Stalk Hunting


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Mencius
November 29, 2012, 08:38 AM
I was thinking about trying out stalk hunting this year. I have never done it before and was wondering if anyone has any insights for me. I have walked up on them before while squirrel hunting. Then, though, I typically don't see them until it is too late because I am looking up in the trees. I have almost exclusively tree stand hunted up until now.

Couple questions:

1) Rifle or shotgun? I have a pretty light weight 30-06 with a 3-9x scope on it I was thinking of taking. The woods are fairly thick where I am going so most shots would most likely be <60 yards. If shotgun buckshot or slugs?

2) Binoculars or not. Do you think looking through binoculars would help much? It would definitely allow me to see a little bit further into the trees, but would also create extra movement when trying to get the gun into position when(!) I see one worth shooting.

Hoping to get out there this Saturday morning just after the sun gets up, maybe 7:30.

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Art Eatman
November 29, 2012, 11:06 AM
If the rifle, keep the scope set on 3X. If the shotgun, use slugs--but do some practice and make sure of your sight-in.

If you know the area, get out before daylight and sit in a likely spot which might give a look at a buck headed for his bedding area. After sunup, begin sneaky-snaking. As you've figured out, you will be looking horizontally, not vertically. :)

You can stop, lean against a tree, and use binoculars. If you see a buck, look away from him before changing (very slowly and smoothly) from binoculars to gun. Jerky motions create alarm, as will looking directly into an animal's eyes.

MCgunner
November 29, 2012, 11:26 AM
For spot and stalk hunting, you need open ground. Works well with mulies in the western mountains, not so much dense woods. You can't spot, you won't stalk. Binos are essential, even a spotting scope is nice. I love doing this, but it's not possible on small acreages in the woods and brush. Too, the spot part is easier on mulies, the stalk part not so much. :D That's the challenge I always liked out west on the mulies.

I suspect what you're calling "stalk" is properly known as "still hunting'", easing slowly through the woods while trying to be quiet and keeping your eyes and ears open. Not very productive in denser habitats. Taking a stand is really the only way you'll get much in this type of habitat, at least in MY experience. I've taken a doe and a spike buck, one little 6 point this way, but you won't see the big boys very often.

When I was younger, impatient, and full of energy, I was like the buzzard on the telephone pole...."Patience hell, I'm gonna KILL somethin'." But, now days, I'm a patient stand hunter. :D

As to weapon, I'll ALWAYS choose a rifle over a shotgun for anything, but flying birds. I own a little stainless remington M7 with a 2x10 Weaver on it. It's very light, very fast to the shoulder and on target with 2x, but spot and stalk can reach out across a canyon 300+ yards with the higher power to help. It's a 3/4 MOA rifle in .308 Winchester and as home in the woods as the mountain canyons. I love that thing. :D

courtgreene
November 29, 2012, 11:39 AM
doing this in the woods is darn near impossible but not completely so. The key, find the edges between pines and hardwoods, and stay in the pine needles. The enemy is the ground that crunches beneath you. Pine needles don't do so as much as dried leaf piles. Also, you can see sticks that may snap better through needles. It's still not easy, but can be a lot of fun. Do it for the experience but don't think you're going to see or shoot anything. That way you will only be pleasantly surprised.

MutinousDoug
November 29, 2012, 12:05 PM
I've had fair success still hunting elk in Colorado but terrible with mule deer. I can often fool elk after they've heard me by cow calling and staying out of sight. Mulies don't put up with that and are gone as soon as I've made a mistake.
I hunt the black timber and have never taken a shot over 60 yds. Binoculars are handy for peering through the understory to look for horns or count feet. For 60 yd shots I prefer open sights but that seems a long shot for a slug gun. I hunt the muzzle loading season so I'm not your best source for centerfire recommendations.
In any case, plan on standing, looking and listening twice as much as you are moving (up wind) from place to place. Even at that, I scare off or alert as many animals as I see before they see me.
It may not be as productive as sitting in a good stand, but it's a fun way to spend time in the woods.

helotaxi
November 29, 2012, 01:06 PM
I shot my deer hunting with a partner exactly as you describe in the mountains here in south central New Mexico. Stand hunting is unheard of here. Visibility isn't good enough in that part of the management unit to spot and stalk. Most of the bubbas just drive the forest roads in their trucks and hope to get lucky and see something. We actually got out of the truck and walked the ridges and it paid off. I shot the biggest deer that the butcher had seen come from the area in a long time. Shot him at around 25yds with a Marlin 308MX. 2-7x scope set on 2x.

jmorris
November 29, 2012, 02:05 PM
I almost exclusively stalk hunt hogs at night with rifles.

We use game radios to alert us when they are by the bait then sneek up on the position. Pretty easy if your quite, helps to get all the leaves off the trails during the daytime.

WayBeau
November 29, 2012, 02:41 PM
One thing that I'm surprised no one mentioned is don't look for the WHOLE deer. When 'still hunting' you're more likely to see PART of the deer first. So look for antlers sticking out from behind a tree, or a tail flapping. If it doesn't look like it belongs, it probably doesn't. Just move slowly and keep your eyes and ears open. I've killed plenty of deer while walking to my stand because I heard them moving before I saw them.

Good luck and have fun.

rbernie
November 29, 2012, 03:36 PM
I've had pretty good luck finding deer that came out of their day beds to forage or to drink in mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Then again, a lot of that luck comes from the relatively high density of deer in NoTexas as well as being willing to learn the patterns for an area so that I have an idea of where the deer will favor at any given time. Since I don't own the land that I hunt and can't really spend a lot of time over the course of the year seeing how the deer are moving, I have learned to dedicate a certain amount of time to working the acreage on foot before getting really serious about taking a shot. Finding deer/hog trails are easy where I hunt, but knowing the specific timing of usage is more problematic and requires time in the field to figure out.

