Yamaha Outdoors Tip - Riding the Range
By Bob Humphrey
August may still be summer on the coast, but in many western states it’s the start of fall, and pronghorn season. With the eyes of a hawk, the nose of a deer and speed un-rivaled among North American land mammals they are among the most challenging big game animals on our continent.
Standard hunting methods include spot & stalk, decoying or sitting a water hole. On a typical spot & stalk hunt, you drive around on ranch roads glassing for antelope, then dismount and, using terrain and vegetation as cover, attempt to stalk within range. A decoy hunt often begins similarly, but rather than closing the final distance toward your prey, you lure them toward you with a decoy. The last method consists simply of sitting in a blind, often for hours on end, waiting for a speed goat to come to water.
With an ATV, you can mount up with all the gear you need for a day of plying all three methods.
The day begins in the pre-dawn darkness, loading your ATV with all you’ll need. For spot & stalk hunting you’ll need good optics, including 10x binoculars, a spotting scope of at least 20x and a tripod or stock mount. For their portability and ease of handling, most folks opt for 2-D or silhouette decoys. As both these methods involve crawling and kneeling along rough, cactus-laden ground, you should strongly consider knee pads and leather gloves.
For the water hole, you’ll need a ground blind and comfortable chair or stool and a camo tarp or netting to throw over your ATV. Obviously you’ll need your preferred choice weapon, plus food and - it should go without saying - lots of drinking water.
Your day may begin riding the ranch roads but your ATV gives you the flexibility to reach more remote and inaccessible, and more lightly-hunted areas. Being able to cover rougher ground may also give you more options for how you approach a band of pronghorn, once spotted. For the rifle hunter, cover and terrain may be all you need to put yourself within range.
Stalking within bow range of a keen-eyed goat is darned near impossible. Conditions must be exactly right, and you still need a fair share of luck. Fortunately, early seasons usually coincide with the antelope rut, and herd bucks are very territorial around their harems. Challenge one with a buck decoy and he may run from several hundred yards away to within bow range.
If, by mid-morning you’re still unsuccessful, find a waterhole and make a stand. This technique works best during the heat of the day, and the hotter the day, the better the hunting. Pop up your blind within bow range of a waterhole, preferably with the wind in your face and the sun at your back. If you can, stash your ATV in a nearby draw or coulee. If you can’t, park it some distance away and throw some camo material over it. Then simply sit and wait for the goats to come.
Later, as the sun sinks in the west and the air cools, goats will get back to mating and feeding. Pack up your gear and spot-and-stalk your way back to camp.