Gerald Almy: Mixing tactics can be productive
I think most hunters have faced this dilemma a time or two. You enjoy sneak hunting bucks (also called still hunting). The weather’s cold and it’s nice to be up and moving around. The season’s winding down and you haven’t been seeing much from your tree stands.
But usually when you do try sneak hunting, you wind up bumping more deer than you harvest. All you see is their white flashing tails as they run away.
It’s not necessarily the ultimate solution to this dilemma, but sometimes I find it works to compromise between using one or the other or these two standard techniques. I do some still hunting, some stand hunting, alternating the two tactics on a fixed time schedule.
Sneak quietly along for 10 or 20 minutes then sit (or stand) for 10 or 20 minutes. This seems to be the ideal compromise between being stationary and moving, though the timing is flexible based on topography, vegetation and sign.
From what I’ve seen in hunting camps, the average hunter can sit stock still for about 10 or 20 minutes without fidgeting. That total immobility makes the “watching” part of the hunt extremely productive.
On the other hand, the “moving” phase can also yield shots, since you’re sneaking quietly and using cover as you go. Even if it doesn’t, at least it puts you into a totally fresh area to watch. It also warms your body, reinvigorates the circulation and refreshes you mentally for another intense, focused watch.
Here’s how to execute the sneak part of the hunt. Work along thick stream bottoms, mountain benches, field edges, brushy hollows, transition corridors, secondary food sources or clear-cut edges. Your goal is to move slowly to a new area, perhaps 150-300 yards away, depending on how thick the cover is. But you’re hunting as you go.
Keep the gun at the port arms position. Walk a few steps, and then pause. Stay behind trees and in shadows when you stop, always scanning ahead.
You can use your cell phone, a regular watch, or estimate the time. Vary it from 10-30 minutes, depending on how topography, vegetation and sign unfold.
In other words, don’t stop in a poor area, just because the allotted time is up. Move on to a better spot. Then stop. And don’t keep walking after eight minutes if you come upon a dynamite spot.
Now let’s look at strategies for part where you’re stand hunting. I sometimes carry a pack stool or seat that straps around a tree trunk for these parts of the hunt. Deciding where to stop and watch is the difficult thing.
There’s no gold star marking the spot where you should sit. That’s what keeps this hunt challenging. You’re hunting as you go, but also exploring areas and discovering potential places to hang stands next year.
The best locations to sit are where you come upon hot sign such as rubs, trails, a fresh scrape or moist droppings. Other good spots include a large funnel tapering into a narrower one, an isolated food source, a saddle in a mountain ridge, a natural clearing or a water hole with fresh large tracks.
Back off down or cross-wind from these spots and settle in for 10-30 minutes, depending on how you rate the potential. If nothing shows, you can then renew the sneak hunt.
Not only is this mixed hunting tactic fun and productive, it’s a great way to learn more about your territory. And one thing’s guaranteed: you’ll never go home bored.
Finally, be sure to wear some blaze orange and be 100 percent sure of your target before pulling the trigger. Hunting accidents are becoming less common. Let’s keep it that way.
Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.