Pronghorn antelope in a field in rural Saskatchean.
Well, Mother Nature, you won this round.
In North Dakota there’s a lottery for pronghorn tags. WAY more people apply than get drawn and the herd had moved way south for many years due to some horrible winters AND summers, but this year I finally secured a tag!
I had driven 150 miles to where I would be hunting tomorrow. Yesterday a fall storm blew threw and dumped over 3″ of wet North Dakota snow on already saturated ground, making the roads as close to impassable as you can. No one was driving them, not even the farmers and ranchers.
I slogged my way over to my primary hunting area, and the dirt roads were like driving on a hockey rink. The clay had gone super slippery, and after fighting it for nearly three hours, I decided to cut my losses and get to the highway. I drove past a few small herds of pronghorn, marked them in my mind as I drove by, keeping the throttle down, and resigned myself to coming back out another day.
UPDATE : I didn’t go out opening day, Friday, Oct. 4 due to the weather, couldn’t go out Oct 5 due to a wedding, and it rained about another inch, so I’m not going out Sunday. So the first weekend is a total loss. But, I may try to get out mid-week once the sun and wind dries out the roads a bit.
So now on to today’s topic. Taking the right gear is essential to having a successful, safe hunting trip.
- YOUR LICENSE AND TAGS!!
In North Dakota, and I’m assuming in other places, you must have a signed General Game hunting license, and a stamp affixed to that license for certain game, including pronghorn and deer. In 2017 alone there were 334 instances of failing to carry a license on the hunter’s person, 18 instances of failing to affix a stamp and other violations totaling over 600 total. Carry your license, affix your stamp(s), and follow proper tagging guidelines. It’s also a good idea of taking the hunting guide and regulations sent to you by the licensing organizations to refer to when in doubt.
- Florescent Orange torso and head cover.
This is mandatory in North Dakota and other states. Anyone hunting deer, pronghorn and other big game species must wear orange coverage on their chest and back and an orange cap or hat.
Duh. Unless you’re going to run a pronghorn down and kill it with a knife, a firearm is necessary. Also, make sure you’ve checked legal caliber, magazine capacities, and even centerfire/rimfire, especially when it comes to handguns where barrel length can be regulated. I’ve only seen one time where a hunter left home without his rifle… it happens. Also, it’s rare for me to only take one firearm, especially when I’m the only hunter. You never know when a gun fails and that big buck is just a stalk away with a non-functioning firearm.
Don’t trust your labels on plastic ammo cases or metal storage. Don’t drive miles and miles only to find out you brought 30-06 ammo for your .270. And make sure you have enough. We also think it will be one shot, one kill. But anyone hunting in the Great Plains know you occassionaly take shots and miss. Make sure you have enough lead (or non-toxic ballistic).
A good set of binoculars is a must. Finding pronghorn isn’t difficult, but finding the big buck in the herd can be tough and they tend to be hundreds, of not thousands of yard off. Spotting scopes are nice as they really allow you to get in close to find the antelope you want to hunt. And rangefinders are wonderful if you have time to use them and know your rife’s ballistics.
A sharp, rugged, well-functioning knife is a great tool regardless of the type of hunting you are doing. Field dressing an animal with a dull knife is not only frustrating, it can be dangerous when the knife slips instead of cuts or you have to hold if differently because it’s just not cutting. Get it sharpened, buy a new knife, or I have moved to a knife with replaceable blades.
That’s the “necessary” list of gear. Now, what else is helpful in having the best hunting experience?
- First aid kit
- Cold weather gear
- Smartphone and charger
- Mapping App
- Weather App
- Extra socks
- Vehicle Tow Chain
- Handheld radios