Kansas, 2008, DIY
“Where is he?” I thought as I sat patiently waiting behind my Montana buck decoy. I had spotted the lone pronghorn on the back of the ridge with his head down feeding, allowing me to set up unnoticed. The buck had been close, but he also could be long gone....
The 2008 Kansas antelope season was fast approaching and a few weeks had passed since I had returned emptyhanded from my New Mexico archery antelope hunt. Throughout the summer I had made the comment that I was due for some bad luck since I had been very fortunate the last two seasons. My wife, Jerri, heard this and told me to think positive. Little did I know how right she was, and my New Mexico tag was the reminder I needed.
My younger brother, Lucas, was hunting with me in pursuit of his first antelope. We hunted together in Wyoming in 2007 and had our share of close calls and rookie mistakes, ultimately eating tag soup. While Wyoming is made for sitting waterholes, our hunt in Kansas would consist primarily of decoying and spot-and-stalk tactics. Although challenging, this style of hunting pronghorn during the rut can lead to some exciting encounters.
Lucas was excited to chase goats in this fashion. He was very confident due to the success of a couple buddies and me in recent years. Being the realist, I reminded him that the success rate for Kansas pronghorn archery hunters was around 12%, and that some had hunted this creature of the plains for years with no success. Wide open spaces, coupled with a small population of 2000-3000 animals for the entire state, explain the relative lack of success of Kansas archery hunters.
On opening morning, we set out to locate one of the herds I had scouted. Shortly after first light we found a nice buck with some does. They were in a field of wheat stubble and the buck had his does in a shallow bowl. We quickly decided to try approaching them from the topside. However, when we passed back by the herd they were almost in a ditch. Convinced they wanted to cross the road into rangeland, we switched gears. Lucas went in the road ditch and crawled to intercept them. Unfortunately, we miscalculated the situation. The buck was using the road to corral his does and was herding them back and forth in the bowl. Lucas watched the show at close range until the buck aggressively chased off a yearling that had ventured too close.
Lucas tried decoying the aggressive buck from another direction, but ran out of cover and was forced to show the decoy before encroaching the herd buck’s comfort zone. He attempted to close the distance, but was betrayed by the does as they sounded off with their warning blasts. I could hear them from my vantage point and knew the gig was up. That result was all too familiar. Hunting is always full of “if only” stories and 20/20 hindsight, but when decoying antelope this is extremely prevalent. Like Lucas said, “If only you were by yourself, there would have been no choice but to approach from above, and you would have a dead goat.” We’ll never know, but there would have been a good chance.
For a full account of Matt's adventure, go to page 36 in the September/October 2009 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.