Pronghorn season in Montana started well before opening day this year. Numerous days were spent watching, videoing, and photographing potential pronghorn herds, and obtaining the required permission from ranch owners. While reading about pronghorn can advance knowledge, observing them first-hand provides unique insight into their behavior. Such insight is important, especially when their behavior shifts during the rut.
Having grown up in the east many of my hunting hours were spent in pursuit of whitetail with a rifle. In that region, archery hunting consists of sitting in a tree stand, which was never personally appealing. Archery hunting in the west often equates to the active pursuit of bulls, although some sitting might occur. The excitement of archery drew me in when a friend called in a 7×7 Montana public land bull elk. During a pronghorn hunt with my brother and his oldest son, we closed the deal on a buck as well. These two experiences enticed me to apply for the 900-20 archery-only tag for pronghorn for the 2018 season. This turned out to be a trying, humbling, yet rewarding experience.
Transitioning from hunting in the east to hunting in the west takes significant adaptation, especially persistence and a willingness to learn. The 900-20 tag holders can begin hunting on August 15th, which provides approximately two full weeks prior to the archery open for other hunters (as well as the added benefit of being able to hunt in all hunting districts in Montana except for Paradise Valley). Opening morning offered the opportunity to spot-and-stalk a decent bedded buck from 350 yards to 87. At that point, the infamous pronghorn eyesight thwarted the stalk. Over the next four weeks, numerous stalks and a few hay bale hunts took place without successfully closing the distance.
After so much lack of success, frustration can easily set in. Generally speaking, the hunting community is a wealth of information. Reaching out to those who have more experience is a wonderful idea. Reading books, articles, and watching hunting videos (personal and professional) is a great way to expand knowledge, but it is also important to speak with other hunters to learn from their experience. While not all advice is applicable in every circumstance, one piece of advice that worked for me was to employ a good decoy.
After receiving the decoy on Monday, my goal was to test it out on Tuesday morning. The first buck, accompanied by a doe, ran out to about four or five hundred yards. I opted to walk along the fence line where the pronghorn had been the last couple of weeks. Peering over the decoy while moving towards the fence, I noticed a buck running nearly full-force towards me, although he was still about four hundred yards out. The experience certainly got the adrenaline pumping!
There are a few takeaways after this archery season that made an impact on me and that I hope will be beneficial to others:
- Persistence pays off – while becoming frustrated when learning something new is common, a willingness to pursue the end goal and problem solve in order to get there will pay off in the end.
- Be willing to seek out advice – read everything you can, watch videos, and
most importantly ask for advice from experienced hunters!
- The hunting community is generally tight-knit – we all enjoy sharing in
each other’s victories and short-comings, and we enjoy learning from one