Up to this point we have been discussing hunting in general terms. Now it is time to dig deeper and fine-tune our skills. The old saying goes 10% of hunters kill 90% of the game.
One of the skills that this elite group of hunters must be proficient at is stalking. No matter what type of hunting you are doing at some point you will have to stalk your game. Stalking game correctly and effectively is an art form that takes years of practice.
I don’t know how many times I have heard hunters say, “Wow, what a long day! We must have walked 10 miles.” My response is always the same. Why? Why in the hell would you walk 10 miles? If your out for a hike then it makes sense to walk this much. If you are hunting it makes no sense to walk much over three or four miles in a day and that includes some walking to get to a desired area rich with game.
Once you are in an area that has game and you should determine this based on past experience or pre-season scouting then it is time to put the brakes on and go into full on stalking mode.
Your goal is to see the animal before it sees you. A calm animal that has no idea you are around presents the best type of shoot to enable a quick and humane kill.
In previous articles I have discussed the importance of quiet clothing. Whether you are bow hunting or rifle hunting you need to wear quiet cloths. Quiet means you can brush up against something and you will not make a sound or if you do make a sound it is very minimal. Wool, cotton, and fleece are generally quiet fabrics.
Don’t overlook the noise factor surrounding your boots. I have read many books about hunters that carry a pair of thick socks to wear when stalking into close range. Some hunters carry fleece booties that go over their boots to silence their steps when stalking into close range of their intended target. I think both ideas are a waste of time. Just buy a quiet pair of boots and leave them on during your stalk just in case your intended animal moves and you must move quickly to pursue your target.
To stalk effectively you will need a set of binoculars at the ready. I prefer a shoulder holster that keeps my binoculars on my chest for easy use. Make sure to shoot your weapon while wearing your binoculars and backpack to get used to the feel.
The wind must be in your face at all times. There is not a product on the market that will hide your scent. Don’t waste your money on trying to cover your scent, just keep the wind in your face at all times. You can’t fool an animal’s nose.
Most game animals have amazing hearing. However, you can fool an animals hearing by stopping your movement and holding perfectly still. After about five minutes the animal will lose interest in what they heard and go about their regularly scheduled program.
Animals are constantly on the look out for movement. Once they catch some movement they will focus on the movement until they can process what the movement is all about. Fooling an animal’s eyesight is relatively easy. Just stop moving. After a few minutes the animal will lose interest and continue their regularly scheduled program.
Whenever possible get on your knees. Animals seem to all know what a human looks like. It makes sense because humans are the only animals that walk upright. Once an animal spots a walking human they immediately identify the human as a threat and start to consider running.
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A few years ago I had the luck to test the above smell, sight, and hearing theories. I was about 20 yards from a 5-point bull elk that had managed to stop behind a tree that covered his entire body except for about half his neck and head. I had initially spotted the elk from about 75 yards away on a step slope in moderate timber. I had plenty of time to get on my knees and let the elk walk into me.
For about 20 minutes I conducted an experiment with the small bull. I would move my hand slightly and he would immediately focus on the movement. I was not a major threat to him because I was on my knees and appeared a lot smaller than him. Once I stopped moving my hand and waited for a few minutes he would lose interest and start chewing his cud and looking in other directions. Things were going well until I felt a slight breeze on the back of my neck. I immediately knew the fun was over and about one second later the small bull caught my scent and boogied out there.
The key to stalking is moving slowly. By slowly I mean move one step and then glass the terrain ahead of you for animals. Once you are certain the area ahead of you is clear then take another step. As you take each step you get a different perspective.
Don’t look for a whole animal. Instead look for an ear, head, or horn. During the day most animals will be lying down for a nap.
As you move forward be sure to hide the best you can behind trees, bushes or rocks. Never walk out into the open. Never skyline yourself for an animal that is searching for movement. Move from one point of concealment to the next.
The only time you can move faster is when you are obviously in an area that is cleared like a gully or dip in the terrain.
When you get to the top of a section of terrain slow down and carefully scan ahead before moving forward.
Slow stalking is very intense. As you get tired you will find yourself moving more and glassing less. This is good time to sit down and take a break at a vantage point that will allow you to scan a decent piece of country. I can’t tell you how many times animals have walked into me while I am taking a break. This is the absolute best scenario because the animal has no idea that you are there and provides you with plenty of time to make the perfect shot.
Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to stalking. The goal is to see an animal before it sees you. Walk less and glass more will be your motto. As you see your slow stalking skills improve I guarantee you will see your harvest ratios improve as well.