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Six years. It seemed like forever before I drew my first rifle antelope tag. Finally it would be me behind the trigger on a Montana antelope hunt and stoke was high. I’d been on a few other rifle antelope hunts and they always were a blast ending with a good goat on the ground and tasty meat in the cooler.

antelope hunting montana, maddie sieler, travis boughton

Maddie with her 2017 buck and Travis with his from 2015

SCOUTING

Some hunts I try to get some intel on and others I just go in blind and use my skills built over the years to try to find success. I chose the later on this one. It was just me, my gear and some maps. It would be a lot of miles but I knew if I spent the time driving and glassing, driving and glassing I’d find some good bucks worthy of my tag. The first day had me rolling into my unit about 5:30pm. Just enough time to look over a little country and start inventorying bucks. That night I found the first good buck.

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I really liked the look of this buck from head on with both cutters and horn tips curving in

I knew he wasn’t huge but he wasn’t small either. A few text messages confirmed that he was a good goat. I had 4 more days before opener so I knew I’d keep searching. The next morning I woke to rain and fog. Visibility was pretty minimal.

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I’d actually camped in a spot where I’d hopped to hike down into a coulee and glass for mule deer. With the fog I decided to hit the road and move to my next target area for antelope. After about 3 hours of driving dirt roads I’d only turned up a few smaller bucks. Antelope seemed to be a rare commodity in country that seemed like ideal habitat for many, many more animals than was present. My map was a combination of mule deer spots and antelope spots. I’d drawn this tag with the intent of scouting for mule deer as well and before I knew it I was again in a spot that screamed mule deer. With fresh snow on the ground and a stiff 20mph wind I wasn’t excited to get out of the truck but finally I manned up and hit the hills.

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Muley country

Soon I was at the head of the coulee and it was much deeper than I’d expected. As I crest over the top I spotted multiple bucks bedded on the other side. A quick look through the spotter revealed a few 4 point bucks but nothing over 150”.

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The “big” buck, pretty typical for Eastern Montana.

Pretty standard for Montana. They really need to do something about such a long rifle season and allowing it to run straight through the rut. It’s made for poor age classes of deer in much of the state and good genetics quickly get shot out. I snuck closer and decided to make a quick stalk on them for practice. As I got to the last ridge I looked below me. There was a smaller 4 point buck bedded facing away. I quickly ranged him at 40 yards and drew holding my pin on his vitals. It wasn’t easy holding in the wind but was good practice. I let down and headed up the hill looking for the main group of bucks. As I crested up higher the buck below me caught my wind and spooked up the draw collecting about a dozen does. That group stopped on the hill and I could see my group of bucks was now on alert. They were just 66 yards away. They slowly crept up over the top of the hill before fleeing to the next draw. Oh well, at least he wasn’t a big one. I glassed a few other pockets before heading back to the truck and going back to searching for antelope. That night I found one antelope buck. It was slim pickings out here but at least it was a buck and not a terrible one either.

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One lone buck in dozens of square miles of perfect habitat

The next morning I kept moving west headed for new country. Right off the bat I spotted a few groups in a field. A quick rip down the road put me just a few hundred yards from them and I threw up the spotter. There was one buck in the group that I’d say was a shooter.

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The group’s leader. Unfortunately never to be seen again

I watched him for a while before they trotted off to the north end of the field. I kept searching that day only to find a few other small bucks. Over the last month I’ve been working on getting a new rifle all dialed in and setup for mountain elk and deer hunts. It’s a Weatherby Ultra Light Mark V in the 300 Weatherby Mag caliber. Overkill for antelope but this hunt would be in-the-field practice which I wasn’t going to say no to. I needed to double check my zero and then shoot 400 and 500.

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Trying to verify my zero at 200 in a strong wind. Not fun

Of course the wind was ripping so I tried to find a spot where it was at my back. I shot and quickly found my zero wasn’t exactly on. Weird, I’d just shot it at the range a week ago and it appeared to be on. I fiddled with it and adjusted it to the best of my ability given the winds. I wasn’t ultra confident in it but would have tomorrow to shoot more before the opener. That night was a hearty dinner of mule deer backstrap courtesy of Maddie and some mashed potatoes. The next morning I decided I needed to shoot the rifle while the wind was calm. I quickly verified my zero at 300 yards on my coyote steel. First shot was money and actually blew a hole right through the steel. Ouch.

