5 Facts About Pronghorns to Kick Off Colorado’s Pronghorn Bowhunting Season
Pronghorn bowhunting season begins today in Colorado. Archers can harvest bucks from August 15 – September 20 and does from September 1 – 20 (though hunters using muzzleloaders and rifles will need to wait a bit longer).
To ring in the opening of the season, we’ve collected a few interesting facts you might not know about pronghorns.
1. Pronghorns are the only existing species in their family—but that wasn’t always the case.
Located only in North America, they’re often called pronghorn antelopes or American antelopes because they resemble African antelope species, but they’re not related to antelopes at all. Pronghorns belong to the family Antilocapridae, which has no other living species. But during the Pleistocene period, there were at least 12 species, three of which were still around when humans began to populate North America between 10,000 and 14,000 years ago.
2. Pronghorns are the fastest land mammals in the Western Hemisphere.
In fact, they may even be the second-fastest land mammals in the world, second only to the cheetah—and they can sustain those high speeds much longer than a cheetah can. These animals can travel up to 55 miles per hour for up to half a mile, and up to 35 miles per hour for four miles. It travels so much faster than North American predators that scientists believe it evolved its speed in order to evade the American cheetah, which went extinct 12,000 years ago.
3. Pronghorns migrate more than 160 miles each year.
Pronghorns aren’t just fast—they’re also masters of endurance. Dr. Scott Bergen of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which monitors pronghorn behavior on an ongoing basis, called pronghorns the “marathoners of the American West.” The herds observed in the study travel from the Pioneer Mountains, make their way through the Craters of the Moon National Monument, and end at the Continental Divide.
4. Lewis and Clark were the first to document pronghorns, and they referred to them as goats.
The existence of the pronghorn was known to Spanish explorers as early as the 1500s, but it was Meriwether Lewis and William Clark who first wrote about the pronghorn after they spotted one near the Niobrara River in Nebraska (which, incidentally, is a good place to go trout fishing). Clark killed a buck, referring to it as a species of goat, but noting that it looked more like an antelope or a gazelle.
5. Some Native American tribes hunted pronghorns by constructing tapered pens around herds.
Lewis and Clark also documented the pronghorn hunting strategies of Native Americans in the Rocky Mountains. Because the animals are so swift, Native American hunters had to be resourceful when pursuing pronghorns. Despite their speed, however, they’re not particularly good at jumping like most deer and antelope are. Therefore, one early hunting strategy was to build “fences” out of bushes around wide areas of the pronghorns’ territory—narrow at one end and widening to surround the herd. They would then ride in on horseback, driving the pronghorns toward the narrower area before moving in for the kill.