What the heck is a “Prairie Racer?”
Is it a new model of a car, boat or motorcycle? Well, it’s none of these. When I moved to Colorado, I had no idea what a prairie racer was. Asking some local residents, they laughed and said, “Oh you mean the prairie goat.”
OK, I’ll bite. They explained that it was another name for the pronghorn antelope. The racer comes from the fact that the pronghorn likes to race cattle, horses, cars or anything that is moving. Goat comes because they will eat anything.
I was told that if I were to drive down a dirt road and spot a group of grazing antelopes close to the road, I should stop, then continue to move very slowly. The antelope would watch with interest, then start moving as I moved. Picking up speed, so would they, as if to challenge me to a race. So I tried it — and it worked.
But I also found if they weren’t interested they would flare their white rump hairs to the other members of the herd and off they would run over the next rise, safe from danger. Most of the time, though, they would stop and stand, watching to see what I was going to do next.
I love taking pictures of wildlife, but most the time the animals are too far out for even the best lens. Of course, as luck would have it, f I don’t have my camera, it seems like that’s when they will be up close and personal. But if I do have the camera, I have found that when trying to take pictures of antelope, if I stop the car, open the door step out, then they are gone. So, I’ve had to learn to be quicker on the draw with the camera, shooting most my pictures from the window of a moving vehicle.
The picture of the pronghorn racer for this article is resting. Only minutes earlier, he tried to race the tractor I was using for working ground of an irrigated hay circle. He would lope beside the tractor for a few hundred yards, stop and just stand, watching me move away with dust following. On the next trip around the hay circle, he would lope beside me again, challenging me. This continued several times, but he soon got bored with my activities, only to lie in the sagebrush to watch as I continued to work the ground, making my impressions in the dirt of his ancestors.
I would slow the tractor and take pictures of him, hoping to catch some different poses. He would raise his head and watch with his keen eyes, not missing my moves. Looking back through my pictures, I was surprised at how many looked like the previous one. He was very alert and didn’t miss anything.
Soon it will be time for the antelopes to have their young. The ranchers and farmers told me that the young hide in the tall barley and hay fields only to be killed by equipment during haying season. I look forward to seeing some antelope babies running alongside their mothers and trying to capture their activities with my camera.