For example, last Christmas break I spent a full day on foot chasing a handful of does over 3000 acres of NoTexas scrub. I sure wouldn't have minded a clear shot at any of 'em, but even in failing to get a good shot I was getting the chance to see where they would (and would not) go while foraging and while moving under stress. The next AM, I sat out sunrise in a stand to see what was moving, and at 10AM I started to work my way toward where I figured that I'd find any deer not bedded down. I spotted a bunch of does within minutes of leaving the jeep track, and with less than twenty minutes of stalk (belly crawling, mostly) I had two of them on the ground. I considered that a superb result, given how I'd only put in one day of working the ground prior to the first shot.

It also bears mentioning that a lot of my hunting is done at the edges of scrub thickets. The deer in my neck of the woods bed down in the thickets but get up every 3-4 hours to forage in the tastier growth in the small clearings that develop over time. Once the deer are up and moving in/around the clearings, they become easier to stalk because the thickets and terrain can be used to the advantage of the hunter.

d2wing
November 29, 2012, 03:47 PM
It can be done in thick cover. Works best when leaves are wet or damp. A little breeze helps cover sound and movement as does snow or rain. You have to be very careful and move very slowly. I got very close to a big buck that way and have walked up on grazing deer. A rifle is always better than a shotgun. you may have to be able to get down pretty low to go down a deer trail as they can almost tunnel through thick stuff. I like a 30-30 with open sights because it is short, light and comes to bear quicky if needed. To me it is the most rewarding kind of hunt and the hardest. Use binoculars, look for parts of deer. Go slow stop often. Try it, practice makes perfect. If you make any noise freeze for several minutes. Make sure your geat doesn't flash or rattle.

interlock
November 30, 2012, 04:22 AM
this is how i do nearly all of my hunting. it works well in the woods, but you need to stick to the paths a bit, the ground in the woods is noisy. Binos are a really essential part of your gear. 7 or 8 x 40's are ideal in my experience. i use a remmy model 7 in 7mm08 with a bushnel trophy 3 - 9 x 40. I use sticks as well.

the most important thing is to hunt slowly into the wind, use your binos a lot and move really slowly. dont look for the full deer. twitching ears - the horizontal line or the animals belly even the little bit of white on the muzzle. our roe are very crepascular so i get most right on last light.

it is a dificult hunting method, but the more you do it the more deer will get in your larder....

you can come out with me if you would like.... but lincolnshire is a long old drive from america

steve

Andrew Leigh
November 30, 2012, 05:51 AM
We call it the "walk and stalk" here and it does require some bushcraft, things to look out for;

- Wind direction, take a shaker with powder to check wind direction.
- Rapid movements as mentioned are a killer.
- Glass the area for some time to make sure there is not a buck there already that you may scare away. You can't stalk what you can see so take care to find them with the binoc's before moving on.
- Camo is important.
- Stealth is crucial, seen the size of a deer ear, they can hear you from far.
- Have some form of hydration with you.
- Check that when you do find something to shoot make sure you can get it back out of the woods, you may find yourself in accessible parts.
- Don't get lost, take note of the way by which you came.
- Don't walk through open ground but rather skirt around under the cover of the brush.
- Make sure that you have nothing on you that will rattle, rustle etc.
- It is also OK just to sit for a while near a game trail and wait.
- A rifle for me as you may not get into shotgun range.
- Never make yourself a silhouette, stand behind or in front of bushes, not next to.
- Take your time, if the animal looks skittish then sit for a while and wait to it looks more relaxed before proceeding.

Just a couple, have fun.

1911 guy
November 30, 2012, 07:00 AM
1) Have a plan, don't just wander around.

2) Know the area well enough to plot likely bedding and feeding areas. Know the travel routes. Enter downwind of these so your scent is blown behind you, not out in front of you.

3) you'll do a lot of stalking before you do any spotting. When you do spot a deer, make a mental note of where he's headed and likely destination. Work the wind to intercept. Don't profile yourself against the skyline, either.

4) Move slow. If you're new at this and think you're going slow enough, slow down you're going too fast. If you think you're close enough to something to be heard, move when the wind blows. Things moving with the wind will mask your own sound.

5) Every sound in the woods is made by something. Maybe it's just the wind, but assuming that will eventually cost you a deer. Take time to make an informed decision about the source of the sound.

6) Look for horizontal lines. Most stuff in the woods is vertical. Look for parts of an animal. You'll seldom see an entire animal (regardless of species) until you're located it by noticing an ear, eyeball, line of the back, etc.

7) Watch for movement. Any and all movement is caused by something. It might be a bush waving in the wind, or it might be a deer rubbing a sapling.

8) Don't expect all loud noises to be another hunter spoiling your spot. Deer are like a herd of cows when they think nothing is around. Sounds like my blind Aunt Mabel walking through the woods. But when they supect something's not right, they can move so quietly you'll swear they were ghosts.

9) Pay attention to your nose. Deer have a musky smell to them, regardless of sex. Bucks smell stronger. Make a note to get a good whiff of it when dressing a deer. You'll be able to smell them on the hoof after that.

10) Learn to age tracks. If a track is minutes old, sit down a while. Deer often wander away from something unfamiliar (you, if you didn't spook them badly) then come back to satisfy what must pass for curiosity in the animal world.

11) If the deer does not circle back to a fresh track, begin tracking the deer. Even when spooked, deer do not go far at one time. they run, stop and check their backtrail, then run again if you follow too close or fast. Refer to number three.

12) If you're in very good shape and have a very good sense of direction, it is possible to run down a deer on foot. They cannot do the long distances we can. Keep after them and they'll exhaust. I don't recommend this to anyone over 30 or anyone who doesn't know the land they're hunting better than their own living room. Followed my cousin doing this once. Once. He was chasing the deer, I was chasing him. Thought I'd fall down and die from exhaustion and cramping. Most miserable day of my life to that point. I was seventeen and in good shape. Or so I thought. I'd do it again if I was starving and had already eaten the dog. And the neighbors dog. Maybe.

13) Dress in warm, thin layers that can be either opened to cool yourself or rolled up and stowed in a pocket or pack. Carry at least snacks, maybe a full blown lunch.

