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Was my experience normal...or did I somehow F&#K up?

DoveEater

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I am posting because I am a relatively inexperienced adult-onset hunter, and am wondering if I somehow screwed up my antelope hunt.

After not getting an antelope tag in the regular draw in Nevada, my home state, I began obsessively checking the FCFS website as soon as it opened hoping to get a last minute returned tag.

Last week I got lucky and got exactly what I had been hoping for, an Antelope any legal weapon tag, horns longer than ears.

It was in Unit 33, an unusually remote area in Northwestern Nevada bordering Oregon that I'd never been to despite living in Nevada most of my life, but as soon as I started "e-scouting" the area I got super-excited and optimistic.

Unit 33 mainly encompasses the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, a huge chunk of over half a million acres of federal land that is supposed to be full of antelope, and its website claims "hunter success is high".

The season opened this past Tuesday, and I was fortunately able to juggle things around with my work and home life such that I was able to leave Monday morning, and just came back late last night.

To make a long story much shorter, a friend and I camped inside the vast Sheldon Wildlife area Monday and Tuesday night. We traveled EVERY INCH of the two main roads that transverse through the large area, the paved 140, and the gravel route 8a.

We stopped at lots of high points and glassed.

I got out of the truck and hiked up over numerous ridges and hill tops to check out flattish areas with more greenery than average that looked promising and that couldn't be fully seen from the road.

I did a multi-mile trek on foot to carefully approach a mostly but not entirely dry lake bed full of sage away from any road that was kindly recommended to me by Randy Newberg from this site. I did at least see some fresh looking antelope hoof prints in the mud by some water in that mostly dry lake bed.

In total, I saw zero antelope in the areas where hunting was allowed.

Yes, that is correct, ZERO antelope in the hunt-able area during the hunting season.

I saw numerous antelope outside my designated hunting unit alongside the highway while driving to Unit 33 the day before opening day. A nine hour one way drive.

I saw one lonely doe antelope inside a small area within the Sheldon where hunting is prohibited.

But during two full days from before sunrise to close to sunset of looking hard I saw exactly zero antelope in the hundreds of thousands of acres of hunt-able public land.

At least I saw a beaver, the first wild beaver I've ever seen, near the Virgin Valley campground inside the refuge. I also saw other game species like quail, dove, cottontail, I had a bit of an adrenaline charge when 3 doe mule deer suddenly ran right by me when I was trekking on foot, and while driving I even had to hit the brakes once when a big buck mule deer chased a doe across the road right in front of the truck, but no antelope in the hunt-able area.

Now, here is something I keep thinking about: During opening morning my friend and I stopped and chatted briefly with a couple who were glassing for antelope on the side of the road.

I mentioned we hadn't seen any antelope that morning, and they both acted SHOCKED!

The guy was like, "Huh? There's tons of antelope here". The lady was like "I've passed on ten bucks so far this morning, because I'm holding out for a trophy one".

Now, that was during opening morning when my friend and I were still full of optimism, and we were inspired by those comments to hurry up and go find any one of those ten bucks the lady claimed she had just passed on.

For the nine hour drive back with our empty cooler, my friend and I kept wondering aloud if that couple was just messing with us, or if they were somehow seeing tons of antelope while we were somehow antelope blind.

So, did I somehow do something wrong?

I thought antelope were supposed to be a relatively easy DIY hunt, basically just drive around and look for them, then try to sneak up within shooting range of one once you see one.

But I somehow couldn't spot one to even have a chance to stalk one. Is there some special way to look for antelope I just don't know about?
 
you hunted 2 days of a 7 day season?...that's probably the issue. Not to be that guy but there is no way you looked at "every inch" in 2 days of 540k acres. After opener animals can get pretty elusive.

I haven't bothered to look into current estimates but if numbers were average you should have at least seen something and last year there was a 60% chance of harvest in the early season
 
I would say it was a mistake to only allot two days to a big hunt like that, although two days usually is enough for a pronghorn hunt.

Antelope are pretty easy to spot most of the time, so if you're glassing up rabbits and beavers you should have seen some pronghorn if they were around.

I don't know how tall the cover was, but probably also likely that you glassed over the top of a few while they were bedded.

So are you done, or headed back up for another try?
 
I thought antelope were supposed to be a relatively easy DIY hunt, basically just drive around and look for them, then try to sneak up within shooting range of one once you see one.
I think your expectations of an easy hunt contributed to your lack of success. Also, maybe a stupid question but have you spent much time patiently behind glass? Sometimes if you don't know what you're looking for its not as easy to spot as it may seam.
 
What kind of glass are you using? No reason why you shouldn’t be seeing game if you’re on a high spot. A blind squirrel finds a nut once in awhile.
 
you hunted 2 days of a 7 day season?...that's probably the issue. Not to be that guy but there is no way you looked at "every inch" in 2 days of 540k acres. After opener animals can get pretty elusive.

I haven't bothered to look into current estimates but if numbers were average you should have at least seen something and last year there was a 60% chance of harvest in the early season
To be sure I only drove every inch of the two main roads, and yes, last year there was a better than 50% chance of success for the average hunter.

