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Stalk Hunting

Discussion in 'Hunting' started by Mencius, Nov 29, 2012.

  1. Mencius

    Mencius Well-Known Member

    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.
  2. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

    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.
  3. MCgunner

    MCgunner Well-Known Member

    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
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2012
  4. courtgreene

    courtgreene Well-Known Member

    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.
  5. MutinousDoug

    MutinousDoug Well-Known Member

    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.
  6. helotaxi

    helotaxi Well-Known Member

    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.
  7. jmorris

    jmorris Well-Known Member

    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.
  8. WayBeau

    WayBeau Well-Known Member

    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.
  9. rbernie

    rbernie Well-Known Member

    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.
  10. d2wing

    d2wing Well-Known Member

    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.
  11. interlock

    interlock Well-Known Member

    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

  12. Andrew Leigh

    Andrew Leigh Well-Known Member

    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.
  13. 1911 guy

    1911 guy Well-Known Member

    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.
  14. beatledog7

    beatledog7 Well-Known Member


    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.
  15. Mencius

    Mencius Well-Known Member

    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.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2012
  16. MCgunner

    MCgunner Well-Known Member

    :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. [​IMG] 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.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2012
  17. MCgunner

    MCgunner Well-Known Member

    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.
  18. helotaxi

    helotaxi Well-Known Member

    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.
  19. sleepyone

    sleepyone Well-Known Member

    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.
  20. beatledog7

    beatledog7 Well-Known Member

    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.

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