Still hunting is a term often misunderstood by the novice. Basically, it is merely a form of hunting in which one or two hunters move over a roughly predetermined course through a likely area. It is quiet hunting as compared to the noise and bustle of the organized drive.
On the basis of the return in venison, it may prove less productive than the drive, under some circumstances. On the other hand, it can be practiced in a country where the terrain makes a drive impossible or impractical.
Watch Method in Still Hunting
It is, however, productive of far greater pleasure to the average hunter. In the first place, the still hunter is hunting all the time, whereas in the driving method much time is lost in the organization, assembly of hunters, posting of standers, and lining up of drivers. It is, in every sense, a greater challenge to your skill as a hunter.
Areas are important
The easiest method of still hunting whitetails and the one that often produces a satisfactory result is the watching technique. In this, the hunter locates a vantage point overlooking an area where deer would naturally pass and takes up a reasonably comfortable position.
This method is most productive during the early morning and late afternoon. Unless the area is being stirred up to some extent by other hunters, it rarely pays off during the period between 9:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M.
Hunting in the terrain with equipment
It is not at all a haphazard method, for its effective use calls for a knowledge of the area, the terrain, and the feeding, resting, and traveling habits of the local deer. You just need proper hunting equipment like an arrow, guns, bows, arrow rest equipment, proper scope, etc.
Also, it calls for more patience and immobility than many hunters can provide. It is necessary to remain still for several hours, regardless of discomforts.
Selecting the spot in the terrain
The spot selected for a watch should overlook a well-used deer runway if one can be located. Here again, familiarity with the terrain is important. If you know, for example, that the deer habitually cross Stony Brook at a certain point, or top Green Ridge just south of the power line, or move through Old
ManHankin's orchard at the northwest corner, then you are able to select your vantage point with the assurance of some reward. And don't neglect the wind. Take up your position at a spot where the wind will be blowing, even though at an angle, from the probable passage line of the deer to you.
Get information from local hunter
It may be that you can get the necessary information from local hunters or from companions who have hunted the area before. If you have made your own reconnaissance of the terrain in advance, you will not have to depend upon the possible inaccuracies of the others.
Deer are, to a large degree, creatures of habit. They move from the bedding ground to the feeding area late in the day and normally move from the feeding area to the bedding or resting area early in the morning.
Feeding area location
Once you have located the feeding area it should not be too difficult to find the trail they follow to the bedding ground. They may feed in old orchards, recently cut-over or burned-over land, overgrown forest fringes, and similar places where good browse is available.
Shelter areas may be laurel or rhododendron thickets, stands of young evergreens, alder runs, cedar swamps, or small patches of cover on a slope or just under a ridgeline. Often they connect the two areas with a well-defined trail or runway, and even a novice can determine from the condition of a runway whether it is being used currently or whether it is old.
Extremely slow, the calculated head movement is permissible, for without it you often find it impossible to cover the area properly. But your chance for a good shot depends upon the deer are not seeing you.
Last tips in still hunting: the watch method
Regardless of your alertness, there will be many occasions when a deer will approach as close as twenty or thirty feet from your position before you spot it. Often the movement that results from the surprise of this sudden appearance eliminates the opportunity for a shot. A few such experiences will help your determination to stay motionless.
This method represents the highest development of the art of deer hunting. It calls for greater skill in hunting, a more profound knowledge of the woods and their inhabitants, and a broader experience than any other form of deer hunting, and it offers the greatest return in personal satisfaction.
Too many hunters, especially beginners, depend more on luck than skill when practicing this method, which is quite simple—in theory.
Still Hunting by Stalking
You merely move through the cover slowly and quietly in order to approach a deer closely enough to see it, check its sex, and try a shot. How close this approach depends upon cover and terrain. The flatter the land and the thicker the cover, the closer the hunter must approach to ensure a successful shot.
Depends upon the weapon
Much, of course, depends upon the weapon. The rifle with iron sights in skillful hands is normally effective up to two hundred yards. In the hands of an experienced rifleman, the scope-sighted rifle should be effective at twice that range ---depending upon the caliber and load.
The hunter with a shotgun must get within seventy-five yards of his quarry, whether he happens to be using a solid slug or buckshot. The average good archer is not at all certain of accuracy at ranges greater than forty yards.
A mixture of watching and stalking methods
A judicious mixture of the watching and staling methods proves to be the most effective. Since the watch and wait system is most efficient during the early morning and late afternoon, it is advisable for the hunter to plan a watch from dawn until about 9:00 A.M.
This is about all the average individual can stand of immobility, regardless of the prospects it offers. At this point, stalking is in order until late afternoon, and by this time most hunters are ready for a period of relaxation.