14) Learn your personal limit for snap shooting moving deer. Unless you're very lucky or very good, it's not going to be awfully far. If you have to pass on the shot, refer to number three.

I'm going to bed now. Probably going to dream about deer hunting now. If I'm lucky.

beatledog7
November 30, 2012, 08:06 AM
Mencius,

Good for you in this choice! Spot and stalk IS hunting. Sitting in a tree stand by a rigged plot, even a well planned one in a carefully selected spot, maybe rattling or calling every once in a while, is more what I would call baiting and waiting. That's not hunting--that's fishing. Sure it can put meat in the freezer, but so can dangling a worm on a string.

Without getting deeply into Webster, we all know that hunting for something we wish to find is active rather than passive. To hunt is to seek, to look for, to search out. Sitting in one place hoping a deer walks by does not sound like hunting to me.

So again, KUDOS to you. Best of luck in your hunt.

Mencius
November 30, 2012, 09:21 AM
Thanks for all the tips. I think y'all really helped crystallize what I had sort of fuzzy in my head of how to do it. And you did come up with some things I had not really thought off. I know what you mean about the musky smell. I never thought I could actually get close enough to one in the woods to smell it, but I will definitely try to employ all my senses.

The woods I am going I know pretty well, most likely not going to get anywhere I would not be able to get back from. Just in case, though, I did look at Google Earth and kinda map out where I am going along with likely bedding spots.

You are right, though, I do feel like this is more like hunting than putting up a stand on the edge of a corn field. Of course, I like that pretty good too...

Again, thanks for all the tips. I am going to don my orange and hit it tomorrow morning and will report back with results. I am assuming that if I see anything I will probably just see a tail running off in the distance and hear a snort or something, but you never know.

...and yeah, it would be tough for me to drive to Lincolnshire, hunt, and be back to go with the family to get a Christmas tree that afternoon.

MCgunner
November 30, 2012, 12:32 PM
Good for you in this choice! Spot and stalk IS hunting. Sitting in a tree stand by a rigged plot, even a well planned one in a carefully selected spot, maybe rattling or calling every once in a while, is more what I would call baiting and waiting. That's not hunting--that's fishing. Sure it can put meat in the freezer, but so can dangling a worm on a string.

Without getting deeply into Webster, we all know that hunting for something we wish to find is active rather than passive. To hunt is to seek, to look for, to search out. Sitting in one place hoping a deer walks by does not sound like hunting to me.

:rolleyes: Then tell me why they call it duck hunting or dove hunting or quail hunting, why isn't spear fishing "fish hunting". Then there is alligator hunting, but the same technique on catfish is called drop lining.

I enjoy fishing, so if I'm fishing on the deer stand, well, I like it. I'll take more deer than the still hunters do this way in most woods situations and am more likely to get a nice buck this way. I've done both, so I know this for a fact. But, every hunter must suit themselves as to why they're in the woods and what floats their boat. If walking around in the woods is more enjoyable than actually shooting something, I have no problem with anyone doing it. And, you can always get lucky....I have.

Not saying the OP shouldn't try some still hunting. It's enjoyable and when I was younger and less patient, I did a lot of it, usually unsuccessfully, but occasionally got lucky. A previous post also is true, where there's LOTS of deer, an overpopulation, it works better. That's probably natures way, actually. I can remember scoring twice still hunting in Llano county in one weekend back about 1968. These were doe, though, and, well, they looked more the size of dogs than deer. The place was just teaming with animals, deer in herds like antelope on an African plain. I probably saw 300 deer in two days, many running in groups of 10 or more. Had a little buck walk right up and munch on a tree I was sitting beside while taking a break and watching ducks land on a tank about 100 yards away. I put my crosshairs on him and could see ticks on him. I probably could have killed him with a hatchet, but it was a doe hunt, so he lived.

Where there's not so many deer and there is hunting pressure, just sit, watch a trail, and live with it. http://www.clicksmilies.com/s1106/lachen/laughing-smiley-014.gif That pretty much describes most of the whitetail hunting I've done in the past. It varies, though, and where I can successfully still hunt, I really enjoy the experience. I'm not paying a day lease fee to walk around in the woods, though. I'd like to shoot something and I'll use the methods I have to for this. Rattling was mentioned, the bonus to this is rutting bucks can be big, nice deer. Don't work on does.

Another story, I found an ad in the local paper back in the 80s, "doe hunt" for 50 bucks. So, not yet having a place to hunt and not getting to hunt often as I was broke, young with a kid, and hunting costs money in Texas, I called 'em. I had just bought a little Rossi 92 in .357 magnum. I wanted to shoot a deer with it, but knew I had to be inside 100 yards. I asked the guy on the phone if he thought I could get that close, "Sure" was the reply. I took my Roberts along just in case. The place was about a 30 minute drive south and I KNEW there were lots of deer around there. I says, "What time should I show up?" expecting 4AM or something to get on stand by sun up. He says, "Well, I have a slot open at 10AM"......:what: OOOOOOkiedokie then.

So, I drove out there, one of the Welder ranches, they own half of south Texas, and met the guy at the gate. He was a game biologist that worked for Welder and was culling does. So, we're driving down this ranch road in his Toyota 4 Runner and I see a herd over there, a herd over there. He says, "Oh, that' one'll be nice in a few years, he's about a 14 pointe"r....:what: A herd runs across the road about 50 yards away, I jump out, but can't get on one. We drive in a little farther, there's a herd of doe grazing like cattle about 80 yards away. He says, "Can you take one of 'em". I think he doubted the little .357. I rolled the window down, took aim, shot. Deer jumpted up about 4 feet, took off in the high grass. We get out to go look, huge blood spot on the ground, great blood trail. Meanwhile, I see a doe, think it must be wounded, lower the gun on it, it's just walking along. It takes a poop and keeps walking. :what: A deer taking a crap? Don't see THAT every day and it CAN'T be wounded! The guy had followed the blood while I was doing this, found the doe, about 90 lbs i guess, laying about 20 yards from where she was hit. I was in an out of that place in 45 minutes with a gutted doe! Yeah, I was still hunting from a TRUCK!

