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Sitting over a water hole and waiting for antelope to show up doesn’t seem like it would be that hard. But it is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, statistics show spot and stalk bowhunters have almost the same season success rates as water source hunters when it comes to speed goats. There are a few tactics you can use to increase your odds of successfully tagging a pronghorn over water.
Turn Up The Heat
Archery pronghorn season opens early in many states. Wyoming is a popular destination with many zones opening on August 15th. Temperatures are usually high, making for excellent water source hunting. But if it is cool, pronghorn just aren’t going to hit water holes hard during the day. In this case, you’re better off trying a spot and stalk hunt.
Again, this sounds simple enough but not all water sources are going to be as productive as another. Take a look at satellite maps of the area you plan to hunt. When you spot something that looks like water see if there is other water near it. If you find a great looking water hole that has more water a half mile away it is going to be tough to predict which source pronghorn will use. If the water you’re hunting is the only water for a mile or two, it will be more productive than most.
When driving through pronghorn country, be on the lookout for windmills. Spring fed ponds are great but they will typically dry out during drought conditions and are often too big to completely cover with archery equipment. A windmill in the middle of nowhere is basically a neon sign that says “water here”.
Using A Blind
Pronghorn are prairie dwellers. If you’re used to hunting whitetails in the Midwest or in eastern states, get ready for a new brand of hunting. There won’t be many trees around so leave your stands at home. A pop up blind is going to be your best bet. If hunting with an outfitter, they’re probably going to have some set up in prime spots already. If you’re hunting on your own, try to place your blind a day or two ahead of the hunt.
Keep in mind, water holes are busy places. Those windmills are there to provide water for cattle and cattle are curious creatures. They will destroy your blind if you don’t protect it. Bring along some makeshift posts and barbed wire to keep them out of your blind. If there is natural foliage that can be added to your blind, that will help too. Also, you will NEED your stakes. The wind can get nasty in western states. Staking down your blind is not an option, it is a necessity.
Most hunters are used to hunting in blinds during cool spring days while pursuing turkeys. Hunting pronghorns in August is a completely different experience. If it is 90 degrees outside, it will feel like it is over 100 degrees in the blind.
Wear lightweight clothing and bring along plenty of water. You are going to sweat. You will be in the blind for as much as 14 hours. Invest in a good chair. Hunters spend several hundred and even thousands of dollars in travel, permits, lodging, and more to hunt pronghorns. Then they skimp on the one thing they will use the most during the hunt, their chair. Buy a good chair made for ground blind hunting.
Shooting from a ground blind also has a learning curve. Practice shooting from your knees and from a seated position in your ground blind chair. Technically, you should be more accurate because your body will be more steady. However, it takes several practice sessions before most hunters get comfortable. Once you have it figured out, start practicing from a blind. Get used to shooting out of ground blind windows and working around the roof and walls with your equipment.
Don’t Watch The Clock
Most deer hunters are used to focusing on the magic hours. The first hour of light and the last hour of light are prime time for whitetail hunters. Those hours are good for pronghorns too. But water sources really start calling pronghorns during the hottest parts of the day. From noon until 3 PM can be prime time.
This all day activity is a big reason why you must prepare to be in the blind all day long. Bring food, drink, a book, and anything else that keeps you comfortable. A quality cooler is also a wise investment. Remember, every time you step out of the blind you are potentially exposing your presence to any pronghorn within a mile.