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Overcoming Target Panic for Montana Pronghorn Success

When bowhunters are forced to teach themselves the entire shot process again, success is sure to feel even sweeter than it normally would.

 Overcoming Target Panic for Montana Pronghorn Success

Pronghorn antelope are the fastest land animals in North America and have binocular vision which makes hunting them incredibly difficult. This iconic animal of the West is a sought-after trophy and delectable table fare.

Many Western states including Montana, Idaho and Wyoming offer great opportunity to chase these animals with opportunities for both archery and rifle hunts. Montana — the state I choose to call home — offers a special, archery-only tag that allows you to hunt these speed goats wherever they naturally occur.

I chose to forfeit the opportunity to hunt antelope with a rifle and get the archery-only tag. It has been a goal of mine for many years to harvest a speed goat with my bow, but unfortunately, I came down with a nasty case of target panic just a month and a half before season was set to open.

For those of you who don’t know what target panic is: It is a completely mental issue that causes you to become uneasy before you take a shot. It can be so severe — at least in my case — that you get nauseous when you look through your peep sight. After an unsuccessful 3D shoot due to this ailment, I took off down the road to recovery.


Dozens of arrows a day — at no more than five yards — blank bailing, shooting with eyes closed, drawing and lowering with my pin on target and even counting for five seconds with my finger on the release and pin on target. All of these techniques partnered with tedious repetition proved to cure me of my ailment. By the beginning of August — the season started August 15th — I was able to begin shooting outdoors and stretching my distances.


I found quickly that all of this close-range practice helped me regain my shooting ability and bolster it. My groups were tighter, and my confidence was back and shooting 70-80 yards was easy. With my broadheads flying true, I was ready to hit the field.

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A few day hunts left me with nothing but the disappointment of failed stalks, although with plenty of season left to I wasn’t going to let myself get discouraged. The opening weekend of bird season in Montana — Labor Day weekend — led a group of close friends to central Montana, bird dogs by the heel, for a chance at sharptail and sage grouse. Of course, I had my bow close by because these birds oftentimes share habitat with antelope.

The area proved to be rich with both birds and goats and after a few failed stalks I felt as if the ample opportunity would eventually lead to my success. On the second day we were scouting new ground for sage grouse after a successful morning on sharpies when I spotted an antelope in a very stalkable position. He was moving toward a fence line and was heading right for a small drainage, which would supply plenty of cover to conceal my movement as I cut the distance.

I began the stalk by running — yes, actually running — to cover as much ground as I could while I knew I was out of sight. When I neared the area where I thought I would be able to put eyes on the buck, I slowed my pace and walked in a quarter squat with my head held low.




Tucked up against some sage brush, I gingerly raised my head to see if I could see my quarry. He was right where I wanted him to be. “That never happens,” I whispered. He was just over 100 yards from my current position, but a small depression provided perfect cover for me to slip in, unnoticed.

I crawled slowly, but I still moved with purpose — opportunities like this don’t always last long. I cut the distance down to 60 yards, a very comfortable distance for a shot. When I raised my rangefinder the goat’s great vision caught a glimpse of my movement, though not enough for him to spook. He merely walked 12 yards further and again presented a perfect broadside shot. 72 yards is what my rangefinder read; I dialed the single pin on my Option Archery sight and waited. I felt no wind, the buck was alert, but his head turned away from me and I was calm.

After making sure I was confident with the shot, I drew my bow — reminding myself of my shot process — and anchored. As my pin settled, the slight movement and bobbing of the pin on the goat had no effect on my nerves. I was still calm. My thumb was in contact with my release and there was a comfortable pressure. I increased the pressure between my shoulder blades and felt the crisp break of the release as my arrow sored at its target. When the sound of the string reached the antelope’s ears he lunged forward. My arrow met its mark but slightly back — a liver shot — but the Ozcut Elite broadhead did its job.


My buck ran about 100 yards and bedded in the sage brush. I knew I wanted to get another shot in him to ease any sort of suffering, so I repositioned myself to crawl in and take another shot. Unfortunately, he stood before I was ready, and I wasn’t able to connect with a second shot. Hunting in a sea of checkerboarded public and private land, he worked his way onto private and once again bedded down.

After tracking down the landowner I gained permission to access their property and retrieve my goat. I quickly located the buck and snuck into position, not knowing if he was still alive or if he had expired. I found him — still barely hanging on — and put one more arrow in him to finish the job. While the time elapsed felt like a lifetime to me, it was just over an hour and I got to lay my hands on my first archery antelope.

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The temperatures were reaching their mid-day highs so I quickly gutted him to ensure the meat would cool. After the guts were out, I loaded the animal into the load shelf of my Stone Glacier backpack and carried him a mile back to the truck.

My first archery antelope was one to remember. The struggle of once again becoming comfortable with my bow and making a shot on antelope was hard to stay the least. Unfortunately — even though the shot broke clean and flew true — when the buck jumped the string I hit him slightly too far back, but even with his movement my arrow hit its mark and was a lethal shot. I am grateful to the landowner who let me recover him and now I get to eat some delicious meat for months to come. I will definitely be participating in this hunt again next year.

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