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I’m pretty sure my bullet will penetrate on an antelope

From there I drove down the road to some state land and shot 400 and 500 to verify my drop at each distance. First shot hits at each yardage told me all I needed to know and my confidence was restored after yesterdays tough shooting.

That evening I went back to the area I’d seen one of the better bucks and glassed from a high vantage point.  I saw antelope spread out over a 2-3 mile range and were well back off the road.  With an idea of where to expect to see antelope I found a camp spot and prepared for opening morning.

THE HUNT

The next morning started with a beautiful sunrise but no antelope in the usual spots by the main road.

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I drove back around onto a county road and started glassing into a field they had been calling home.  A few small bucks showed up in the field down low but they were small.  A drive further down the road revealed two other larger groups of antelope, but all the bucks appeared to be medium sized through my spotter.  I wasn’t sold on a stalk yet and decided to check one last area before going and hiking to the back end of the public section.  As I pulled up on top I looked down to my left and saw a buck.  He was on the small side and I decided to go up and turn around and see if some hiking could produce something larger.  After turning around I was coming back down the road when I looked back down where the smaller buck had been.  There now were four other antelope and one buck that looked to be worth a closer look.  They were just about a 1000 yards off the road and I quickly grabbed my stuff and headed down on the back side of a ridge.  I thought the ridge would have a lower field on the backside where the antelope had fed to but I was wrong.  It actually just came straight up onto the field by the road.  By the time I got down there and peeked over the antelope where now up on the flat only a few hundred yards off the road.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get close enough for a shot and they crossed the road and ran way out into a large flat field.  Dang, I should have just stayed up by the road and could have easily shot a buck just a few hundred yards from the truck.  Oh well.  I put the spotter on the buck and verified that he was right on the cusp of what I was hoping to shoot.

I watched them feed off and drove around to start a hike back into the area I felt they were headed.  Forty five minutes later I was hiking up a draw trying to gain some ground yet remaining low and staying out of sight.  I looked up and spotted white up ahead of me.  I pulled up the binos only to see that it was a coyote hunting his way down the draw.  I rarely pass on the chance to hunt a coyote and I quickly put a bullet in the chamber and grabbed my distress call from my cargo pocket.  I knew if he was going to come it wouldn’t take much coaxing.  I blew on the call just a few times and got ready.  Soon I could see a head bounding over the grass.  He came down intently looking for the dying critter he had just heard.  I put the crosshairs on the coyotes chest and started to pull.  Nothing.  My safety was on and before I knew it he was coming closer.  The coyote was on a mission and I thought for sure he would key in on me sitting behind my backpack in the knee high grass.  I panned my gun with him as he swung to my left side.  He was oblivious to my movement and was soon about to hit my wind just 30 yards away.  I barked and he finally stopped.  I aimed low and squeezed one off.  He spun a few circles biting behind his shoulder and then was dead.  I’d made a perfect shot and the new Weatherby had it’s first kill.

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I took a few photos and looked the coyote over.  His buddy came up on the hill while I was dinking around and I could have shot at him but he was skylined and I only had 7 more rounds of ammo for my hunt.  I passed and soon had my pack back on and was headed to find these antelope.  Soon enough I spotted the main group.  I backed around and shortly was within 400 yards of about 15 different antelope and 5-6 bucks.  The problem I soon had was that they were all smaller than I had hoped for.  The stalk and being able to get within range gave me confidence that I would be able to put the hammer on one as soon as I could locate a shooter.

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A small buck with no idea how luck he is

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A better buck that decided to peel off the main group. I’d end up passing on him later in the day.