So, you see, success often depends on where you're hunting. I've hunted many more places where there was low population density and high hunting pressure than the other way around. Hunting the Welder place was not even fun, even if I'd been on foot! Just too danged easy! And, it's not even a high fence ranch, but there are a LOT of acres of land there.

Sitting on my little 10 acre chunk of paradise, I've taken a lot of deer and hogs. There's lots of deer out there, but there's a few 10 acre chunks of paradise around me and the hunting pressure is there. I heard the guy behind me connect a few days ago about 5:30PM. My turn will come as it always does. I'm on the fence line of a larger ranch and I get 'em crossing through my place a lot. I feed 'em, but it's rare that they'll come to the feeder in broad daylight after season starts. They go there at night, along with the bazillions of hogs I have out there. There is simply NO way to still hunt such a small property, but that's okay, it's a place to hunt and for more'n just deer. I trap hogs there, I've shot a lot of dove there, and I still wanna have a tank dug to attract the ducks, thousands of ducks, geese, and sandhills in the area that fly over. When it's wet in the back, I have big numbers of ducks that land there, natural low spot.

After this litany, I just want to point out that the good deer hunter adapts his style to the situation. I've had situations where still hunting actually worked as good or better than stand hunting, but that's where there's lots of deer and low hunting pressure. It's all about enjoyment, though, and if still hunting is the only way you'll hunt, knock yourself out. I, however, won't limit myself to one style. I will improvise and adapt. :D Of course, that's really good policy in a state with about 5 acres of public hunting all located in the dense woods of east Texas and about ALL in low density habitat. You wanna still hunt successfully here, you'd better have a large hill country lease. I did have a lease out in West Texas, 13,000 acres, GREAT spot and stalk hunting because it was rugged open desert. However, I did a lot of sitting in the brushy draws where the deer were, too. I never used a stand there, just sat on a rock or something and watched from the rim of a draw. Out there, driving deer through the draws works pretty well if you have a number of hunters that'll work together. I never left there without SOMETHING if only a doe. One hunt, spike buck, doe, javelina. That was fun, all shot while spot and stalk hunting. One hunt, got a nice 8 point and a doe. I miss that place.

MCgunner
November 30, 2012, 01:00 PM
Oh, BTW, weapon of choice can dictate your hunting style. I would not consider still hunting with a handgun, for instance. I want a solid rest when I take a shot at an animal with a handgun. Spot and stalk, perhaps, with my .30-30 contender, but I've always used a rifle in open country.

helotaxi
November 30, 2012, 01:31 PM
For stand hunting, the "hunting" occurs before the stand is even hung. Gotta know where to set up the ambush before you set up the ambush.

sleepyone
November 30, 2012, 02:13 PM
I agree with previous posts concerning wooded areas. Our land is heaviliy covered in Oaks and briars. Every stand we have placed involved huge amounts of clearing. The leaves and twigs on the ground make it near impossible to sneak up on anything. If you decide to stand or sit against a tree and wait for something to walk by, you will be covered in ticks in short order. Briars are no fun either. For that reason, we are reduced to bait and wait hunting. My stand is only 50 yards from the feeder. The farthest I have ever had to shoot is 110 yards.

beatledog7
November 30, 2012, 02:20 PM
To those who responded to my hunting vs waiting post, I get where you're coming from, and I'm not opposed to anyone who hunts from a stand. And I get it that a lot of research and hard work goes into preparing and/or choosing a spot for that stand.

My semi-rant about "deer waiting" is just an expression of one guy's opinion, and it matters no more or less than anyone else's. Climbing up into a stand at dawn and sitting there for hours needing to pee is just not appealing to me. If I'm gonna get a deer it'll be based on my ability to go find one, get close enough for a humane kill shot, and, as they say, do my part.

All that said, the deer shot from a stand is every bit as tasty as the one shot via spot and stalk. No doubt about that.

Art Eatman
November 30, 2012, 02:37 PM
"deer waiting" seems to me to be imitating cougars and indigenes. Conserves energy, right? A noble and desirable goal? :D

gspn
November 30, 2012, 02:48 PM
Rifle. Keep it on 3x while stalking. Binos are used 99% of time when u need an optic...its less movement than shouldering rifle. Be patient and glass everything...remember...every angle in the woods changes with every step. If you can stalk on a trail of some sort it makes it easier...and after a rain u can b dead silent.

Ive successfully stalked whitetail with rifle, blackpowder, and bow. Its a great way to hunt. Many days ill start off on a stand and if nothing shows up ill stalk. Depending on the conditions i might glass every two or three steps. Ive been surprised several times with how close i got to a deer that i never knew was there...pay attention! :). Its not good for your heart to be the one who gets surprised.

Good luck

Please forgive any typos...im using an ipad...the worst device ever created for typing.

22-rimfire
November 30, 2012, 03:13 PM
Still hunting is probably the most rewarding of all forms of deer hunting. (By rewarding, I mean personal satisfaction versus game count.) Whether or not you can do it successfully is another matter. Stalking is a bit different but along the same lines and commonly done in the West where you can see long distances and move relatively quietly.

If you have snow cover, stalking can be very rewarding as well. Basically you are tracking and looking ahead of you trying to spot the deer your are tracking. You can move relatively quietly, but so can the game.

In the woods, pay attention to the wind, obviously noise and excessive movement. Yes to binos. In fact, if you are stalking a deer that you previoiusly sighted at longer distance, binos are essential. But having 10x or 12x binos is probably un-necessary and pretty useless. You simply want to augment your vision versus searching for a deer at many yards in the woods.

Shooting... practice quick shots or as they say "snap shots". How well your gun fits you makes a huge difference. If the rifle is scoped with a variable power scope, keep the scope set at 3 or 4x. You want the scope set at a power that fits your "mind's eye". For example, prior to the acceptance of auto focus digital SLR cameras, I generally framed my pictures in my mind as either a wide angle shot or essentially at about 105mm. The scope can be the same. You pull the rifle up to sight and you see what you are expecting and hopefully the cross hairs are very close to where you need to be.

