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Information > Hunting & Fishing

Hunting Method - Ambush or Still Hunting?

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TalkHunting Mag:
Question: Which hunting method do you use, Ambush or Still Hunting?
Well letís take a look at what is involved in each method shall we.
Ambush Method: Ninety percent of deer hunting east of the Mississippi is done by ambush method. Ambush hunting involves a considerable amount of gear and labor. Iím talking about treestands, blinds, and foodplots and changing the lay of the land. Then you have the work involved in planning and planting hoping you put the plots in the right spot. Next you remove brush to make it easier for you to get in and set up. Consider the fact that the brush you remove is used as cover by your very quarry. After all the planning and preparation you may not see a deer.
Iíd like to suggest you try stalking the land before you start changing it. Only after you understand what is happening naturally can you make beneficial changes to it. Start by walking your property deliberately to understand what is there. After you know where the feeding and bedding areas are you can then concentrate on the routes the deer take to get to and from each. If you did not take the time to learn the land you may do more harm than good by drastically changing the natural offerings. I much prefer walking in the woods than working in them. Take your time making decisions on changing or modifying anything.
Stalking (Still Hunting) the Forgotten Art
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 know that it doesnít work well. Why? Itís not the method, it is the hunter.
The old art of stalking deer; My story and views:
Soon we will be out in the deer woods. Depending upon our personal hunting styles, we will be spending long hours in a tree stand or ground blind waiting for a big buck to make a foolish mistake, or we will be deer driving our way through a beech ridge or a dark cedar swamp.
This is a far cry from the deer hunters of my grandfather's, generation. In the 1940s through the early 1960s, most deer hunters still hunted deer. Still hunting, or course, is a bit of a misnomer. Still hunters move in the woods, but move ever so slowly, at least the most skillful ones do. And they stop a lot, to listen in hopes of hearing or seeing a moving whitetail before it detects their presence. So letís call them stalk hunters.
As a youthful, wet-behind-the-ears hunter, the most skillful deer hunters I knew were my grandfather and our neighbor Jim. They always got their deer and, it can be told now, sometimes more than one. From my observations, they were, as a hunter, more of a stalker than a still hunter. They both were blessed with keen eyesight, lots of patience, and a 6th sense about deer movements during any time of day and weather conditions.
Wanting to improve my hunting skills, I often asked to tag along and got to study these successful deer stalkers. On a few occasions, I watched them move like ghosts through the woods. The first time I saw Jim stalk his quarry I couldn't believe my eyes. I was leaning against a tree in the shadows close to a deer run. Never making a sound, he tip toed in the morning mist from tree-to-tree like a night burglar. I watched him pick his way meticulously, not in a straight line, but zig zagging from one big tree to another, always working the shadows. It probably took him 15 minutes to travel 50 yards. Later that day, he killed a nice buck. 
The point, of course, is that there are still hunters and then there are stalk hunters. The best of the lot are in truth the stalkers. Grandpa and Jim were both deer stalkers of the first order.
The man who wrote the bible on still hunting deer, T.S. Van Dyke, offered tips like these in his book, "The Still Hunter:"
ē   Avoid noise by selecting trails, easing off brush with your hands, going around it, crawling through, etc.
ē   Positively no hurrying, for in still hunting, Hurry is the parent of Flurry.
ē   In still hunting, you never have an advantage to spare.
ē   If patience ever brings reward it is to the still hunter.
Why and when to stalk:
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.

Winter temperatures in North America fall to below freezing to subzero 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 than you thought. It is certainly very rewarding.

Stalk speed; the most common problem in tracking or stalking is speed. Most hunters got too fast. If you move more than half mile, depending on the terrain, in an hour you go way to fast. Deer key in on movement and if they see something move that doesnít 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.

Seeing Deer; if you can see the whole deer it is likely that it 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. Look 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 surroundings. 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.
Silent Stalking; Deer have very sensitive hearing and they trust it more than sight. To them the usual heavy human footfall sounds like 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 forest debris 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.
Stalk Walking in the Woods:
There's a bit more to it than one foot in front of the other.
Here's How:
1.   Slowly. Unless you're being pursued by a pack of rabid wolves, there's no reason to get in a hurry. By moving slowly, you'll be safer and much less likely to spook game.
2.   Carefully. "Watch where you put your feet." This has saved me more than once from stepping on a rattlesnake or into a hole. It also helps you remain undetected by game if you're not stomping blindly on limbs & leaves.
3.   Quietly. Unless you have to crash through some nasty brush to get where you're going, you can usually remain fairly stealthy in the woods. By moving slowly and watching what you're doing, you can cut way down on the noise you make. Try stepping on the balls of your feet. This will help you walk softly. Heals crashing down is just not a stealthy approach.
4.   Be aware of what's around you. Realize that around every bend could be a deer, or a mama bear with cubs, or just about anything. There have been times when I've seen more game while walking in than I did from my deer stand.
5.   Pick up your feet. Foot-shuffling seems to be a symptom of youth; I see many young hunters doing this. Hunters need to learn to pick their feet up and step over and around obstacles, rather than kicking them out of the way.
Tips:
1.   Always carry a compass. A GPS is handy as well, but a compass is more dependable and easier to use - and it doesnít depend on batteries.
2.   Wear comfortable shoes with ankle support. There's nothing like a blistered, bruised, or twisted foot or ankle to make walking miserable.
Final thoughts:
Iíll admit to being lazy by nature, and have gotten worse with the passing time. I do most of my hunting by ambush now days but still enjoy my time stalking and still hunting. For example; my last yearís battle with Mongo was not really stalking but more chasing. I locked onto him and pushed him hoping for an opportunity to take advantage of a mistake on his part. Well as it turned out his mistake was crossing the road not very advantageous for me. The fact is I enjoyed the encounter and would gladly do it again.
Whether you are comfortable with ambush hunting or are willing to put in the time to get proficient at still hunting your results may be exactly the same. However; still hunting is much more rewarding. If mastered it can be more productive, not to mention easier. Still hunting only involves using your feet and senses properly. You donít need to put in long hours of work changing things and convincing yourself you have the advantage. Just get into the woods and experience it.

Dutch-Hunter

Zos41:
Great writeup DH, I use a mix of both methords. my limit on setting is about 30 minutes max. Than I will still hunt for a bit

buckone1:
Good article!! @--0--0123

MichiganLouie:
Good article.  I have tried still hunting, and I just can't make myself go slow enough.  Now, as I get older, I don't sit at ambush as long as I used to when I was younger.  I would get out before daylight, and wouldn't leave my stand until noon or sometimes 1 pm.  Now, I seldom stay out past 9:30 am.  I should say, I have been hunting in my own small property for 15 years, so I have a good idea about the deer movement in my area during hunting season.  Very seldom do I see deer past midmorning.  and they normally start moving again about an hour or so before dark.  Most of the deer I have shot in my property were shot before 9 am, and the only one taken in the afternoon, it came in at 3:30 pm.

capttrae:
I've tried the stalk/still hunting thing, where I hunt in south Alabama it's virtually impossible bc of the type of underbrush and how thick it is. In Ky I've slipped up on several deer, but when your in a lease and have got other people huntin you really gotta pay close mind to where your at and where they are bc you done want to slip up on their tree stand w/ them in it.
  So 99% of my huntin is done from a tree, and lots of times and most all the time during the rut I'll sit from before daylight to dark, just carry food and drinks with me. Killed my biggest buck at 1:15pm.


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