I loved the beauty of the pronghorn antelope from the first time I saw one. My first trip out West was to go skiing in Utah and we drove all the way from Southern Indiana to Salt Lake City along Interstate 80. I saw my first pronghorn in western Nebraska and was so excited. We continued to see herd after herd of them as we crossed the wide open country of Wyoming. I was amazed by the West and to me the pronghorn symbolized the West. Now, I am lucky enough to live in Wyoming and get the opportunity to hunt pronghorn. Wyoming does have a draw for resident and non-residents so the opportunity is never guaranteed.
In 2009, Marty and I decided to put in for the draw in a trophy area. We put in as a party so we both would either draw one or not. As luck would have it, we drew our tags. The season opened early October and I was ready to go hunt but October turned out to be a hectic month! Work was incredibly busy and sadly I couldn’t take any days off. We were fortunate to have family and friends come to visit and our weekends were filled with entertaining instead of hunting. When the third weekend arrived, we had free time. We left for the ranch early that Saturday morning.
During the rut, pronghorn hang out in small herds with a territorial buck and his harem of does. There are usually smaller bucks trying to move in and the dominant ones are constantly moving their does around. This is the optimal time to hunt them as they don’t pay as much attention to anything but their girls. However, with our busy month we had missed the rut and the antelope were forming really large herds, which is how they spend their winters. This was ok though because the late season and low hunting pressure had all the pronghorn from the neighboring areas moved in and settled down. We had herds of fifty up to hundreds of antelope filling the rolling, sagebrush-covered terrain around us. It was amazing to see.
Now we had to find a nice buck and figure out how to get close enough for a shot. We had hitched the trailer and four-wheeler to the truck that morning and were planning on taking off on that to check out the herds. We parked the truck and hopped on the quad. Marty was driving; I was on the back with the rifle, backpack, and binoculars. We drove up dry creek beds and ravines, trying to stay out of sight. We would park and then slip up to the edge of a ridge to glass into a herd to see if it held a nice buck. I didn’t have a giant trophy in mind. I just wanted a nice representation. As we looked down at a small herd, we saw several nice bucks but they were going to be difficult to get close to. We decided to venture further up to check out another herd. Once in place, we got close enough for a good vantage to glass. There were four beautiful bucks in this herd and one really stood out. We had to get closer.
We drove to the fence-line and up a steep ridge dodging prairie dog and badger holes. I held tightly onto Marty as we worked our way towards the top of the ridge. The herd was below us and to the right. They hadn’t spotted us but were on the move to the next ridge. Marty said if we hurry, we can catch up as they crossed the next valley. When we had them in view again, they had already crossed that valley and were at least 1000 yards away. Pronghorn are incredibly fast animals, the fastest in North America, and these were on the move. Luckily they weren’t in that big of a hurry because we could still see them and one would put its head down to feed once in awhile but they definitely were not staying put. We waited just long enough for the last one to fade away over the next ridge and we cut across that valley. We snuck up the rise on foot, then hands and knees, and finally belly-crawled as we approached the top. This was tricky because the ground is scattered with small cactus that blend in perfectly with the other vegetation. I avoided the cactus thorns but I cannot say the same for Marty.
Finally, we had a good vantage point; I saw three does and two bucks feeding about 300 yards down the valley from us. I crawled up further, set the bi-pod up on the rifle and lay prone. I could see one buck in my scope. He was fairly small for the area but still a really nice buck. Marty had the rangefinder and instructed me he was 250 yards. While watched him for a minute, I noticed another buck coming into view from behind tall sagebrush. I put the scope on him and Wow! He was beautiful. I believed he was the one who stood out in the large herd earlier, how lucky was this? Marty let me know he was also at 250 yards. I had a good solid rest on my bipod as Marty sat behind me. I pulled the trigger and we both watched the beautiful animal drop in his tracks.
I sent Marty back for the quad as I sat and waited, letting the thrill of the hunt and the success sink in. Once picked up, we drove over to admire the trophy animal and take field photos. He was gorgeous and carried a brilliant contrast in colors of rust, white and black thru his coat. I could not be happier on the day’s event and how things came together for us on this hunt.
This was my second successful antelope hunt and my largest trophy to date. He ultimately scored 83 2/8 SCI and will be hanging on our wall to remind me of this exciting hunt. This is my first animal to take to the taxidermist and it will not be lost among Marty’s 35 other mounts because it truly is a beautiful animal and in fact be the biggest pronghorn in our home.
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