Spot & Stalk Pronghorns
By Scott Haugen
May 25, 2007 – 12:26:20 AM
After watching the pronghorn buck for nearly two hours, he finally bedded. He’d moved away from his does, selecting the center of a five acre plot of golden, knee-high grass in which to spend the day. Fortunately, the wind was right, and he was facing away from where I wanted to begin the stalk.
It was mid-August, the rut was far from commencing, and conditions were hot and dry. The wind was a blessing, for the three days prior were without it. The temperature also dropped 20-some degrees, down from the 102º average over the past week. The stage was set, and after slipping off my boots, my stalking sock-foot approach began, just over 100 yards from where the buck lay.
Spotting pronghorns is easy, stalking to within bow range is not.
Several factors must first be in place in order to pull-off this open-county stealth job. First and foremost is the animals position. It’s hard stalking a buck on the move, simply because they are on constant alert. They continually survey their surroundings in search of danger, relying on keen sight as their primary defense mechanism. On early season, pre-rut hunts, bucks are especially wary, which is why, if you can find them bedded, the chance of success greatly increases.
The wind is also a key player in an archer’s ability to stalk within bow range. Many pronghorns live on agricultural land, meaning they are accustomed to human scent. Though some speedgoats will tolerate human odors – to some degree – the closer you get the stronger your odor becomes, so play it right. More important, a good wind masks foot-noise in the dry conditions. On more than one occasion, had it not been for a good crosswind, I’m positive I would not have closed the deal on pronghorns.
Terrain is another factor influencing the ability of a hunter to stealth within bow range of a buck. Some of the biggest bucks live smack in the middle of the flattest, most open habitat around, and stalking them is difficult unless the buck is bedded facing a specific direction and the wind is right.
That said, pick the land in which you hunt with great care. Nothing is more frustrating than having ‘goats all around, but not being able to get within a 1/4 mile of them. Look for breaks, ravines, tall sage brush, aged fence rows and other features that will provide cover during your approach.
After slipping my boots off, the first time I hit the bedded buck with the rangefinder, it registered 80 yards. “Twenty more yards,” I thought, “then I’ll take the shot. At 60 yards the buck still had no idea I was around. Forty yards became 30, then 25. He still laid there, facing away, a stiff wind cutting across my face. The shot came at 20 yards, and my Liberty came through, once again. The hunt ended less than 30 minutes from when the stalk began.
|Author shows what patience can result in.
The following day my buddy, Bret Stuart, killed a good buck in an entirely different situation. His buck was alone, in short sage that barely reached our boot tops. The buck was facing away, rubbing his preorbital glands on every little patch of sage brush he came across. He wasn’t so much as even lifting his head between bushes. Such behavior made Bret confident he could get on him.
Every time the buck put his head down, Bret quickly walked at straight at him. When the buck stopped, Bret stopped. After a few hundred yards, Bret was soon within 60 yards, and made a well-placed shot with his new BowTech Tribute.
|Bret shows off his nice ‘lope.
Two opportunities, two ‘goats, spot-n-stalk. When it comes to scoring on these flatland ungulates, assess all the elements involved, then put yourself in a situation to make the stalk a success. If one element changes, back out, don’t force it. A large part of pronghorn stalking success is knowing when to back-off and when to go for it. The more you’re out there, the more you’ll learn, even from mistakes. Eventually, it will all come together.
Note: Look for the new TV show,
BowTech’s Western Adventures with Scott Haugen, appearing on The Men’s Channel. Haugen is also editor of Hunting The West magazine, huntingthewestmag.com.
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