Don’t Forget About Antelope Hunting
When people fantasize about dream hunts antelope rarely make the list. They’re so ubiquitous in places like Wyoming, that there’s roughly one pronghorn for every person. Their horns, even when trophy-sized, never get that huge, and the meat they yield is comparable to that of a small whitetail buck.
However, antelope hunting might be the most enjoyable species to hunt. And, if you’re hunting an area with a river nearby, things get even better.
What Makes Antelope Hunting So Great?
For starters, the season starts earlier. In most states, rifle hunting for antelope starts well before deer and elk season. This means that you don’t have to choose between chasing speedgoats across the prairie and stalking bull elk in the mountains. What’s more, an earlier season means nicer weather and longer days. That, coupled with the fact that they live at lower elevations than their antlered cousins, means that you can often hunt antelope in short-sleeved shirts. (I’ve hunted them in shorts too, but regretted that decision immediately when I had to belly crawl through cactus.)
Another aspect of antelope hunting that anyone can appreciate, is that, assuming you’re in antelope country, you’re going to see antelope. They don’t crawl into burrows at first light or sneak into timber at the sound of a gunshot. They live in the open and are readily visible.
What this means is that you’ll have the opportunity to experience multiple stalks in one-day, so there’s no better species for a hunter to learn on. I’ve got 2 friends, brothers, who are both excellent hunters. Each has two kids and they love to take their kids hunting. They’ve gone from each having a 2-year old in a backpack with 5-year old in tow, to now bringing 5 and 8 year olds along on the hunt. Sure, the hunts are a little more difficult, considering they need to get 6 people in range, but it is possible. With so many opportunities, it’s okay if someone screws up the stalk. The pictures they post from the field, with 4 kids and 2 grown men around a buck, are pretty appealing.
Planning Your Antelope Hunting Trip—Properly.
Assuming you’ve taken a few days – or even a week – for your antelope hunt, you’ll likely find yourself with some free time. This has certainly been the case for me. I hunt antelope with two buddies and we generally hunt the same unit each year – a unit we chose because it has a prime trout river flowing right along the edge of it. The river is lined with cottonwood trees and, during antelope season, the leaves on the trees are all yellows and oranges. It’s gorgeous. So, we split our days in two. We hunt in the morning and fish in the afternoon.
Trout For Dinner?
Fall is streamer season on most western rivers – and for serious fishermen, that means you’re hunting big brown trout. There are still bugs on top of the water too, so if you’re just looking to relax, drink a can (bottles aren’t appreciated on the river) of local microbrew and watch your purple haze drift through pools, you’ll be all set. Even more enjoyable is that fishing pressure seems to drop off in early October. Vacationers are gone and only the hearty remain, meaning you can have long stretches of beautiful water to yourself.
It’s certainly not the case everywhere, but there are definitely stretches of rivers flowing through pronghorn country where you can glass and hunt right out of your raft. The lack of images on social media of hunters in a raft with fly rods, rifles and dead antelope make me think that this endeavor is exceedingly uncommon or that it’s so special to the few who have discovered it, that it’s never mentioned by them, let alone shared on social media. It is possible, however, as I’ve done it and know others who have as well.
Speaking of rafts….they make great game haulers. In Montana, it’s possible, in some areas, to get 3 antelope tags. If you and your two buddies each get 3, that’s a total of 9 antelope tags. Assuming your truck is full of wall tents, beer, and camp gear, there’s not a whole lot of room left for carcasses – and that’s where a raft comes in very handy. Your average fishing raft will easily accommodate 9 antelope bodies. If you’re not comfortable on a raft, maybe try your hand at a little fly fishing?
Don’t Forget The Antelope
As you look to start planning for next year’s hunting season, don’t overlook the ultimate cast & blast. Antelope provide delicious meat and tags can be had for a fraction of the cost of other species’. Throw in afternoon float trips that serve as a reward for a morning spent hunting hard and you’ll start to look forward to this trip more than any other. And, if you do happen to find those special places where an antelope and 18-inch brown can be pursued at the same time, be sure not to tell anyone about it.