Monday, November 17, 2008

Stalking The Forgotten Art

© By Othmar Vohringer

Before the dawn of modern treestands, hunters successfully stalked deer with rifle and bow. Unfortunately these days many hunters have lost, or never tried, to stalk within shooting range of a deer and those that do try from time to time will have you known that it doesn’t work well.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Michigan’s Benoit family, affectionately known as America’s First Family of Deer Hunting, have dozens of book sized whitetail trophies on the wall and written many books on stalking deer. Treestand hunting has proven to be very successful for a number of reasons. But sometimes it is better to become active and take the hunt to the deer, rather than waiting for the deer to come to us.

The rut is one example where stalking deer can be more successful than sitting in a treestand. During the rut bucks keep on the move all day long and it is hard to predict where they will turn up next. A hunter may sit for many days in a treestand without ever seeing a buck. This is a good time to hunt from the ground and stalk a buck near a doe bedding or feeding area

In the winter, in most of North America, the departures fall to sub zero figures. This makes sitting motionless in a treestand for any stretch of time a battle of endurance and can lead to hypothermia. The cold winter is the perfect time too for hunting on the ground and tracking a deer.

Stalking and tracking a deer is a special challenge for every hunter but by observing and training a few basic skills that are already in all of us we can become successful at hunting bucks at eyelevel. Here are a few of the common mistakes hunters make and how to remedy them. It may be easier that you thought.

The most common problem in tracking or stalking is speed. Most hunters got to fast. If you move more than half mile, depending on the terrain, in an hour you go way to fats. Deer key in on movement and if they see something move that doesn’t look quite right they are gone. Move very slowly, no more than two small steps at a time. Then stand still and observe the area all around you.

Looking for the whole deer. If you can see the whole deer it is likely that the deer can see you too. Look for parts of deer such as the flicker of an ear the glint of an antler or a horizontal line. Lock for everything that could be a deer. That brownish tree stump 50 yards away could be a bedded deer. The odd branch on the bush 60 yards ahead could be an antler. When deer bed or stand still they blend perfectly into their surrounding. A deer trackers best friend is a pair of good quality binoculars. Use binos constantly to look through the thicket and into the trees for any sign that could be part of a deer.

Did you know that deer have very sensitive hearing? To them the usual heavy human footfall sounds thunder. Deer are also paranoid, each unusual sound gets their attention and the human cadence of steps is a dead giveaway to any deer. Part of a successful stalk is to sneak around the woods silently. Before you make a step look briefly on the ground and memorize the branches, twigs and other forrest debries on the ground. Wear a boot with a light sole such as a hiking boots. This lets you feel the ground. If you do make a noise by stepping onto a branch stand absolutely still and watch all around you. A deer that heard the noise might get up. Do as the deer do and look for movements. It also helps to carry a deer or turkey call with you. Should step on a twig or brush against something make a deer or turkey sound.

Deer can see you if you are skylight or stand in the open. Use every bit of advantage you have to stay hidden from full view by staying below a ridgeline, using the vegetation and shadows to advance in your approach. You should wear full camouflage including head, face and on the hands.

Some hunters still-hunt an area as a method of scouting. Still hunting and tracking, like any other hunting method, works best in an area that you have scouted previously. In order to be successful you need to know where the deer are and what they are doing. If you do not know then the risk of “bumping” into deer and scaring them are to big.

I highly recommend to read Big Bucks the Benoit Way. With lots of tips and how to advice this book is considered the deer tracking hunters Bible.

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Foremost Deer Hunting said...

I enjoyed your article thanks for sharing it. I use to stock deer in the same heavy boots that I use to keep warm in a deer stand all day but I recently found that I can be much quieter in a cheep pair of rubber garden type boots. The protect my feet I can feel twigs etc as I move. The Indians may have been on to something stocking in moccasins. Thanks again for sharing. Jon Ballard

Othmar Vohringer said...

I am glad that my post provides useful tips for you. I have learned the art of stalking from an old Indian many years ago and it made me realize what a “stomper” I have been in the past. Wearing thin-soled boots definitely helps a lot. If it is really cold and makes the wearing of heavy boots necessary I have found that tying duct tapping a an old towel to the bottom of the boots will go a long way to muffle the sound. I also know of hunters that take their boots of and stalk the last critical distance in the socks only.

Anonymous said...

i use 5mm dive boots, to me its the closest modern thing to indian moccasins. of course in the north they may not be warm enough but in Florida they work perfect. just watch for snakes. indians didnt have snake boots..

Anonymous said...

Benoits are from Vermont...not Michigan, as I am a neighbor. I noticed you failed to mention the wind...always stalk into the wind. To do otherwise is pointless.

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