Goat Guns: The Best Hunting Rifle for Antelope
Hunting antelope is fun. The chances of success are relatively high and the country in which they reside is incredible if you’ve never seen the Great Plains of the wild west. With excellent eyesight, they have a nice advantage over the stooped hunter trying to get within range. Add about another dozen sets of eyes to the equation and they can just be dang frustrating.
Many novice antelope hunters expect to shoot long distances at their quarry. Actually, quite the opposite is true. We can say confidently that the average shot at any antelope we’ve ever killed has been between 150-200 yards. A chip shot in the massive expanse of the horizon-to-horizon flat lands. Talk about feeling small in the universe.
Speaking of small, there has been some confusion as to what is the best round for hunting antelope, also called goats by folks out west. There’s this popular misconception by some of us from east of the Mississippi that a goat gun needs to be a big gun, a long rifle capable of pulverizing pennies at 600 yards. Such is not the case. While antelope do have really good eyesight, can hear pretty well and have noses that smell the odd scent, you’d be surprised how well you can close the distance. What is the best hunting rifle for antelope? Well, a Bergara of course. But the caliber we love is the light-kicking 6.5 Creedmoor – a hot, fast round capable of cutting prevailing winds and with the knock-down power of a .308. Dynamite does come in small packages…
We’re proud to have had the B-14 Woodsman named the Great Buy award winner by Outdoor Life for 2016. The whole B-14 series can be considered worthy goat guns because they are available chambered in the sweet-shooting 6.5 Creedmoor. Being thin-skinned and rather small, antelope aren’t hard to kill though this doesn’t mean you can afford a bad shot. Shoot one in the guts and he’s likely to disappear into the distant heat waves while you’re dumbly wondering what went wrong. We’ve all been there. It’s an unfortunate part of hunting.
Being that the 6.5 Creedmoor is easy on the shoulder despite a lot of consecutive shots, it’s a gun you won’t mind spending some time behind at the range. We preach practice, as you’ve probably noticed. We’ll stand upon a soap box and shout to the heavens the importance of practice no matter what rifle brand you shoot. There’s just no substitute.
The misconception that bullets are lobbed into distant goats is a pretty popular one. They’re never as far as you think they are. A pronghorn is generally in the 90-120-pound range and stand at about three feet at the shoulder, so it’s easy that their smallish stature can fool even a seasoned distance judger. Add the vertigo-inducing landscape that can swallow a whole gaggle of wind turbines and it’s no wonder most misses go high. In fact, the topography of antelope country is chock-full of depressions such as ravines, coulees, gullies and washes that allow the hunter to get within 200 yards of a goat without too much trouble. When your guide speaks on distance, listen. If it’s a DIY hunt, get a rangefinder. Most importantly, this means that best hunting rifle for antelope doesn’t need to be able to take out an orbiting satellite.
There’s a good chance it’ll be prone. You very likely won’t be relying on the window sill of a shooting house for a rest nor are there very many trees to lean against. Free hand is also a rarity though crazier things have happened in the antelope fields.
If you’re crawling out of a low area, then you’re already on your belly. Slide the rifle over your day pack and what better rest in all the world could you possibly have? Unless it’s a trusted bi-pod. Those are nice options too. Practice prone in the months leading up to the hunt and you’re sure to be a one-shot, one-kill goat hunter.
Since we’ve already agreed you won’t need to hold high on a pronghorn because you’re going to get fairly close, we’d suggest a riflescope in the 10X-12X range. If you already have something bigger on your goat gun, that’s no problem. Antelope hunts have been known to come down to the last possible minute of shooting light when a long shot is necessary. It does happen; just not too often.
A 10X power binocular is our go-to and a spotting scope is a pretty popular tool for judging trophy bucks at long distances. Most hunters do their spotting from the truck before setting out on foot to give them what for. Like we’ve said, antelope live in big country that might require you to cover miles and miles of territory before finding the one you’d like to take home.