By Bob Humphrey
Pronghorn are known mostly for their blistering speed -- they’re North American’s fastest land animal -- and their incredible eyesight. Add to that a preference for open range and they make for a formidable challenge for any hunter, especially a bowhunter.
Fortunately, the pronghorn has an Achilles heel -- the rut. During the breeding season bucks become extremely aggressive and will approach and even try to chase off any potential rival. It can be a very narrow window, but represents one of the best times and tactics for bringing a buck into bow range.
Scout - Scout the area you hunt from a distance to locate rutting bucks and their harems. Scout from a vehicle, like a truck or Side-by-Side as pronghorns seem less wary of vehicles than humans on foot.
Get Close - Use terrain and any available cover to get as close as you can. Pronghorn can see your decoy from a long way off, and may react to it. But the closer you can get the better the chances of a positive reaction.
How Many? - One decoy will work, and if you use only one, make sure it’s a buck. A rutting buck will be far more likely to approach a rival than a potential mate. However, you can enhance your set-up by adding a doe or two. A randy buck may perceive this as an even greater threat to his dominance and the integrity of his harem.
Get Help - Trying to manage a decoy and a bow can be tough, especially if you have to move. Pairing up allows one person to manage the decoy while the other concentrates on preparing for the shot.
Go Light - Pronghorn have keen eyesight but rather poor depth perception. This makes two-dimensional decoys a good option. They’re lighter, making them much easier to transport and handle, particularly those that fold up.
Set-up - You have several options on how to set up, though you may be limited by circumstances. If cover allows, use it to set up for a broadside shot when the buck approaches the decoy. In the open, the decoy may be your only cover. Then, you’ll have to wait for the animal to turn, offering a broadside shot.
Practice - A rut-crazed buck may charge in and stop only a few yards away, but long shots of 50 or more yards are more common. Be prepared by practicing at these ranges and having long-range pins on your sight. You should also practice judging distances, which becomes more difficult in open terrain where you have little for scale.
Range - You should also carry a rangefinder. If you hunt with a partner, let them do the ranging to free up your hands.