Skip to main content

Overcoming Target Panic for Montana Pronghorn Success

When bowhunters are forced to teach themselves the entire shot process again, success is sure to feel even sweeter than it normally would.

 Overcoming Target Panic for Montana Pronghorn Success

Pronghorn antelope are the fastest land animals in North America and have binocular vision which makes hunting them incredibly difficult. This iconic animal of the West is a sought-after trophy and delectable table fare.

Many Western states including Montana, Idaho and Wyoming offer great opportunity to chase these animals with opportunities for both archery and rifle hunts. Montana — the state I choose to call home — offers a special, archery-only tag that allows you to hunt these speed goats wherever they naturally occur.

I chose to forfeit the opportunity to hunt antelope with a rifle and get the archery-only tag. It has been a goal of mine for many years to harvest a speed goat with my bow, but unfortunately, I came down with a nasty case of target panic just a month and a half before season was set to open.

For those of you who don’t know what target panic is: It is a completely mental issue that causes you to become uneasy before you take a shot. It can be so severe — at least in my case — that you get nauseous when you look through your peep sight. After an unsuccessful 3D shoot due to this ailment, I took off down the road to recovery.


Dozens of arrows a day — at no more than five yards — blank bailing, shooting with eyes closed, drawing and lowering with my pin on target and even counting for five seconds with my finger on the release and pin on target. All of these techniques partnered with tedious repetition proved to cure me of my ailment. By the beginning of August — the season started August 15th — I was able to begin shooting outdoors and stretching my distances.


I found quickly that all of this close-range practice helped me regain my shooting ability and bolster it. My groups were tighter, and my confidence was back and shooting 70-80 yards was easy. With my broadheads flying true, I was ready to hit the field.

Joe-Ferronato-walking-in-field.jpg

A few day hunts left me with nothing but the disappointment of failed stalks, although with plenty of season left to I wasn’t going to let myself get discouraged. The opening weekend of bird season in Montana — Labor Day weekend — led a group of close friends to central Montana, bird dogs by the heel, for a chance at sharptail and sage grouse. Of course, I had my bow close by because these birds oftentimes share habitat with antelope.

The area proved to be rich with both birds and goats and after a few failed stalks I felt as if the ample opportunity would eventually lead to my success. On the second day we were scouting new ground for sage grouse after a successful morning on sharpies when I spotted an antelope in a very stalkable position. He was moving toward a fence line and was heading right for a small drainage, which would supply plenty of cover to conceal my movement as I cut the distance.

I began the stalk by running — yes, actually running — to cover as much ground as I could while I knew I was out of sight. When I neared the area where I thought I would be able to put eyes on the buck, I slowed my pace and walked in a quarter squat with my head held low.




Tucked up against some sage brush, I gingerly raised my head to see if I could see my quarry. He was right where I wanted him to be. “That never happens,” I whispered. He was just over 100 yards from my current position, but a small depression provided perfect cover for me to slip in, unnoticed.

I crawled slowly, but I still moved with purpose — opportunities like this don’t always last long. I cut the distance down to 60 yards, a very comfortable distance for a shot. When I raised my rangefinder the goat’s great vision caught a glimpse of my movement, though not enough for him to spook. He merely walked 12 yards further and again presented a perfect broadside shot. 72 yards is what my rangefinder read; I dialed the single pin on my Option Archery sight and waited. I felt no wind, the buck was alert, but his head turned away from me and I was calm.

After making sure I was confident with the shot, I drew my bow — reminding myself of my shot process — and anchored. As my pin settled, the slight movement and bobbing of the pin on the goat had no effect on my nerves. I was still calm. My thumb was in contact with my release and there was a comfortable pressure. I increased the pressure between my shoulder blades and felt the crisp break of the release as my arrow sored at its target. When the sound of the string reached the antelope’s ears he lunged forward. My arrow met its mark but slightly back — a liver shot — but the Ozcut Elite broadhead did its job.


My buck ran about 100 yards and bedded in the sage brush. I knew I wanted to get another shot in him to ease any sort of suffering, so I repositioned myself to crawl in and take another shot. Unfortunately, he stood before I was ready, and I wasn’t able to connect with a second shot. Hunting in a sea of checkerboarded public and private land, he worked his way onto private and once again bedded down.

