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hunting pronghorn antelope in montana

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 15 June 2003 at 17:15

my first real antelope hunt was the fall of 2002, and i learned quite a bit. if anyone is interested, i'd like to post some observations here.

if you are coming out west to hunt antelope (or east, if you are coming from the west coast), i personally would forget the guide, but that is just my style. instead get an atlas for the state you are hunting and learn where the public land is, especially the BLM and school districts. the antelope don't know the difference, and you won't have to pay huge guide fees, trespass fees and who knows how many other fees.

i learned quite a few things this last year while hunting antelope in north-central montana. the first is that antelope tend to run a big circle when they get riled up, and will most times end up right about where they started if you give them time and a chance to do so.

the second thing is that antelope tend to stay in a territory and use fairly-well established trails. my father and i sat in one spot last year and watched several different antelope pass through this one same spot. he was able to "pick out his buck" though this observation, and it was a nice one (14 inches).

also, antelope mothers are quite protective of their young, and they are pretty smart in doing so. i watched a doe stand with her fawn on a very small rise, just a couple of feet above the surrounding land, out of pratical rifle range, and wait out several hunters until it was safe. she then headed for the nearest coulee like her tail was on fire, the fawn close behind.

if any sort of weather comes around (wind, snow, rain, dark clouds), i have noticed that the antelope bed down in the coulees and creek bottoms. this is the last place i would have looked for an antelope, but last year when the weather turned and we were about to give up for the day, we went back home through a coulee and found them bedded down in the creek bottom, scaring up a fair-sized herd.

if you stay out of site, keep to the low ground, below rises, walk along the sides of hills and pop up on them, and so forth, even if you crawl through tall grass or stake out in a clump of bushes, you can stalk very close to them, which will improve your chances of a good hit, and clean kill. this is a good general rule for any hunting, but especially good for antelope, which are quick to flee. i don't know how else to say it, but think like a sniper.

shot opportunities can be found at any range from 50 yards to well-past 300. practice for the long shots, but hope for a good solid opportunity which is in your "comfort zone."

regarding rifles, cartridges, calibers, chamberings and bullets, the trend is toward fast, flat-shooting cartridges in the 25-27 caliber range. i myself would recommend the rifle that you have the most confidence in, for that way you can be assured that shot you take will be the best that you can take.

psp/spitzers around 130(6.5mm and 277cal)-150(7mm and .30 cal) grains are ideal in my opinon, but there is nothing wrng with going up to 165 or down to 120. i would recommend a boat tail for flatter shooting and more retained velocity/energy downrange. SST and ballistic tips are great, i hear, though i have no personal experience in this area. the thin skin of antelope make the b-tips naturally a good choice, though. i would recommend heavy-for-caliber weights if you choose b-tips (i.e., use 165gr for .308 or .30-06, 140gr for 6.5 or .260, etc).

last year's antelope was taken at roughly 330 yards with a remington m700adl (early 70's, VERY pre-lawyer) in .30-06 with 150-grain factory psp's from federal.

last thing. if you get a big old buck, keep your hands, clothes, face, and everything else away from his cheeks and the side of his neck!

these pix are of my dad with his 14-inch antelope buck, shot just a couple of miles from home. the kids in the picture are mine.

 



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TasunkaWitko - Chinook, Montana

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote d4570 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 March 2004 at 03:32
       We've been hunting lop's for years near Lewistown.There is plenty of B.L.M. land and lots of state land,you dont need to kiss any ones a$$ to hunt it!In past years the lop's have been down,but are up now.This year there is 700 permits the last years there have only like 200. They are a kick to hunt, we've taken them by rifel,pistel, black powder and shotgun.We never got in to bow hunting.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Big Sky Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 March 2004 at 16:23
Tas, the region you mentioned had some serious winter kill. A call to the game biologist would be very prudent this year if hunting anywhere in the northeast or north central part of the state. I have been out a lot lately and I haven't seen a single antelope north of the highway between here and Circle. I'm hoping they just migrated, but it sure doesn't look good right now.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote CB900F Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 March 2004 at 16:57

Fella's;

I'll have to go up & scout the herd in our area. 

900F

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote klallen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 April 2004 at 01:38

Just got back late last night from a day-trip over to Wolf Point and back (from Great Falls).  The typical herds were seen just before dropping down into the Loma Valley and on the flats before Big Sandy.  On HWY 2, large herds were seen east of Harlem, just before Malta, several places between Malta and Glasgow and just before we hit Wolf Point, with singles and smaller groups here and there along the way.  All told, we probably saw 300 - 350 animals the trip over.  Don't know about the specifics of the winter-kill this year, but what we saw yesterday was typical of any trip that we've taken to the east in past years.  >>  klallen

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 April 2004 at 03:54

i'll ask my dad to keep an eye open in the area around chinook. i will probably hunt somewhere between great falls and lewistown this year, if i go for antelope.

so far i have seen lots of deer (both species) and antelope right here around my house in sand coulee.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Teddy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 April 2004 at 04:05

I've been hunting 'lopes ever since I was a hayseed kid in Park County, Wyoming.  Your observations are correct.  I'll add a few items:

A guy can make a ground blind in advance of the season and expect a fairly short distance shot if eveything goes as plannned.  A plywood silouette of a black angus cow is fairly simple to fabricate and this works well also.

Look for a buck with well defined prongs and thick bases.  The longer his forward facing prong is shaped makes for generally, better scoring horns.  A 16 inch buck is supposedly the premier size for a buck.  But a 13 inch buck with exceptionally well defined prongs will score higher and look more impressive.   I have one large trophy mounted in our family room.  Since then, I've focused on does and average sized bucks for their tasty meat.  I feel it's dumb to hold out for a trophy each and every year. 

