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Pronghorn Antelope are the second fastest mammals on the planet, second only to the African Cheetah, which is likely cause for their popular nickname, the “speed goat.” These animals live and make their massive migrations on the wide-open grasslands of the American West, and are subject to massive temperature changes and a variety of predators throughout the year. This makes them very tough, spooky animals that are not easy to sneak up on. However, their orange-tan coloring with telltale white splotches on the neck, sides, and rump frequently gives them away.
Males, known as bucks, grow a set of black horns and will weigh up to around 140 pounds. Females, known as does, may have a small set of horns and weigh closer to 100 pounds. They are frequently found lazily feeding on a variety of grasses, shrubs, and cacti that can also survive the harsh environment. However, if spooked, they will vacate the area at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.
Pronghorn are currently only found in the United States, specifically in Wyoming, Montana, California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. Wyoming is a favorite, as there are more antelope than people in the state, and harvest rates are extremely high. Montana is a close second, with extensive public areas that support large numbers of the animals.
Pronghorn are typically hunted in a spot-and-stalk fashion. Given the wide-open nature of an antelope’s habitat, hunters can glass large expanses of land via a spotting scope or set of binoculars. When a group of pronghorn are spotted, the hunter attempts to sneak in close for a shot. However, the pronghorn’s incredible vision makes getting in undetected harder than you might think. Fortunately, there are often old riverbeds or low draws that a hunter can use to stay hidden and out of sight during a stalk. Even if the group cannot see you, it is still important to pay attention to what is between you and your target when making a stalk, as bedded pronghorn can be nearly invisible. All too often, hunters will bump unseen pronghorn on the way to their target, spooking them and inadvertently spooking the original target animals. One way to avoid this is to determine which direction the group is traveling. Once you are confident with which direction the group is headed, you can set up ahead of them and attempt an ambush. Unless they are spooked by something unrelated or your initial calculation was wrong, you will likely have a good opportunity at the unsuspecting animals.
Both archery and rifle seasons typically take place during the rut, so peak activity can be taken advantage of with both weapons. Sneaking to within 40 yards of an animal in this terrain can be very difficult, so bow hunters often utilize blinds set up on the edge of watering holes to better their chances. Rifle hunters have it a little better, but taking an antelope is still no easy task. Having an accurate rifle that you are comfortable shooting will greatly up your chances of success and help increase your effective killing range.
Antelope regulations vary depending on the state you are hunting. Those wishing to hunt Wyoming must enter a limited draw process, however tags are on the cheaper side, and harvest success rates are frequently over 85%. Montana is also limited draw, but both states have units that nearly guarantee you a tag every year. Generally, antelope tags are on the easier side to draw and are much less expensive than most of the other western big game animals.
The quality of Pronghorn meat is debated at length in the hunting community, but there are several environmental factors that go into how game meat tastes. Pronghorn are frequently hunted in extreme heat, especially during bow season, and many hunters believe that their meat spoils more rapidly than any other animal when exposed to heat. Those that love antelope meat often emphasize the importance of getting the animal taken care of and on ice quickly to preserve its quality. Other people believe the animals affinity for eating sage grass leads to a strong, unpleasant taste, but there are also some that believe this makes them taste even better. Finally, some say that you can only shoot a calm antelope. They argue that if the animal has been spooked or was running before a shot, their muscles will be full of lactic acid and will cause the meat to taste awful. However, with so many hunters in both camps, the only way to know for sure is to try it yourself.