When bowhunting October and November, I go to painstaking lengths to quickly and quietly get to my tree and climb up with my saddle. I take no detours, religiously play the wind, and carefully plan my entrance and exit routes. In short, I am meticulous about moving with purpose through the woods. However, winter and firearm season open up some different options for hunting. Hunting on foot with a rifle or shotgun is one of my favorites. Here’s why.
Chase The Deer
When hunting from a tree, much of the strategy is done before you ever step foot in the woods. You have likely already scouted the area and at least have a general idea of where you will hunt from. This ambush-style of hunting works well, provided that deer move past your tree as predicted. There is nothing worse than waking up early and sitting in a tree all day without seeing any deer. When you go on foot, you will be moving to where the deer are instead of waiting for them to come to you. Ground hunting is a bold strategy and you still need to take some precautions to avoid blowing out every deer on your property. However, if done right it can produce some great results.
Use The Snow
When there is a fresh coat of snow on the ground, still-hunting can be especially beneficial. The snow will quiet your footsteps allowing you to move quicker without deer hearing your approach. Also, the option of tracking becomes available. Tracking is a method of still hunting which involves finding fresh deer tracks and trying to follow them back to the source. Once you have located the tracks you will need to proceed cautiously. First off, don’t even attempt to track unless the wind is in your face. Otherwise, you may follow the footsteps all day, but will likely never catch up to the deer who will easily catch your scent. Second, while tracking you need to move slow. We’re talking moving a couple hundred yards every hour at the most. Stop at regular intervals and use your binoculars to scan the area. If you do this right, you will eventually come upon a deer. Using your optics can help you get the jump on it before it sees you.
Bump Some Deer
While ground hunting, you will inevitably bump some deer as you move through the terrain. Make note of where the deer were and where they headed off to. If you can figure out how they are moving through an area you may be able to come back later and get the drop on them when they relax again. If you are a quick shot, you may even be able to shoot a deer that suddenly jumps up from its bed as you approach. Shotguns and lever-action rifles work well in this role as “brush guns” allowing you to acquire your target quickly.
Try It Out
If you have never still hunted for deer then you may be missing out on another tool in the toolbox. In winter and with a firearm it can be a very effective technique that allows you to cover a lot of ground in a short time. Blaze orange is critical when still hunting as is being certain of your target before firing. Get out to the woods, get on some tracks or fresh sign and give it a shot.