A few years ago as a wildlife biologist I spent time “working” with pronghorn antelope. The unique North American big game species had always fascinated me, but once I spent time around pronghorns, I gained even greater respect!
Driving down a smooth pasture road in the lower Texas Panhandle separating grassland from a huge cotton field, I spotted four pronghorn. There were two bucks and two does, running just ahead of me at what could best be described as a “lope,” no pun intended. As I neared them, I speeded up. So did the pronghorn. Slowly I increased my speed. The four pronghorn continued running right alongside. They continued doing so at 45 mph. Slowly I accelerated to 50 mph. Still, they ran right alongside. I was amazed and fully impressed. A quarter-mile farther I slowly accelerated to 52 mph. To my surprise, the four pronghorn speeded up, ran ahead of me and crossed the road in front of me at what had to have been at least 55 mph.
No wonder I had missed running shots at pronghorn the first time I hunted them many years ago. Seemed no matter how far I lead them I continued shooting right behind them. At the time I was doing a lot of shooting at running targets, primarily jackrabbits. We were trying to remove from an irrigated field during an extreme drought. Doing so, I had become quite proficient at dispatching the speeding long-eared hares. But that had not been the case on pronghorns.
I am a firm believer that anyone who hunts should learn and become proficient at hitting running game. But during the years I did a tremendous amount of “television hunting” since filming running shots at big game was taboo! At the same time, it was okay and encouraged to shoot flying birds. During that TV tenure I lost some of hitting running game skills.
As this is being written, I am about to embark on a pronghorn antelope hunt with Greg Simon’s Wildlife Systems in western Texas, the “Trans Pecos” area. I am hunting the same ranch I hunted last year.
On that hunt, I had passed up many nice to impressive bucks and finally shot my longest horn pronghorn to date (which included numerous in New Mexico, as well as having hunted the true prairie species in Colorado, Wyoming and of course also in Texas). That buck stretched the tape to 17.5-inches in horn length. In a time when anything 13-inches of horn is considered good, I was obviously very excited.
On that hunt, I saw another buck I hope to look for this year. He was about 16-inches in length, estimated by comparing horn to the length of the ear which on western Texas pronghorn is essentially the same as their eye to nose measurement, 7 to 8-inches.
I realize pronghorns are the only true-horned animals that annually shed or cast the outer horn sheath. Their horn length and mass tend to increase with age. The buck I am going back to look for, last year looked like he was either a three or four-year-old. By all rights, thanks to an abundance of weeds and grass during their horn growing season, he should have even longer and bigger horns this year. I also saw several other bucks that should exceed 15 inches this year. I am going to be looking for that one buck, primarily. But who knows another one may catch my fancy as well.
My gun of choice this year is .280 Remington, topped with a Trijicon AccuPoint 3-18×50 scope and shooting Hornady’s Precision Hunter 150-grain ELD-X. Actually that’s the rifle I intend to use on three hunts which will be filmed for “Trijicon’s World of Sports Afield”.
Before heading to western Texas, I’ll spend a bit of time on the FTW/SAAM ranges where I can truly put my chosen combination through its paces, and learn the rifle’s capabilities and mine with it.
In a future installment, I will let you know how my pronghorn hunt went. I do know it will be fun!
Regardless of what is going on in the world, there are always small things, of beauty and splendor, for us to enjoy, admire and appreciate!
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