Pronghorn are possibly the most uniquely American animal that calls our continent home. They are undoubtedly the most uniquely American big game animal we have in Texas. They can be found throughout most of the western states and here in Texas they are found throughout the far west Trans Pecos region as well as the Panhandle. While they can be challenging to hunt, they are an excellent quarry for new hunters and those new to the spot and stalk western style hunts, compared to the majority of stand hunting for whitetails, more popular throughout Texas.
How to Get a Texas Pronghorn Tag
Before you can go chase your own Texas pronghorn you must obtain a tag. There are three ways one may come into a tag for an antelope here in Texas.
Public Land Draw
The first is through the draw to hunt them on designated public land. This is a tag that will realistically take you years to draw but for the penance of $3 its worth putting in for in case you are luckier than I.
The second and most common avenue is through a land owner. Texas Parks and Wildlife will issue pronghorn permits to landowners in areas with huntable populations. Outfitters will generally gobble up the majority of these tags but every year there is a Pronghorn Lease List published on TPWD website that lists landowners that have been issued permits willing to sell them to hunters. It’s a numbers game of basically going down the list cold calling landowners and hoping to find a tag within your budget. This is how I found all the tags I have used here in the state. You will find that by the time you get around to calling some of these ranchers that their tags might already be spoken for, don’t lose heart, you will likely get a referral from a landowner who already sold their tags to another landowner with tags that chose not to be named on the list but open to allowing hunters on their land.
Experimental Buck Season Tag
The third and final way Texas issues tags for pronghorn is through a special “experimental” buck season where you can basically walk into a TPWD office and request a tag. You will get a buck tag free of charge but you then must obtain written permission from a landowner within a certain area in which this experimental season is being tested.
Don’t Worry, Hit That Snooze Button
Antelope, unlike deer, are most active in the day. In my experience they will bed at dusk and likely not move until the sun hits their face. I have watched bedded pronghorn from sunrise until 10 am or later. If you are camping or staying close to your hunt area there is truly no rush to be there before sunrise as pronghorn will likely sleep in as much as you will. They are truly an animal you can hunt all day and have an excellent chance of seeing high activity in the heat of the day as much as you are at dawn or dusk.
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Use Your Glass, Not Your Feet
Pronghorns are gregarious and goofy, especially during the rut. They come and go and come back again. They are curious and they are active. If there is any one piece of advice I can give, it is to use your spotting scope or binos and let them do your foot work.
As flat as much of antelope country seems, there are rises and falls that antelope will disappear in. Once you spot a buck you would like to get closer to, take some time to read his mood and actions as well as what terrain lies between you and him.
- Is he eating?
- Is he chasing does?
- Is he aggressively chasing other bucks out of his area?
- How many small rises and falls of the land are between you and him?
- Can you spot any landmarks such as large rocks or sage brush?
All these answers will help you assess how to get closer to your buck. If possible, it is always a good idea to keep the sun to your back. Pronghorn rely on their eyesight more than their hearing or sense of smell. That’s not to say completely ignore the wind or your volume, but eyesight is their superpower.
Find the Water
If there is one defining feature on a landscape that antelope are dependent on, it’s water. I would not suggest hunting over water unless you are bow hunting, in which case I would absolutely recommend it, but at least identify the water source of your area and use its location to your advantage. If there are bedded antelope and you can get in between them and the water without being detected then you will likely have a very close encounter with a speed goat.
I enjoy glassing and seeing lots of country when hunting antelope and my patience struggles with sitting over water all day but at least use its location as a starting point to identify likely locations and travel routes of pronghorn. Scout the perimeter of the water for tracks. You will easily decode what are antelope trails and what are cattle, and possibly even be able to follow a trail to a point that would have you glass over a hill or into a piece of land you otherwise wouldn’t have had it not been for looking first at the water hole.
Field Care is Key
Antelope has a reputation of tasting gamey and off. I can’t speak to what these people are referring to, as antelope is the hands-down favorite of me and my family when it comes to game meat. I will say that proper field care of the animal is absolutely a priority with antelope. Hunting seasons for antelope happen generally when the heat can still be scorching on the right day as well as their core temperature being much higher than average animals. Couple this with the hair of their coats being hollow and designed to hold in heat and you have a recipe for quickly spoiled venison.
Field dress or gut your antelope immediately and as soon as possible after that get the hide removed and the quartered meat into a cooler and on ice. If done properly and cleanly, I promise you won’t be disappointed and will have months meals of the best protein you’ve ever tasted.
The handsome king of the sage brush, antelope are an American icon absolutely worth pursuing. They are beautiful and entertaining to watch and take you to country you would otherwise be unlikely to see, and for me, they have made many incredible memories with me and family. I hope you too will pursue these amazing creatures one day and they will enrich your life as much as they have mine.