By the Colorado Division of Wildlife
Serious pronghorn hunters are willing to wait years for the
opportunity to hunt trophy bucks in the best pronghorn units in
Colorado. All Colorado pronghorn hunting tags are issued by draw.
The average buck tag requires two to three preference points, but
tags for premium units can require five or more points. Doe tags are
easier to draw, but most hunters still need at least one point.
The majority of pronghorns are in northwest Colorado and on the
eastern plains. Small populations of Pronghorn also are found in
North Park, Middle Park, South Park and the San Luis Valley.
Demand for tags in the northwest region is usually highest, so more
points are required. There are two reasons more hunters apply in the
northwest: there are big herds with big bucks; hunters have the
opportunity to hunt on both public and private land.
In eastern Colorado there are also large herds and trophy bucks.
Most of the land, however, is private with the exception of some
isolated pockets of public land including the Pawnee National
Grasslands in the northeast and the Comanche National Grasslands in
the southeast. The good news is that many ranchers and farmers in
eastern Colorado are willing to grant permission to those who want
to hunt pronghorn.
The best advice for a hunter to gain access to private land is to
ask permission well in advance of the season. Never wait until
opening day. If properly asked in advance, many landowners are
willing to allow pronghorn hunting. Some will even offer directions
to the best pronghorn locations, and information about watering
holes and road access.
In 2009, for all manners of take, the DOW issued approximately
17,600 pronghorn licenses and hunter success was 62 percent.
How to Hunt Pronghorns
Hunters lucky enough to draw a pronghorn tag in Colorado face a
unique adventure that requires a different set of strategies than
those used for hunting deer or elk.
Compared to deer or elk, pronghorn are easier to locate. They roam
wide-open rangeland rather than woodlands or steep mountains; they
travel in large visible herds; and they do not hide in thick
But that doesn't mean they're easy to hunt.
Pronghorn evolved with keen eyesight and the ability to outrun
predators. The vision of a pronghorn compares to a human looking
through 8X binoculars. Pronghorns' ability to quickly burst into a
sprint of over 60 miles per hour helps them to stay out of range of
even expert marksmen.
So what can a hunter do to increase the odds of bagging one of these
magnificent unique game animals? The three major strategies are
stalking, ambush and flagging.
Stalking an animal with the vision of a pronghorn on the open range
can be an exercise in frustration.
If it is said that deer and elk hunters must be patient, pronghorn
hunters must learn to be REALLY patient. A stalk may include
crawling on your belly for an hour only to have the animals spook
and quickly move a half-mile away. Experts estimate that only one
out of five stalks gets the hunter close enough for a shot.
A hunter who sees the animals before being seen gains a huge
advantage. That means avoiding ridge tops and hills. Pronghorn can
spot objects on a ridgeline at great distances.
It is also important to consider wind direction to avoid sending a
foreign odor in the direction of a pronghorn. Winds tend to change
direction less frequently on the wide-open prairie.
But for hunters, avoiding being seen by a pronghorn is most
important. Sometimes it takes hours of hard work to get within
range. The initial part of a stalk requires a hunter to move through
draws and along the back sides of ridges to avoid detection. Then
you should be ready to crawl the final few hundred yards to get
close enough for a shot.
Be prepared to crawl through yucca, sagebrush, cactus and cow pies.
Some hunters sew leather patches on the knees of their pants and on
the elbows of their jackets for added protection against rocks and
Crawling through an open field can be exhausting. If you are lucky
enough to get close without being spotted, take the time to catch
your breath and steady yourself before the shot.
Some hunters prefer to wait for pronghorns to come to them.
Waterholes and fence lines are the best places to wait in ambush.
But waiting also requires great patience. Pronghorns alternate
between feeding grounds and watering holes at varying times of the
day. But it's unpredictable how and when pronghorns move.
Fence lines are good places to wait because although pronghorns have
the ability to leap fences, they generally do not jump over unless
they are really pushed. They prefer to crawl under or find a way
around fences. One reason biologists believe pronghorns don't like
to jump is because their powerful back legs have the capacity to
leap, but their front knees are not suited for the impact of
Searching for a place where pronghorn go under a fence can put a
hunter in a great position to wait in ambush. This requires advance
scouting to find crossing locations and good hiding places.
Some pronghorns can also react with curiosity to shiny things and
moving objects that draw attention. "Flagging" is the technique of
trying to pique a pronghorn's curiosity and getting the animal to
come to you. The concept behind flagging apparently originated when
early settlers were crossing the plains and noticed that antelope
readily approached covered wagons.
After you spot an animal, walk back and forth in an adjacent
downwind draw while hoisting a white handkerchief on a stick.
Curious animals will approach right away. If they don't, they
probably won't come in at all.
Some people have tried sitting still with a flag flapping in the
wind above them. But stationary objects tend to go unnoticed.
Shot selection is extremely important. Pronghorn present a small
target. At a weight of just over 100 pounds, the vital target area
is about the size of a small plate.
Shots tend to be longer for pronghorn than other big game animals,
especially on windy days when the animals are more alert. The
average pronghorn hunter should know the capabilities of his or her
rifle. A scope is essential.
The ideal situation for any hunter is to get a shot when the animal
is standing still. Don't try to shoot a pronghorn that is running.
Archers and muzzleloaders face even greater challenges. Most
successful archers use blinds or decoys or both.
Blinds are best used around water holes or known crossings along
fence lines. A blind should be set up at least one week before
planning to hunt to give the animals a chance to become accustomed
Decoys cut in the shape of a pronghorn outline have been known to
attract aggressive bucks that want to chase challengers out of their
territories. Some bow hunters use decoys large enough to hide
behind. But decoys also attract other hunters and are not
recommended for use during rifle seasons for safety reasons.
Since the time of Lewis and Clark, early settlers called pronghorns
"antelope." Pronghorns, however, are a unique species found only in
North America. Their historic range is west of the Mississippi River
from southern Canada to central Mexico.
Biologists estimate there were 30-40 million pronghorn in North
America prior to European settlement. By the 1920's, there were
fewer than 40,000. Hunting laws and sound wildlife management
practices helped pronghorn rebound.
In the early 60's there were only about 15,000 pronghorn left in
Colorado. That number climbed to 30,000 in the 70's and stands at
about 60,000 today.