Yamaha Outdoors Tip of the Week - Speed Goats
By Bob Humphrey
Among the earliest western seasons to open up are elk and pronghorn. Endemic to the North American continent, pronghorns are our fastest land animal. They have the eyesight of a hawk and the nose of a deer making them one of our most challenging big game animals. There are three general methods to hunt these speed goats: ambush, spot-and-stalk or decoying, all of which we’ll discuss below.
Hunting from a blind positioned over a watering hole is a popular and productive method, though it requires a great deal of patience. You could be sitting for up to 14 hours in a blind, often in very warm temperatures. In fact, warm, dry conditions are favorable as they drive pronghorn to water. Prime hunting hours are the same as for most big game -- twilight -- but all-day hunting is recommended because antelope could come for a drink of water any time, even high noon.
The more permanent the water source the better, as the goats will be more regular visitors. Pronghorns have keen noses so place your blind downwind of the waterhole. Having the sun at your back is also helpful, though difficult to accomplish if you hunt all day. Facing north is the best way to address that. You can also re-position throughout the day if the wind allows.
Spot-and-stalk hunting -- sneaking within range of one of the fastest, wariest and most keen-eyed creatures in the animal kingdom in open terrain with little or no cover -- may seem like an insurmountable challenge. But it can be done.
Rolling hills and brushy draws offer far more cover than you might imagine, and you can sometimes use terrain and cover to your advantage. Pronghorn seem to be less wary of vehicles than hunters afoot, and while it’s unlikely you’ll be able to drive within range, you may be able to reach cover you wouldn’t be able to walk to.
You can manage with a four-wheel-drive vehicle on ranch roads and smooth plains, but on rougher terrain ATVs -- either a four-wheeler with storage or a Side-by-Side vehicle -- make a much better option. You can drive over much rougher and steeper ground, get in and out of tight draws, haul all the food and water you’ll need for a day’s hunt and have an easy means for hauling your hard-won prize out.
You’ll also need good optics. This includes a spotting scope of at least 20x and a tripod as well as 10x binoculars. A range finder is also a must for both gun and bowhunters. It’s generally more difficult to judge distance in open terrain and shots are often at longer ranges that eastern hunters are unaccustomed to.
During the rut you can sometimes lure buck antelope into range with a decoy. Challenging the dominance of a rutting buck with a buck decoy is much more effective than trying to lure him with a doe. With this method it’s advantageous to hunt with a partner so one hunter holds the decoy leaving the other free to shoot.
To begin you employ the same methods as spot-and-stalk, trying to get as close as you can before showing your decoy. Because you may be sneaking, crawling and hiking over large areas, lightweight, portability makes two-dimensional silhouette decoys your best option.
Shots are often at long range so be sure to practice and sight in your gun or bow for longer shots. It’s early and it’s hot so bring along plenty of water. You may be creeping and crawling long distances across rough ground and the occasional cactus plant so knee pads and leather gloves are a strong consideration. Shooting sticks or a pod are also a good idea for the rifle hunter.