Antelope are easy to kill.  They have a thin hide and enormous heart, lungs, blood vesels.  A hit anywhere in the chest = a dead 'lope.   I prefer our old Remington slide action in .243 because it is accurate, hits hard, and can shoot quickly. I usually receive a double license each year and shooting two quick shots = two dead 'lopes.  Black Hills Ammo makes a very accurate 95 grain Nosler ballistic tip load.   FEDERAL 80 grain Sierra Pro Hunter or 80 grain Speer make dandy 'lope topplers.  The antelope hunter should focus his thoughts for his antelope rifle on accurasy first and foremost.  Bullet diameter and weight are secondary factors.  Practise for a 275 yard shot.  If you can hit an empty 1 gallon paint can at this distance each and every shot using make-shift field rests, you'll do well. 

I like to skin 'em right away.  Then quarter the meat, place in large cooler, and cover with ice.  Antelope meat can sour fast in warm weather because their hollow hairs hold in the body heat. 

Teddy 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Big Sky Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 April 2004 at 04:13
klallen, between Glasgow and Wolfpoint there were high mortalities. Those little herds you saw on your trip were between 100 to 200 animals or more last December before the weather turned really nasty. There was a herd just on the western edge of Wolfpoint of around 100 lopes part of the winter until they started dropping like flies. You just saw what was left. I know between Nashua and Glasgow there were carcasses lying all over the place. Pretty depressing for the folks around there.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote klallen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 April 2004 at 11:51
As I said, not making commentary on the winter kill, simply what was seen, and how it has compared to similar trips taken in the past 10 years or so.  Maybe all the live ones left were along the road yesterday.?.?.?.?  >>  klallen
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mtmiller Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 April 2004 at 16:04
Havre, MT
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 April 2004 at 04:00
craig - thanks for weighing in on this subject! i was hoping you would see it and shed some light!
TasunkaWitko - Chinook, Montana

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 24mod12 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 June 2007 at 04:53
Have you ever used a long whip antenna with a flag on it antelope are curious and have been known to come in for a look see at least that's how one of my friends lured them in on a Wyoming hunt and scored.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 June 2007 at 05:28
i've heard of doing this, and i found that it is legal in montana, but i've never tried it.

according to all accounts it is supposed to work well, which makes sense, as the pronghorn seems to be a very curious animal indeed.
TasunkaWitko - Chinook, Montana

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 24mod12 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 June 2007 at 06:21
My Idaho born Wildlife Mgt Prof told us about how curious antelope are .
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 August 2007 at 07:47
some more observations based on antelope hunting since the time of the OP:

------

be careful on opening day as there tend to be a lot of yahoos running around all over. unfortunately, truck hunters abound and if i had a cell phone i would report every one of them.

if you have to hunt on that day i've found that the yahoos actually end up driving a lot of very big, very smart bucks to a patient hunter who is clever enough to wait in a quiet area. while the buck is concentrating on the hunter he is avoiding, he might walk right into you.

i remember a hunt north of lewistown back in 2003. one fool was laying down in the center of a field shooting at a rather large herd. the herd would run around the back of a small hill in a big circle (a mile or so wide), settle down, and then get started running again when the sniper wannabe kept taking shots, which as far as i could tell, kept missing. we went crossed over around the back of the hill and set up in a dry creek bed while the antelope were swinging back around to their original spot (out of view).  when they came running by again, the antelope literally went by so close that i felt the ground, heard the hooves and could almost (but not quite, of course) reach out and club one with the stock of my rifle. we ended up with two nice antelope that day. for all i know, carlos junior who provided those antelope might still be lying in the middle of the field, shooting away and missing every time. he was certainly still there when we left with our antelope, because we saw him there, still persisting in his "strategy" or lack thereof.

the excitement seems to die down considerably about the 3rd day and the hunting is much nicer, even if a little more challenging, after that.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 August 2007 at 07:52
i'll add my observations on care of antelope meat, which may or may not apply to your area, climate or situation.

i usually (but not always) hunt antelope later in the season and being a bit farther north the nights are quite a bit cooler. i have always field dressed them immediately and always hang them in a cool, dark shed for at least 2-3 days (hide on to keep meat from drying out). to me, the couple of days of hanging add flavor and (not that it is absolutely necessary w/antelope) tenderness.

i have NEVER had bad antelope meat, buck or doe, and my wife (who is not much of an outdoor girl at all) actually prefers antelope to deer or elk. we got an old 14-inch buck at the height of rut once. his cheeks were as musky as can be, yet the meat that was hung as described came out tasting as fine as the tenderest and most flavorful game we've ever had. no doubt this was helped by the fact that the antelope in our area get an exclusive diet of grain and alfalfa, but it is also due to care in the field and, i believe, hanging for a couple of days rather than immediate butchering.

i agree that in warmer climates or times of year, it is definitely better to skin and even quarter the animal in an effort to cool it down fast. packing quarters and cuts in cheesecloth and keeping them in a cooler is warranted when conditions demand it. having said that, in cooler climates or times of year i do not find this to be necessary and in fact find it more desirable to hang. the quartered meat in the cooler will be cooled of course, but if not allowed to hang it does not stretch and it seems that the connective tissues will not break down nearly as much, resulting in less flavor and tenderness. with antelope, this is not as much of a factor as with deer.

if you do hang, make it only 2 or 3 days due to the time of year and the much more delicate nature of antelope meat. deer of course would hang for a much longer time.

i am probably making it sound much more complicated and involved than it is - in truth it is no complicated thing. i do believe that it results in more meat that has better flavor, and the fact that i have never had a gamey antelope bears this out.
TasunkaWitko - Chinook, Montana

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