Are you a stalker?
Most would quickly deny any stalking habits, but in the world of deer hunting it is quite a remarkable talent. The ability to sneak up on a deer in their own environment is truly a big deal.
We will examine some of the hurdles a hunter must overcome in order to get closer to the wily whitetail. We will also try and use some of a deer's defense mechanisms to our advantage.
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Traditionally, deer hunting has involved sitting completely still or making noise to push or drive deer into a specific area. We as humans are busy bodies and must find a happy medium between these two methods in order to stalk. How do you become proficient at moving with stealth and focus?
Practice makes perfect, and small game offers ample opportunities to hone your "ninja skills" afield before taking on deer. Squirrel hunting is a great way to practice stalking and if unsuccessful, well, you don't feel as disappointed if you don't connect.
Consider terrain before attempting stalking. If hunting in wide open fields or areas with sparse cover, know that you are going to stick out like a sore thumb. Look for areas that offer obstacles and cover that can complement how we as upright walking Homo sapiens can relate to.
Big timber and tall patches of grass that allow you scan ahead and break your outline are good bets. If the woods are covered with dry leaves, silence is not an option. Make use of rainy days to muffle your sounds as you slowly move about the forest. Logging roads are a great way to move around transition areas for whitetails.
Wear the right clothing. Consider temperature, and how much you plan on moving. If you plan to stay mobile and keep the blood flowing, don't dress for treestand duty. Wear boots or shoes that provide water protection but allow you to feel your way across the forest floor. Keep your head covered but also keep a clear field of view.
Pay attention to the wind. All day, and not just on the morning weather report, it tends to change. No matter how confident you feel a deer will be a certain place or area, play the wind.
It's good to have a plan, but Mother Nature tends to flip flop on prevailing winds and it's best to just go with her mood, the deer certainly will.
Turn the Table
Remember, paranoia is your friend. You must think about the animal you pursue, and they are certainly paranoid! Move as if a deer is always watching, which is usually the case anyways.
We as humans move about as we are the only one in the world and it's no different in the woods, but we need to take into account our "jumpy" quarry.
This is an animal that has twice the peripheral vision as us, a nose that dwarfs our scent capabilities, and hearing that makes us literally seem deaf. Not to mention they can move stealthy through dry, crunchy leaves on four legs and can escape at speeds over 30 mph.
With all these natural abilities in the forest, this animal still has one central idea controlling its mind: that something is going to eat it. It's hard to believe we could even sneak up on a hamburger, yet here we are attempting to sneak upon a deer.
Slow down. Use cover to break your outline as you scan for tail flips and ear twitches of a whitetail. With practice you will learn what terrain lends itself to productive stalking.
The rewards of this method of hunting are indescribable, along with the failures being deeply depressing. Stalking is the equivalent to a soap opera in the woods, without the Botox and theme songs.
Do you consider yourself sneaky? Have you had any luck stalking whitetails? Let us know in the comments.