I would choose a rifle every time over a shotgun. But you might consider a handgun as a reasonable option.

1911 guy
November 30, 2012, 03:34 PM
Regarding rifle or shorgun, I'll choose a rifle every time I have the option. However, if you know shots will be 60 yards or less, it's sort of a draw. If you do opt for the shotgun, make sure you've sighted it in for the particular slug you're using (friends don't let friends use buckshot on deer). It would come down to which (rifle or shotgun) you felt most comfortable carrying and shooting quickly.

brainwake
November 30, 2012, 05:51 PM
I think the hardest part about stalking is that you spend so much focus on being quite, that you don't focus enough on looking for the deer.

I always seem to jump them then think, dang....I should have seen that.

blarby
November 30, 2012, 06:27 PM
You haven't lived till you've stalked flocks of wild canada geese in grass fields !

It teaches you all about jerky movements, active listening, and prey driving.

1911 Guy has some great advice !

CApighunter
November 30, 2012, 10:28 PM
I only hunted one weekend and came up empty this year and I tried a mix of stalking and glassing a large area. The area I glassed had tons of sign, but only saw one doe the entire time. When I was stalking, what I would do is walk the forest service roads and watch for tracks. On the second day, I found some large buck tracks that left the road and skirted along the edge of a creek bottom. About 10 yards off the road, I found fresh dropping that were still steaming on the old cattle trail. I continued down the trail until I heard a branch snap in front of me, I could hear the antlers hitting low branches. I trailed the deer for another 5 minutes, before I tried to flank him and get a shot, but he managed to slip away. At one point I was within 30 yard and could only see bits and pieces, but there was no shot due to the thick brush. My record of 0-5 seasons is pretty disapointing. My hunt for the elusive California buck continues...
CApighunter

MCgunner
November 30, 2012, 10:51 PM
You haven't lived till you've stalked flocks of wild canada geese in grass fields !


That's how I shot the end of my 870 Wingmaster off, got some mud in it, didn't realize it, when I was army crawling along a grassy fence to get a shot at some Canadas in a field. Was fun and I got a big'n out of 'em. Made for a memory if nothing else. :D

1911 guy
December 1, 2012, 02:53 AM
Whether to "stalk" or "ambush" is based a lot on what you're hunting and the terrain you're hunting it in. Personal preference for a particular style should be pretty far down the list. I've hunted some areas like sleepyone mentions. Everything is so overgrown with briars (reclaimed farmland is terrible for this) that sneaking anywhere is almost impossible. Then it's time to thrash around in the brush during the off season and decide where you're going to put your stand come fall and season opener.

Prett much, stalking or standing involves the same amount of legwork, you just do it in different phases of the hunt.

Mencius
December 1, 2012, 06:24 PM
Well, I went out this morning and gave it a whirl. You can, of course, skip to the next to the last paragraph if you just want to know the conclusion.

I was going to some land behind my mom's house. Pulled up to her house just as it was getting light enough to see at all and had a herd of about 8 run in front of me out of her pear trees. She still says I cannot shoot them that close to the house...

Thought at least they were moving around some. I started walked to where I was going to start and ran another solo deer out of the field her house is in. Still too dark to really see much detail. Seemed like a decent size deer, but could not tell much other than that.

By the time I got into the woods good it had gotten light enough to see fairly well. I had been walking and stopping the whole time and thought I had entered the woods pretty quietly. I was glassing with the binoculars and looking around a ton. It is fairly thick and I probably cannot see far enough to really do this well in here. It was fairly still with an occasional light breeze from varying directions.

After about 15 minutes I see a flicker of white and heard one run off. He was not that far away, but there were alot of trees and such between me and him. I guess he heard/saw/smelled me before I saw him. He was probably 70 yards or so away.

I kept going in deeper and was taking 3 or 4 steps and looking around a ton before I moved to the next spot. The ground was covered in leaves, but they were not as noisy as they should. They were still a little damp from the dew. There were, however, little sticks just under the leaves I kept breaking.

I had another one or maybe two, I could not really tell, run again just out of sight. I just barely saw a flicker and heard them running. Them or another started snorting after a while. They sounded like they were snorting but not running or anything. I tried to get closer, but the more I went toward them they always seemed about the same distance away.

I cut through those woods and came to the edge of a field I wanted to cross to get to a little outcropping of woods in a field. I stood at the edge of the woods and glassed a while before I ventured across.

As soon as I got about 20 yards into the woods I heard one off to my left. I froze and pulled the binoculars up. I looked and finally found him. Could not tell too much, other than it was a deer. Then he ran a few steps and there was another running in there too. I very, very slowly slid behind a clump of 4 decent size trees and crouched down.

I finally spotted him again and saw it was a buck. He looked like a smallish 6 point. Tough to really count points because he was still fairly obstructed. I slowly put my binoculars down and let the strap hold them and unshouldered my rifle. I got a decent look at his front shoulder back to about mid-gut. Still a couple trees obstructing the total view.

There was a decent size clearing kinda between me and him. He came into the clearing and started stomping around. At this point he was 50 yards or less from me. He looked dead at me a couple times, but did not seem worried at all. I guess what they say about deer being color blind is true as I was covered in bright orange.

Then a doe came out behind him. They both started running a little and I realized what was happening, our mini, second rut was in full swing. The buck started chasing the doe and she came running straight at me. She got within maybe 10 yards of me before veering and running into the field I had just crossed. The buck was running parallel kinda trying to cut her off. They then disappeared into the field.

I sat quietly for a few minutes longer, walked across the little woods outcropping and then circled back through the field and went home.

I had several opportunities where I could have shot that buck. I had decided before I went out this morning I was not going to shoot anything that was not pretty big with a decent size rack. I decided to pass on him, I think he was still a little young and hopefully he will grow up into something a bit bigger.

