Yamaha Outdoors Tip of the Week - Pronghorn Tactics
By Bob Humphrey
With the eyes of an eagle and the speed of a cheetah, pronghorn represent one of North America’s most challenging big game animals. They do, however, have a few chinks in their armor that you can sometimes exploit. Below are three of the most popular methods for pursuing speed goats.
During the rut, pronghorn bucks can be very susceptible to decoying. Like elk, a male will gather a harem of does, and will fight off any perceived intruders that threaten his dominance. Sneak in as close as you can, then pop up a decoy of a subordinate male. Dominant males will sometimes charge from hundreds of yards away, coming within gun and sometimes even bow range. The down side is there is a very narrow window of opportunity when this technique will work; and your quarry must be in the right mood.
You will need some specialized equipment for this and the other methods described. Obviously, you’ll need a decoy. The two-dimensional type are much more portable and easier to use. It’s a lot easier if you have a companion to hold it while you aim and shoot.
Shots sometimes come quickly and you may not have time to prop up your decoy, aim and shoot, particularly if you’re bowhunting. Knee pads are a good idea too as you may spend a considerable amount of time crouched or kneeling behind the decoy.
A second Achilles’ heel of the pronghorn is their thirst. Early fall in the speed goat’s range can be very warm. That and all the activity associated with rutting makes them thirsty. They may visit water holes almost any time, but do so most often during the middle, and hottest part of the day. By setting up a ground blind in advance, you can slip in and wait them out. This tactic is especially effective for the bowhunter, who needs close-range shots.
Here, you’ll need a blind. Outfitters will often build permanent or semi- permanent structures. However, portable pop-up blinds seem to work just as well. The longer you put it out before your hunt the better, as it gives animals time to become accustomed to the blind. Still, you can erect and hunt from your blind the same day. A stool or other seat is also a necessity for the long hours of sitting; and of course, plenty of drinking water for yourself.
A third popular method is spot and stalk. As the name implies, it involves spotting the animals from long distances, then stalking within range. This is a better option for the gun hunter, but can be used by archers as well.
Good optics are your most important tool here. A spotting scope is helpful for long-range viewing. The terrain is usually open and you may be sizing up animals from a half-mile or more away. Binoculars are a good second choice, and useful for shorter range viewing. You should also have a good laser rangefinder. Judging distance in open terrain is difficult, yet critical for long-range firearms or shot-range bowhunting.
For all these tactics you’ll need a means of transportation. Several will work but ATVs provide the best all-around option. The bed of a Side-by-Side like the Rhino, or the front and rear racks on a Grizzly four-wheeler have cargo space for your decoy, blind, stool and extra gear. Even better, these rigs can take you almost anywhere a pronghorn can go, negotiating rough terrain that even the stoutest guide truck can’t handle.