After several hours on watch, the hunter may be so numb from cold and cramped muscles that he finds it difficult to move quietly through the covers. Sticks crack beneath his feet, and he is prone to stumble over logs and boulders.
Balancing the time in still hunting by stalking method
He loses his balance frequently and has to regain it with quick, heedless steps. It is hardly a condition for successful still hunting. Every deer in a quarter-mile radius is warned of his approach, and he might as well be back at camp, sitting before a warm fire, for all the chance he has of getting a shot.
Under these conditions, the best bet is to forget serious hunting for about ten minutes. Decide on a good hunting area about ten minutes' walking distance removed, and stride off in that direction. By the time the blood is circulating freely, you are ready to begin hunting again.
Following fresh track
“Some hunters like to follow a fresh deer track in an effort to move up on the animal and take it unawares.” Said Jack Mikeson of Safariors.
This sounds quite simple but is a practice that should be followed only by the hunter with many years' experience and a really broad knowledge of deer habits as well as a familiarity with the area.
This method is practical only following a fresh snowfall. It is not at all difficult to follow the track of a deer in the fresh snow. Anyone can do that. But to follow that track in a manner that will bring you within reasonable rifle shot of a buck is another matter.
Last few words
Never get the idea a deer pay no attention to his back trail. As a moving deer normally move into the wind, or at an angle to it, his nose is not too valuable for checking the back trail, but he will make a number of loops, and occasionally even circle his trail, to ensure that he is not being stalked.
There is no more important factor in successful deer hunting than knowing the terrain over which you are planning to hunt. It is essential if you are going to be more than just a chance shot” hunter. Also, in wilderness areas, it is important to know something of the terrain for your own safety.
Although getting lost may be interesting in retrospect, usually it is productive of considerable discomfort in practicing Importance of Knowing the Terrain.
Once you have decided upon the area of your hunt, the next logical step, if this area is a strange one, is to get hold of a survey map and learn something of the terrain. Such maps are laid out in what is termed "quadrangles" and are published by the U. S. Geodetic Survey.
Knowing the Terrain in Still Hunting
Under normal circumstances, it is advisable to get enough maps to cover the entire area in which you will hunt, with an overlap of about five miles on all sides.
Survey Map on Knowing Terrain
Survey Map on Knowing Terrain are inexpensive and are handled by most large bookstores and by many sporting goods shops. The names of the quadrangles needed may be obtained from index maps for a state or region.
These survey maps show the drainage and topography as well as the roads, trails and assorted important landmarks. They are remarkably accurate, and not at all difficult to "read.”
If it is possible, it is always wise to visit a new and strange area prior to the hunting trip. Though this visit is most productive when made just prior to the hunting trip, it is helpful even if the on-the-ground check is made several months in advance.
Surveying with the Map in Still Hunting
Have your survey map with you, and check the hills, streams, ridges, valleys, trails, and other prominent terrain features. Often it is helpful to make marginal notes of features not shown on the map itself, such as cover types and conditions, game concentrations, and probably feeding areas.
The survey map is less important if you hunt farm fringe country, but it is always useful, for there are plenty of novice hunters who find it possible to get thoroughly lost in a twenty-acre woodlot.
A sketch map of your own drawing may suffice in the more open country, but the same marginal notations will prove valuable when the chips are down and the season opener. The importance of some familiarity with the area to be hunted cannot be overemphasized.
Covering the Terrain Visually
The best period for taking up watch is from just before dawn to midmorning. If by 9:00 A.M. no movement has been seen, the hunter usually would do well to abandon his inactive method and try for a jump shot.
While you are on watch, however, it is important to cover the terrain visually every second. And, in the event a deer is spotted, there must be absolutely no movement.
Deer often will pass within ten feet of an immobile hunter with a background that breaks his outline, but move your head, hands, or feet, and the chances are you will be spotted instantly.
Also, you need to use a proper hiking sun hat to cover your head without any sight problem what actually happens a lot in the process of covering your eyes.
As mentioned before, the vision of the deer probably is less acute than that of a man, but this is more pronounced when static objects are involved. The deer's eye immediately registers any movement, and usually, the reaction is immediate. A few bounds, the flicker of a flag, and the deer is gone.
Deer Watching in the Terrain
Thinking of a deer watch while seated by the home fireside gives the illusion of simplicity. After all, it is merely necessary to sit quietly and remain alert. But keeping completely quiet for several hours is not as simple as it sounds, especially if the temperature is low and the wind is sharp.
It is often possible to evade the wind by finding partial shelter, and the cold can be eliminated to some degree by wearing suitable clothing, but the absence of all movement is another matter. You can move your toes in your boots, your fingers in your gloves, and squirm under your coat, but after an hour or two, your muscles will begin to protest.
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