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Kissed by an Elk
Sitka in the Khalarhi
Black and White
DIY Antelope: Everything but the Kitchen Sink
Author: Bryce Lambley
Aug 29, 2012
I certainly don't consider myself an expert on anything, much less bowhunting pronghorn antelope. However, I've had successful outings on three do-it-yourself hunts on properties which were entirely new to me, each of which embodied my approach to hunting the speedsters of the western high plains with a simple traditional stick-and-string.
That approach? Bring everything but the kitchen sink. Seriously. And consider every possibility.
I tend to look at all my bowhunting equations as problem-solving. It is a serious challenge to get within 20 yards (preferably even less) of a wily big game animal, and I think that very hurdle is what keeps bringing me back, season after season, for more of the chess match. 2012 is my 32nd season of serious bowhunting for big game animals, and my 25th season using a recurve or longbow.
With antelope, a typical hunt finds me trying to fit in a few days before I start my year as a schoolteacher. As a father of young children, I try to maximize my time at home and opt for quality outings when I do head to west for antelope. Usually, I'll try to fit in two or three days of scouting ahead, with a similar number of hunting days before I'm due back in the classroom. I'd prefer to save my personal days for the November deer rut, so being adaptable during my short time on the high plains is important.
"OUTSIDE THE BOX" GEAR LIST:
Mountain bike - I may want to leave my rig far from my actual hunting location, or use the bike to lift over a fence and access a different
pasture without traveling to a gate that might spook antelope.
A treestand - Yes, sometimes pronghorn country allows this as an option.
A ladder stand - Easier to set against many styles of windmills than a stand.
A couple long planks - Possibly lashed horizontally to a windmill to use as platform, or lashed vertically to the mill to provide a support
for a tree stand. I pre-drill these with holes at various locations where rope can be threaded.
Two or more pop-up ground blinds - Including the necessary items to keep them from blowing away.
Carpet footprint for the blind - Cuts down noise and dust and makes naps better. Add a sleeping bag, and you literally could stay
A wooden blind (or four T-posts and barbed wire) - To protect your blind from curious cattle. My brother Jason, a guide in Canada, makes a
prefabricated plywood blind, 6' x 8' x 6' tall that he puts together with a cordless drill in
less than 10 minutes.
A silhouette decoy (I have a homemade Mel Dutton copycat) - To use as originally designed, or as I've done: to use as cover to access a blind in full view of antelope on a
Some woven wire - To help construct a natural blind.
Spade and possibly pick-ax - To dig a blind, to dig a partial blind, or with my longbows in a pop-up blind to dig a depression in the middle
to help with limb clearance. You might also use a spade to help corral the spillover from a water tank and
keep it pooling within range of your blind.
Electric fence posts and wire - To block a far end of a water source.
Knee pads and leather gloves - Make stalking much easier (the integrated pads in the Mountain and Timberline pants are very nice).
Miscellaneous: Zip ties, rope, camo cloth, brush pruners, pole pruner, hand saw, wirecutters/fencing tool, staples, nails, tree steps.
My brother, Jason's winning setup this fall. At left, his tripod stand with Double Bull perched atop. The antelope paid no heed and he was rewarded with a 30 yard shot.
I took my first antelope in South Dakota. This particular pasture had three waterholes and I parked near one to try to negate it, spent lots of time hanging out and looking over the second pond, and then picked the smallest waterhole remaining which also had a few cottonwoods rimming one side. I slipped in during total darkness through a fold in the land, erected my treestand, and a couple hours later, after a 25-yard shot, I had a pronghorn in the bag.
My second hunt was during a wet year in Montana. The brimming waterholes were far too large to cover with my limited longbow range. I opted for an open gate between a big alfalfa field and a distant water source, setting my Double Bull blind next to big round bales. I still had to shoot through a fence located midway to where I hoped they'd travel, but zip ties helped bind the top two and bottom two strands of wire together to increase my shooting window. I had to drive right by this location to park my rig beyond it (it was already daylight), but used my silhouette antelope decoy as cover as I crab-walked back to my blind after parking. No more than 15 minutes later, a nice buck came to investigate and passed right through my gauntlet at 23 yards. This second buck required a follow-up stalk and shot, and I was grateful for the Sitka Timberline pants with integrated knee pads as I closed in to finish what I'd started.
I took my third during a dry year in Montana. Though tracks were hard to find in the rock hard soil, I correctly surmised that the slight seepage from the tank I monitored had put enough water into deep cow tracks short of the tank itself to be attractive to wary pronghorns. Therefore, I made sure I had shooting windows available should an antelope stop short of the tank...which is exactly what happened. At 20 yards, and with the window on the roof of the blind open to accommodate my longbow's upper limb, I made good.
All of my antelope were taken at slightly further ranges than I prefer for my whitetails (my average deer kill is probably less than 15 yards), and the smaller size of the antelope compounds that issue, as does shooting from a blind with a 64" longbow. But I spend much time in the summer getting more confidence with the longer ranges, and have used a Block target the last two years, placed horizontal to approximate the size and appearance of a pronghorn.
If you decide to give do-it-yourself pronghorns a go, my recommendation would be to pack light on the clothes (Sitka's layering system makes this easy) and use the additional space in your rig to bring everything and anything that might help you solve
any problems you'll face once you get to antelope country.
I have had the pleasure of hunting with Bryce in Iowa and Nebraska and I continue to be impressed with his dedication to archery hunting. I was considering an archery antelope hunt this fall myself in South Dakota or Nebraska but after reading Bryce's latest article my plans changed from maybe to absolutely. Thanks Bryce for sharing your tips and passion.
Stephen Phillips Posted At 9/04/2012 08:24 AM
Nice job once again Bryce. I pack much of the same gear for my goat hunts. And you are sure right on the Sitka pant with the knee pads they are always with me.
mike lutt Posted At 8/30/2012 09:54 PM
Great article!!! I am planning on headed out to Harding County this upcoming weekend for 4 days. Ill take some of these pointers to good use!! Thanks for sharing!
Phillip Posted At 8/29/2012 08:31 PM
You started seriously bowhunting big game when you were 8 years old? :-)
Great job Bryce. Always enjoy your informative writing and am looking forward to another book.
Steve Osminski Posted At 8/29/2012 08:23 PM
Nice job Bryce!!!
Husker Buck Posted At 8/29/2012 04:14 PM
Great article! There are very few things as fun as chasing speedgoats with a bow. You definitely pack for any possibility and it has paid off. Can't wait to get out after them...
Tim Hoffer Posted At 8/29/2012 03:56 PM
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