I went back to the truck and made lunch and considered my options.  I’d seen 2 if not three bucks in this area that I’d shoot and I just needed to find one.  It was too early to relocate and I’d noticed that a portion of the antelope were using an adjacent state section that I needed to drive around to access.  I couldn’t glass into it but figured it would be worth a shot for the afternoon hunt.  I drove around and again grabbed my pack and gun and headed out.  I dropped into the bottom and soon was glassing up mule deer bucks and does across the drainage.  Nothing special and they just watched me from a distance as I proceeded down the draw.  Soon I saw a buck just a few hundred yards out.  He saw me at the same time and stood up.  I was able to put my spotter on him and noticed he was the same buck I’d seen earlier that left the large group.  He’d moved about a mile and half and was by himself.  I deemed him not quite a shooter and started walking towards him.  He wasn’t too scared and would run off to about 2-300 yards and just snort and blow at me.  I kept going and wished he would give it up and just run off, little did I know he would soon come in handy.  As I slowly rounded the next bend I saw a buck bedded down the draw facing me.  I quickly ducked down and worked up about 50 yards to the last roll of terrain I could get to before being exposed.  As I peeked up over it I saw the buck on his feet and moving to my right.  He apparently had seen me or heard the other buck and was inquisitive.  At this point he was looking towards the other buck behind me and too my right but circling my position and not coming closer. He was just over 500 yards out and with the wind this was just too far.  I knew I needed to get closer or else he would run off and that would be it.  There was one knob down below me about 150 yards and I knew if I could get there I could make a shot.  He’d see me but I didn’t have any other options.  I grabbed my gun and back bag and started jogging down to the hill.  The buck looked at me and I soon was out of sight behind the rise.  I snuck up and quickly laid down on the hill top as the buck looked my way.  I was breathing heavy and thought the buck would run very soon.  I hustled to range him and get a round in the chamber.  He was 360 yards out and as soon as I got him in my scope he started moving.  This time though he was coming closer.  I don’t know if he was mad the other buck he’d heard and saw was in his area or though I was possibly another antelope but he was going to find out.  Soon he was at 300 yards and I put the gun on him again.  Before I could settle he was on the move again.  He stopped about twenty yards later and this time I was ready.

My crosshairs were on him and I knew the wind would cause a slight shift in my point of impact.  I held 1 MOA left for wind and squeezed one off.  The shot was crisp and in my follow through I saw the buck drop right in his tracks from the frontal shot out of the 300 Weatherby Mag.  I’d done it!!! I’ve hunted antelope a lot with my bow and with other people but this was the first time I’d got to kill one with a rifle and it was a blast!  I gathered my stuff and was soon headed to check him out.

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I shot some photos and then proceeded to cut up the antelope.  The temps were perfect for cooling the meat and flies were nonexistent!  Soon the meat was off and I was ready to load up.

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Kifaru 22 Mag is hands down my favorite day pack

Soon the Kifaru 22 Mag was loaded with all my gear and my buck.  I hoisted the pack and began the mile and a half back to the truck.  Life was good and the setting sun made for a beautiful end to an awesome day.

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This hunt ended on a high note.  I had many points leading up to this that had me down though.  From no visibility, to snow and cold temps, to few antelope, muddy roads, gun sight in issues, bucks disappearing and lots of gas burned.  A hunt with no challenges is not much of a hunt and to end up on top with a respectable buck in the cooler made what started as a tough hunt one that I will remember and cherish forever.

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Mud and my 2018 antelope buck

Written by Zack Boughton

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Chasing antelope with a rifle has become one of my favorite hunts. Not because its a rifle hunt, but rather the change in landscape and pace after charging hard in the mountains all of September. Its nice to be able to see as far as the next horizon and look over a lot of animals.

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Pronghorn country.

I was fortunate to have drawn a rifle tag in 2016 and I was relieved to know I would have the chance to put meat in an empty freezer. I brought my shotgun as well, hoping to add a little upland bird meat to the menu.

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The trusty 870.

After filling the truck and a couple hours on the road, I was in the heart of antelope country. The recent downpour of rain had left most two-tracks closed and gumbo was in full force. This was actually a good thing, because the road hunters had to stay on main roads and couldn’t access some land that they may be able to if the roads were in better condition.

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Gets ya stuck real quick.

I scanned and glassed vast amounts of country, looking for a buck that caught my eye. I peered deep into the horizon through my spotter, instantly seeing what looked to be an army of white butts. One of the largest groups of antelope I had seen while hunting was feeding deep in an untouched zone. I decided to drive a large loop around the group and approach from a direction that I felt would provide more cover.

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Searching for ‘the one’.

