Patrick Meitin has degrees in journalism and range and wildlife management. He’s been an outdoor writer, specializing in bowhunting, for more than 20 years. An expert with both traditional and modern archery equipment, Meitin lives in northern Idaho with his wife, Gwyn, and their two Labrador retrievers.
The Perfect Pronghorn Bow
Meitin explains the ins and outs of putting together the perfect bowhunting outfit for pronghorns
It's time to start thinking about pronghorns -- those speedy prairie goats found from West Texas to the eastern flanks of the Cascades, Southwest deserts to Dakota plains. These 85- to 100-pound animals are uniquely handsome and some of the fleetest big game around. They're typically bowhunted by sitting in sweltering blinds near water or via tedious snake-belly stalks across barren ground.
Three constants hold while bowhunting pronghorns, aka antelope: They're jumpier than a houndsman's housecat (prone to string jumping even at intimate water-hole ranges); shot ranges can lean toward the long side (particularly when stalking); and they aren't the sturdiest, most tenacious critters we regularly bowhunt. So there are benefits to a bowhunting rig set up for speed, long-range accuracy and maximum tissue damage.
Bow selection is a matter of compromises. While a shorter bow is welcomed in the cramped confines of a blind, short bows aren't as inherently forgiving as longer bows -- meaning they're harder to shoot accurately when ranges stretch. I find a 34- to 36-inch compound with 6.5- to 7.5-inch brace height a perfect combination of maneuverability and shootability, speed and forgiveness.
The pronghorn arrow should be all about speed. I generally prefer today's heavier, skinnier arrows for most big-game hunting (arrows weighing around 10 gpi), but when chasing pronghorn -- no matter the hunting method -- I buy into the speed thing. You gain about 25 fps for every 5 to 7 grains of arrow mass sacrificed, plus antelope are made of light bones covered in thin skin. Extreme durability and penetration aren't major issues. This makes light arrows such as the Carbon Tech Cheetah (6.4 to 7.9 gpi in .400 to .340 deflection), Victory VForceHV (8 to 8.7 gpi), Gold Tip Velocity (7.4 to 8.5), Easton Flatline (7.4 to 8.2) or Carbon Express Mach 5 (7 to 8.1) perfect choices.
The pronghorn's "fragile" nature and the common long shots also dictate broadhead choice. If there's but a single big-game animal where I see a need for aggressive mechanical broadheads, the antelope is it. Too, because of regular long-range shooting and the antelope's propensity for string jumping, punching a big hole is advantageous -- turning a marginal hit into a kill. Wide-cutting mechanicals sporting 2-inch cutting diameters are at home on the plains. Though, in states where mechanical broadheads aren't legal, streamlined "mini" broadheads, such as the Slick Trick Standard, NAP Crossfire, Tru-Fire T1 or G5 Striker -- again as examples -- make excellent speed-bow options.
Finally, when taking longer-than-average shots (which you certainly aren't required to do), a change in sight is in order. You have a couple of options: a standard-configuration 7-pin sight, such as the Trophy Ridge Cypher or Fuse Carbon Interceptor 7-pin; or a slider sight such as the Montana Black Gold Ascent or TruGlo Range Rover. These options allow point-on aiming at any reasonable range encountered.
Today's archery equipment is faster and more accurate than ever, making long-range accuracy and pronghorn success more easily obtained.