A Spot-And-Stalk Guide To Pronghorn

By Jace Bauserman

anteplope standing in a field

Over the phone, my friend’s voice sounded sad. After explaining he had crawled nearly a mile, was covered in cactus, and had enough holes from stickers in his arms and hands to water his front lawn in the morning, he took a deep breath. “Pronghorn are so hard to stalk,” he said.

I don’t say this to discourage you. Instead, I want you to know exactly what to expect. If you have a pronghorn tag in your pocket, that’s awesome. Few western critters provide such a fun, challenging, and action-packed hunt. But you need to know how to stalk them right to reap the benefits.

Find Them

You’ve done your due diligence. Your rifle and ammo combo is dialed, and you feel confident you will put a round in the boiler room. The next part of the puzzle is a simple one. Pronghorn inhabit open spaces, and time behind glass, while posted on a good vantage point, should produce a few sightings. Don’t be afraid, however, to use your truck or ATV (where legal). One of the best ways to find these prairie dwellers is to cover ground and glass along the way.

Go Get Them

Stalking pronghorn is hard. Let’s get that tidbit out of the way. These creatures are North America’s fastest land animal, have eyes like 10-power binoculars, and while their sniffer isn't that of a whitetail or elk, they will bust you if they inhale enough human stink.

hunter looking through a spotting scope

Too many hunters make the mistake of trying to slip out of the truck and amble across an open pasture, hoping a mature goat will let them wander within rifle range. It happens, but most often, a diaper-butt bounding the opposite direction is all the hunter sees.

Stay on the herd, lone buck, pair of bucks, whatever, with your glass. Stay patient and wait for them to go over a rise, behind a small hill, or into a pond to drink. Their best asset is their eyes, and when you know those eyes can’t pick you off, it’s time to move and move quickly.

If the herd or animal you’re after happens to be bedded, glass the surrounding terrain repeatedly. Take note of any dips, ditches, dry creek beds, areas of heavy sage or other cover. Next, pull up a digital mapping app. Mark the exact location of the goat you’re after as well as your precise location. This will give you a visual reference to look back at throughout your stalk.

You can’t be a hedgehog. Popping up and down out of the sage and cactus is a terrible idea. These animals key on movement, and if a single wrong move puts even one doe on alert, she’ll stare holes through you. Then, she will circle downwind while walking toward you. You’ll try to stay flat as a pancake, but it won’t matter. She will punish you by staring, stomping, and making a kazoo-like sound for the better part of 30 minutes. Then, she will break and run, and the buck will follow suit. Remember, you have a rifle in your hands. If you stay patient, use the terrain, and keep a low profile, you’ll be able to close the distance and earn an opportunity.

Low Light Rules

Early mornings and late evenings are great times to make a move on a stalkable goat. The key is to get the sun at your back and let it work for you. Low light alters the vision of pronghorn just enough to help you get away with risky moves. And if you earn a midday stalk and the day is overcast, the deck is stacked a little more in your favor. If the sun is shining but passing clouds cast shadows from time to time, use those moments to your advantage. Shadows alter light and will help you get away with just a little bit more.

hunter looking through binoculars

Pay Attention

Sadly, most stalks get blown right when you’re ready to settle your crosshairs and start squeezing the trigger. Why? Impatience. Movement at this point in the game must be kept to a minimum. If the terrain allows, my favorite tactic is to slide out of my pack, prop my elbows on it, and put glass on my target animal. If heads are down and eyes are facing away, slide your rifle across your pack and go to work. If the situation feels risky, it probably is. Stay patient and remain calm. If you must get on your knees or butt and use a set of shooting sticks, do it slowly. Quick moves get picked off. If the herd or animal seems relaxed, the wind is good, and they have no idea you’re in the area, wait for them to bed. Yes, you may have to wait a while for this, but who cares if the herd isn’t traveling. What’s an hour or two in the grand scheme of things?

Don’t Get Frustrated

Lastly, don’t let blown stalks get you down. That’s the beautiful thing about hunting pronghorn. If you’re in a good or even average speed goat area, chances are you’ll be on another stalk shortly. Clear the mind of any mishaps and stay the course. Those who remain positive and keep going will be the ones who notch a tag.