I finally spotted the group of speedgoats 900yds out and bedded. Out of the 6 antelope I could see currently, there appeared to be one particular buck with great prongs. I decided to get closer, but with no other options I had to get dirty and army crawl. It was one of the longest army crawls I have had to do and in no way was it joyous trying to avoid cactus. A few sharp needles found a new home in my soft knees. At this point I had crawled to within range, and decided the buck I had my eye on was going to be worthy of a shot. A couple discharges of the rifle later and I had successfully filled my tag.

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Its all hair.

The best part was that the hunt was not over. I spent the next 24hrs attempting to jump shoot birds with my good friends Tyler and Cole. We took Charley the supposed ‘bird dog’ along. What you need to know about Charley is he is not the best bird dog. To be honest Charley is a horrible bird dog. Charles is the dog that flushes all the birds 100-150yds in front of you and the moment a shotgun goes off he hides behind your heels. After Charley had his fun for the day, he went back on the leash.

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Charley sad about his bird dog performance.

After getting Charley under control, we had a very successful day shooting pheasant, partridge, and sharptail grouse. The recoil of the shotgun and the flush of birds is definitely addicting. I felt like a fire was re-lit for upland birds and hopefully I will be loading the shotgun with more 2 3/4″ shells soon.

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Roosters in full force.

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Sharptail feathers.

If you would like to see more upland bird content or upland bird related apparel, leave us a comment below!

Love pronghorn hunting? Love pheasant hunting? Check out our latest Fast Food shirts:

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-Travis

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With rifle antelope season opening here in Montana on Saturday we decided we’d keep those hunting vibes going by releasing a short antelope film from this past season.  Travis drew his first rifle antelope permit and wanted to take full advantage of the new opportunity.  With only a few days blocked off to hunt he knew he’d have to cover a lot of country and keep his fingers crossed that he would turn up a good buck.  After hunting areas with lots of other hunters, the move was made to an area that was less obvious and very much overlooked.  A buck was spotted and the next day Travis headed back to see if he could punch his tag.

We also recently released an antelope themed T-Shirt.  You can purchase your Fast Food T in our STORE.

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-Zack

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August is always an exciting month in Montana. Its the start of the archery season, and a great time to get your hunting skills sharp before elk season gets underway. Chasing antelope in the rolling hills of Montana is a rush and definitely one of our favorite archery hunts. AUGUST RUSH is an archery hunt from a couple years ago, where Zack and myself find success with our good friend Branden VanDyken.

If you are gearing up for an antelope hunt, make sure to check out our latest Pronghorn inspired t-shirt HERE.

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-Travis

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Montana’s Antelope draw results came out today.  If you put in go to MyFWP to check your draw status.  With that said we decided to put up a short film we shot in 2013 that documents our first successful archery antelope hunts.  We learned a lot and were fortunate enough to come back with two bucks.

Also, be sure to check out our store.  We have updated our inventory on some of our hats and T-shirts as well as added a few new products.  Our Outlaw knife is also back in stock.  You can check it all out here > Montana Wild Store

-Zack

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This year we have been consumed with elk hunting. We have been diligently working on creating our best elk hunting film to date for a project we will be releasing in 2017 alongside RMEF and Sitka Gear. As the archery season was winding down we decided to give the elk hunting a few days off and go try to fill my antelope tag. With just a few short days to hunt we took off into the burning sunset with hopes of finding a mature buck.

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The first hours of light found me glassing for white objects in the distance. BRRRAAAAAA!! A large pickup flew by my window, sporting a blaze orange interior. Then another. And another. Slightly frustrated, I hit the gas and bumped down the dirt road, which revealed camper, after camper, after wall tent. At this point I didn’t have too high of expectations, as it seemed that this unit was peppered with hunters. I pushed the pedal to the metal and continued my search. After some navigating and spotting scope studying, we found white specs. “Buck”, Zack muttered. We closed the distance and discovered it was a decent buck with fair mass, but not quite what I was looking for. I wanted to find a ‘booner’ buck  (A ‘booner’ buck is slang for a Boone & Crockett buck. Although it does not have to meet the scoring requirements it does have to be larger than an average size buck).