In the end I figured I covered 200 yards in about 2 hours before I got to the edge of the field. So, all in all, it was a great time and I cannot wait to get out there doing that again. Of course, I need more practice so I don't scare those deer. Might be also that my field of vision is so limited in there. Might try a different spot next time. Thanks for all the tips guys.

gspn
December 1, 2012, 07:19 PM
Sounds like a great "first time" out. Close encounters like that can make it quite addictive.

MCgunner
December 1, 2012, 08:09 PM
Sounds like a large population of deer in that area, something ya want if still hunting is gonna work.;)

guntech59
December 2, 2012, 01:43 PM
1) Have a plan, don't just wander around.

2) Know the area well enough to plot likely bedding and feeding areas. Know the travel routes. Enter downwind of these so your scent is blown behind you, not out in front of you.

3) you'll do a lot of stalking before you do any spotting. When you do spot a deer, make a mental note of where he's headed and likely destination. Work the wind to intercept. Don't profile yourself against the skyline, either.

4) Move slow. If you're new at this and think you're going slow enough, slow down you're going too fast. If you think you're close enough to something to be heard, move when the wind blows. Things moving with the wind will mask your own sound.

5) Every sound in the woods is made by something. Maybe it's just the wind, but assuming that will eventually cost you a deer. Take time to make an informed decision about the source of the sound.

6) Look for horizontal lines. Most stuff in the woods is vertical. Look for parts of an animal. You'll seldom see an entire animal (regardless of species) until you're located it by noticing an ear, eyeball, line of the back, etc.

7) Watch for movement. Any and all movement is caused by something. It might be a bush waving in the wind, or it might be a deer rubbing a sapling.

8) Don't expect all loud noises to be another hunter spoiling your spot. Deer are like a herd of cows when they think nothing is around. Sounds like my blind Aunt Mabel walking through the woods. But when they supect something's not right, they can move so quietly you'll swear they were ghosts.

9) Pay attention to your nose. Deer have a musky smell to them, regardless of sex. Bucks smell stronger. Make a note to get a good whiff of it when dressing a deer. You'll be able to smell them on the hoof after that.

10) Learn to age tracks. If a track is minutes old, sit down a while. Deer often wander away from something unfamiliar (you, if you didn't spook them badly) then come back to satisfy what must pass for curiosity in the animal world.

11) If the deer does not circle back to a fresh track, begin tracking the deer. Even when spooked, deer do not go far at one time. they run, stop and check their backtrail, then run again if you follow too close or fast. Refer to number three.

12) If you're in very good shape and have a very good sense of direction, it is possible to run down a deer on foot. They cannot do the long distances we can. Keep after them and they'll exhaust. I don't recommend this to anyone over 30 or anyone who doesn't know the land they're hunting better than their own living room. Followed my cousin doing this once. Once. He was chasing the deer, I was chasing him. Thought I'd fall down and die from exhaustion and cramping. Most miserable day of my life to that point. I was seventeen and in good shape. Or so I thought. I'd do it again if I was starving and had already eaten the dog. And the neighbors dog. Maybe.

13) Dress in warm, thin layers that can be either opened to cool yourself or rolled up and stowed in a pocket or pack. Carry at least snacks, maybe a full blown lunch.

14) Learn your personal limit for snap shooting moving deer. Unless you're very lucky or very good, it's not going to be awfully far. If you have to pass on the shot, refer to number three.

I'm going to bed now. Probably going to dream about deer hunting now. If I'm lucky.
Known as "still hunting" in the Northeast. I believe you got everything right.

One thing to add....it is MUCH easier (for me) when there is snow on the ground.

My eyes are not what they used to be.

jrdolall
December 2, 2012, 02:09 PM
In my younger days I was often successul with quiet stalks in the afternoon. We did not have a lot of pines where I hunted back then so walking through the pine needles was not an option. I generally tried to walk an old logging road or a mostly dry creek bed as it was easier to be quiet. I hunted this property for years, before it was sold off, and was very familiar with deer patterns.
I would walk relatively quickly to whatever area I wanted to hunt and then just sit down for about 10-15 minutes and let things calm down. I would then stand up and begin my "stalk" which means I basically took 1-2 steps and then glassed the area. It would take me 3-4 hours to go a couple of hundred yards. I picked my area based on wind direction and where others were hunting that day as I did not want to affect their evening hunts. A piece of lightweight string on my gun barrel or bow helped with wind detection. Marlin 336 was my preferred weapon for these hunts as all shots were within 50-75 yards. Binoculars were mandatory as I spent much more time glasssing than moving. Most of the deer I saw were feeding through the hardwoods and we eventually just ran into each other. If I saw a deer that was not legal then I was basically stuck with standing completely still until that deer moved out of my area because I did not want to get busted. Spent many hours standing and watching buttonheads feed within 25 yards of me and I couldn't move.
As I have gotten older I appreciate an afternoon nap more than I did back then.

22-rimfire
December 2, 2012, 09:27 PM
Mencius, You were still hunting. Lots of fun and can be exciting. If I were you I would keep the rifle off my shoulder.

I have been known to take an afternoon nap out in the woods. After getting up at 3:00AM, it can be a long day. If it warms up, and the action is quiet, you can get sleepy. I once looked up from a "nap" and had three large bucks within 60 feet of me. Exciting.

sleepyone
December 2, 2012, 09:52 PM
Thanks for sharing. Sounds like you had good technique and patience, which is one of the most important requirements for hunting and one that is totally in your control.

336A
December 3, 2012, 04:26 AM
This is my favorite way to hunt, 1911 guy pretty much nailed it with his post. A lot of folks think that I'm crazy caue as I don't hunt from a tree stand, still hunting is very rewarding. The added benifit is that it allows you to scout during the season if you didn't get the chance to do so before season. This was the case for me this year do to long hours at work and things worked out in my favor. Due to the nature of still hunting most times shot opportunities will be rather close, I prefer a shotgun and slugs.

