I love chasing pronghorns with archery tackle because there are so many different tactics you can utilize to find success. When the calendar flips to September and dust trails seem to pop up everywhere on the prairie, those tactics should center on taking advantage of rising testosterone levels.There is no better time to send carbon through the lungs of a mature shooter than during the rut. A mature pronghorn will fight hard to defend his harem of girls, and rogue wanderers often start to appear out of thin air. Heeding these six proven rut tips will help you put a mature speed goat on the ground.Thirst Is A Wonderful Thing. Yes, I realize waterhole hunting has been dubbed by many as an early-season tactic. I agree, but I prefer to sit a waterhole during the rut over any other time frame. While cooler temps are typical during mornings and afternoons, it’s not uncommon for midday temperatures to rocket into the high 80s and 90s. Combine torrid heat with bucks chasing other bucks and does to and fro, and you have all the right ingredients for waterhole success.Use your HuntStand app to locate likely water sources in your area. Remember, ponds often trump stock tanks, but if drought conditions plague the area, a stock tank may be your best bet. During the rut, bucks rarely water with does, which means fewer eyes and a likely chance that a wanting-to-breed buck will ignore a newly set ground fort. I do recommend not getting right on top of a water source. Trust your shooting and instead set the blind 30 to 35 yards away. Also, keep your head on a swivel when sitting water during the rut. You never know when a thirsty buck will come screaming over the horizon—and wind up right in your lap.Take The Fight To Them. Decoying is my all-time-favorite way to hunt pronghorns. The problem with using a bow-mounted buck fake, or a plastic imposter like M.A.D’s CommAndelop 2D Buck decoy, is the window to piss a buck off is ultra-short. You have to catch a buck in the right mood, and much of that mood is dictated by current testosterone levels.
When looking for the right buck to take the fight to, spend more time watching and less time figuring out how to get in position. Get a feel for the buck’s mood. Is he letting other live bucks close to his herd of girls? Is he chasing and actively trying to breed does? Does he bolt from the herd and run other bucks into the next county? You have to take the time to answer these questions. If you find a firey fighter, stay on him and wait for an opportunity to get close.My favorite tactic is to beat feet once the buck leaves his does to run off a challenger. When this happens, I move quickly with my decoy and get between—using all available cover—the buck and his does. If you can get in position, the buck will react upon his return.
The key is staying patient. If you know you’re between the buck and his does, stay put. It may take him a grip of time to wander back, but when he does, it’s game on.Let Them Bring The Fight. While this tactic will work on rut-raged pronghorn, it can help seal the deal on a buck that’s not quite ready to leave his herd of does and come at full tilt to an imposter decoy.Spend time behind the glass watching the buck you want to target. Please pay attention to exactly where the buck and his girls move throughout the day, and note specific areas they like to frequent. Mark these areas on your HuntStand map. In addition to marking them, study the landscape around these loafing areas. Look for a place you could set a buck decoy, and a locale where you could hide nearby—behind a bow-mounted doe decoy.
The following morning, long before the sun crawls into the eastern sky, put the second part of your plan in motion. The goal is to get a 2-D or 3-D decoy set in a high-frequency area. After the imposter buck is set, attach a bow-mounted doe decoy and post up no further than 20 yards from the buck decoy. If you can get some cover at your back, it will help disguise your human outline.The idea is for a territorial buck on the verge of breeding to see a buck and doe combo smack in the middle of his home range. With this tactic, you’re playing on two pronghorn habits: curiosity and aggression. At first, the buck may not pay the setup much mind. He may follow his does and skirt around, but if you stay put, he will likely work bowhunting close at some point. He will be curious, and though his testosterone level might not be off the charts, it is climbing. He won’t be able to resist.
On the other hand, I’ve used this method and had a buck come screaming into the setup right away. You never know what will flip a rutting buck’s switch, so be ready to capitalize.
