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 with Rob Miskosky

A Rewarding Hunt

By my estimation, southern Alberta is one of the most unique places on planet earth. Its prairie is a vast and expansive landscape characterized by flat or gently rolling terrain covered in a wide variety of grasses, including native grasses like fescue, wheatgrass, and prairie junegrass. Western meadowlarks, loggerhead shrike and sharp-tailed grouse call this part of Alberta home and they appear to be doing quite well in these open grasslands, even with the bird-eating merlin on the prowl. The sharp-tailed grouse and other birds are also dependent on the drought-tolerant sagebrush that thrives throughout the prairie. Just rub some between your fingers and its pungent aroma will overwhelm your olfactory senses.

With only the occasional stand of trees dotting the landscape, one of the most striking features of the southern Alberta prairie is its sense of vastness. The horizon stretches out in all directions, providing unobstructed views of the sky and distant landscapes. And then there are the coulees, a distinctive and fascinating feature of southern Alberta that offers stunning vistas and panoramic views. Deer and elk hunters spend much of their time hunting these deep formations where ungulates seek out shelter and forage in the vegetation that grows on the coulee sides and floors.

Dakota's buck
Ken's buck
The author's buck
But one of the most remarkable creatures on southern Alberta prairies is the pronghorn antelope, North America’s fastest land mammal, capable of reaching speeds near 60 mph. With no natural predators that can come close to matching their speed, the pronghorn enjoys a relatively easy lifestyle. But why are they so fast if there’s nothing chasing them? It is believed that the pronghorn was an important prey species for the now extinct miracinonyx, known as the North American cheetah, which may explain the high-speed capabilities of the pronghorn. If they hadn’t developed the ability to run at high speeds, they would have been easy prey for the miracinonyx.

Another remarkable feature of the pronghorn is its ability to see great distances. In relation to body size, pronghorn have the largest eyes of any ungulate. It is said that pronghorn have 10x vision, which means that “on a clear night, they can see the rings of Saturn.” Living in herds and capable of seeing movement from as far away as five kilometres, many sets of eyes are always on the lookout for danger.

It was with these thoughts in mind that my son Dakota, good friend Ken Marlatt and I loaded up and headed to southern Alberta to try to fill our three long-awaited tags.

Based on today’s price of fuel, pronghorn hunting is probably one of the more expensive hunts to undertake, as many miles need to be covered on scouting forays each day. The best way to hunt antelope is to drive until you find a herd, glass, and then put on a stalk if you find a good buck—a good spotting scope is a necessity, as are good binoculars. As well, care needs to be taken once a pronghorn is down, as it’s generally a warm-weather hunt and meat can spoil in a hurry. For this reason, we brought a small deep-freeze with us and plugged it in at the full-service campground we stayed at in Duchess.

With the season opening on a Monday, we had already spent the preceding Friday through Sunday scouting out potential bucks. We were hunting in the Eastern Irrigation District and I give these folks nothing but credit. They are very helpful, providing maps and information about their lands but know that you must obey their rules. There are designated trails you must keep your vehicle on and several foot-only access locations that must be adhered too. The EID takes “knocking on doors” out of the equation so once again, thank you to the EID. You can read more about the EID in their advertisement on page 3.

I don’t have room to describe in detail our hunt here, but the three of us managed to fill our tags—three pronghorn bucks in three days. While we didn’t kill a monster, we managed three respectable bucks and had an incredible hunt on some absolutely amazing land.

If you haven’t hunted southern Alberta and the incredible pronghorn, it’s time to get your draws in—it is a rewarding hunt that you won’t regret! ■

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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