Best Places To Go For Your First Pronghorn Hunt

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The pronghorn is one of the most unique animals on earth.

Pronghorns are often referred to as antelopes, but they’re not a true antelope species like those found elsewhere in the world. Pronghorns are also nicknamed speed goats, and though not a goat at all, the name does pay homage to the extreme speeds the animals can reach when running at full speed.

The species is unique to mainly America, although their native range does extend into the prairies of Canada and desserts of Mexico as well. No other big game animal so perfectly embodies the wide-open spaces and spirit of the American West.

Pronghorn hunting is a relatively affordable and accessible option for planning your first out-of-state big game hunt, and The MeatEater has helped assemble a guide that contains much of the information you need to start planning a do-it-yourself antelope hunt of your own. In addition, the spot and stalk style of hunting adventure that pronghorn hunting provides will sharpen your hunting skills and offer an experience far different from any other hunting type.

Compared to white-tail deer hunting, pronghorn hunting can be more exciting because it’s a highly mobile pursuit compared to just sitting in a tree stand, but at the same time, antelope live in relatively mild terrain compared to elk, so a hunter does not necessarily need to have a high level of physical fitness to chase them. Because speed goats live in such wide-open spaces and cover so much ground, hunters often use vehicles to traverse the landscape and glass for antelope herds somewhat close to roads. However, if you’re willing to hike a mile or more off the road can find herds that have not been pressured by other hunters yet.

Pronghorn hunting can also be more laid back, because unlike other types of hunting because you don’t need to hike into your hunting area long before sunrise or pack out after the sunsets. Pronghorn live in open spaces with little tree cover, which makes them easier to hunt all day long as opposed to deer or elk who may only be actively out in the open at first or last light.

The most important part of a pronghorn antelope hunt is a quality set of optics capable of glassing long distances. Pronghorn hunting is also a great way to start developing new skills that translate well to future mule deer and elk hunts. The success rates for pronghorn hunting are typically way higher than with other types of big game hunts, so it can be a great way to build confidence and fill the freezer.

Wherever you wind up going for your first pronghorn hunt, consider applying for an antelope doe tag in addition to your buck tag as well. Pronghorns are somewhat small animals, with most bucks weighing in at about 120-pounds on the hoof. By the time you’re done butchering your harvest, that will leave you with only about 40-pounds of meat. Supplementing your hunt with a doe tag is a great way to add even more meat to the freezer.

If you’re looking to plan your first pronghorn hunt, you should look into Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, or Montana.

Wyoming

No state is home to more pronghorn than Wyoming. As of 2010, roughly a half million of the animals resided there, and it’s often been said that the state is home to more antelope than people. However, a stretch of tough winters and prolonged droughts have pushed the pronghorn population down to around 400,000. The pronghorn population is rising again, though, and it remains the best option for a do-it-yourself hunt.

Not only is the state home to a lot of antelope, but a lot of trophy-sized bucks as well. Plus, Wyoming offers a whole lot of public land hunting opportunities. Public land is easiest to access in the western part of the state, but so too is the demand for antelope tags, and hunters may need to apply year after year for a few years before being drawn. The hunting action and scenery are worth the wait, so start applying as soon as possible, and you’ll be glad you did.

New Mexico

Though the terrain can be arid and harsh, New Mexico still has some excellent pronghorn habitat, and the state grows big bucks. The species is well adapted to life in the deer. With comparatively mild winters than in other states, the bucks in New Mexico can devote more energy to horn growth than they would otherwise expend on trying to survive the harsh winter. There may not be as many antelope as in other states, but it might be the best choice for hunters looking to bag a huge horned antelope.

Drawing a tag can be difficult for non-residents due to some challenges with the state allocation system, so the odds are low but not impossible. There are ways to guarantee yourself a pronghorn tag, though. Private landowners are issued “ranch tags,” which are frequently sold to non-resident hunters. The tags will guarantee you access to predetermined parcels of private land, many of which hold a lot of antelope. Going this route can cost you more money, but it’s an excellent way to book a hunt if you don’t want to wait years to draw a tag.

