10 Tips for How to Spot and Stalk Your First Archery Antelope
Attempting to spot and stalk your first archery antelope can be a daunting task. In this post, I share ten lessons I learned from my first season chasing antelope with archery equipment.
Never underestimate an antelope’s vison. If you can see an antelope’s head, chances are, they already see you. Their long-distance vision is hard to fathom, and experiments have proven antelope can visually detect movement up to four miles away. Once an antelope spots you—and they will spot you thanks to a nearly 300-degree field of view—they usually spook immediately, and the stalk is over. I like to be proactive in my preparations, including covering my hands, face, and eliminating any shiny surfaces on my hunting gear. Camouflage is great, but to have a chance at a successful stalk, staying out of sight and using terrain features to navigate the landscape is absolutely critical when pursuing antelope with archery equipment. Speaking of terrain…
I only hunt properties with some topography. Hunting a property with topography is vital to success when spot and stalking antelope with a bow. Subtle draws, shallow valleys, dry creek beds, washes, and hillsides help an archer close the distance while remaining undetected. While I look for properties with topography, I avoid the extremes. Properties with extremely rugged terrain rarely hold antelope, and flat properties without any topography make an already challenging hunt nearly impossible.
Antelope do not readily cross fences. Unlike deer, who cross fences regularly and quite gracefully, antelope generally crawl under the bottom strand of fence, or, on rare occasion, leap over quite awkwardly. Pressured antelope will cross fences to escape pressure, but without hunting pressure on the opposite side of the fence, then they will rarely cross back without a compelling reason to do so. The lesson here is that antelope lounging on private property are unlikely to cross a fence to re-enter public lands. When I see bucks holed up on private land, I move on and search for higher-odds opportunities.
Learn to love belly crawling. Belly crawling is your new best friend, and you will spend a lot of time with your best friend. I’m not talking about crawling on hands and knees, I mean stomach to the dirt crawling. When I find myself closing in the last 100-200 yards, or I don’t have much terrain to work with, this is my go-to approach tactic. Mostly, it’s my go-to form of movement because every other approach results in busted stalks. By belly crawling, I only get busted 95% of the time—a huge improvement! Belly crawling is slow and inherently uncomfortable. Pants with knee pads help remove discomfort, as do gloves with thick palms or padded knuckles. Speaking of belly crawling…
Carry tweezers in your pack. I like the kind with pointed ends. Eventually, a cactus needle or twenty will find its way into your palm, your knee, or your stomach. You will be happy to have the tweezers along for in-field medical procedures.
Get out of the vehicle. Spot and stalk archery antelope hunting is extremely difficult. As a result, hunting pressure outside of water holes is extremely low. In Montana, fair numbers of antelope can be spotted from the vehicle, but there is an endless amount of terrain hidden from view from the road. I like to e-scout for glassing knobs or note good glassing locations on my OnX Maps while in the field for future reference. In these scenarios, getting even a quarter-mile off the road can result in a superior vantage point. I’ll bring along my Vortex Razor spotter and survey the area for any prospective targets. Having a good vantage point also helps me plot the best path of approach if I spot a buck to target.
Don’t get married to hunting only near water. Even in drought conditions, antelope may range several miles from the nearest water source. One of the biggest advantages of spot and stalk hunting is the ability to hunt antelope where they are most of the time—the prairie and not where you want them to be when sitting in a blind—the water hole.
Practice how you hunt. For antelope, that means practice shooting in the wind. Antelope country is windy country, and knowing how much an arrow deflects at various wind speeds is crucial. It also helps the archer get acclimated to their bow and bow arm getting blown around by winds.
Also, it is a great idea to practice from unconventional positions, such as kneeling, or even drawing a bow while laying on one’s back, and then sitting up to shoot.
Antelope are perhaps the big game animal most susceptible to decoys. Antelope bucks can be extremely territorial during the rut, and run off competing bucks. Challenging a rutting buck with a decoy inside of 100 yards can be an extremely effective technique. I prefer the Ultimate Predator brand “Stalker Decoy”, which have proven effective to me on numerous occasions with antelope, deer, and elk. The Stalker series decoys mount to a bow and are much less clumsy in a stalking situation than nearly any other decoy. Check out the video below where I film my buddy Tim Bunao arrow his first archery antelope from behind a Stalker Decoy.
Persist! Spot and stalk archery antelope hunting is a numbers game. It’s very unlikely to succeed on stalk number one, stalk number two, or stalk number three. Don’t get discouraged. Take note of what works, what does not and adapt. With patience and persistence, eventually an opportunity will present itself.
Hopefully, these tips will aid your next archery antelope spot and stalk hunt! Let me know your best spot and stalk archery antelope tips in the comments below!