My heart sank after yet another unwelcome sight: a herd of pronghorn over 800 yards away and running as fast as they could. I was up on Wyoming on the opening day of pronghorn season and finding pronghorn wasn’t a problem. Unfortunately, I was really having trouble approaching to within shooting distance.
The wide open country made things difficult enough, but I was also hunting on public land and there were dozens of other hunters out there with me trying to fill their tags on the first day of the season. While I came close to pulling the trigger on a nice buck during the early in the morning, he turned tail and ran after spotting a couple of other hunters who took a little too much interest in him.
It didn’t take long at all for most of the other pronghorn to learn that hunting season had opened and they didn’t stick around after spotting human activity. I spent most of the rest of the day driving around the GMU and getting a feel for the land. I saw literally hundreds of pronghorn, but they were always hundreds of yards away and would take off at full speed the minute I stopped or even slowed down.
However, I also noticed a few very encouraging sights. First, most other hunters stayed very close to the roads and did little walking. Second, the pronghorn were concentrated in areas close to water.
Now, neither of those things were very surprising. After all, the GMU had very good road access and was pretty dry. However, I discovered a couple water holes that weren’t visible from the road that afternoon. The pronghorn hanging out in one especially promising location spotted me and left, but I figured that would be a good place to hit first thing in the morning the next day.
Well, that’s just what I did.
I woke up long before the sun rose and parked two ridge lines away from the valley full of water and green grass that I intended to hunt. In contrast to the previous day, there was not another hunter in sight that morning. I slipped out of my truck and readied my gear.
Keeping the rising sun at my back and doing my best to use the terrain to mask my movements from the pronghorn I couldn’t yet see, but knew were there, I stealthily crept across the prairie. After a few hundred yards, I reached a dry creek bed that ran towards the valley I intended to hunt. I climbed down its steep walls and used the concealment it provided to move faster without worrying about being spotted.
Every hundred yards or so I’d pop up like a prairie dog and search the surrounding countryside for pronghorn. After doing that a couple of times, I saw what I was looking for: a buck feeding along a ridge about a mile away. He was too far off to judge accurately, but he was obviously a mature buck.
I shot an azimuth to the buck with my compass and used that information to plot his location on my GPS. He was exactly where I’d hoped I’d find some pronghorn that morning. He was also in a spot where nobody could see him from the road, which eased my fears that another hunter would spook him. The buck obviously knew he’d found a good spot and was casually feeding without a care in the world.
Reasonably confident that he wouldn’t leave any time soon, I identified a good shooting position on the ridge opposite the buck and planned my stalk. After backtracking a few hundred yards, I scurried out of the creek bed using the cover of another ridge. At a brisk trot, I covered over a thousand yards behind the ridge until I was parallel with the buck.
While taking a minute to catch my breath, I quietly chambered a round in my rifle and put on hearing protection. After slowly creeping up the ridge, I dropped down onto my belly and slithered over the top.
The buck was right there where I left him. Unfortunately, a quick check with my laser rangefinder confirmed that he was still over 400 yards away. While I was considering my next move, the buck miraculously turned and started walking directly in my direction and dropped out of sight below me. Inch by inch, I crawled over the crest until the buck and about twenty does and fawns came into sight.
Fortunately, my caution had paid off that morning and I was in an ideal shooting position above a big group of pronghorn that had no idea I was there. A quick inspection of the herd determined that the buck in question was indeed the biggest one there.
The shot from my .300 Win Mag echoed across the prairie and the rest of the pronghorn took off, leaving the buck where he fell. Less than an hour later, he was in my cooler as I drove back to camp.