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Colorado pronghorn

Old 10-17-2017, 06:22 PM
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Default Colorado pronghorn



Whelp...the story goes like this:

Given that I'm working two jobs and volunteering with BSA, I just don't have enough time to devote to hunting like I want. Deer and elk take a lot of preparation, scouting, time in the field MONTHS before season starts (or you pay $6000 to a guide, but that's not realistic for me...). So this year I settled for just a pronghorn antelope tag. Pronghorn does not take the preparation the others take; in fact, it's usually a game of seeing how far you can shoot after you spot them (if you're willing to crawl a few hundred yards through tall grass, you can generally get to within whatever your personal shooting range is). There is a rancher about an hour southeast of me who lets me on his full section or one of the other two sections he leases from the state.



Only this year there was a problem. The night before season opened, I found out from the rancher that the lease policies changed in Colorado. He is no longer allowed to grant hunters permission to hunt on "his" leased land -- the hunter has to pay $2600 for their own lease! He also had two other hunters on the section he owned, so he couldn't let me on that one.



Shucks. Stuck with my ONLY license this year and nowhere to go. I decided not to give up. So there I was, driving around the area I was allowed to hunt, spotting dozens of antelope. Knock on the door and ask permission to hunt. In bygone days, that's how I hunted antelope. The only problem is the area has been inundated with Californians and Bostonians who have no idea the benefits of hunting, and did not wish to allow me to do so on their land. Turn down after turn down, with my 11 year-old son in tow. I was getting discouraged. We spent the whole day and never got access to any land, despite seeing antelope everywhere. I stopped counting at 60.



The following Tuesday I took a day off work and went back at it, still not willing to give up. The problem on a Tuesday is most people aren't home. So I spotted scores of antelope, but was either turned away or there was no answer at the door. Getting discouraged again, I turned down away from the main highways and back into the remote country roads where no Californians or Bostonians have begun moving. These are all multi-generational ranches out this way, not much to look at, but they have open grass fields with antelope on them!



Eventually a guy answered the door, and I could see a herd of about 18 antelope directly across the gravel road from his house. He was not the landowner, but he was friends with him. He was also a hunter! A quick phone call later, and my new friend and I were crawling across the grass, hoping to fill two tags at once. Unfortunately, all we got out of that stalk was cactus in my hand and knee, and nearly being bitten by a rattlesnake! We couldn't get within 600 yards of the antelope without being spotted (about twice as far as I'll shoot). They bumped over the fence into the next property, which we did not have permission to hunt.



But we jumped in my truck -- two hunters who had never met before -- and tried the spot, knock, and ask method. Being down in multi-generational ranch country, eventually we got another chance at one. The story goes like this:



We were driving down a gravel road when we spotted a herd of about 12 antelope only 150 yards off the road. During hunting season, antelope know that if a truck stops, they get shot at. So stopping the truck in view of them would only make them run away, not to mention we didn't have permission to hunt there yet. So I kept driving, about a mile down the road to the rancher's house. Knock on the door, ask, and get back into the truck. Since we knew where they were, I stopped the truck short of them when there was a hill between us and the herd so they couldn't see us. I got out, loaded, moved off the road, and set up my tripod. Just as I was doing so, the lead antelope in the herd emerged from behind the hill and looked straight at me.



The funny thing about antelope: If one of them sees you, they probably won't spook. They'll stand and watch you set up your shot. If the whole herd can see you, they'll panic and run. The hill made it so only the lead antelope could see me, so she (I had a doe tag) just stood and watched while I set up the shot and aimed. Full, perfect broadside shot.



BOOM! She went down immediately, but got up and tried to run. I knew she was hit, but I put a second one into her because she was running away, and what I thought was a 150 yard drag was quickly becoming a 600 yard one (antelope can RUN FAST!). She went down again. I unloaded and put the gun away, grabbed my deer drag and knife, and went trekking across the open field.