Using a bow-mounted decoy is exhilarating. You are part of the scheme, and for this reason, I recommend wearing a long-sleeve white shirt over a camo one. Pronghorn have a lot of white on them, and it’s a color that seems to attract attention.The Moo Cow Connection. At some point during September, every buck in the area will have one thing on their minds. If you feel like you’ve educated your target buck—shown him one too many decoy setups or brought him in for a shot and missed—it’s time for a new approach.
I will be the first to admit I’ve had limited success with bovine decoys—both store-bought and homemade. However, they can be pure poison during the rut.
Find a herd of speed goats that share a pasture with cattle. Once you do, it’s time for some recon. Pay attention to how the goats interact with the cattle. Do they water at the same location, share salt licks, and intermingle regularly? Pay attention to the cattle as well. Are they a hair-trigger, spooky herd, or a group of seasoned mama cows that barely raise an eyebrow above the grass? It’s paying attention to these finite details that will tell you exactly how to proceed.Of course, as with any of the previous tactics, get the wind right. Then, wait until the pronghorn are close to the cattle. They don’t have to be feeding with them. However, if they’re within 150 yards of the cows, it will help.
Take your time. Move through or alongside the herd slowly, and act like a cow. Don’t be afraid to make cow sounds or stop and pretend to graze. Keep it natural. I don’t worry so much about scaring the pronghorn as I do the cows. If the cows get edgy and start to run or trot off, the game is up. If you can pique the interest of the cows—I’ve had them walk right alongside me—you can get close to the speed goats.
It may not have worked during the early season, but the dominant buck is less on edge. He’s trying to keep his does in check and watch for other bucks. His last worry is that of an approaching cow.6-Legged Horses? This tactic isn’t for everyone, but if the situation is correct, it will likely lead to the demise of your target buck. You’ll need a good horse or two that aren’t of the spooky sort. Naturally, this tactic works better when other horses are in the pasture, but I’ve had success both ways.
Tie the two horses together and have one person hold the lead horse by the halter rope where it attaches to the halter ring. This way, the leader can lead the horse without ever exposing much of his body. Your job is to squat low and use both horses for cover. To the approaching pronghorn, this looks like a pair of horses wandering about in the pasture.
Don’t go right at the pronghorn. Feed left for a bit and then wander back to the right. This is a slow-moving operation, and the more natural you can make it look, the better your chances for success.
When you get in bow range, let the horses feed and slowly step out from behind the rump of the back horse when the buck’s nose is buried in the grass. Fence Crossings Can Be Money. This isn’t the most enjoyable way to hunt rutting pronghorn, but it can be very effective and should be a tactic you don’t overlook. Pronghorn are picky about where they slide under a fence. I’ve seen bucks, does and fawns walk a fence line for a full mile before going under it.Established crossings aren’t a chore to locate. If you find yourself in an area with many bucks and does—and it seems they are constantly moving from pasture to pasture—wait for a window and investigate. You’ll know it when you find it. Hair will be found on the bottom wire, and the ground will be sunken-in and dotted with tracks. Mark the crossing on your HuntStand app and get back to the truck.
As with many of these tactics, a fenceline ambush will work better if you spend some time scouting. You know the exact location of the crossing, so spend several hours watching it. If the rut is rocking and the crossing is hot, it’s not uncommon to see three or four different bucks use the crossing over a five- or six-hour period.That night, under cover of darkness, slip in and set your blind on the fence. Set the blind no closer than 35 yards from the crossing, and if possible, use tumbleweeds, sunflowers, or whatever you can find to blend in the blind. The more time you spend with the setup, the better.
Be prepared to shoot when a buck approaches a crossing. Nine times out of 10, you’ll get your shot before the buck crosses. He will stop to investigate the crossing before squatting down and darting under the bottom wire. You want to take your shot before he crosses. Once a buck goes under the wire, it’s common for them to cover more than 100 yards before stopping.There you have it; six rut tactics you can put to practice in the coming days. Remember, when it comes to hunting pronghorn with a bow, stay flexible. It’s easy to get frustrated, but if you keep trying new things, eventually, the pronghorn stars will align.