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Pronghorn Hunting Distances

Pronghorn buck on a ridge at sunsetPeople keep asking at what distance will a hunter expect to take a pronghorn. The hunting magazines will have you believe that the "typical" distance for taking a pronghorn will be 200 yards or greater - because of the open range where the pronghorn live, and because of their terrific eyesight that they have developed because of living out in the open. For that reason, the "experts" tell you to bring a rifle that will shoot far and flat.

I'll admit that that's one reason I bought a 270 WSM. The bullets were readily available, the only difference was the shape of the casing. Supposedly, the short, fat case shape allows the powder to burn more efficiently, thereby giving the WSM a little more range than the traditional 270. But this is another subject.

There are some authors that are up front about the realities of hunting pronghorn. They say that they themselves, have hardly ever taken a pronghorn at more than 200 yards. One author "took a poll" of other pronghorn hunters, and they all agreed that their typical shot was somewhere between 50 yards and 150 yards.

I'd have to say that my experience is about like theirs. I jumped my first buck at about 50 yards. We were on a two-track road, and all of a sudden a young buck came over the hill and crossed the road in front of us. I jumped out of the truck, and tried to draw a bead on the fleeing pronghorn. (Being my first time hunting, I was already nervous. The fellow I was with kept shouting at me "hurry up!") I did get the buck.

You have to remember that the hunts that you read about, and see on TV are guided. Occasionally someone will do a show on a "do it yourself" hunt, but not very often. These hunts are guided, and the guides are paid to drive around the ranches and spot any pronghorn herds, and keep track of where they are. These are the hunts where you are more likely to take a long shot. Also, since the ranches are outfitted, truck or human traffic is less often, so the pronghorn are more likely to be spooked when they see something approach.

The one doe that I took, was standing with her herd on a hill, right next to a two-track. I stopped the truck, and most of the herd took off. But two does stood their ground, just looking at us. I took a bead on one - they couldn't have been more than 75 yards away - and pulled the trigger. In the scope I saw her spin around like she was about to run off. When I went to look, I found that she had just spun in a circle and laid down, right there.

Sometimes pronghorn will stop and look back after they have run off. I had spotted one herd, I jumped out of the truck, and threw myself on the ground so I could stedy my rifle (remember to watch out for those prickly pears!). The herd had run off, but one of the bucks turned around and looked at us. His mistake. His chest and head were sticking up over the hill. I remember saying "okay. If that's the way you want it" out loud. I drew a bead on his chest. The exit wound was in his right butt cheek.

In more populous states, pronghorn may be less wary because they are used to vehicles going but but they may be more spooked by people - it sort of depends on the threat level from the people. In less populous states, human traffic is less frequent, so they are more wary of traffic in remote areas, but may be more curious than threatened by your presence. I have hunted in an area where there was a lot of human traffic because there were buildings and pump rigs around, and pickup trucks constantly going by because people needed to tend equipment. In that area the pronghorns would be just as likely to watch a truck go by as to run off. And if they did run off, it would only be for a short distance - they are used to people in a setting where they are no threat. If you are hunting an area where pronghorn are conditioned to people meaning danger, it will mean having to take a longer shot than if you hunt in an area where they are not conditioned this way. Draw tag hunts are also different than leftover tag hunts, because the antelope have been chased and fired at for two weeks by the time the leftover tags are available.


Photo by Brian Lewis, Ranch Manager, Kentucky Antler Company