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Zack and I used our GPS to find hidden nooks, and actually turned up a bunch of antelope bucks. Bucks that most hunters would shoot in a heartbeat. At one point we found a herd of 50+ antelope and no hunters to be seen anywhere. Unfortunately, there were no antelope currently worthy of my tag.  This was my first rifle tag and it seemed a good idea to do a bit of shopping before pulling the trigger. As I was watching a buck in the distance I happened to see a coyote cruising across a flat. This spot seemed like a great place to call and I sat down, grabbed my call and started ripping all sorts of distress. Three minutes into my sit and a coyote ran out below me 40yds away, I froze. He is fooled and moves to 25yds before I bark and stop him. BANG! The fawn killer dropped in his tracks. Coyote hunting never gets old.

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After making it back to the truck the search continued and we managed a few more stalks on smedium (Pronounced sh-me-dium. A ‘smedium’ is slang for a small to medium size buck. They’re not small, but not quite medium.) size bucks. With an hour and a half of shooting light left, Zack spotted what seemed to be a good pronghorn on the skyline a few miles up from the road. The buck disappeared out of sight. I grabbed my pack and started a large loop to try to relocate the antelope and get a better look. As the sun started to sink past the western skyline we found the antelope feeding down into a prairie dog town below our outpost. A quick look through the spotter and I could tell he is definitely a shooter. I check my GPS. The buck and his does were on the neighboring property by a couple hundred feet and off limits. I backed out and decided to try and find him the next morning.

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That night as we rolled into hunting camp, I noticed the hiss of a flat tire. Great. We quickly changed the tire and discussed our options for the next day. It seemed like an easy decision, go hunting on the spare and get the tire fixed after we found that buck. The game plan was set and we got some shut eye.

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The next morning I pulled the binos up to my crusty eyes and glassed into the prairie dog town at first light. After some searching I found the buck I was looking for. It seemed the herd of antelope were going to work back up into the rolling hills. Zack and I laced up our boots and set out on a frantic hike to cut them off. As I closed the distance I noticed does bobbing their heads over the adjacent skyline. Crap, they moved far quicker than I thought they would. I laid down on my pack and got ready for a shot. The buck came out perfectly broadside, but skylined. I couldn’t take that shot, especially knowing there were ranch homes in the area. Time froze as they fed oblivious to our presence.

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Finally they dipped out of sight. Once again we made a rushed loop to get in front of them. This time it was flat land with far less cover. As we knelt down and set up our ambush next to a few sage bushes the does slowly appeared into view. They eventually pinned us at 225yds and began to snort and blow. Damn those antelope and their eagle eyes! The herd started to slowly move away. I quickly jumped to my feet and moved up to a fence post nearby and squared up my crosshairs on the buck’s vitals. He stopped perfectly broadside trying to figure out what was going on.  I focused on a spot and squeezed off the shot. I heard the thud and he spun and ran out of sight.

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As I walked up on the buck, I was struck by his cunning features and funky horns. He was a beautiful buck and one that was more than worthy of my tag. Antelope hunting is a blast and I would recommend the experience to anyone, not to mention I think pronghorn meat is some of the tastiest wildgame available. Good luck to all the rifle hunters going out this fall and don’t forget to have fun!

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-Travis

Well the calendar keeps rolling forward and Montana’s General Archery opener is quickly approaching.  This past week we were able to get the time off to go brush up our archery skills by chasing around some of the elusive antelope.  Conditions started off with temps in the upper 70s and low 80s but deteriorated quickly by the time mid-week hit.  The last 4 days of our hunt saw rain for the most of every day.  Quality gear was a must this year as the rain can quickly put you back in the truck if your not prepared.  After getting some real good stalks in early we decided to go meet up with our good friend Branden VanDyken who is the co-owner over at BeTheDecoy.  We quickly got started with him as Travis was able to lay down a nice goat our first day out as a crew of three.  I was able to get one down on the last day after a long and stressful day prior spent in a constant downpour.  Life is total chaos right now trying to get ready for elk/deer so I’ll leave you with some photos from the hunt.

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This is what it looks like when the 3 bucks you just stalked in their beds pop up and don’t give you a shot at 30 yards.

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The sun sets on Day 1.

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Zack hunts smart before hunting hard on Day 3. Being able to wake up and pull out the spotter is the nice part about living out of your truck.

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Travis uses some natural barriers to get to 30 yards before slipping an arrow through this bedded buck’s chest.

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Travis with his 2014 Montana antelope.

 

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The guys packing out Travis’ goat. Not much weight when it’s split in half.

