Thursday, September 17, 2009

Back to Basics Deer Tactics

Back to Basics Deer Tactics
By Scott Loomans
Wisconsin DNR 2009 Fall Hunting Forecast

Though once an important part of the deer hunter’s craft, still hunting has given way to waiting from a stationary position, or stand hunting, as the most popular way to hunt deer. Consider giving still hunting a try. If you’re successful, and even if you aren’t, you could be amazed at just how exciting is.

Still hunting is not just the punch line to an old joke about what a deer hunting widow’s spouse has been doing for the last nine days. Still hunting is the active pursuit of a deer with the goal of seeing it and having a shooting opportunity before the deer sees the hunter. The hunter and the quarry are on the ground together pitting their skills against each other.

As described by the late Wisconsinite George Mattis in his famous 1969 book, Whitetails, Fundamentals and Fine Points, the hunter’s movements are slow and measured, requiring even more patience than stand hunting. In getting started you can use an old logging road or deer trail, frozen waterway, or grassy field edge to cover ground silently. You’d be surprised by how often you can move quietly through freshly fallen leaves by waiting until just that hour when morning frost softens and dampens the ground cover. In the ridge-and-river country of Western Wisconsin, a still hunt can almost become more of a spot and- stalk type of pursuit.

Always be looking ahead and looking for more than just the deer. Parts of the deer like an ear, antler, the horizontal line of their back, or the white belly of a bedded animal are more often seen first.

Sometimes people miss out on the opportunity to still hunt because they are afraid to scare deer off of a property. If you are worried about that, consider doing your still hunting during the week or during the middle of the day while others are at lunch.

Post a stander along known escape routes. Consider just not worrying about it so that you can enjoy this style of hunting.

Sneaking up on a deer that doesn’t know you are after it is challenging but it is also one of the most exciting ways to hunt – and it may not be as difficult as you think. When I was younger I marveled at Mattis’ success stories but didn’t quite believe it was still possible to do in Wisconsin. Since then I have proven myself wrong a number of times hunting on both private and public land.

If you are looking for a hunt that will totally engross your senses, engage all of your hunting skills, and that will quite possibly be the most exciting hunt you can have, give still hunting a shot.

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