Years ago before modern tree stands came along, hunters successfully still hunted deer with rifle. But these days there’s a large number of hunters who have never tried to stalk within shooting range of a deer. Of course, those few who do attempt it from time to time will have you know that it doesn’t work well.
But the truth is that stalking is a special challenge. With a bit of observation and by learning a few basic skills, you can become successful at hunting at ground level. Some days, the deer are inactive and you need to take the hunt to them in order to have any success.
A good example of this is when the rut is taking place. It’s hard to predict where a buck will turn up when he’s in search of does. If you spend all your time in a tree stand, you may sit for days without seeing anything. This is a good time to be on the ground, putting on a stalk near a known bedding or feeding area.
First off, go ahead and slip into full camouflage which covers your head, face and the hands. Then head out, moving very slowly, only a couple of steps at a time. Stand still and scan every inch of the area around you. Remember, most hunters tend to move too fast, so being slow is the game plan. Move too much and deer will key in on the movement and be long gone before you ever see them.
As you slow hunt along, remember not to skylight yourself or stand in the open. Stay below the ridge line and use every bit of vegetation and shadows available to mask your movement. Most importantly, be sure to wear a hiking boot with light soles to help you feel the ground. The better you can feel what’s underfoot, the less chance you’ll have of stepping on branches or twigs which will likely be heard by the deer.
Once you have all the bases covered, you can break out the binoculars and begin looking for parts of a deer, such as a ear flicking, the glint of an antler or the horizontal line of a bedded deer. Generally you won’t see a whole deer at first as they blend perfectly into the surroundings. But if you do see one, it’s likely it has spotted you also.
Keep in mind that any unusual sound gets their attention and the human cadence of steps is a dead giveaway to any deer. To sneak around the woods silently is part of a successful stalk.
If you do make some noise, do as the deer would do and look for movements as quite possibly they will stand up. Also, if you’re carrying a deer or turkey call with you, go ahead and use it as it’ll make it seem as if wildlife is moving about.
Still hunting can produce deer when no other tactic can, but it definitely isn’t easy. And truthfully, any hunter who’s taken a deer this way will tell you that it’s more memorable or exciting than the ones taken while sitting on a stand. Perhaps that’s because success in still hunting shows your true woodsmanship and hunting know-how.
So this deer season, when nothing seems to be moving, get out there and give still hunting a try. In this game, even if you make a few errors it might not matter at all ... so long as you’re quiet.