I have just recently arrived back from my first ever pronghorn hunt and I would love to quickly share the story of the adventure before the crispness of the experience is dulled by passed time and the facts become muddled.
With enough preference points my wife and I were able to secure a pair of muzzleloader permits in a coveted unit in Nebraska’s panhandle. We were very excited and talked to many people about pronghorn – some of which were interested in what we said, and a few had even hunted them.
The Thursday evening prior to the opening of our season we eagerly loaded up the truck. The next morning, just before sunrise I headed it west. Soon after I returned to pick up Leslie.
Having never chased this unique plains critter our goal for the day was to glean some on-the-ground intel before we hit the fields the next morning. It worked, too. We started seeing pronghorn as soon as we entered our hunt area.
“Look at those antelope play,” I said. “Just like the song says.”
“It’s the rut. The buck is protecting his does from other bucks wanting to steal a few,” replied Leslie. “Pronghorn don’t actually play.”
“Buffalo has to roam; pronghorn has to play, ” I stated. Leslie then uttered a non-discouraging word under her breath that she wouldn’t repeat.
Opening morning found us in quick contact with a large herd of pronghorn a short distance from the truck. Leslie spotted them moments before I did, which was only seconds after she pointed them out to me.
We snuck as close as we dared to them and watched them play…I mean rut…for about 30 minutes. Then they decided to walk right to us. Even after they saw me. Once in range they all continued to stroll toward us. Then suddenly, for no reason at all the herd buck turned broadside and stopped. However, the sights on my muzzleloader kept moving.
We estimated the entire herd covered just under a mile in the next few seconds, with the herd buck leading the way, to the large ridge well south of us. I explained to Leslie the importance and proper protocol of a warning shot in these situations. I do believe my explanation eased her mind some as I borrowed her reloading supplies. Mine were safely back in the truck, if we should need them.
The rest of the morning hunt went about as I assume most pronghorn hunts do. She would spot a distant group and on the way to them I would do my impression of a hound-dog with the dry heaves. We broke for a bologna sandwich and a rest after finding most of the now bedded pronghorn in spots we had little chance of reaching without being seen, and I had whined enough.
During our brief hiatus from the hunt we plotted our evening strategy. I did so mostly with closed eyelids, which Leslie says she finds more conducive to strategy plotting. We put the plan into action a few hours before sunset and after being sidetracked by two unsuccessful stalks that I guess I hadn’t planned really well. But how does one really plan for cactus and what tactics fully cover all aspects of a grown man not “shrieking like a little girl“?
Soon, we were sitting on the north side of a main ridge that ran east and west. We found a decently steep part of it that allowed us to comfortably back up against the ridge itself and sit down. It was a great place, too, as we were mostly hidden in the shade just below the top, but could quickly glass the wide open flat behind us with our binoculars.
It was during one of these ‘glassings‘ that we spotted the very same herd we had run into that morning. They were walking straight to the ridge we were hiding against. We made ready in the best way we knew how. Leslie working her sticks and muzzleloader into a comfortable shooting position. Me by saying things like “can you believe it?” and “who would have thunk it.”
The herd seemed oblivious to us the entire time they closed the distance. It wasn’t until the lead doe was within bow range and giving an alarm call that any of them even cared that we were there. The entire herd came to a halt well within range and the herd buck, with whom I already had an established relationship with, was third in line.
This time I held my crosshairs steady, but I made the cardinal sin of mashing the trigger too hard. However, just as this was happening the buck decided to move the appropriate number of steps that magically placed the shot perfectly. Then it was nothing but white-butts bouncing across the prairie, minus one.
So, there it is. I had taken my very first pronghorn. No one was more surprised than I, except maybe Leslie who kept mentioning something about a sight-impaired pig, an acorn and an antelope that made poor life decisions.
Again I wanted to share the facts of this story quickly while they are new-memory fresh. Sure it was almost a dream-like hunt and some naysayers won’t believe the facts as I have laid them out here. For example, even now my own wife doesn’t recall the full aspects of the hunt correctly, as I do. Being more liked than I am around here, especially by our editors, some may even begin to believe her partly-cloudy recollection of what unfolded on the plains of Nebraska.
On the way home she even hinted about wanting to write up her own version of the story. But I’m sure that was all in jest, because I asked her what she would title such a work of fiction. “The Luckiest Pronghorn Hunter…Ever,” she replied.