First Timer Strategy Questions

jordan.2216

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Sep 3, 2019
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Howdy All -

I'm taking my pops out for our first antelope hunt this coming fall. We don't have preference points and are appropriately looking for an opportunity hunt. Heavily leaning towards Wyoming.

That said, I am interested in general tactics that I should consider when hunting the highly pressured, relatively small parcels of public land available in most 100% draw rifle units. In particular, I was curious in people's thoughts about hiking into the backs of public parcels before light and hoping to catch goats heading deep as the morning road hunting picks up? Is this reasonable, or would a guy likely bump the animals around in the dark causing more harm than good?

Appreciate any insight.
 
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archp625

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Jan 17, 2018
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St. Joseph, Missouri
My advice would be to show up 2-3 days before the season opens and scout like crazy. Figure out the quality of animals you are dealing with. Narrow down a few and be there opening morning at dark 30.
 

Gumbo

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Apr 26, 2015
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Montana
In my considerable experience antelope hunting it is unlikely you will bump when it is dark provided they don't wind you, you use soft voices, and avoid headlamps as much as possible. They are often bedded at night and I don't think they can see very well at all during very low light conditions. It is amazing what you can get away with during the last few minutes of shooting light, you can often almost walk right up on them.
 
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jordan.2216

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Sep 3, 2019
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Appreciate the replies.

We will do everything we can to try to arrive a couple days prior to allow for scouting. Thanks for the thoughts on moving around before light and the insight on their eyesight in low light conditions.

Another question would be whether it is advantageous to skip the opening weekend crowds (haven't experienced, only read about) and go later in the season/mid-week? Or have the antelope been heavily pushed into private land by that point (again, haven't experienced, but keep reading about their acute ability to be 'just across the line on private').
 

Gumbo

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The opener (in MT at least) can be a zoo, but ultimately I just go when I can, and I'd rather be out hunting than waiting to hunt. I actually quit rifle hunting bucks with a rifle five years ago and hunt the archery season instead. When I draw doe tags I do go later in the season and let the crowds die down, it's a much better experience. But really, it is a high success rate hunt in most places, you have to be a pretty miserable hunter to not get an opportunity if you have a few days. Just go and have fun, goat hunting is about the most fun, no stress hunt you can have. The only disadvantages to waiting later in the season is that some of the bigger bucks could have already gone for a ride in the bed of a pickup or shed their horns (in the case of MT).
 
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jordan.2216

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Sep 3, 2019
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Thanks, Gumbo. Fun, low stress hunt is exactly what I'm after with Dad. Helps build confidence in the adventure knowing success should be reasonably attainable.
 

steveokanevo

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Feb 10, 2018
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Tennessee
Drew on my second choice and built a point this last year. Plan was head up to Wyoming four days ahead of opener (2 day drive) find a couple of bucks and put one to bed the night before. My best friends wedding fell on the first of week of October so I had to push my trip back to the second week. Make no mistake there are a ton of antelope in Wyoming but when you are in a unit that is easy to draw theres a reason. Limited access and lots of hunters. I got to hunt one full day and a blizzard blew thru. I hunted hard that day and actually got under two hundred on a group of three bucks that were walking towards the fence that divided the public and private. It didnt pan out whether they knew they were safe or smelled me or saw me, I dont know, they just turned and followed the fence line and bedded down twenty yards the other side. I marked them and was going to come back the next day. 45 mph winds and sleet busted that. Day before it was 65 and calm. I still think that the "scout before and hunt opener" is the way to go anywhere you go, however, I am going to build points and hunt somewhere with better access. I walked over and saw a lot of dead antelope so it can be done. Let me know if I can help at all.
 

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jordan.2216

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Sep 3, 2019
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Thanks for the input, Steve.

Good info on how disruptive the weather can be to a guy's plan. I can humbly say that I've never been on a hunt in which the weather was a big enough variable that it could shut you down.
 

Cedarsavage

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Oct 16, 2017
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Upper Michigan
My advice would be to show up 2-3 days before the season opens and scout like crazy. Figure out the quality of animals you are dealing with. Narrow down a few and be there opening morning at dark 30.
That’s what I did. Someone beat me to plan a spot. So I went to plan b and was standing over one by 930. I had 6-7 herds with a buck located the day before.
 

Rich M

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Orlando
I went in 2017, got soaked by rain and then frozen. Was able to get on antelope 2 of 3 hunts. Very busy unit.
 
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jordan.2216

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Thanks for the input. Without asking the exact unit, would you mind sharing if it was a 1st or 2nd choice and regular or special draw?
 

Rich M

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Orlando
It seems like I got in on the last year (2017) that there were any leftover tags in the state. I went for doe tags and got 4, should have just gotten 1 buck, 1 doe and enjoyed it. It was a 0 point unit and is now a multiple point unit due to the upsurge in interest.

If you are applying as a NR, it seems (to me anyway) that it is a 1-shot deal. You pick your No. 1 and run with it. That's what I do for quota hunts whenever I apply anyway. My philosophy is that I want to hunt "there" and that's that.

So, what my group is doing right now is collecting - we'll have 2-3-4-5 points when we make the move. It will be calculated and researched, we will have 90-100% odds of pulling the permits and we'll go. A lot will hinge on this year's draw results - if the point thing seems crazy due to massive creep, we'll go 2021 and make due.
 

