Archery Antelope. The mere mention of the phrase stirs different feelings in different bowhunters.
To some, this plentiful critter that inhabits the Wild West, flies quietly under the radar. But for others, it conjures up memories of hot blinds, buzzing flies, sunburns, and several other means of self-implied torture. And torture it can be. Most archery antelope seasons happen in either August or September and depending on which part of the country you are hunting in, daytime highs can vary from 70 degrees to 110!
Whether you prefer an ambush on a waterhole or going head to head spotting and stalking, bowhunting these speed demons usually involves sweat, blood, dust, and thirst. But if you want to try a different game plan that can yield incredible action as well as point-blank shot distances, then you may want to consider a decoy.
Spot B&C Antelope
As the burning orange ball slowly sank behind the distant mesa, my friend Todd McKenzie and I boiled over with anticipation. We were watching a buck of enormous proportions. The B&C caliber stud was sticking close to his does while they settled in for the night. Knowing that undisturbed pronghorn don’t usually tend to move very far during the night, confidence peaked for the following morning, the opening of archery season.
On the phone, weeks before his arrival, McKenzie had voiced his interest in using a decoy for his upcoming Arizona hunt. This would be a new tactic for both of us, as hunting water and stalking were the norm. But I was game and anxious to learn something new. I had an old 3D deer target that was a small antelope-sized chap, and after a goat-like, tri-colored paint job with a couple of black “horns” attached, I felt proud that I had saved some dough with my homemade decoy.
On a hill, armed with our cumbersome painted deer, we waited for daylight to arrive on opening morning. As visibility grew, we made out the goats from the evening before. They had not moved 100 yards overnight. From a half-mile away, as we pondered our approach options, a couple of satellite bucks began to move in on the herd buck’s harem. The giant would charge a pestering youngster like a runaway train, often chasing him for several hundred yards before returning to his does at a high lope. As our buck grew more agitated, we gathered up our decoy and began a long jog around him and into position for an assault.
Sweating, we crested a low ridge and relocated our buck below us as he laid down for a short break from his defense. We were 250 yards out as I grabbed our fake buck and stuck about half of his body into view from behind our small, brushy hideout. I made a short, hard blow with my mouth, grabbing the buck’s attention.
Buck Approaches, Then Retreats
The monster gained his feet on the run and immediately honed in on our position. “Holy @#$% this might work,” I thought as the buck gained steam. But after 50 yards he screeched to a halt, stomped the ground, and snorted back at us.
Following a short stand of defiance, he turned and trotted back to his 12 does. McKenzie and I made a brief observation noticing a fold in the landscape that would allow us to close to about 150 yards from the herd. We would have to backtrack out of sight, circle again, and pop back over the ridge to see if our decoy’s new position would provoke a full-blown charge. We eased out of view and began our second stalk.
Twenty minutes later, we were closing the gap on a large, dead tree that was atop the ridge above our target. I quietly laid the decoy on the ground as we crawled the last 10 feet up behind the cover. We needed to get oriented and note the buck’s position. As we slowly rose and peered through the dead limbs we saw the buck on his feet and staring hard, right at our tree. He wasted no time shifting into overdrive as he rocketed toward us at breakneck speed.
The decoy was laying in the dirt several feet behind us as we began to realize that the buck was committed to his attack. McKenzie ripped an arrow from his quiver and crammed it onto the string. I got my rangefinder up and ready as we prepared for combat. The line the buck chose led him through a slight depression in the terrain that briefly blocked him from view. In seconds he reappeared, coming fast, 60 yards out. It became evident that he had lost track of our exact tree and was blindly coming uphill to fight.
Buck Comes In Fast
Using my Leica rangefinder on him, I began whispering off the distances as he closed. “55”…”43″…”34″… We quickly noted that he was going to pass us by at a dead run, so I bawled loudly to stop him. “26,” I hissed as the mad buck whirled to a halt and looked for the sound. Before the words were completely out of my mouth, McKenzie’s broadhead sliced completely through the panting animal. Spinning on a dime, he tried to retreat, but faltered and fell after only 30 yards. Shocked at the episode that had just taken place, I slowly turned toward McKenzie. He took a knee, bowing his head to the emotion that only a reverent hunter knows.
It is our opinion that this buck was so hot and bothered from the subordinate bucks constant pestering, that he charged us after seeing only some slight movement as we hid behind the dead tree. Our decoy was lying uselessly in the grass, well out of his sight, as he made his final rush in defense of his breeding right.
Since the harvest of McKenzie’s 84-inch monster, decoying has become the No. 1 weapon in our arsenal of archery Pronghorn tricks. It is fast paced, works regularly when rut conditions are right, and is a challenging alternative to traditional tactics.
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