As I’ve said many a time, hunting antelope and hunting big antelope are two very different things. To find the biggest buck in your area, you are going to have to put in the time, cover tons of country, glass boatloads of bucks and be very patient and methodical in the process. Just finding antelope in your area is usually a relatively straightforward proposition but finding a really big buck, not so much. Glassing and covering massive amounts of country is the best technique to start off with. Locating and keeping tabs on the biggest buck in your area is where most of the challenge lies.
Pre-Scouting – The first order of business for me when scouting antelope is to get the lay of the land in general. This can be done a number of different ways and I usually find myself employing most if not an all of the above strategy my first time into an area.
The best place to start is the state hunting proclamations and Google Earth or the onX Hunt app. This gives me a good idea of what the area looks like from a satellite imagery and aerial photography perspective. Here I am looking at three criteria mostly. First off, I want to know where the boundaries for the area lie, are they roads, ridges or creek drainages? More on this later. The next area I am targeting and making note of are the water sources. Contrary to most conventional thinking, antelope are not camels. They need water and lots of it. A rutting buck needs to hit a water source at least once and sometimes even twice daily, about the same as a bull elk. For some perspective, a desert mule deer buck will water up only half as often. The third and final areas I am looking for are big sage flats or open country that are near water and contain some deeper brush and/or coulee cuts close by. For some reason, big rutting bucks always tend to find areas that have a few good places to hide out if necessary due to hunting pressure or pressure from competing bucks for a hot doe. After I have located and marked these areas of primary interest on my map or onXmap application, I am ready to head afield.
Covering Country – Once in country, I like to get an idea of what the unit looks like in person. For some weird reason, a piece of country never quite looks the same on the computer as it does in person. I want to explore the entire unit quickly and easily. This usually means, driving the borders of the unit or as much of it as possible. This gives me a good idea of what types of country and access I have available to hunt. A quick two or three-hour tour around the unit with my phone in hand, pushing me the public and private land access on my onXmap app and I can quickly get a good judge on the area and the access for the unit. This further narrows down my search for a big buck. It can be hard to explain in words, but once you do this enough, you will just get a feeling or a hunch of where the best places to start will be. Couple that with your online, at-home research and you should have a pretty solid game plan for the next morning’s hunt. I usually try to have between four and six areas to concentrate my efforts on initially. Most of the time these revolve around roads or road systems.
As I travel around the unit, I also find myself nearly beyond meticulous about noting large tracts of hard-to-access public land, water sources that have water in them at the time, and antelope densities. Some areas will just have higher antelope densities than other parts of the unit. There are some very specific tips and methods that can help you turn up a monster buck that most hunters will have a hard time finding. Here are a few of the specifics on those processes and methods.