Big Ern

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California
Scout. Scout some more. Have plan a, b, and c areas picked out that are away from the road hunters (if possible). Bring a good spotter. Hike out in the dark and set up and glass plan a. Glass some more. Then, glass some more.

For what it is worth, I don't like opening day of rifle. Too crowded for my liking. I prefer hunting towards the end of the season. Granted, some of the big boys may have been taken, but if you hunt hard, with a little luck there are still some nice bucks to be found. I just enjoy being out there with less people and will take my chances.
 

locofife

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Mar 15, 2019
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Wyoming
I have hunted antelope quite a bit and have lived in Wyoming for over 9 years now. I would recommend looking at the walk in areas that are available in the state. I have had some great opportunities by taking advantage of them. There are also HMAs (Hunter Management Areas) available that are run on a separate draw that takes place in August. Look into them and you might be able to open up some more opportunities for yourself.

Alot of antelope hunters won't get very far from their trucks. They drive around all day and try to shoot something close, so if you are willing to walk a little bit your chances will definitely go up.

Use the terrain to your advantage! Antelope have excellent eyesight. I've found that at the beginning of the season they tend to be a bit more dumb, but as the season progresses they get more and more skittish and will bust out of there when you get within 800 yards of them. I've found really good success, even late in the season, by locating them and then sneaking up on them. If you can see them, they can see you and you'll get busted. If you see some near the road, just keep driving until you can't see them anymore then stop and plan a stalk. If you bail out of the car as soon as you see them they will take off. I've also had good luck by getting up on top of hills/ridges, making sure to not skyline myself, and walking cautiously along. I will then occasionally peak over the edge looking for antelope. My boys and I have killed several antelope through this method and have had many other opportunities that we've passed on. Some of this may sound pretty simple, and you may have known it already, but it's worked very well for me.

One last note, antelope have a reputation for being a "gamey" meat. I'm sure some are, but a lot of the problem is that people don't take care of the meat correctly. A lot of the antelope hunts here in Wyoming start in mid-September and it's often still quite warm out. It's no wonder the meat tastes off when someone shoots the animal then guts it and throws it in the back of a truck and drives around for several hours in 70 degree weather. Try to get it cooled down as soon as you can. I like to gut the things out and then throw a bag of ice up in the chest cavity and another between its back legs. A lot of guys will skin them out to cool them down, which is fine, just be sure you have a cooler full of ice to throw them in. Also, try to keep hair off of the meat. Antelope are stinky buggers and you don't want the hair to contaminate the meat.

Good luck! Feel free to ask me anything else and I'll be happy to answer as best I can.
 

CApighunter

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Sep 23, 2018
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Lots of great info here, planning on picking a 1 point unit and heading out this year for my girlfriends first hunt.
 

Bull_n_heat

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Jun 15, 2017
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Wyoming
If it's just you and your dad, skip the opener, and if you're traveling from out of state (looks like you are), start traveling on Saturday and don't even get serious about hunting until Monday. Get the lay of the land, cover some ground on your tires (one of the few times I would suggest that), and get a feel for the different pieces of publicly accessible lands out there.

Antelope hunting is one of the few hunts you can do where you predictably can get out what you put in. You're going to see animals (a white dot on the prairie or sage brush shouldn't be hard to miss), and you're going to get an opportunity if you are persistent. And give those critters respect: very few things could live year round off a handful of small forbs and the tips of sagebrush and survive a winter in Wyoming with 2% body fat. They're amazing animals and rarely get their due from many hunters.

You might also consider doe tags for the very reason that you're really just going for the experience. Yeah, technically, bucks have more horn than does, but many people can't tell the difference between a Booner and a boner in antelope-land. Does provide a generally similar experience as a buck tag, and can get you out there to hunt and see new country for a much cheaper price and much higher availability.

Like locofife says, take care of that meat! I carry a small tarp, and I am almost insistent on quartering and cooling that animal as fast as you can upon the kill (to the point where I quartered one entirely within a couple hundred yards of my buddy's house last year). Again, what you put in you get back when it comes to antelope meat too. If you take care of it, I think it's the best meat in the west. Hands down.
 

cdods

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Aug 13, 2017
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Cheyenne, Wyoming
Cover ground. I'm not a fan of road hunting but when I hunt areas with high pressure and smaller parcels, I do A LOT of driving. Most of the small parcels you are able to glass from a couple of points and move to the next. It's not uncommon for me to put a couple hundred miles on my truck a day in Antelope. I agree with the scouting for a couple days suggestion, that will give you the best odds of getting into a bigger buck. As far as opening day, I like hunting them opening day. They are less flighty. later in season they will bunch up and get more flighty. I get to antelope hunt essentially out my back door, so it's a hunt that I don't have to have too much planning for and can have fun with without putting pressure on myself (All hunting is fun but I tend to take elk and deer more serious). Have fun with it. They're cool animals and a unique game to go after.
 
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jordan.2216

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Sep 3, 2019
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locofife, bull_n_heat, Big Ern, and cdods - thank you all very much for the info. Genuinely appreciate it and am picking up a lot of hunting (which WILL be used on the trip) and meat care (which will HOPEFULLY be used on the trip) insight.

I have read about their eyesight and flightyness, but am already starting to gain a greater appreciation based on your comments.

I will definitely have to look further into the WIAs and HMAs to make sure I fully understand them and to attempt to draw for greater access.
 
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