It turns out what I had estimated as a 150 yard shot was actually 200, causing the first shot to hit lower than I wanted. That's why I needed the second shot.



Whelp, since it ran, it made me pay for my poor range estimation when I had to drag her 600 yards back to the truck!



Lesson learned: I ordered a laser range finder so I get the bullet drop calculation correct on every shot. And I'm reworking my reload with Nosler ballistic tip bullets



But in any event, there is meat in the freezer, AND my new hunting partner and I bought late season antelope tags for this December
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Old 10-17-2017, 10:27 PM
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Thanks for sharing the story! Congrats.


-Jake
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Old 10-18-2017, 08:51 AM
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Congratulations Mac! Looks like your persistence paid off.
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Old 10-18-2017, 06:33 PM
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I grew up in CO and know what you mean about transplants moving in and changing the hunting game. Glad you got your speed goat. Probably my favorite game meat in North America.
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Old 10-19-2017, 04:31 AM
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Originally Posted by flags View Post
I grew up in CO and know what you mean about transplants moving in and changing the hunting game. Glad you got your speed goat. Probably my favorite game meat in North America.
I haven't been speed goat hunting but have always heard they weren't good to eat. That always struck me as odd since they eat much of the same as mule deer and they are delicious. I am glad for the updated information from someone who knows the real story. Perhaps the people who said the meat was bad didn't properly take care of it. If I ever get back out west I'll try for one.
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Old 10-19-2017, 04:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Champlain Islander View Post
I haven't been speed goat hunting but have always heard they weren't good to eat.
Pronghorn are very good table fare. The problem is the way a lot of people hunt them and the way they handle them after the shot. Since they live in open country it isn't unusual to see people chasing them from one area to another in truck or ATVs until they get a shot and many of the shots are taken at pronghorns that have been running for some distance and have adrenaline flowing through their system. Then after they shoot one many hunters do a quick field dress and toss them in the back of the truck and go look for another. It is normally warm when pronghorn season is open and they have a hollow hair designed for insulation. Top that off with dirt roads and dust. Putting an unskinned pronghorn in the back of a truck, lying on a metal bed with a hot exhaust pipe under it when the temps are in the 80s and running pell mell on dusty dirt roads almost guarantees the meat won't be good. After all you couldn't treat Kobe beef that way and expect decent tablefare.

But, if you hunt pronghorn by stalking rather than chasing and make a clean shot on a relaxed animal and then immediately field dress, skin and get it on ice the meat is outstanding. We always have 2 big coolers with 3 or 4 bags of ice in each in the truck so we can get them on ice as soon as possible. Hides stay where they fell so the meat doesn't stay warm. I've never eaten a pronghorn, even good sized bucks, that were bad if they were handled right. many hunters simply do not properly handle the game after it is shot since they are more interested in getting another rather than caring for the one already down. We are done hunting until the first one is on ice, then we look for another.
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Old 10-19-2017, 05:28 AM
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Makes sense and I figured it was simply a matter of processing care.
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Old 10-19-2017, 07:01 AM
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I actually don't prefer the meat all that much, but a beef butcher about an hour from my house makes the best sausage!!! I had this entire animal turned into sausage
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Old 10-23-2017, 09:39 AM
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With respect to the meat. My wife and I went to WY last year, both got nice antelope. We had so much fun hunting them that we were worried we wouldn't like the meat, cause if we don't we won't hunt them.


It is GREAT.


We are going back Oct 2018.
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Old 10-23-2017, 05:05 PM
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Congratulations on your loper. I've shot dozens of them in the past 40 years, and I enjoy eating them. But like others have posted, you have to take care of the meat, both in the field and when it is butchered. Fat, bloodshot meat, bone material, and stomach contents all add to the strong gamey taste of antelope (and other game).


I have never heard of that lease policy that the OP described, but I guess it makes some sense that if he leases a portion of his land he can't allow free access on other portions. But it is still his land. That's just another reason I left my native Colorado 40 years ago.
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