August 10, 2022
If you’re looking to take a true trophy class pronghorn, the first step is to avoid hunting like the others do. If the tactics most hunters use were good, more trophy goats would be taken each fall. Instead, you must hunt differently, both in how and where you hunt.
Because pronghorn live virtually their entire lives in relatively open, easily accessible, and mostly flat terrain, they are much easier to spot than other big game species. With the ability of rifles and muzzleloaders to go far, it’s easy to see why all firearm pronghorn tags, and most archery tags too, are limited and issued by lottery. .
If you’re looking for a true giant, a deer that exceeds the Boone & Crockett Club’s 82-inch minimum score, you should hunt in one of the relatively few places where large animals live. That means states severely restrict the number of tags issued each year in areas with a history of producing giant dollars. Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada lead the way, as well as select units in Wyoming. However, it takes years to get a tag out in those places (I have 20 points in Arizona right now and haven’t gotten out), or some cash to buy a New Mexico owner’s tag.
Another approach to pronghorn trophy hunting is to target the largest male in the area being hunted. When I’m hunting general draw units, my definition of a “trophy” dollar changes. While not all pronghorn states regularly produce Boone & Crockett bucks, in most places there are large pronghorn that are not killed by hunters. That’s what I’m looking for: the biggest and oldest male that lives on my unit. Here’s how to find the best pronghorn hunting where you hunt.
KNOW WHERE TO GO
Finding and killing the largest deer in your hunting area revolves around three elements: pre-hunt research, scouting (both before and during the hunt), and executing a plan based on the information your scouting has provided.
If you have a tag for a general type unit, finding the oldest males can take time. They are often found on private land, which may or may not allow hunters access. If land is closed, hunt in areas of public land that border private land or are filled with secluded, hard-to-reach hiding places where old males (and males) can escape. hunting pressure.
Over the years, I have found that most firearm tag holders in general are lazy. They just drive down the roads, glazing as they go, until they find a herd of pronghorn with a decent legal dollar or two. Males that survive this common strategy tend to gravitate toward roadless areas where hills and ravines hide them. In fact, I have seen herds of pronghorn in heavily hunted areas immediately start running for cover when they see a vehicle appear on a rise up to two miles away.
Often the most effective thing you can do to find a large pronghorn is simple and demanding: be willing and able to walk past the point where other hunters stop walking.
Hunting for large pronghorn generally involves figuring out how to get to places with less hunting pressure. Getting to those areas may require a serious off-road vehicle and/or the ability to walk long distances, whatever it takes to escape the crowds. You have to work very hard to stay out of sight of animals that you may not even be able to see due to the nature of the terrain. In other words, explore cautiously, exposing yourself as little as possible while searching.
Identify water sources to narrow your search, especially early in the season. Use a binocular with at least 10x magnification or a good spotting scope, and be persistent and patient.
Also, remember that “flat” pronghorn territory is always filled with hills, ravines, cuts, river and stream courses, and other rugged terrain. Find a high point that allows maximum visibility, crawl to the top, set up your binocular and/or spotting scope on a tripod, and be ready to observe for hours. Wait for animals you don’t see right away to materialize.
Also, watch out for other hunters. See how and where they hunt. Both you and the pronghorn will be able to follow the pattern of these hunters, so if you can figure out how the animals will get away from them, you can use stealth and effort to get in front of where the pronghorn will want to be.
EXECUTION OUT OF THE BOX
Large pronghorn will always find non-pressure areas with food and water. In the vast majority of pronghorn territories, the water supply is less than the food supply. And, compared to other big game animals, pronghorn like to see danger from a great distance. Therefore, secluded, open country with access to water is where you should concentrate your hunting effort.
If such an area is not producing, it may be time to think outside the box. One year in eastern Montana, after having no success on the usual sagebrush flats, I decided to check out some high ground. I did it out of sheer boredom, but on the edge of the pine forest I found an old deer hanging out with a handful of deer, using the trees for shelter in a spot that commanded a great view of the orange-clad army on the floors.
Conventional wisdom at the time was that pronghorn never, ever live where they can’t see forever in all directions. Not true with this old stallion. For this deer, the danger never came from the pines because the hunters never came from there. At the edge of the pines, the deer had food, water, and a spectacular view in the only direction that mattered to him.
The lesson was clear: stay flexible and keep in mind that “classic” habitat is not the only habitat that can meet the needs of older males. During bow season, the most popular tactic is to sit inside a hiding place in the ground near a water source dotted with fresh pronghorn tracks.
Sometimes, however, going out and hunting on the prowl is a better option. Everything has to be right for this to work, and the terrain has to offer enough cuts, ravines, hills, and other cover to make stalking possible. It’s not easy and can require a ridiculous amount of patience. Sometimes they will catch you. But sometimes you will have success and a memorable hunt. I shot my 2019 and 2020 Wyoming dollars this way.
This may be the season when you take your best pronghorn. To do this, put on their helmets. Think about what they need and how they avoid other hunters. Go the extra mile and good things will happen.
TIPS FOR JUDGING IN THE FIELD
Know when a dollar has the right stuff.
To kill a trophy deer, you have to know it when you see it. Fortunately, there are some relatively quick ways to assess the size of a deer’s antlers.
A pronghorn with 14-inch heavy antlers and 4-inch teeth will score about 70 Boone & Crockett or Pope & Young points and is a trophy to be proud of. However, if your goal is a trophy that qualifies for the current B&C all-time records with a minimum of 82 inches, a male with 15-16 inch horns, 6-7 inch bases and 5-6 tips inches must be found. Here’s how to judge a male pronghorn in the field using the relative size of the horn to the animal’s head, the length of the ears, and the size of the eyes to make a quick “shoot/don’t shoot” decision. any distance.
- horn length: The horns should appear much longer than the length of the pronghorn’s head measured from the base of the ear to the tip of the nose. This distance averages about 13 inches. Also check the horns against the length of the ear. If the horns appear to be 2 1/2 times the length of the ear (which averages 6 inches), they are probably long enough. Remember that the “horn length” measurement means the total length of the horn, including any curvature.
- Teeth: The tips of most record class males will appear extremely large and will project from the horn at or above the level of the ear tips. Tips are measured to the back edge of the speaker from which they project, so a 6-inch tip will appear to extend about 4 inches from a heavy speaker, or about twice the width of the speaker when viewed from the side . A head with very high spikes can cause the third quarter circumference measurement to be taken below the spike rather than above it, which generally helps the score.
- Horn mass: Four circumference measurements are taken on each horn, meaning the mass of the horn is critical. Viewed from the side, the base of the horn should appear to be twice the width of the animal’s eye, which is usually just over 2 inches wide. This equates to a horn base measuring 6 to 7 inches in circumference.
An official Boone & Crockett Club pronghorn scoring form can be downloaded at boone-crockett.org.