The tag is good thru 9/7/23 and I might be able get up there for another couple days in September, but its an 18 hour roundtrip drive from Vegas and I'm debating if I really want to spend the time and gas money, do you think the animals will be less elusive a week after the opener?
 
I would say it was a mistake to only allot two days to a big hunt like that, although two days usually is enough for a pronghorn hunt.

Antelope are pretty easy to spot most of the time, so if you're glassing up rabbits and beavers you should have seen some pronghorn if they were around.

I don't know how tall the cover was, but probably also likely that you glassed over the top of a few while they were bedded.

So are you done, or headed back up for another try?
I'm debating another try, it would be hard but not impossible to get back up there for another couple days before the season ends on 9/7, but if its going to be more of the same its not worth the time and gas of the nine-hour drive each way.
 
To be sure I only drove every inch of the two main roads, and yes, last year there was a better than 50% chance of success for the average hunter.

The tag is good thru 9/7/23 and I might be able get up there for another couple days in September, but its an 18 hour roundtrip drive from Vegas and I'm debating if I really want to spend the time and gas money, do you think the animals will be less elusive a week after the opener?
Go give it another shot. And hunt hard get away from the roads maybe and glass alot and take your time glassing, make sure you don't rush it
 
I think your expectations of an easy hunt contributed to your lack of success. Also, maybe a stupid question but have you spent much time patiently behind glass? Sometimes if you don't know what you're looking for its not as easy to spot as it may seam.
I admittedly have not spent much time trying to glass for animals in the past, this was my first DIY big game hunt, and my first ever antelope hunt.

I guess I spent way more time driving and looking through the windshield with my unaided eyes, than stopped and looking thru the binoculars.
 
I admittedly have not spent much time trying to glass for animals in the past, this was my first DIY big game hunt, and my first ever antelope hunt.

I guess I spent way more time driving and looking through the windshield with my unaided eyes, than stopped and looking thru the binoculars.
IMO you need to gain vantage points and spend a considerable amount of time patiently glassing if you are hunting open country. Even if you are experienced at glassing, sometimes depending on lighting conditions and other factors, it can take some time to spot the first critter before your eyes learn what they are looking for.
 
I must agree that 2 days is not enough time. You were expecting to find antelope behind every bush because of what you've read.
The first time we hunted antelope it took us a couple of days to even see one. If you can make another trip you would do well to try and stretch it out to several days.
Good luck to you should you make another trip. (y)
 
More glassing...glass an area thoroughly and then pick it apart again. I wasn't there but I feel like you didn't take your time behind the glass.
 
While it seems that quality has declined in recent years you are holding a pronghorn tag to one of the best units in the state. You are worried about a 9 hour drive to get to your hunt unit and only put in 2 days hunting, you really need to get out there and get off the beaten path and glass for animals. You will have to wait a long damn time to draw a tag of that quality again.
 
Vortex Diamondback binoculars, they seem pretty good to me but I am fairly new to this kind of stuff.
They’re good starters. That’s what I had starting out. Hoping you have 8x or 10x power (assuming you don’t have a tripod).

I’ve never hunted Nevada but I can make a lot of safe assumptions. It’s probably hot. The issue with Diamondbacks is they get really nasty to see with heat waves. I tested this this weekend with my Razor UHDs. The heat waves were so bad on my Diamondbacks that the waves had the green tint. If you have cloud coverage, hunt every waking second of that day.

Not saying you need to replace them, but glassing before the heatwaves come is paramount until you get better glass. Pronghorn don’t see well in the dark so if you get on a high spot before first light and glass off of a steady base (backpack, tripod, especially if you have 12x power) and really take your time, you will see more game. They won’t even know you came in unless you step on one.

The diopter on those don’t lock so you may need to make frequent adjustments often as well. Vipers do have a lock.

I like to shotgun glass (look around like a mad man) until I’m convinced I didn’t see anything. Then I will grid very slowly. If I don’t see anything in an hour, move on unless there’s water nearby. Really take your time though. Glassing is my favorite thing about hunting and honestly should be everyone’s. You don’t realize what you pass up when you slooooow doooown.

And like what everyone else is saying; get out there and stay out there. 9 days goes by fast. Dedicate some time to be out there to give yourself a chance.
 
Get back in your truck and go back up there! I've hunted that unit a couple times and the numbers are way down from the old days but there's still antelope. Get off the main road and go find some of the small springs and some water sources and you'll find animals. Bring extra tires too - it's rocky where you need to go. Everyone drives the roads and the animals wise up pretty quick.
I remember seeing very few from the main roads so do some map work and find some water.
 
Get back in your truck and go back up there! I've hunted that unit a couple times and the numbers are way down from the old days but there's still antelope. Get off the main road and go find some of the small springs and some water sources and you'll find animals. Bring extra tires too - it's rocky where you need to go. Everyone drives the roads and the animals wise up pretty quick.
I remember seeing very few from the main roads so do some map work and find some water.
Its early, its likely very hot. Water, find water, find antelope...
 
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