T exas is not normally thought of as one of the premier states for hunting pronghorns. It is, however, one of the states that the hunter looking for a trophy pronghorn should seriously consider.
Pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) are currently on the decline in the Trans Pecos area of far West Texas, an area that has traditionally been the location of the highest population density, with the Panhandle being second and more stable. Extended drought is the probable culprit, but there may be other reasons as well. Still, huntable populations exist in both West Texas and the Texas Panhandle.
I love pronghorns. They are beautiful little animals that, unlike white-tailed deer, don’t care a bit whether they are seen, or not. They do not depend on stealth to survive, but rather on their incomparable speed and vision.
A pronghorn in good physical condition must be seen running in high gear to be believed. I was in a pickup once with three other men when we clocked a pronghorn buck at over 50 miles per hour. It ran alongside the pickup until it tired of the game. Then it put on a burst of speed and shot across the dirt road in front of us. He had to have been doing 60 when he crossed the road. Add to this their telescopic vision and you have an animal that is wonderfully challenging to hunt.
It is commonly believed that the pronghorn requires the consistently longest shots of any game animal in North America. From my own experience, I certainly agree.
The first item that is indispensible for hunting pronghorns is a good binocular of at least eight power. My personal favorite is a 10×42 Alpen Apex.
Also necessary, or at least highly desirable, is a good spotting scope. You will find the little speedsters with the binocular and and check them for trophy quality with the spotting scope. Then the hard part begins.
Stalking pronghorns is both enjoyable and perplexing. Seeing them is easy, but getting close enough for a shot takes work. Luckily, in much pronghorn country the land is cut by arroyos and dry washes, which give the hunter enough cover for a stalk.
Planning and executing the stalk is about nine-tenths of the fun. Some people, I won’t call them hunters, run the pronghorns with four-wheel drive vehicles, but this cheats both the hunter and the game, as does blasting away at them at long and undetermined range. Stalking is the classic way to hunt pronghorns. For me this way is the most fun. Next best is to ambush them at water holes.
Since the shooting at pronghorns is generally long, a rifle firing a flat-shooting cartridge is a necessity. However, the average pronghorn is a light-framed animal that will not weigh much over a hundred pounds, so the caliber need not be terribly powerful. I think the best calibers for pronghorns are few.
If we start with the .243 Winchester and the other hot 6mms and stop at the .270 Winchester, we have pretty much covered the best pronghorn calibers. If I were to pick three I would say they would be the .240 Weatherby Magnum, the .25-06, and the .270 Winchester. Out of those three I would be hard pressed to choose between the .240 and .25-06—flip a coin.
I shot my first pronghorn with a .243 Winchester firing a 100-grain Sierra bullet at 3,000 feet per second. It was a one-shot kill at around 300 yards.
If I go again, I will take both a .240 Weatherby and a .25-06. I will pick the one I hunt with by how I feel on the first day of the hunt. At this particular moment I am leaning toward the .240. With a 100-grain bullet at 3,350 feet per second, it shoots about as flat as anything you can name. It also has the steam to knock a pronghorn teacup over tin plate at up to 400 yards.
If I choose the .25-06 I will shoot 100-grain bullets handloaded to about 3,300. The .25-06 does not shoot quite as flat as the .240, but neither I, nor the pronghorn, will be able to tell the difference.
Another item that is very handy in pronghorn country is some kind of shooting bipod. A Harris bipod is a great device, but adds a lot of weight to the gun, making it clumsy to carry. I prefer the kind of sticks that fold up and can be carried in a pouch on your belt.
Also almost indispensable is a quality laser range finder. Judging range in the flats can be all but impossible, so the range finder is a huge advantage.
Last is a good riflescope of 3-9X, 3.5-10X, or, maybe 4-12X. You will not need more power than that. Make certain the scope is of high quality. I had a scope go bad on a Wyoming antelope hunt once, and it cost me a record book buck. I don’t want it to happen again. If you have a fine, accurate rifle, there is no sense in putting a cheap scope on it. If you have to scrimp, do it someplace else. The price of a high quality scope is very small compared to the price of a pronghorn hunt.
Email Steve LaMascus at [email protected]