I’m not against outdoor TV, but I had to laugh. In the span of roughly 13 televised minutes, four speed goats came sprinting to water. Each was a mature goat, and all received the same surgical lung treatment compliments of a razor-sharp broadhead.
The three guided hunters hooped and hollered about how hunting pronghorn over water is as close to a sure thing as there is in bowhunting. One of the hunters even talked about how he uses guided pronghorn hunts as practice. He noted how these hunts provide him the opportunity to draw on countless speed goats, settle his pin and learn to control his heart rate. He said that he “shops” for the one he wants and then cuts an arrow loose.
Here’s the deal: Sitting a waterhole is without question the most efficient way to harvest a pronghorn with a bow. However, what outdoor television often doesn’t depict is how hard it is to find the right pronghorn refreshment station. Find the right one, and it can be a zoo. Throw a dart on a map and pick one at random, and you may be in for the most boring, hot and torturous sit of your life.
If you’re looking to start your 2017 fall season off with a DIY pronghorn kill and you plan to execute this dream over water on public dirt, consider the following waterhole scouting tips.
1. Map It
If you’re hunting public land (National Grasslands, BLM, Forest Service and the like), purchase a map of the area you’ll be hunting. These maps show cattle tanks, ponds and prairie dams. Keep an eye out for those “lone wolf” sources — the ones that aren’t in close proximity to any other liquid. Next, take a peek at the water sources you’ve located on Google Earth. If the water source is located in an open area, it deserves a look upon arrival. Pronghorn rely on their eyesight and speed to escape predators. They will often ignore water sources located in tight canyons, rolling hills and areas sporting thick cedars, pinion or juniper trees.
2. Ponds Trump Tanks
I prefer to hunt small ponds over stock tanks. Why? First, because of the constantly fluctuating water level, tracks are easy to see in the mud. And because of cattle, stock tanks are often cement-hard around the perimeter. Ponds also allow goats to drink without dipping their eyes below the rim of the tank. They can water with their eyes up. The problem with ponds is they are unpredictable. While tanks are kept full from underground pipes, ponds require help from Mother Nature. You will need to inspect chosen ponds upon arrival.
Note: The only time I prefer a stock tank over a pond is if the tank has a leak or is running over its top. I’m not sure why, but pronghorns will travel miles to drink from these sources that are spilling out on the ground.
3. Hands-On Inspection
Upon arrival, spend some time glassing the areas around the ponds and tanks you plan to hunt. Pronghorn aren’t hard to see. If you find them in the areas near your chosen water sources (within a mile), you need to inspect the source further.
If fresh tracks at a pond (those right at the current waterline) abound, you’ve likely hit pay dirt. Spend time watching the pond from afar with a spotting scope or drive a t-post into the ground and attach a game camera (but check state regulations first).
If you feel you’ve stumbled on a good stock tank (and I’ve found several over the years, especially during a drought), back off the tank and check the cattle trails coming to and from. These trails, especially if cattle aren’t in the area, will hold pronghorn tracks and scrapes (pronghorn bucks paw at the earth and then urinate and defecate in the area). If at least one trail heading to a tank is pounded with pronghorn sign, observe from a distance or hang a game camera.
Heeding these three tips will help you find the right speed goat refreshment stand and earn you an opportunity at a set of ebony horns once season arrives.
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