Whitetail hunting is the so-called bread and butter of the hunting world. I can’t argue that fact, but there is one big game species sitting in the background that you maybe should consider. It’s the uniquely North American pronghorn.
As the single surviving member of the New World family Antilocapridae, pronghorns once numbered an estimated 30-40 million across North American grasslands and had upward of 12 close relatives. Evolution and extinction depleted the family photo album, and the life of luxury came to an end for the modern pronghorn with the arrival of Europeans.
During the opening of the North American frontier, pioneers nearly decimated the population. Numbers plummeted until an estimated 17,000 pronghorn or less populated the country. Conservation efforts reversed the dismal pronghorn state, but the changing landscape of the West continues to challenge an expanded rebound. Nevertheless, estimates now put the pronghorn populace somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 million animals.
Pronghorns are survivors, but that’s not the real reason I love pronghorns. In fact, I have several reasons. Here they are, in bullet-point simplicity. Give them a gander and maybe you’ll see why pronghorns deserve a second look.
1. Hunt all day. Unlike most big game species that lurk in the night like a 1930s movie ghoul, pronghorns roam, rut and get rowdy all day long. They live and die by their incredible eyesight. It provides them the comfort to move around all day so you can hunt them all day with no downtime.
2. Hunt with a variety of strategies. Pronghorn patterns allow you to hunt them aggressively, or with a stump-sitting attitude. You can use the Western classic of spot-and-stalk. You can still-hunt the prairie. You can decoy them during the rut. You can wait for them to water or feed. You decide, but there’s a tactic to fit your hunting style.
3. Hunt early. Most pronghorn seasons kick off in mid-August for archery season. This means you get the first crack on them before any other seasons start. For me it means I can plan a hunt with my kids before school starts. Firearm seasons vary, but even some of those begin as early as September. You generally don’t have to worry about scooping snow on a pronghorn hunt.
4. Enjoy the bounty. You might have heard that pronghorn meat tastes like sagebrush or worse. Don’t believe it. Pronghorn meat is a delicacy, so try hard to fill your tag. When you do tag out, have a cooler of ice nearby. Get the hide off of your animals and the meat on ice ASAP. If you do this, your trophy will be on the wall and on the plate!
Pronghorn hunting is uniquely North American and one of the greatest adventures you can find in the West. Enjoy it!