In the last few decades, deer hunting seems to have boiled down to sitting in a comfortable stand and watching a food plot or pile of corn while you play on your phone. If you find that to be a tad boring, give up the padded swivel seat and hunt the old fashion way by stalking through the woods.
There is an incredible sense of satisfaction in bagging a deer, any deer, that you walked up on unseen. Here are seven rules that will help you become a successful stalker.
Break up your outline
By its very nature, stalking requires stealth, so you have to become nearly invisible. Wearing a leafy ghillie suit, gloves, and face mask breaks up your outline and helps you to blend in with the surrounding foliage. DO NOT forget to put on your hunter’s orange, however.
Be aware of the wind
A deer’s greatest defensive weapon is its incredible sense of smell. Plan your hunt so that the wind is either blowing into your face or from your side — never from the back. And use the wind to your advantage. A moderate or even stiff wind helps muffle any noise you might make, and the rustling limbs and bushes help hide your movement.
Moving slowly is critical when stalking. There are no set rules on how fast to walk because it depends on visibility, wind, density of the woods and dryness of the ground — but the slower the better. An experienced stalker might cover just a few hundred yards during an entire hunt.
Stretch your eyes
An essential part of stalking is training your eyes to focus on the farthest visible object so you can spot the deer before it sees you. If you’re watching for deer 40 yards away you won’t notice a tail flicker beyond that range. However, if you focus on objects 100 yards away, your eye will pick up movement between you and that point.
Be a ninja
Stealth is the key to stalking, and the successful hunter hides in the shadows like a ninja. Always look ahead and plan a route that takes advantage of cover and shade, avoids dry leaves and limbs, and has trees that you can lean against to break up your outline.
Use the sun
Similar to keeping the wind in your face, keep the sun to your back like an old western gunslinger. Nothing is more frustrating than watching for movement when the sun is shining in your eyes. This is particularly important if there is a lot of water around that reflects the sunlight. Make the deer squint, not you.
Pay attention to details
When stalking, you usually don’t see the entire deer. Instead, look for anything that seems out of place or for movement in the peripheral vision. Most things in the woods are vertical, so be aware of horizontal shapes that might be a deer’s body.