Here in Wisconsin, stalking the weary Whitetail deer is almost unheard of, especially when trying to get one with a bow. It is much more popular out west where the land is very open and hilly, but the diverse land here in the Midwest poses different challenges. Stalking isn’t just going out to your hunting spot, seeing a deer, and sneaking up on it for a perfect 20 yard broadside shot. We all wish it was that easy, but it is far from that. However, with the right knowledge, stalking Whitetails can be very effective. If you can follow a few simple rules, you too can successfully stalk these much sought after animals.
Rules to follow:
1. KNOW THE LAND. You need to know every slope, downed tree, dip, and open area that may be on the land you hunt. These are all important not only to sneaking up on your animal, but also to know where the deer may be hiding.
2. WATCH THE WIND. The wind plays a key role in how close you will get to your trophy. Scent eliminators can only do so much. You have to do all you can to keep the wind in your face. If you see a deer 500 yards away and it is directly downwind, chances are it already smells you. You need to position yourself so the deer stays as upwind as possible.
3. STAY LOW AND QUIET. It’s almost as if you are a lion stalking prey. You need to stay low and walk soft. Most hunting boots do not allow for “soft” walking. Rubber boots are so big and bulky that they make a lot of noise walking through the grass and woods. Other hunting boots are stiff and don’t form around branches like your bare feet do, and let’s face it, who is going to go out hunting bare foot? Not me, that’s for sure. Fortunately, I have found that by just going to a sporting goods store, such as Cabela’s, and buying a couple pairs of neoprene socks, you can be much quieter when stalking your prey. The neoprene keeps your feet dry and helps them breath, and you are almost completely silent as you carefully step through the grass and leaves.
4. CUT THE DEER OFF. Most likely, the deer you see will move by the time you get to them. Your job is to figure out what way the deer wants to go and get in front of it. This will let the animal come to you a little instead of you sneaking right up to the animal.
5. PRACTICE LONGER SHOTS. Like I said earlier, although a twenty yard, broadside shot would be ideal, it is extremely unlikely. You need to practice longer shots to accommodate for situations you may find yourself in. I would recommend being comfortable shooting at 40 yards at least. This will also help you be more comfortable with closer shots also.
6. GET A GOOD RANGEFINDER. I know it’s not in most people’s budget, but if it allows, I recommend buying a decent rangefinder. It is very easy to misjudge distances in open areas and in the woods when you find yourself in a quick decision situation. If you cannot afford a rangefinder, be sure to practice, practice, and practice more judging distances out in the field. When you are walking out to your spots, pick a spot, guess the distance, and step it off. When I am shooting bow, I like to throw my arrows around the lawn to scatter them in random places. Then I just go to each arrow and shoot it at my target and guess the distances.
7. BRING A CALL. Deer move. When you call while you are moving, it simulates another deer and it sounds a lot more realistic than calling from up in a tree. Just a simple grunt call could help you bring in that monster buck the last couple steps for a perfect shot, especially in the rut!
Following those guidelines will help you get closer to that trophy of a lifetime. The rest is up to you!