As sweat poured from my brow, I scanned the horizon for antelope. Any antelope. The temperature inside my hunting blind had long passed 95° Fahrenheit and was flirting with triple digits. It was hot, but as my luck would have it, it wasn’t dry on this August Colorado afternoon.
When temperatures rise in late summer, warm-blooded critters head to water. According to wildlife biologists, antelope need to drink about a gallon of water a day to survive the intense heat of the western plains. In a normal year, the ground would be hard and dry, but a week before I arrived in southeastern Colorado a torrential rainstorm provided water for antelope in every rut, dip, and ditch for miles around.
With so much water, the antelope simply didn’t need to risk heading toward my blind, which was perched over a regular watering spot. The few antelope that did flirt with the idea were skittish. Even though my tag wasn’t punched after four long days of hard hunting, I learned a few things about antelope behavior that are worth sharing. Here are my top three pieces of advice:
Scout, Record, Repeat: If you’re forced to hunt an area with multiple water sources, you’ll have to do some extra scouting. Antelope are far more random than deer, but careful observation will reveal logic and faint patterns in their behavior. Find the water source that is closest to a popular food source with nearby high ground, or close to an area where antelope prefer to bed down.
Trickeration: Desperate times call for desperate measures. When water abounds, Antelope may need an extra incentive to come near your blind. Fortunately, antelope have a fatal flaw—curiosity. Although it works best when antelope are aggressive during the rut, sometimes a shiny or reflective object attached to the blind will draw their attention. Use an aluminum pie plate or a plastic grocery bag and tie it to the top of your blind, where it can play in the wind. That may be all you need to get a buck antelope in bow range.
Patience: It’s a virtue, yes, but it’s also a necessity when unforeseen rain showers provide ample water for your prey. As those temporary water sources recede, however, antelope will frequent dependable water sources with which they’re familiar. Bring a book, lots of Gatorade, and wait ‘em out.
The view from my hunting blind overlooking a water hole in eastern Colorado. The antelope were bedding and feeding nearby, but with so much water available after a heavy summer rain, the larger bucks were hanging just outside bow range. Photo: Andrew Coffey
Photo (top): The Nature Conservancy
Andrew Coffey is an avid hunter and owner of Wild Pursuits Hunting Consultants, a full-service North American booking agency. He is also an outdoor blogger and columnist and a member of several field and pro-staffs. Contact Andrew with questions or comments.