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Looking for the “Hundred Dollar” buck in the pouring rain.

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Tony being a turd and forcing us to bump him out of the wheat.

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The final stalk. The antelope was bedded below the rock and Zack was able to slip down the hill using the rock as cover. After getting to the rock it was an easy 20 yard downhill shot that ended our day with the 2nd tag being filled.

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Zack with his 2014 speedgoat.

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The final pack out and the lightest we’ll have all year.

If you have never bowhunted antelope I’d highly encourage it.  When we set out on Day 1 I told Travis that I didn’t feel very deadly.  I hadn’t hunted in months and it was awesome to get back out and start hunting again with the bow in hand.  By the end of the trip we definitely felt ready to tackle just about anything we could encounter come elk and deer season.  Good luck to everyone this year!  And thanks to the companies we work with that make some of the best gear out there – Vortex OpticsBear ArcheryMystery RanchSitka GearYETI CoolersFHF GearDanner BootsTrophy Taker

-Zack

We’re fresh to the antelope hunting game.  This was our second year but we both were able to fill our tags with a bow.  It wasn’t easy but is definitely achievable for the everyday hunter.  Rather then tell you my story of my hunt I figured I’d write down my advice, tips, and insight on what we’ve learned about antelope hunting.  Much of it is common sense but hopefully you might be able to learn something that will help you be successful if you choose to go after antelope with a bow.  Nothing is absolute in hunting so take these with a grain of salt and as always experience is the best teacher.

1.  In case you forgot antelope can see extremely well.  This seems to be their #1 defense from predators.

2.  If an antelope sees you once, your chances of getting to within bow range are slim to none.

3.  Stalking an antelope in your socks is the most silent and generally best method to close the gap.

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4.  In rolling open country your much better off cover lots of country in your truck and trying to locate them from afar.  Hiking around is preferable if you know there are goats around but often you can cover many many miles without a sighting and hiking in 80-90 degree heat will drain you physically and mentally very quick.

5.  Your truck is easily picked up by antelope from very long distances.  If they see your truck they will be more alert and your chances of getting close diminish.  Strategically using your truck to get to new areas and then using your feet to move into good positions to glass lots of country is key.

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6.  In our experience, antelope on public ground generally have no pattern.

7.  Antelope are small targets and are easily missed.  Practice with your bow daily while on your hunt.

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8.  Wind is almost always a factor and can and will limit your effective shooting distance to very close ranges on many days.

9.  Stalking bedded bucks, especially solo bucks is a great method for getting close.

10.  Bucks don’t stay bedded in one spot for long.  When you locate one try to make a sound game plan and act quickly.  This is where instinct comes into play.  Trust it and go.

11.  Hunting a blind will give you the best chance at getting a good shot and filling your tag.

12.  Don’t expect antelope to regularly hit the same water hole unless it’s THE only water for the surrounding 5+ miles.  This scenario seems to be quite rare.

13.  Antelope don’t like blinds.

14.  You can put up a blind and immediately hunt it with success but having it up well ahead of time will increase your chances of bagging a buck.

15.  Bring lots of arrows and broadheads.  Nothing kills a hunt like running low on either one of these.

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16.  Practice shooting from a blind and chair before hunting your blind.  You don’t shoot the same as you do from your feet and having confidence to make any seated shot will help you convert your opportunities into notched tags and meat in the freezer.

17.  Set your blind in a spot where the prevailing wind is in your favor and where you will get a good broadside shot.  Good blind placement is key.

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18.  Take lots of reading materials to your blind and having multiple games on your phone makes the time pass easier.

19.  Don’t overlook the use of a decoy.  Early in the season a well placed decoy can draw in a buck from a long ways away.  It’s best to get as close as you can and then put up your decoy in a spot where you can get a shot if the buck heads your way.  Use the terrain to your advantage and try to get them to take a pre-defined path to the decoy that presents you with a good shot from some type of cover.

20.  Being able to discern land ownership is very helpful.  Hunting GPS Maps makes a great line of products that make this very easy, and I actually shot my buck on land that I was able to access using their Montana chip.

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21.  Have fun.  This is key to any hunt.

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Hopefully one of the above will help you in your next hunt.  If you have any advice you’d like to add please leave a comment below and we hope your next hunt is a success!

-Zack