Chasing Pronghorn with Brandon Keller

SKRE Gear Antelope Hunt

Days Leading up to Opening Day 

As an avid hunter and outdoorsman, I’d like to tell you what makes myself and others, like me, so very distracted and anxious. Well, and I say this with a bit of confidence speaking on others behalf, it would have to be the days leading up to opening day. I’m grateful for the moment when I can finally decompress from all the stresses of life. Whether it’s the city, the traffic, the grocery store, or maybe the big “W” word. Correction, “W” words. Work and women, opening day allows us to be out where we love to be and feel free. Growing up I rifle-hunted for the first couple years, so I had to wait until October to get after some elk and deer. Then I got into archery hunting and realized I enjoyed being closer not only to the animals but to the season coming earlier in the year. I don’t think it can happen early enough and I just wasn’t waiting till late August anymore to hunt Archery Mule Deer and Elk in Colorado. And that sparked my foolish passion for Archery Pronghorn.
       

Chasing Pronghorn with Stick and String

Foolish is the most appropriate word for chasing Pronghorn with stick and string, as anyone, who has done it, can attest. I have done this for a few years now, and I have felt my fair share of frustrations, cacti filled legs and arms, and dehydration. August 15th rolls around here in Colorado and I load up the truck, my bow, and various other gear and get out east to the plains to look for some speed goats to put the stalk on; however, this year has been a little different due to lack of free time and much higher workload. This year I had opening day and the first weekend to punch my tag.

Pronghorn Allowed for Harvest

5:15 AM, Mountain Time, Eastern Colorado I pull off the pavement onto the dirt road in my over the counter unit. Limited public land, limited time, and only Pronghorn Bucks are allowed for harvest during the first couple weeks of the season. After some time the light started to show itself on the plain, and I quickly hiked out to a ridge and glassed hard. Immediately I spotted a dinky young buck I was not interested. A half mile away on the skyline of another ride “doe’s” started appearing on the lower ground, and frankly I wasn’t interested in anything I was seeing. Roughly an hour had passed with no action, all the while, I was fighting the glare of the sun. I spotted a buck almost a mile away on another hill. I knew I couldn’t be too picky this year due to time constraints. I quickly made my way over to the ridge where I saw the buck.

       

Wide Rack Makes for a Real Specimen

Taking one last look at the buck approximately 400 yards away, just before I would lose my vantage point due to the lower ground that I decided to trek, allowed me to notice the width of his rack. The first time I saw him, he was over a mile away, and I remembered that I wasn’t very impressed. Upon closer inspection, I realized he was a real specimen. I remember thinking that he possessed an abnormal width. The excitement quickly rushed through me as I made my way up a drainage on the side of the hill where he was sitting. I closed the first 250 yards quite quickly using the low ground to my advantage, but I wasn’t overly quick thinking of the numerous failed stalks, in chasing these animals in the past.

Knocked Arrow and an Opportunity

I made my way to parallel to roughly where I had last seen him. I knocked an arrow in case I was presented with a quick shot due to his curiosity or my mistake. As I was silently plotting the most viable stalk, I was able to notice movement from my angle. By some stroke of luck, which is a rare occurrence while bowhunting, and especially bowhunting pronghorn, I saw the white tips of the bucks horns on the ridgeline. I quickly ranged the closest point to him and a few other points to reference my shot; not knowing which way he would end up trotting. I sat against the hill, hugging it with my back as tight as I could to not be a distraction. I needed to be undetectable and conceal my location. At this moment, I realized success or fail this is what it was all about, for me at least. The warm weather was hardly noticeable till the buck started making his way down the hill broadside. He was coming toward me.  Beads of sweat fell from my eye, and there was nothing I could do at this point due to his fantastic vision. My release was already in the D loop of my compound bow. Again, another stroke of luck, the buck looked away from me and stopped, whether he heard something or needed to stretch his neck I was able to draw my bow back. Now I’m no yardage expert but if there was ever a time to be right this was it, with a guess of 55 yards I let my arrow go.  The shaft appeared to be in flight for an hour; it finally made contact penetrating the buck. He kept going to the top of the hill and out of sight. It turns out my guess was a bit wrong, 56 yards was the official shot, but in this case, I again got lucky. The deadly arrow pierced his vitals. 

       

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

To me, the wait after you shoot an animal with a bow is unnerving, never am I so anxious. One asks themselves many questions. Was it a clean shot? Did I just wound him? How far did he go? I was fortunate enough to be able to climb the hill to my back quickly and see right where he fell a short easy walk across the flat cacti infested earth. After I was sure, he had nothing left in him I walked over to claim my trophy. Upon approach, I was immediately drawn to his width. He wasn’t just wide; he was also very thick. Beautiful mature pronghorn were all around us, and it made for a successful and memorable day.  I can’t be thankful enough for the lucky occurrences that came my way, and I’m quite sure they will not happen again anytime soon. Any fool would have been happy with the 2017 Colorado opening day archery pronghorn!