Still Hunting Strategies
By Andrew Gegelman
The most successful hunters have learned to still hunt when stand hunting is not producing, or when the weather makes sneaking through the woods the best strategy to bag a deer. The best days for still hunting are rainy and windy days; both types of weather are normally below average for game movement. Normally, bed down or move very cautiously during these conditions. Another weather type that forces hunters to get out of stand is abnormal heat. During extreme heat, deer will only feed at first and last light, probably 10% of legal hunting hours. Instead of staying on the stand with such poor odds why not test your skills and go after them? Combining spot and stalk tactics with still hunting is sometimes very effective.
Still hunting by definition is moving very slowly through cover, stopping after every couple of steps, watching, glassing, and listening. The ultimate goal in still hunting is getting within shooting range of bedded or moving deer. It is much more than just walking around the woods, each step must be meticulously placed not to make any unwanted noise. There are a couple of techniques that should increase your odds of close encounters. First, seek out remote locations, where most hunters won’t go. This improves your odds at trophy deer and finding deer that haven’t been pressured. This will let them follow their routines of feeding and bedding.
Second, learn how to follow tracks. Find a fresh set of tracks and follow where they are going. Bucks will usually walk in a straight line wherever they are going. As the tracks get closer together, and waver from a straight line, the buck is probably looking for somewhere to bed. When you find this get ready, and slow your pace down even more. Third, you must always move into the wind or at least a crosswind, remember a deer’s best defense mechanism is their nose.
Still hunting works well at all hours of the day, but you will have the greatest success when game is approaching you. If tracking deer is not an option due to weather, or tough tracking conditions, start at a feeding area and work in a fan shape back and forth to try to spot moving game. Once you spot something try to stalk toward it. Only move when they are not looking at you. I have had success moving toward deer while they are moving toward you. Stalk towards them until they look up or start to act suspicious. I have heard stories where people have stalked within bow range of deer in little to no cover.
Now that the season is for the most part over, it is the best time to practice. Go out to some public land and try your hand at still hunting. Without a weapon in hand the pressure is not as great and you will be able to learn patience. And with a little luck this tactic will put the odds in your favor come next hunting season