People come from all over the world to hunt Montana's big game animals. However, one of the easier animals to see is also one of the hardest to hunt with a bow and arrow.
At first glance, the wide-open spaces that span the state look as empty as the surface of the moon. But for the lucky archery hunters who have anantelope tag (especially a 900-Series lottery tag for the current season) that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Grab a good pair of binoculars and their silhouette can betray them against the backdrop of barbwire and prickly pears.
Just because you can pick them out though, don’t start thinking you can easily pick them off. Getting close enough to make your archery tackle effective isn’t a walk in the park.
“Ha, yeah, these guys are athletes,” laughed Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Game Management Bureau Chief Brian Wakeling.
Products of a different time, our antelope evolved to survive alongside with, and just a little out in front of, the now extinct American cheetah.
"Pronghorn can run at speeds easily over 35 miles per hour, and some reports have them going as fast as 60," said Wakeling. "They are not going to be able to maintain 60 miles per hour for a long period of time but they can sure do it in short bursts.”
Speed is the least of a hunter’s worries though.
“They evolved in an open landscape, so their ability to detect predators really relies, to a large part on their eyesight," added Wakeling. "And so their eyesight has been compared to a human looking through an 8-powered binocular. So they’ve got very good vision. They also, just like most prey species, if you look at them, their eyes are set to the side of their head and what that gives them is a wide range of view. They can see about 300 degrees around without having to turn their head."
So, speed and sight make hunting antelope during archery season an uphill battle to say the least. But if you are looking for a challenge and willing to put in the miles, the pursuit can be rewarding.
"A lot of people really don’t have the opportunity to really connect with, really the kind of wildlife experience that you have when you are pursuing things at that time of the year," said Wakeling.
Even if it ends with an empty freezer, which is more than likely.
"One thing we know is that the number of the proportion of hunters that are successful, in actually harvesting an antelope are really an awful lot lower for archers than it is for rifle,” added Wakeling.
But you know what they say. It’s called hunting, not getting.