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  • Where are the Pronghorn?

    Pia wantsipe toowenene’ iten
    Pia wantsipe toowenene’ iten
    Pennan tapai tatawento toowenene’ ite

    The big antelope buck-pe slowly grazing while standing
    The big antelope buck-pe slowly grazing while standing
    Sun beams flashing, hitting him while he stands and grazes. 

    "Antelope Song," a Western Shoshone round dance song [1]

    Pronghorns need to drink water every day.  During summer it is often several times a day.  Hunters know this. When hunting season opens in SE Oregon in August, many hunters will set up near waterholes.  And, camouflaged, wait behind rock blinds, brush, or on a low rim - if close enough to the water or a passage to water.  Scopes and high-powered rifles allow flexibility on what “close” means. About 2500 pronghorn antelope hunting tags are distributed by lottery by ODFW each year.  This is about 10% of Oregon’s estimated pronghorn population of 25,000. [2] 

    Indigenous peoples hunted and killed pronghorn for at least 10,000 years as testified by the remains in some archaeological excavations.  “Procuring” has been documented from the early Holocene in SE Oregon. [3]  Evidence in the Northern Great Basin shows communal hunts, usually with traps at drive sites with barriers/fences of stone, juniper, or brush, was an important method of capture and killing. [4} 

    Petroglyphs resembling pronghorn antelope are very rare in the rock art of SE Oregon, given the hundreds of rock art sites and the tens of thousand of images.  Bighorn sheep motifs are more recognizable and more frequent, but they are not common as they are in some other parts the Great Basin and in the Southwest. 

    Selected Pronghorn Petroglyphs in Lake County, Oregon 

    [1]  Transcribed and translated by Beverly Crum, ca. 1975. In Steven J. Crum, 1999. “Julian Steward’s Vision of the Great Basin: A Critique and Response." In Julian Steward and the Great Basin: The Making of an Anthropologist.  

    [2] Currently about 2000 pronghorn summer on the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in Lake County. About 60 bow and rifle hunting tags issued annually for the Refuge.

    2015 is the centenary of a low point for pronghorn.  In 1915 in the western U.S. about 13,000 remained of the estimated 35 million roaming a century earlier.  Some experts were resigned to the species’ eventual extinction due to killing, grazing, and partitioning of open lands.

    [3] Two examples of studies including references to pronghorn remains in early Holocene archaeological contexts:
    - A Flaked Stone Crescent from a Stratified, Radiocarbon-Dated Site in the Northern Great Basin. Geoffrey M. Smith, et al. North American Archaeologist July 2014 vol. 35 no. 3 257-276.
    - Early and Middle Holocene Archaeology of the Northern Great Basin. 2004. Edited by D. L. Jenkins, T. J. Connolly, and C. M. Aikens, University of Oregon Anthropological Papers 62.

    [4] About 120 hunting features and kill locales are now documented in Nevada and Eastern California. See studies and reviews of archaeological research and ethnography in the Great Basin by Brooke S. Arkush, Brian Hockett, and Patrick M. Lubinski.