“Finally. Here came a couple of young bucks. After more than 100 hours in the blind I was going to get my shot. The bucks were headed straight for the water, and I got positioned to shoot. The bucks got 80 yards from me … and they just turned and walked over the hill. I’d had enough. If they weren’t coming to me, then I was going to them.”
That’s the story my buddy, Virgil Larsen, told me a couple of days after these events unfolded. One hundred hours in a blind is quite a feat to endure, but Virgil isn’t the only one who had to take the road less traveled on this hunt.
August 5 found Virgil, my brother Jeremy, and me doing our yearly tradition of putting out our pronghorn blinds. In Idaho you aren’t allowed to place a blind until 10 days before the opening of the season.
We got them set in our normal spots where we’d had good success the past few years. There wasn’t a ton of water, but it looked like enough. We’d also gone out and put up a blind for my father-in-law, Evan, in another area I hunted a couple of years prior.
With all of our blinds in good spots, all we had to do was wait 10 days and those pronghorns were ours. Or so we thought.
THEN THERE WERE COWS
A couple of days after we put up the blinds, Jeremy drove out to check on things and look for a few bucks. When he was getting close to the blinds, he started seeing quite a few domestic cows. He drove the whole section and there were cows at all of the water troughs. Jeremy got closer to town and called on his cell phone. “There are cows everywhere,” he said, “and they’re tearing apart our blinds.”
The next night we drove out and put steel posts and wire around the blinds to keep the cows back. This was when we started to see the real problem: There were no pronghorns around.
During the next few days we glassed several times and didn’t see a single pronghorn—or even a track for that matter. So, with only a few days before the season, we decided to move our blinds. Having cows in the area was OK, but having 100 or more bedded right at the trough at all times of the day forced the pronghorns to greener pastures.
I went to where Evan was hunting to have a look around. I found some other waterholes that looked good, but none that looked great. With water everywhere it was hard to decide where to set up, and with only a couple of days before the season, I decided to pick a spot and hope for the best. The next day Jeremy moved his blind to the same area, and although we weren’t thrilled about our situation, at least we would be hunting.
A DIM OPENER
Opening morning dawned, and it looked to be a beautiful day for pronghorn hunting. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the forecast called for hot and dry. The pronghorns were going to be thirsty; I just hoped I was at the right water source.
At 9 a.m. I was startled by a young buck. He came in and drank, and then he walked 30 yards away and bedded. He wasn’t what I wanted to shoot, so I took a few pictures and enjoyed the show. I was starting to think I might be in a good spot after all, but the little buck turned out to be the only animal sighting for the rest of the day. I went back to camp that night and found out I was the only one to see a buck. Evan had seen a bunch of does and Jeremy hadn’t seen a thing.
I had other commitments, so I wouldn’t be able to hunt for a few days. Evan sat all weekend and kept seeing does. His blind was the only isolated spot and the only place having consistent action. The next week I took Evan up on his offer to hunt from his blind. I knew it was a good spot because I’d hunted it in the past.
I left work 3 hours early and finally climbed into the blind at 3:45 p.m. Right off the bat I had a herd of does come in. They hung around for a while and then moved on. A short while later, I looked behind me and saw a decent buck trailing a doe. They went over a hill and I figured they were gone for good. My eyelids were getting heavy and I kept dozing off, but I tried to keep alert.
I was looking out the front window and saw a coyote walk in front of me at about 5 yards. He kept looking up on the hill, so I glanced out the side window and 80 yards away stood the buck and the doe from earlier. The buck stopped at the bottom of the water, but he was facing me. He suddenly whipped his head up and I thought it was all over, but he slowly started walking toward me. When he got to 30 yards, the buck settled down and stopped for another drink. He gave me a quarteringaway shot, and I hit him perfectly. The season I thought was going to be a bust had turned around in the blink of an eye.
Two days later it was the weekend, and Evan headed out for a few days of hunting. He hadn’t sat very long on his first day and had a buck come in. He made a perfect 40-yard shot, and shortly after he was standing over his first archery pronghorn.
The very next day Jeremy climbed in the same blind. Even though we’d already taken a couple of bucks from this blind, it was the only place where we were seeing any activity. At 3 p.m., a unique buck showed up. He came in on a string and Jeremy took his third pronghorn buck in as many years.
A HUNDRED HOURS LATER
By September 14, Virgil had spent more than 100 hours in different blinds. He had yet to see a single pronghorn, but he was determined to fill his tag. He had to go back to work the next day, so he was ready to take any buck that gave him a shot.
“As soon as the bucks went out of sight, I gathered my things and went after them,” Virgil told me. “I went over the hill and spotted the bucks feeding, and I used the available cover and had to crawl the last few yards to get in for the shot.
“I ranged the bucks at 45 yards, and when the biggest buck gave me a good shot, I took it—and thought I hit him perfectly. The buck ran for a ways, and then proceeded to slow to a walk.
“What he did next puzzled me: The buck put his head down and started feeding. He fed for a while and then bedded down like nothing happened. I made a wide circle to get the wind right, snuck in and shot again. This one did its job.
“When I got up to the buck and inspected him, I realized he must’ve jumped the string on the first shot. The arrow struck right behind the shoulder, but after impact it went straight up and never entered the chest cavity. The first shot wouldn’t have got the job story as it is the size of the animal. In the end, we all came out successful, due to this one good hunting location. done if I hadn’t stayed after him.”
Virgil’s buck wasn’t a monster, but sometimes the trophy is as much the With a little persistence, we went four for four on Idaho pronghorns.