking the road. No, not by scratching but by urinating in the middle of road. Once someone knows some of the peculiar habits of Antelope, you can use it to your advantage. Such is the case a couple of years ago when I spot a group of Antelope in a 5 tag unit. I wanted the picture of the buck and just knew he would go around the mountain and want to get back into the hole. He did just that and my son asked how did you know?
I have taken a great deal of Antelope with the bow and all but a rifle kill has been from stalking. A great deal of the bow hunters I know do wait on water, but you have to have patience. One of my GPS Hunters – Bowhunters sat for two (2) days for more than 12 hours. He as been successful two (2) years in a row on the same waterhole. I do love to stalk them and arrow them before they know I am there. Antelope do lay in the sagebrush flats and with a lot of glassing from a vantage point you can find them and stalk within bow range easily.
Note: Then there is the issue with sunglasses, I will always wear sunglasses (favorite are Ray-Ban Wayfarer-easy to lift with bino’s with no bind) during the day and “Photo Grays” for the evening hunts. I felt if the game, especially Antelope can’t see my eyes or movement then I could close the gap on them even easier once spotted. I always wore a hat and a backpack with the spotting scope & tripod sticking out of the top. It is what it is with habits and wearing the same pants on every hunt!
Most experience hunters have there ways to hunt game, whether it is from stalking, waiting, ambush or just being lucky and walking into a shoot-able animal. It is whatever works for you, that makes the hunt!
You also have to be patient and let the smaller bucks (“VILLAGE IDIOTS”) go by, so you can harvest the trophy buck.
Just a short little video of a nice buck ( we had him set for the following year) in the Grizzly Hunt Unit in Oregon: Pronghorn in the Big Muddy!