Guntech59 I see that your having some pretty wierd weather up there right now. This time next year I'll be back up there, I can't hardly wait.

1911 guy
December 3, 2012, 08:57 AM
What you saw there should help you formulate your plan for next time.

The deer are feeding just before dawn and you now know the direction they're headed to bed down (this may change at times and often does).

which way was the wind blowing in relation to your entry point and final point where you broke out of the woods? Are the deer bedding in those woods or traveling past them after feeding?

Notice any good ambush spots along their travel route? A better entry point than the driveway?

See any well established trails, or are they just taking advantage of the fruit trees once in a while? Do you have acess to the land adjacent so you can follow these trails?

Congrats for moving slow and seeing deer.

The trick to the sticks under leaves thing is to take smaller steps, keeping your center of gravity close to your body, not under the foot way out there. This allows you to pull a foot back ad re-position around noisy stuff. Also, learning to walk putting your toes down first will help. As you roll your foot back toward the heel, you'll feel any sticks or such. If you do, simply take that step on your toes, without the full foot touching the ground.

Mencius
December 3, 2012, 10:44 AM
I am not sure how I could keep my rifle off my shoulder and use the binoculars effectively. The ones I have are fairly big (50mm) and get wobbly pretty quickly one handed. Also, the rifle is not that heavy, but seems like it would get pretty heavy carrying it around one handed for a few hours. Thoughts on how to carry it and use the bino would be appreciated as yeah, it would be better to have it off the shoulder. Yeah, I guess I just need to man-up and make it happen...

I did see some heavily used paths and found a place that looked like 4 had bedded down as the leaves were mashed flat in a place that looked alot like a deer's body. It crossed my mind to set up near there and see what showed up.

It was very still, but the wind that did blow kinda came from different directions. It was hard to get a feel for a dominant direction. I definitely had a pretty good breeze to my back from time to time. Think scents work well? I have never used them before because I was always in a stand looking at deer across a field.

Notice any good ambush spots along their travel route? A better entry point than the driveway?


Just a point of clarification, I walked about 1/4 of a mile away from the house. The deer I saw when I first pulled up I don't think I saw again. I can probably come from the back side, but I will be walking across a field they feed in.

And yeah, 1911, those tips were dead-on. One thing about the horizontal vs. vertical, there were many stumps, down trees, and tree limbs on the horizontal. Admittedly, most of what I saw was a flicker of white running off just out of my field of vision.

MCgunner
December 3, 2012, 11:03 AM
A note on binos, large objective and lowish power preferred in the wood. They need to gather light. I have a pair of compact 10 power that fit in my pocket that I bought for hunting out west in the desert and mountains, great for that, good power, in good light when I use 'em, light and handy when trekking distances in rough country. But, they're worthless at dawn or dusk and don't do well in the shade of the forest.

Still hunting is less strenuous than spot and stalk in rough country. those big binos ain't the burden they are out west. I usually carry my rifle muzzle down on my off side on the sling over the shoulder. I can reach and grab it with my off hand and whip it up into shooting position post haste this way with little extra movement. I have a couple of light rifles I prefer for still hunting, a .357 lever gun with aperture ghost ring that's barely 6 lbs if that and a little Remington M7 in .308 scoped with a 2x10x40 which I set on 2 power, VERY fast gun on target and both rifles are short, light, and handy. Both have slings and I carry 'em as described when slung and using my hands for such as using the binos.

jrdolall
December 3, 2012, 11:53 AM
I carried my rifle on my shoulder and binos on my chest. I moved so slowly that I was rarely seen before I saw the animal. I usually got busted when deer came in behind me as my attention was 180 degrees rather than 360. 1-3 minutes glassing and then maybe 2 yards of movement. This extremely slow movement gets too boring for most people so they decide to hurry up or take an additional few steps so they can see around a bend. Bad move.
I like scents as a COVER much more than as an attractant. I have had pretty good success the past two years with the newer "bedding zone" scents which supposedly mimic the smell of deer as they relax in a bedding area. The one I have been using is like a stick of deodorant and I rub it on my boots as I walk into my stand. Several deer have walked over my trail and done some serious sniffing but none have gotten agitated or excited so it must do something. I am pretty skeptical about scents for attracting deer but maybe they do work at certain times on certain deer.
I am getting excited now and I think I will try the old technique one afternoon this week. I have the perfect spot if I can just stay patient long enough to work the entire firebreak.

Sav .250
December 3, 2012, 12:01 PM
Lots of good stuff from the posters. Seeing as your "new" to the sneak part of hunting. I`d try still hunting but move around every now and again. One thing for sure, you`ll sound like a tank coming through the woods to your local deer. :)

22-rimfire
December 3, 2012, 12:49 PM
At this point, I would do what Sav.250 suggests.

Keep the bino's around your neck on a strap. The bino holders that are sold are very good and keep them from bouncing. Maybe your binos are a little powerful for your method of hunting in your locale. I use 6x30 binoculars in the woods. They are small to medium sized traditional binos. But I used cheap 10x50 Bushnells for years and know what it is like to carry them around. They usually got left at home. But I made do at times depending on the situation.

Consider this scenario... you are moving quietly thorugh the woods still hunting. You see some movement ahead of you and you immediately see nice antlers. What happens next?

This is not when you reach for your binos. It is when you slide your rifle up to your shoulder into a firing position. If this buck appeared as described, it is very likely that it sees you or sees "something". Taking your rifle off your shoulder will be a lot of additional movement and probably a recipe for failure. (Not always, but often.) You don't want to be shooting at "tails".

"Sneaking" in the woods takes practice. When I was about 16, I was hunting squirrels and I believed moving quietly through the woods "still hunting" which I think is a fun way to hunt squirrels. I apparently walked pretty close to one of my neighbors hunting and didn't see him. He told my brother that I sounded like a "tank" moving through the woods. Never forgot that.

But we all do the best we can and react to the situations as they develop. It is part of hunting. Hope you continue to have a great time.

