Pronghorn

As far as Dave Campbell is concerned, pronghorn are the ultimate test for a rifleman in America. Find out why, and get a few tips on filling your tag, in Dave's latest blog.

There is no doubt that the whitetail deer is the number one big game animal in the United States. It is something of a tradition to tout a trophy whitetail as one of the wiliest tests of an outdoorsman’s skills. At some other time I might want to argue that notion, given all the stuff being sold to induce a buck to stand under a tree and commit suicide. But I will state categorically that our pronghorn is the ultimate test for a rifleman in North America.

Now why would I make such a definitive statement like that? There are several reasons; starting with the fact that, while pronghorns can be relatively easy to spot on the wide-open prairies and deserts they inhabit, they seem to be more difficult to anchor than most other big game animals. My old outfitter buddy Sam Coutts once told me that a typical non-resident hunter will fire 15 to 20 shots before killing his pronghorn. Ranges tend to be long—quite a bit longer than a typical whitetail hunter is used to. This brings on two potential problems: First the hunter needs to be able to accurately determine the true range of the animal. Second, he needs the knowledge and confidence to make the shot.

That very wide-open country that makes it so easy to spot a pronghorn also makes it quite difficult to estimate range. Laser rangefinders have made that task a lot easier, but it isn’t a rare thing to find that you don’t have time to range the animal before it takes off. A running whitetail at 30 yards is much easier to hit than a running pronghorn at 250 yards.

Pronghorns present a smaller vital target area on average, compared to a deer. That combined with the longer ranges usually encountered when hunting pronghorns presents a much more difficult shot with a significantly smaller margin of error.

Here are five tips to increase your odds of filling a pronghorn tag with less than a box of ammo:

• Make absolutely sure your rifle is sighted in with the exact same ammunition you will use while hunting.

• Don’t head into the field without a set of shooting sticks or at least a bipod and be familiar with its use.

• Practice shooting from field positions before your hunt and be brutally honest with yourself about your range limitations.

• Sight your rifle in for maximum point blank range—the longest distance where you can hold in the center of the chest and not have a mid-range miss.

• Use your rangefinder, certainly, but also back that up by learning to estimate range without it. You may not have enough time.

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2 Responses to Pronghorn

LB wrote:
October 11, 2013

While I agree with all five of Dave's points, I would like to suggest that Pronghorn hunters actually HUNT Pronghorn, not just shoot at Pronghorn. You can spot-and-stalk them. You can position yourself at points where they will move to you. They're curious and if they haven't seen you, will occasionally check out a disturbance...like seeing part of you. Learn their habits. Never take running shots. Remember that that perfect 400 yard shot you just made at the standing buck is a paunch hit if he takes one step forward as your bullet clears the muzzle. Of five that I have taken, two were at 200 yards, two at 100 yards and one at 60 yards. Consider, too, that bowhunters take them at 20 yards. Practice and plan to kill a Pronghorn with one round.

Joe G wrote:
October 08, 2013

Sound advice...especially about being honest on range limitations. If I haven't practiced at 300 yards, taking this shot is very dicey! Thanks Dave!