“If you have the patience to sit fourteen to fifteen hours a day, and if the weather is conducive, it can be one of the highest percentage hunts that you will have.”
When asking what it takes for someone to be successful while antelope hunting, a veteran hunter and Everything Eichler host Fred Eichler says if you have patience, the chance of going home at the end of the day with an antelope is highly likely. While recently visiting with Eichler, he explained that antelope hunting is typically conducted in open terrain, where there are usually no trees. He described that antelope are primarily found in desert-like areas, where temperatures while hunting can be well over one hundred degrees. So, when sitting in a blind or while on a spot and stalk hunt, the hunter can literally feel the heat if not adequately prepared.
Whether it is your first antelope hunt or you are a seasoned hunter already, knowing a little about the animal before hunting is vital. “Antelope have incredible eyesight, much better than a whitetail deer,” says Eichler. He added that they do not hear very well due to small ears. However, their eyesight is their most significant defense against predators and hunters. “Antelope have eyes that come out of their heads farther, which allows them to see, almost three-hundred and sixty degrees.”
Because antelope have such incredible eyesight, they are considered one of the most challenging animals to stalk. They do not have as good of a sense of smell as animals such as deer, elk, or wild hogs, so they rely on their eyesight more than anything. Eichler has successfully hunted antelope by stalking with horses and decoying. Yet, due to their eyesight, the most popular hunting method is using a ground blind near a watering hole.
Methods Of The Hunt
Antelope are commonly found in the high desert, with much higher temperatures throughout the day. There is a limited water supply, thus being the reason that many hunters choose to sit in a ground blind overlooking a watering hole.
Eichler also mentioned a unique method of antelope hunt: using a horse as a mobile blind. “You walk behind the horse as you slip to within shooting range of the antelope.” He explained there is a science to using a horse other than simply walking behind it. “You must have a horse that is well trained; if it throws its head quickly because it does not respond to the reigns well, that is an unnatural movement and often spooks antelope.” Eichler went on to add, “Antelope have the instinct to watch for predators; a horse is natural and is a prey animal, to use them as a decoy, you must let the horse eat, then the antelope calm down, after moving closer, you let the horse eat again, until close enough to make the shot.” Eichler has walked within twenty yards of the antelope by slowly moving with the natural movements of a horse.
Another method of antelope hunting that Eichler has conducted is by using a decoy. “Antelope, like many other big game animals, can be very territorial towards other males during the rut.” Using a decoy, the hunter can attract other males to respond quickly from far distances.
Game Cameras/Blind Prep
When trying to get good photos from a game camera, Eichler says that many hunters make the mistake of setting the camera due east or west. Instead, place cameras to the north or south to avoid the sun rising or setting. Although he often places cameras near a watering hole, Eichler often sets another camera farther away to learn how the antelope approach the water. “Many of the watering holes have an elevated bank, and they tend to approach the water in areas where they can use their eyes the best.” In other words, if there is a steep bank on one side and a gentle slope on the other, antelope will drink on the less sloped side. By using game cameras, the hunter can confirm the best locations.
When setting up a ground blind, Eichler has often encountered antelope that prefer to drink on 1/3 of the watering hole, and hunters sit their blind directly in that 1/3 area, which can sometimes cut them off from drinking. Eichler tries to leave a corridor to still let the antelope drink by setting the blind slightly off to the side. He also explained that he puts up his blind a month or two before hunting to let antelope get familiar and be less likely to spook when being hunted.
Essential Gear To Pack Along
When preparing your bag for what typically will be a long day of hunting inside of a blind, it is crucial to take along the essential gear that can make your hunt more comfortable and successful.
Eichler says a good pair of optics is crucial, whether on your rifle or binoculars. When hunters use binoculars inside the blind, they must always be aware of sun glare. “I have had many hunting clients who wear glasses, that I warn the same as when using binoculars, they want to lean forward in the blind or get close to the window, antelope can see a glare for miles away,” warns Eichler.
Another essential item Eichler favors when spending twelve to thirteen hours in a ground blind is a comfortable blind chair that does not squeak when moving. “Antelope are different from deer or elk and are more like humans in that they are diurnal instead of nocturnal, meaning they are awake through the day and sleep all night.” Since they are only awake through the day, long sits in the blind are required, so a comfortable blind chair is necessary.
Some of the most crucial gear items to pack in the blind while hunting is not always related directly to hunting antelope. Instead, keeping yourself cool and comfortable for long periods is vital. To help hunters stay cool, Eichler often carries a small Yeti soft side cooler packed with a good supply of cold water and some frozen water bottles to last the entire day while hunting or leaves it with the hunters he is guiding.
When sitting inside a blind for an entire day, Eichler says you will most likely be bored to death. To help break up the day, Eichler suggests packing along a book or magazine to help occupy downtime. However, Eichler suggests Eichler admits he pours some of his water down his back to help stay cool inside of a hot blind. As for snacks, he packs sandwiches with no mayonnaise that can often spoil if left in a hot blind and a supply of candy or other snack items to get through the day.
The last essential gear to pack inside the blind is a double-layered bag that can be tightly sealed and a roll of toilet paper. An antelope can see for several miles; Eichler says that hunters should use the bag when nature calls while hunting instead of moving outside of the blind. “If an antelope is bedded a mile away, watching the watering hole before visiting, and witnesses the hunter get out of the blind, they often will leave the area and not return that day.”
Bow And Rifle Preparation
When preparing your bow and rifle for hunting antelope, Eichler explains it is not much different from hunting other big game animals. However, antelope hunting requires a lot of walking, causing Eichler to choose a lightweight rifle. Because antelope are a smaller-bodied animal, Eichler also wants a very accurate rifle. He recommends a tripod-style shooting rest, stating that many hunters want a bipod that attaches to the rifle yet often cannot see over the sage when it is time to shoot. Instead, Eichler chooses a rest that can be used sitting in a blind chair or standing.
As for archery hunters, Eichler says using a shorter bow is ideal. “Many bowhunters hunt from a seat, inside of a ground blind; for that reason, whether you are using a recurve or compound, choose a smaller bow to move inside the blind and to shoot through a small opening properly.”
After The Hunt
Eichler states that over the past thirty years of hunting, he has tried to pinpoint the best time for the antelope to approach the watering holes. “We have shot just as many in the morning and evening as mid-day and afternoons; you never know when the antelope will approach. Because of the uncertainty of when a shot opportunity will happen, hunters should always be prepared and ready to sit until it does happen—having the proper gear and having made the proper preparations before hunting is crucial. The great thing about antelope hunting is that if you are willing to sit patiently, you will likely harvest an animal when hunting.”