The American pronghorn is a completely unique species, found only in North America. They’re not related to African antelope, or any American cervids like deer or elk. In fact, “antelope” as we refer to them colloquially, are the only horned animal that sheds its horns annually.
This one-of-a-kind creature is fast, has excellent vision, and is equal parts cagey and curious. Antelope are beautiful, and undoubtedly provide some of the most action-packed big game hunting anywhere in the west.
Being the unique animals they are, antelope hunting in Wyoming comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities. If you’ve never hunted antelope, you might be surprised at what it takes to be successful.
Here are a few things you can expect on your first antelope hunt:
1. Antelope Are Active All Day
Pronghorn do not run on the same schedule as most other big game animals. They usually bed down at night, and they remain active throughout the day.
On a pronghorn hunt, there’s very little advantage to heading out before daylight. In fact, you’re likely to spook antelope in the dark, doing more harm than good. On a mule deer hunt in the exact same sagebrush country, we’re already out there glassing as soon as it’s light enough to see. But on an antelope hunt, we usually won’t begin hunting until after daylight.
Once the sun is up, antelope become much easier to see. They will occasionally bed down, but will continue feeding and moving all day. Unlike deer hunting, when the first and last hours of the day are “prime time”, most antelope hunting happens between those bookends.
2. It’s a Numbers Game
You can expect to see a lot of animals. Get ready to practice patience. In this open terrain, you can see for miles. And densities are high in most of Wyoming antelope country. Don’t be surprised if your guide doesn’t want to run off after the first buck you see.
Antelope are notorious for being one of the most difficult trophies to judge in the field. Your guide may want to wait, and see a buck from multiple angles before making a decision to try and stalk. In addition to waiting for a quality buck, you might also need to be patient to locate one that’s in a stalkable position.
Hunting antelope is often a numbers game. You may have to look at quite a few antelope before you find the buck you want to pursue.
3. Vision is Their Best Defense
Antelope have excellent vision. It’s not unusual to see antelope a half-mile or more away go running for the opposite horizon. Whether it’s a human shape breaking the skyline, or the opening of a truck door, if these animals see something they don’t like, they’ll boogie. And they can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
Thanks to the regular oilfield activity throughout Wyoming, vehicles don’t often bother the antelope. But if you try and get out of the truck – they may not stick around.
When you find a buck you want to pursue, your guide may continue driving, or circle around to stop the truck somewhere out of sight to begin the stalk.
4. Antelope Are Naturally Gregarious
Even though antelope can seem extremely skittish and will run at the first sign of danger, they are also very social and curious animals. If they see something that appears to be another antelope, or if they’re not sure what it is, they may walk toward it to find out.
You may have heard stories of “flagging” antelope, waving a white flag to entice a curious antelope to approach. Decoys can also be used with some success. This isn’t always a reliable hunting method. But it can be a fascinating part of the antelope’s unique personality.
Depending on the situation, your guide may find a decoy useful. Or, you might flag an antelope buck to stop him long enough for a shot.
5. Prepare to Stalk In Open Terrain
It probably comes as no surprise that you’ll be hunting antelope in open country. But what might be surprising is just how conducive it is to stalking with a rifle.
At first glance, Wyoming antelope country might seem flat and featureless. But you’ll soon realize that the terrain here has a surprising amount of topography. Sagebrush coulees, deep draws, hills and folds in the landscape make great places for game to hide – and they are also great for planning a stalk.
When you and your guide spot a buck that you’re interested in, you may need to be patient in planning the stalk. You’ll need to find a route that will conceal you from the antelope’s line of sight until you’re within range. Don’t be surprised if you walk a mile to approach an antelope that’s only half a mile away.
6. Antelope Are Small Targets
An antelope might seem like a small target at 300 yards. And that’s because they are. Antelope are small in stature, standing little more than three feet at the shoulder and less than five feet long from chest to rump. From the top of its back to the bottom of its brisket, an antelope buck might be less than 15 inches. That means the vital area is usually less than nine inches in diameter.
With that in mind, don’t skimp on rifle practice. You want to arrive on an antelope hunt with complete confidence in your weapon. Ideally, you’ll be comfortable shooting out to 300 yards and shooting consistent groups inside that small vital window.
When you practice with your rifle, make sure you spend time practicing with your bipod or any other accessories you intend to use. Once your rifle is sighted in, get off the bench rest and spend some time practicing in more realistic positions.
7. It’s Excellent Wild Game Meat
Antelope is easily one of the best wild game meats in North America. Antelope tends to have a lighter pink color than venison, and a more finely grained texture. On average, it’s very mild and tender. Of course rut behavior, wounding and other factors can influence meat quality. But ounce-for-ounce, we’ll take antelope over just about any other wild game meat.
The only downside to eating antelope is their size. An average buck will yield 30-40 pounds of boneless meat. But at such high quality, you’ll want to treat each package like bricks of gold in your freezer.
Like most wild game, antelope is very lean. Quality cuts like loins and sirloins benefit from being served medium-rare. Roasts, necks, shanks, or other cuts with lots of connective tissue are great for slow cooking. And antelope burger is outstanding in any of your favorite ground meat recipes.
Antelope Hunting with Table Mountain Outfitters
If you’d like to learn more about antelope hunting with Table Mountain Outfitters, please have a look at our Antelope Hunts page. You can also download a free brochure, which includes a price list, references and deposit information.
If you would like to speak with us about availability or anything else, we’d love to help answer your questions! Please give us a call at 307-632-6352 or send us a message. We look forward to helping you plan the ultimate Wyoming hunting adventure! Come live THE LIFE with us.
Ryan McSparran is an OUTDOOR WRITER, hunting and fishing guide, and proud to be a part of the team at Table Mountain Outfitters.