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Choosing a Rifle for Pronghorn

RiflesFor those of you who have not hunted antelope before, or who have not read anything on antelope hunting, you may be wondering which rifle to use. Most antelope are found on wide open prairies, so a rifle that can shoot flat over a long distance is a definite advantage. It would also be a good idea to sight your rifle of choice at 200 yards, or more. 200 yards is a good distance because it is easy to adjust for distance if the animal is further than that, but also allows the hunter to be able to take a close shot if one should present itself.

Hunting regulations for the state of Wyoming do give some minimum guidelines (pdf document - go to page 10, upper right hand corner). You may bring your .223 for shooting prairie dogs, but you can't use it for antelope, or any other big game species. The smallest caliber allowed for big game in Wyoming is the .243/6mm. Both my sons and I have taken antelope with a .243 that has a 95 grain bullet. I have also taken antelope with a .270 Winchester Short Magnum, with a 150 grain bullet. Both the .243 Win and .243 WSSM are suitable cartridges as are the .240 Weatherby Magnum, the 6 and 6.5 mms, .257 Roberts and Weatherby Magnum, the .270 Winchester, WSM, and Magnums, the various 7mms, .280s, .308, .30-06, and the 8mms.

As for ammo, any of the plastic tipped ammo will do. Pronghorns are thin-skinned, and not particularly muscled. In my 243, I typically use 95 grain bullets, and they work just fine. I use 150 grain bullets in my 270 WSM, but that is so I can use it as a "utility" rifle, and not have to re-scope for every bullet that I put in it.

The ever popular 3-9x variable scope will be just fine for aiming at antelope. More powerful ones will work well. Also, because of the open nature of the terrain where the antelope live, having a good spotting scope will be an advantage.

You may also want to have a bipod mounted to your rifle, as there is little to use as a support out on the open prairies for those long range shots. An alternative would be a good set of shooting sticks.

One final note. When crawling through the sage brush during your stalk. Be aware of what you are crawling over. The antelope's home is covered with prickly pear cactus! There have been a lot of "warm" Septembers in recent years, so keep an eye out for rattlesnakes.

Rifle recommendations from Field & Stream's David Petzal - Posted Dec. 8, 2008