Mencius
December 3, 2012, 04:03 PM
Oh I am not kidding myself, I know every deer within 1000 yards can hear me stomping through the woods knocking down limbs, vines, breaking sticks, and in some way getting on every dry leaf in my path. Maybe I need to get some little 2"x2" pegs to put under my boots, one for each, and maybe I would sound more like a deer. :p

Maybe just have the gun in hand when I move and when I first look around the new area with the (very) naked eye and then shoulder when glassing and then pull the rifle back down again when I move? I dunno, y'all are probably right about needing the gun in hand. I will figure something out.

22-rimfire
December 3, 2012, 04:58 PM
You really can "sneak" around in the woods. Remember you're Rambo! Don't give up. It's a skill. Bow hunters stalk deer to within shooting range from time to time, but most use a stand or some kind. It's HARD which is why it's a challenge and fun.

Raise your rifle when you believe you have a shot. If I see deer, I will shoulder the rifle and check it out with the scope. At that point you are ready to fire at a moments notice without any further movement or sound other than perhaps the safety being moved to off. For me, if I raise the rifle on "horns" the safety is OFF (finger off trigger) even if I don't take a shot.

Don't worry. You'll develop an approach that works for you.

I have been hunting with a handgun more of late, and it is more consistant with using a shotgun that is not scoped. Hence, I tend to use my binoculars more even when deer are within rifle range, but not comfortable handgun range. I kind of enjoy that aspect. If I spook them or they wander the wrong direction... that's the breaks.

heeler
December 3, 2012, 08:14 PM
It's a lot of fun but one must have patience.
The more you do it the better you get at it.
I primarily hunt on a 4000 acre ranch in the south Texas brush country where everything sticks,bites,stings,and claws.
Everything.
There are several spots on this ranch that ran cattle for a number of years before hunters gold and oil was discovered and even though the mesquite motts are there,there are game trail galore.
I sneak around using an old Remington 600 Mohawk in .308 caliber with a 2x7 Leupold VX-1 scope set on 2x.
The rifle being around seven pounds in equipped mode is 37 inches in length which helps greatly while cruising around on foot and has plenty of potent power to dispatch a deer or nasty boar hog like I walked up on last year.
As I have aged I find the more I enjoy it.
I only do this during morning hours as I have no want to get turned around in that brush at 30 minutes past sundown.
I prefer windy days or wet days to do this because let's face it,you will never be able to hear as well as our respected game the deer.
If I cover more than 125 yards in two hours I am going too fast.

Edit to add...I carry a super light pair of twenty two year old 7x20 Nikon binoculars at high chest level that work great for this kind of work.
Also,ditch the heavy hunting boots and wear something very soft like old desert boots that where popular in the 70's and are actually making a come back.

1911 guy
December 4, 2012, 01:05 AM
Don't get discouraged by lack of initial sucess or sounding like a bulldozer going through the woods. It's a learned skill. Remember how long it took four year old Mencius to learn to tie his shoes? Now you can do it in the dark, not waking up Mrs. Mencius when you ready for work. Same thing.

About seeing all those stumps, downed trees and limbs: That's how prey animals blend in. When you assume it's a fallen tree or stump, you walk right past. It's when you take time to look that you'll ocassionally see an ear or eyeball.

I'll sit in a stand if I think that's going to give me the best odds of sucess. But for pure enjoyment and fun, I'll sneak around the woods every time.

ETA: if the woods where you hunt are thick enough to limit visibility to 100 yards or less, ditch the binoculars. Binos are very good for spotting deer far enough away that you haven't spooked them yet. If you're inside 100 yards, they either already know you're there or you've got enough advantage of wind and sight that you can begin a planned stalk. If, however, the terrain is somewhat open, the binos will help you avoid a lot of fruitless wandering. You can glass from a vantage point and move to a more likely place, hopefully one where you've been lucky enough to actually see deer in the binoculars. Where I usually hunt, they'd be a waste of effort and space to carry. But move a bit to the west of me and they go from pain in the butt (N.E. Ohio) to really nice to have (W. Ohio and Indiana) to absolute necessity (open plains west of Illinois).

helotaxi
December 4, 2012, 10:06 AM
I really like the binos for looking into the shadows across the small meadows and for scanning the meadows just before sunrise when you can't really resolve anything with the naked eye. The binos gather more light than your eyes and as a result good ones will brighten things up a great deal. I've got a pair of Nikon Monarch 5 10x42s. They're very lightweight, have very god optics and were very affordable.

Spent this last weekend still hunting elk here in the mountains. Saw one right at last light on the first day, but since I didn't have a tag and my buddy who did was a couple yards in front of me when I did the "check-six" and saw her, by the time I got his attention, she had stepped into the treeline and was gone. We staked out that meadow first thing the next morning and were moving along an abandoned road (a very quiet way to travel and cover ground in a relative hurry) when we heard the proverbial herd of wild elephants coming through the trees 150yds or so away. He got in position at the edge of the trees and dropped one out of the herd before they even knew we were there. Shot measured 80yds across a clearing and slightly uphill. Had her gutted and out of the woods by 9. Skinned and hanging in the cooler by noon.

ridgerunner1965
December 5, 2012, 09:29 PM
pretty hard to do where i hunt. crunchy oak leaves and dry twigs.lots of wind too makes them spooky.ive done it dureing or after a rain but thats bout it.i like to do my homework and see where they are traveling and wait for them there.

d2wing
December 5, 2012, 10:13 PM
As 1911 said do not shift you weight to the next step until you have slowly stepped down. Sometimes heel first works better as you can control it better. Yes you will make some noise
But you can learn to be quieter. Animals do not move in steady steps like people, try to skurry like a squirrel if you can't avoid making noise. The pause for awhile because they will pay attention if the noise is out of place.

rbernie
December 6, 2012, 11:21 PM
Yes you will make some noise
But you can learn to be quieter. Animals do not move in steady steps like peopleMove like a grazing deer - one step! two step, pause. One step, pause. One step, two step, pause.

Deer don't march.

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