Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Decoying Pronghorns
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You should also carry a rangefinder. If you hunt with a partner, let them do the ranging to free up your hands.