It has been an absolute blast chasing pronghorns with my bow this year. At the same time, to say it has been a little frustrating would be a huge understatement.
This weekend was my last chance to hunt before the season ended. There was another storm on it’s way in and I knew I was going to have to try and put one on the ground before that or I may not be able to access the property I was hunting.
The first morning I planned to hunt a group of antelope that were usually on the downwind side of the square mile that I was confined to. That way, if I spooked them, they would likely run into the area I could hunt, and not off. There was also usually a second herd on the other side which made for a good back up plan.
From where I parked, I could see a big buck cruising a hill top above the old homestead where I had killed a mule deer last week. After hiking down to the drainage below the buck I took out a Montana buck decoy and started creeping in his direction. The buck caught a glimpse of me and headed my way. Unfortunately, there ended up being three more bucks behind me that caught a glimpse of what was happening and bolted out taking the big boy with them – off the property.
That afternoon, I watched a big group, on the opposite side, feeding above one of the three main waterholes in the area. My plan was to hunt with my bow through the next morning and then try to put one down with a rifle since I would need to head out that night.
So I hiked back to my truck and drove down to the waterhole to set up a blind. That night I sat the water hole until dark with no luck.
The next morning I woke up well before sunrise and was back in the blind with both my bow and rifle.
There was a dense fog across the whole area which was perfect for sneaking into the blind with a head lamp. As the sun rose, the visibility was only 100 yards, at best. I decided I would sit it out until the fog lifted and, if nothing came in, I would take the gun and hike over the hill to where I had seen the big group the night before.
about 9 o’clock the clouds began to lift and 300 yards out in front of me there was a nice buck bedded and it appeared that he was all alone. My hope was that he was eventually going to come in for a drink. After watching him for an hour or so, he stood up, fed for a while and then bedded back down with his back to me.
The wind was blowing in my face and I realized that I had a perfect stalking opportunity. He was bedded in the wide open with only a few small sage bushes. So I snuck out of the blind and started walking straight at him. When I looked back over my sholder I caught movement and soon realized that a group of about 20 antelope had been on the hillside directly behind my blind. Fortunately, they blew out without alerting the bedded buck.
As I crept up to the buck, I ranged him at 53 yards. I also quickly ranged some sage brush between me and him at 17 yards. I knew that if I got to that point I had a good shot at him. I didn’t want to take a bedded shot unless I was inside 40 yards. When I got to the bushes I made a HUGE mistake. Instead of drawing my bow, I decided to range him one last time. I had missed several nice bucks earlier in the season because of misjudged distances and I didn’t want to do it again. When I went to grab my rangefinder, my release clanked against it and the buck bolted! 36 yards! Why didn’t I just take the shot!?
At this point, disappointment from so many close calls had taken it’s toll and I walked straight back to the blind, left my bow inside, grabbed the gun and headed straight up the hill. It was just time to get one on the ground.
When I topped out, I immediately spotted the group from the night before. They were spooked from the other antelope blowing out only a few minutes earlier. I popped over the top and began crawling toward them, trying to keep anything I could find between us. They were still a long way off but I wasn’t risking anything because this could be my last opportunity.
I knew from before, that there were several nice bucks in the group that were constantly breaking the herd up into smaller groups. At the same time, there was one GIANT buck with tall, wide horns and that was the buck I was after.
Since they were spooked, all of them had combined into a herd of about 30 or so and they were running up and down the fence line trying to find a way under.
I reached a small hill and ranged them at 400 yards. Too far. I wanted it 300 or under. I sat tight hoping they would work their way back down the fence toward me. I ranged a spot on the hill at 250 yards and sat tight as they started working their way back down. When they were almost there, a doe found her way under the fence and the rest of the group started to bunch up waiting their turn.
I quickly scanned the herd looking for the big buck. When I found what I thought was him, I held tight and waited for a clear opening through the other animals. As soon as it came, I squeezed and the buck dropped!
As the herd turned and ran the other direction, bringing up the back was the giant buck I thought I had just shot. My heart sank. What did I just kill!? For all I knew it could have been a doe.
I watched for probably 30 minutes as the herd circled trying to figure out what to do. In fact, I had multiple opportunities to shoot the big buck under 200 yards but knew I already had a goat on the ground.
To make matters worse, the big buck ended up getting separated from the herd and ran back over to the dead buck and stood there staring at him. This would continue for several hours. Even after hiking back up to get my truck and driving around to pick up the kill, the big buck did a full circle, at a dead sprint, around my truck, at one point getting within 50 yards. It looked like he had lost his mind. I started to think he was just mocking me.
I had to laugh, this whole season had been amazingly frustrating but how could I not be grateful!? I had a great buck on the ground, two months worth of awesome hunting, and a big buck to look forward to hunting next year.
This season has taught me so much about enjoying the process of the hunt more than the end result. The more challenging and frustrating a hunt is, the more memorable it always seems to be. I can’t wait to go after that big buck again next year. And the antelope I killed ended up being a beautiful, heavy horned, mature buck.
Thanks so much to our good friends, Lee and Melanie Fisher, for giving me the opportunity to hunt on their land. It’s a special place and I’m very grateful to have been able to spend time getting to know it.
Next hunt will be my wife’s Colorado elk and deer tags in November. Still hoping for some elk meat this year!