My take on spot n' stalking speed goats
I have always had a thing for pronghorn. Especially after being my first solo archery kill animal back in 2017. I've been lucky enough to harvest one every year after that. (Except this year, as it'll be my first year not hunting them. Kinda sad about it)
When I take a liking to something, I do everything I can to learn as much as I can about them. Which includes spending entire months observing & learning why they do what they do.
Pronghorn are particularly unique and quite fun to observe, especially during their rut. So here is my two cents on spot n' talking pronghorn during the archery season.
Assuming some of my readers aren't very familiar with pronghorn, I'll give you a run down of a few facts about them.
While many hunters use the term "speed goats" when referring to pronghorn, they aren't goats at all. In fact they are the only surviving member of a family called Antilocapridae and their closest living relative is a giraffe. Pretty neat! I personally think they are the most unique big game animal we hunt in North America, probably because of that reason - and their appearance is unlike anything else. Pronghorn are also the only horned animal that shed its horns, which are typically shed between October and December. Both sexes have horns, but the males will grow much longer.
They have incredible eyesight and have nearly 360 degrees of vision. They can detect movement up to 4 miles which is insane. This obviously makes it extremely difficult to hunt them in the wide open.
Male pronghorn have scent glands on either side of their jaw which appear as black markings on the cheek. During the rut they will rub their glands on shrubs & bushes leaving their scent to mark territory. Both sexes of pronghorn also have scent glands on their rump and when they see a predator or sense danger, they will release an odor from those glands and the white hair on their rump will stand up and somewhat flare out.
They will also let out an alarm snort when they don't like something. Similar to a deer blow, but a lot higher pitched. Click here to listen to that sound. Bucks will also blow challenge calls to other bucks. Those will start with a loud snort that sounds like the alarm snort, but followed up with a series of shorter snorts in fast succession. I've heard it a few times and it is very cool.
A pronghorns coat is made up of coarse, hollow hair. It allows them to keep warm in the winter and stay cool in the summer. And they regulate this by lifting and lowering the hairs. Lowering the hair keeps cold air out; raising it allows air to circulate and body heat to escape.
There are many more incredible and unique facts about them. I could go on and on.
But, let's get into the nitty gritty.
Now, when it comes to hunting them(which usually takes place mid to August to mid September), here is what I have come to learn.
Take into account, I do my hunting in south Idaho where pronghorn typically live in wide open flats or rolling hills with grass & sage. Pressure, terrain and other things that affect what pronghorn do are not the same everywhere, so pronghorn hunting elsewhere may vary. Where I hunt, the pronghorn are very sensitive to people and vehicles. Normally they won't stick around if you pull off the road to watch them. I do most of my scouting from a distance.
I won't get into decoying, as I haven't had great luck with it. Not saying it doesn't work, but where I particularly hunt, it doesn't work well. I prefer spot n' stalking. Usually when I spot a buck I want to stalk, I'll park my vehicle out of sight which sometimes results in very long walks and belly crawls through the desert. If the buck is in somewhat of a tricky spot to find when going to make the stalk, I'll do my best to watch him from a distant and pinpoint where he is on my OnX map app so I have a better idea where to go in from when I go to make the stalk. I only stalk bucks when they are bedded. Sometimes I'll watch them for hours as they're feeding and quickly make a game plan as soon as they bed down. I've noticed bucks tend to bed down anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. This also depends on how heavily they are rutting.
I always begin my stalk from directly behind the buck. I try to stalk them when they are bedded in sage as I have more cover to hide in. Still, it's never tall enough to walk through and I normally end up crawling on my belly to be as low as possible. And I take my SWEET time crawling, trying to avoid every sage branch and dry piece of grass. As their hearing is great. Binoculars also come in very handy when stalking as sometimes it's very hard to remember where the buck is bedded. If I'm belly crawling in from anywhere over 200 yards its so hard to see right where they are once you get on the ground. With binos, I'm able to see the tips of their horns through the foliage and can pinpoint where they are. During the stalk I'll be sure to keep bushes between the buck and I at all times until I'm within shooting range. Since their range of view is so great, being as stealthy as you can is necessary. I will pull out my binos as much as every 3 feet to make sure the buck is still facing away and that I'm crawling in the right direction.
I've noticed once you get within 80 yards of the bedded buck, they will hear the slightest movement. This is when I go into "slow motion mode" and make my movements as quietly and carefully as I can. 30 yards is usually all I need to make up from 80 yards to get into my comfortable shooting range, but I often don't get that lucky.
When I do get within range, I get my legs tucked up underneath me where I'm able to sit up and draw back when the time is right. If you get lucky and catch a buck when he is dozing off, it makes it much easier to do so without him seeing. If I can see and easily hit his vitals with him bedded, I will do so. But sometimes they may be covered with too much brush and you will need to wait for them to stand. In this situation I usually like to keep low to the ground instead of sitting up and waiting, as when they do stand you aren't sticking out of the brush like a sore thumb. If they don't spot you right away, they might just go right into feeding. As long as there is bushes or other things covering their line of sight when their head is down, it's a great time to sit up, draw back and make your shot. Pulling back and making the shot has to be quick and quiet as they raise their head often, quickly and unexpectedly. I've shot 2 bucks in this exact feeding scenario. If you play it right, it pays off. My first buck was shot right out of his bed. I was lucky enough to have a big boulder between the buck and I, and got within 50 yards without him ever seeing me.
Another technique I've used is the "ambush". This is where you simply pick a spot and sit there until a pronghorn walks by. I've used this technique multiple times and have had a few close calls, but it's only been a success once for me. Mostly due to the fact that I get too impatient to sit in one spot all day and prefer to spot n' stalk and cut up my arms and legs by belling crawling over rocks and thorns haha.
When choosing a spot to sit, I look for spots with lots of recurring sign. I find this mostly near water sources. Which is why many people set up blinds on water. Personally, I think it's more fun to hide in bushes where I'm not stuck in a black box all day that cooks you from the inside out.
Sometimes you can find small creeks with lots of bushes right on the edges of the creek that can make for good cover.
In some cases, you can even find spots that pronghorn migrate through during certain parts of the day. This can be drainages, cattle trails, along fences, etc... Oftentimes, pronghorn that live near agricultural fields will spend their day in the sage flats and their evenings and mornings in the farmers fields. They often(but not always) follow the same trail to and from these spots.
If you can spend time and watch what they do and where they like to go, you can often pinpoint right where their trail is and sit right by it, as long as it offers good cover and isn't on private property. Unless, of course, you have permission.
If you want your chances of shooting a pronghorn to be better, I'd work on being very prepared for this hunt. I'd recommend being able to shoot at least 50 yards very comfortably. But I'd practice shooting upwards of 80-100 yards, as it makes shooting 60 and 70 a lot easier.
If you have the time, go scout a few days before your hunt and observe the pronghorn and their behaviors. See where they like to go and if they might have favorite water sources or certain corridors that they like to use. It also helps if you have more than a few days to hunt them. The more stalks you make, the better of a chance you'll have at an opportunity to lose an arrow.
Spot n' stalking pronghorn with your bow is a patience and repetition game. Expect most of your stalks to fail, but keep at it. I usually spend 2-3 weeks on average blowing stalks and messing up opportunities before I get that perfect moment.
Personally, I think archery hunting pronghorn is a very underrated hunt in North America. Between their incredible eyesight and constant awareness of their surroundings it makes for a tough hunt. It sure is fun though and it really tests your skills as an archer. I would recommend this hunt to anyone.
Hope this intel was somewhat informative for those wanting to learn a little more about spot n' stalking speed goats.
Thanks for reading!