After tracking down the landowner I gained permission to access their property and retrieve my goat. I quickly located the buck and snuck into position, not knowing if he was still alive or if he had expired. I found him — still barely hanging on — and put one more arrow in him to finish the job. While the time elapsed felt like a lifetime to me, it was just over an hour and I got to lay my hands on my first archery antelope.

fresh-antelope-meat.jpg

The temperatures were reaching their mid-day highs so I quickly gutted him to ensure the meat would cool. After the guts were out, I loaded the animal into the load shelf of my Stone Glacier backpack and carried him a mile back to the truck.

My first archery antelope was one to remember. The struggle of once again becoming comfortable with my bow and making a shot on antelope was hard to stay the least. Unfortunately — even though the shot broke clean and flew true — when the buck jumped the string I hit him slightly too far back, but even with his movement my arrow hit its mark and was a lethal shot. I am grateful to the landowner who let me recover him and now I get to eat some delicious meat for months to come. I will definitely be participating in this hunt again next year.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Best Whitetail Shot Placement with a Rifle

Best Whitetail Shot Placement with a Rifle

Craig Boddington breaks down where hunters should aim on a whitetail that provides the best possible margin for error.

Stuffed Elk Backstrap Recipe

Stuffed Elk Backstrap Recipe

Take your venison loin to a whole new level with this delicious reverse-seared stuffed elk backstrap. Smoking the backstrap on a Camp Chef Woodwind pellet grill first, then finishing it on a blazing-hot skillet or flattop, creates a perfectly cooked, medium-rare steak with a crispy, seared exterior. The filling of diced mushrooms and creamy Boursin cheese adds a whole new level of amazing flavors to an otherwise classic smoked venison loin.

Sighting In the CZ .557 Carbine

Sighting In the CZ .557 Carbine

Kevin Steele sights in his CZ .557 carbine rifle that he plans to use on a Colorado elk hunt.

Venison Cheeseburger Bites Recipe

Venison Cheeseburger Bites Recipe

If you're tired of the same old jalapeno and cream cheese poppers, here's a completely different take on the popular party appetizer. Easy to make, and incredibly delicious, these mini cheeseburgers, wrapped in bacon, make the perfect one-bite-fits-all snack for your next tailgate party or hunting camp.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Check out the new fleet of off-road options for hunters.2020 ATV Buyer's Guide Wheels Afield

2020 ATV Buyer's Guide

Rick Sosebee - June 23, 2020

Check out the new fleet of off-road options for hunters.

We evaluate the 6.5 in a real-life case study. Is The 6.5 The Perfect Hunting Caliber? Ammo

Is The 6.5 The Perfect Hunting Caliber?

Mike Schoby

We evaluate the 6.5 in a real-life case study.

The new Moultrie X-6000 series cellular trail camera and the Moultrie Mobile app are redefining remote and low-impact scouting. Here's why and how one or a network of them can help you.Is a Cellular Trail Camera Right for You? Accessories

Is a Cellular Trail Camera Right for You?

Josh Honeycutt - September 15, 2020

The new Moultrie X-6000 series cellular trail camera and the Moultrie Mobile app are...

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these guns.Which Firearm Is Best for Bear Defense? Survival

Which Firearm Is Best for Bear Defense?

Larry Case - July 11, 2018

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these...

See More Trending Articles

More North America Big Game

A successful western hunt doesn't begin with elk. You first need to develop some experience as well as skills.Western Hunting 101 North America Big Game

Western Hunting 101

Joseph von Benedikt

A successful western hunt doesn't begin with elk. You first need to develop some experience as...

Take care of your feet and you'll find more big-game success.Multi-Purpose Footwear For Advanced Bowhunting Clothing

Multi-Purpose Footwear For Advanced Bowhunting

Tony J. Peterson

Take care of your feet and you'll find more big-game success.

Here's the down and dirty on where, how, and when to hunt the western pronghorn.DIY Guide to Hunting Pronghorn Antelope North America Big Game

DIY Guide to Hunting Pronghorn Antelope

Kali Parmley

Here's the down and dirty on where, how, and when to hunt the western pronghorn.

Montana's vast wilderness provides the backdrop for a test of fortitude on the hunt for trophy black bears.A Long Way Up: Montana Backcountry Black Bears North America Big Game

A Long Way Up: Montana Backcountry Black Bears

Joseph von Benedikt

Montana's vast wilderness provides the backdrop for a test of fortitude on the hunt for trophy...

See More North America Big Game

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now