Colorado

Compared to Wyoming, the 70,000 pronghorn in Colorado may not seem like a large number, but the species is doing very well in the state. Antelope are widely distributed through the states from the southeastern plains to the sage flight and higher elevation mountain valleys of the western part of the state.

Public lands in the state support many pronghorn in Northwestern Colorado, but it can take several years to draw a tag. Tags are easier to come by in the state’s southeastern part, but public land is more limited. It’s similar to within Wyoming, but prospective hunters in Colorado can buy over-the-counter archery tags that are valid in specific units but not state-wide. Archery hunting pronghorn can be more challenging, and the units can be hit or miss, but it’s an excellent option for folks who don’t want to wait to get in on the action.

Montana

Montana is well known for terrific elk hunting opportunities, but it gets less recognition as an excellent pronghorn hunting destination. Because it flies under the radar is one of the reasons it’s such a great location for planning a do-it-yourself antelope hunt. The state doesn’t necessarily produce the same trophy-quality animals as other states. Still, with 125,000 animals roaming the state and a relatively long hunting season, there are some fantastic opportunities to be had.

Non-residents in Montana can also expect to draw a tag in Montana much quicker than in other states. Pronghorn are found throughout the state, but their numbers are strongest in the southeast part of the state. Fortunately, public access is widely available in that area, and there are plenty of places hunters can find pronghorn.

Other States To Consider 

Those four states aren’t the only place you can have a great antelope hunt, though. Several other states offer fantastic pronghorn hunting opportunities, including Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and South Dakota.

Like New Mexico, the pronghorn bucks in Arizona don’t have to deal with harsh winters, so more of their energy can be spent growing big horns. In addition, the bonus system encourages applicants to keep applying for tags with a higher chance of being drawn and ample amounts of both federally and state-managed public lands offer solid hunting opportunities. 

The highlands of West Texas offer some fantastic pronghorn hunting opportunities. 41 of the 254 counties in the state offer some pronghorn hunting opportunities but considering that most of the state is private land, your best option for hunting antelope is to look into booking hunts with an outfitter. Doing so will also speed up the process of procuring a tag as you won’t have to wait as long as you would to draw a tag to hunt public lands in other states.

To hunt pronghorn in Nevada, you have to apply for a tag each year in March, and quotas are set each may. There are limited areas of public land where antelope can be hunted in the state, but the available areas offer some great hunting opportunities. 

Most of the antelope hunting in Oregon takes place in August, and tags are highly regulated, so you’ll likely need to apply, apply, and apply again before getting selected. However, with plenty of public lands and many antelope on the landscape, it’s a highly underrated state for your first speed-goat hunt. The state offers 2,500 tags to antelope hunters each year, and you’ll need to spend some time building up preference points to get drawn. 

Approximately 2/3rds of the overall acreage of Utah is public land. Half of that public land is open to hunting, and there are antelope scattered about. The state’s website offers an easy-to-use hunting planning platform that can make putting an antelope hunt together relatively easy if you are drawn for a tag. However, like many other states, you’ll need to spend some time building up preference points before you have the chance to hunt. 

South Dakota is home to a large pronghorn population, and they can be hunted on state-managed public land throughout the state. Hunting is also permitted throughout the states several National Forests. Since the hunting action is of such high quality, there is a strong demand for tags, but if you draw one, you’re likely to have success. 

Watch Some Action Packed Antelope Hunts From MeatEater

If you want a great preview of what an antelope hunt might look like, check out episode 1 of the 1oth season of MeatEater on Netflix. Host Steven Rinella is joined by country music superstar Luke Combs for an action-packed antelope hunt in Wyoming.

You can also check out some older MeatEater episodes that showcase pronghorn hunting adventures in Wyoming, Montana, and New Mexico.

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