Outdoor writers say hunting is still a lost art since I was a little kid reading copies of my dad’s hunting magazines. I don’t know if it was like that then, but it certainly is like that now. This type of hunt, slower than glacial pace, isn’t even a conversation for most people anymore, but it should be.
Hunting is still a chance to be active while getting down to earth and blending with the forest. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely fun. I will never forget the days of my early deer hunting career when the wind blew or the rain came and I knew I would get a chance to get out of a tree and try to lead a deer up.
Usually not, but I had an incredible number of encounters. Shooting a deer while hunting was extremely satisfying because of the mindset and skills required to do so.
Plan first, then hunt
If you don’t have a clear idea of where deer should be at the time of the hunt, you’re in trouble. I still like to plan hunts around the right weather (any weather that should drown out my noise) and then make a good guess as to what the deer should be doing at the time.
This will be the case when they go from food to bed in the morning or vice versa in the evening. Choose a ridge, creek bottom, or some type of cover to slip through. Then consider the wind. Conventional wisdom says to get it in my face and go, but I often find it best for me to chase a crosswind that slightly favors my direction.
In any case, choose a route or at least have a rough plan of what you want to do before you set off. It’s also not a bad idea to choose a trail that takes you through an area you plan to explore in season so you can soak up up-to-date game information during the actual hunt.
I’m a naturally fast walker so hunting is still a challenge for me. It helps when I think I’m close to deer, which is why the planning phase is so important. It’s easier to slow down and stay slow when you think you might run into a deer at any moment.
Well, the old advice for still hunting was that you shouldn’t go more than 100 yards in three hours. To me, that’s not much different than just sitting on a tree stump and waiting for them to come by. It’s probably bullshit too. I don’t know too many people who can walk that slowly, and I don’t think it’s necessary.
Slowly, really slowly, but it’s a good idea. You want to see deer before they see you, and exercise is key in this situation. Whoever moves more loses. Choose your steps wisely, stop next to trees in the shade, and think about how you look as you make your way through the forest.
Use a good bino harness and glass often. The goal is to immerse yourself in the forest so you don’t constitute a disturbance. If the native squirrels and songbirds accept you, you’re fine. If not, you are moving too much or too fast (or both).
What has always amazed me while hunting is how surprising it is to have a deer close by and unconscious. Hunting is still generally a low odds game, but when you encounter a deer it’s often within reach. This means you must remain vigilant.
This is difficult if you’re going as slow as you need to, but if you cross paths with a deer, your shooting opportunity will pass relatively quickly. You can buy yourself some time by using a ghillie or a leaf suit, but if a deer lands in your orbit it’ll often find out you’re there quickly.
Even a few extra seconds of advance notice to know a deer is coming your way can mean the difference between you being ready to shoot or not. It can also be the difference between positioning yourself for a shooting opportunity or just watching the whole thing slide between your camouflage-covered fingers.
While hunting is still something of a lost art, it’s a viable hunting strategy, if for no other reason than that it’s often more fun than sitting down. With the right plan, a commitment to glacier-paced movements, and the ability to stay alert at all times, you can turn a super-slow walk through the woods into a successful deer hunt.
Feature image via Matt Hansen.