SHOOT THE GAP FOR PRONGHORNS

Field and Stream - - WEST - —W.B.

The pronghorn rut might be the most un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated hunt­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in North Amer­ica. If a big buck takes a break from chas­ing does at 50 mph, it’s be­cause he’s seen an­other buck that needs a beat­ing. An­te­lope take their lov­ing se­ri­ously.

The best ac­tiv­ity is from midSeptem­ber through early Oc­to­ber, which co­in­cides with many states’ muz­zleloader and ri­fle open­ers.

It’s also one of my fa­vorite times to hunt with a bow. Get­ting within range of a buck dur­ing the rut can be a chal­lenge. But with so many an­i­mals on the move, you can nar­row the odds by tak­ing a play from the white­tail hunter’s hand­book.

1. Find an Open­ing

An­te­lope do not like to cross fences. You’ll some­times see a buck squeeze un­der barbed wire, but he’s just as likely to run along­side it for a mile un­til he finds an eas­ier cross­ing. Fence gaps are deadly am­bush points. Set a trail cam­era in a gap to see if good bucks are us­ing it, or sim­ply glass from a dis­tance. The ideal sce­nario has small herds on both sides of the gap. Does will me­an­der back and forth, and bucks on both sides will in­evitably see and chal­lenge one an­other.

2. Lie in Wait

Ri­fle hunters should set up within a cou­ple hun­dred yards of the gap for a shot. Lie prone next to some cover, such as a yucca or two, and keep still. If you’re hunt­ing with an open-sighted muz­zleloader or a bow, erect a pop-up blind 30 to 50 yards from the fence gap. Though an­te­lope use their eyes far more than their noses, they’ll spook if they smell you. So keep the wind in your fa­vor as much as you can.

3. Run a Fake

If you’re pa­tient and there are an­te­lope around, you can al­most count on get­ting a shot at the fence gap. But you’ll need to stretch or scratch some­thing at some point dur­ing your wait, and that’s prob­a­bly when a buck you haven’t seen will catch you mov­ing. A pop-up Mon­tana De­coy weighs next to noth­ing and can be de­ployed in a sec­ond or two (just be care­ful and check regs dur­ing firearms sea­son). A deke might save you from be­ing busted—and if you’re lucky, bring your buck in on the run.

If a pronghorn buck takes a break from chas­ing does at 50 mph, it’s be­cause he’s seen an­other buck that needs a beat­ing.

Fake Out A hunter glasses from be­hind a pronghorn buck de­coy.

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