Life Of A Bowhunter 2016: Day 14

What is the best time of day to sit over a water source for pronghorn?
Life Of A Bowhunter 2016: Day 14

You’ve heard other bowhunters say it. You may have even said it a time or two yourself ... Pronghorn typically water during the heat of the day. I know when I first started bowhunting pronghorn on the Colorado prairie well over a decade ago, I read an article all about the magical 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. time frame. Being a novice bowhunter, this is the time frame I chose to huddle in my Ameristep Doghouse and wait for action. The problem? I never had any action, and I sat a lot.

As time went on and my obsession with the Prince of the Plains grew, I naturally learned more about them. Then, I started running trail cameras, and that changed everything. When it comes to killing a speed goat over water, one thing to keep in mind is that while these magnificent symbols of the American West water when they feel like it, they do have tendencies.

Typically, during the early part of the archery season from August 15 – 25, my cameras show goats visiting the tanks and ponds from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is usually very little early-morning action, and, while I get a few of those just-before-dark bucks, action  slows to a crawl in the late evening. Here are a few early-season watering facts to consider:

  • On August 15, 2015, I shot my pronghorn buck slurping water from a stock tank at 11:02 a.m.
  • On August 16, 2016, I shot my pronghorn buck over water at 11:40 p.m.
  • When tabulated, (August 15, 2015 – August 25, 2015) video and trail camera pictures showed the average best “at the tank/pond” time was between 9:48 a.m. and 12:22 p.m.
  • When tabulated, (August 15, 2016 – August 25, 2016) video and trail camera pictures showed the average best “at the tank/pond” time was between 10:11 a.m. and 12:42 p.m.

OK, so now you’re thinking you’ll just jump in the blind between those times and all will be well, right? Maybe, but this time frame changes dramatically during the rut from September 8 – 20, and I have thousands of trail camera photos and hours of video to support this. Because bucks are chasing does, they must hydrate more often. But how often? For example, last season, I sat a ground blind with a good buddy who was situated over a well-used pond during the rut. Between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 12 p.m., we had three small bucks come in to the pond. One of the bucks in particular who had been chasing a few does visited the pond three separate times. Looking back at my journal, he came in hot on the heels of a doe at 6:11 a.m. He was lathered up like a racehorse and had obviously been chasing her hard for a while. She didn’t stop at the pond, but he knew it was there and darted in for a quick slurp. At 7:47 a.m. the doe came back to drink, and the buck finished quenching his thirst. Then, after another buck ran him off his doe, the buck visited the little dirt hole pond again at 9:19 a.m.

This morning, which is the last day to skewer a pronghorn in Colorado, I sat my father-in-law over a well-used tank. We’ve had so much rain this summer that waterhole hunting has been very difficult, but my Stealth Cam G-30 showed several bucks and does using the tank. All the bucks were on the smaller side, but my father-in-law wasn’t about to be picky. At 6:40 a.m., his goat approached the tank. My father-in-law told me later that it was obvious he’d been working hard to keep his pair of ladies corralled, and he came right to the tank.

Use the data in this article to plan your next pronghorn sit. Personally, regardless of the time of year, I sit from dawn to dark, but if you can only spare a few hours or want to do a mixture of spot-and-stalk, decoy and waterhole hunting, you may want to go back through past articles here on and take a glance at the times.

Best of luck in the months to come!


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