Antelope Traps

Bryan Hockett's

Archaeology & Taphonomy Research

Archaeology & Taphonomy Research

Bryan Hockett's Webpage

The Tobar Antelope Trap, Elko County, Nevada


Relatively few antelope traps made of juniper tree limbs, like this one, can be seen from aerial photographs. The Tobar Antelope Trap is an exception.


The Tobar Antelope Trap is a typical trap type for the northeastern portion of Nevada. In this region of Nevada, cut juniper tree limbs were the preferred material used for construction of the corral. The juniper limbs were often "cross-hatched" with one another, creating a continuous juniper tree limb fence about 3-4 feet tall. Sagebrush may have been inserted within the tree limbs, creating a more substantial corral feature. The wings were often constructed of juniper tree branches only at the point where they began spreading outward from the corral itself. After a short stretch, the remainder of the wings, sometimes 1-2 miles in length, were usually constructed of sagebrush. As a result, archaeologists who find these antelope traps often find the remains of the juniper branch corrals and small sections of wings, but the majority of the wings have rotted away.


The Tobar Trap is located just to the north of one of the largest concentrations of antelope corrals and projectile point concentrations known from western North America. To learn more about why these concentrations may occur at this place, click the link below:


Link 4: Why are the Traps and Projectile Points Concentrated Together in the Spruce Area?


There are several interesting, eyewitness accounts of antelope trapping from the 19th century. Here is one that was written in the New York Times in 1895:


Link 5: Antelope Trap in Arizona


Here are some additional antelope traps and drift fences from Nevada as seen from aerial photographs:


Link 6: Aerial Photos of Antelope Traps and Drift Fences


Link 7: Presentation SAA Memphis April 2012


Link 8: PowerPoint for Presentation SAA Memphis April 2012

A Section of the Fort Sage Drift Fence - Used to Concentrate and Trap Pronghorn Antelope


The Fort Sage Drift Fence is located in western Nevada. In rocky areas, rocks were sometimes stacked in 1 meter (3 feet) high lines in order to trap pronghorn antelope or mountain sheep. In this case, antelope would encounter the rock wall, and rather than jump over it, would walk along the wall, or "drift", until they found an opening. Hunters could wait in ambush anywhere along the wall, hidden in blinds or behind other rocks or trees. It is also possible that wooden corrals were built where they placed gaps in the rock walls.


To learn more about the Fort Sage Drift Fence, as well as our experimental construction of a drift fence, click on the link below:


Link 1: What Did It Take To Build The Fort Sage Drift Fence?


I am currently researching (together with a host of colleagues) additional antelope traps in western Nevada, as well as other large game traps that may have been used for mountain sheep and deer hunting. Our research on antelope traps and other large-scale trapping features was recently published online, and a .pdf is available on the Home Page. Prehistoric antelope traps are more common across the Great Basin and Nevada that once believed, suggesting large game hunting was an important activity throughout much of the prehistoric occupation of the Great Basin. Antelope traps were built with a variety of raw materials and took a variety of shapes. Antelope traps were built at least 3,500 to 5,000 years ago, perhaps longer. Considering the large number of ancient antelope traps that have been found so far in the Great Basin, and in Nevada in particular, this suggests that pronghorn populations were once far greater than they are currently. Additional prehistoric antelope traps are found each year in Nevada. Our SAA paper in Memphis and online publication based on that presentation provides the most up to date overview of the number, distribution, and morphology of prehistoric antelope, deer, and mountain sheep traps in Nevada and the Great Basin.


To learn more about the antiquity of antelope trapping in Nevada, click on the links below:


Link 2a:  Hockett et al. 2013


Link 2b: Hockett and Murphy 2009


Link 3: The Relationship Between Existing Corrals and Projectile Point Concentrations in Northeastern Nevada