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The art of stalking deer

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There are bow hunters that climb trees and wait for hours for a deer to pass by within shooting range. I have no quarrel with these hunters. Many great deer have been taken this way, but I just am not patient enough to do this. I prefer to hunt from the ground and move about when I get bored or cold. I have been told by experienced hunters, it is more difficult to hunt from the ground and impossible to walk into shooting range of a deer.

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I think bow hunting has evolved over the years from originally stalking to recently perching in a tree with a few of us going back to stalking. I am sure, a few hundred years ago, the Indians did not sit in a tree waiting for the next meal to happen by. If they were not riding a horse close enough to get into bow range, they were stalking on foot. I have found if done right, stalking works very well.

Much like planning a hunt from a tree stand, there are many things to consider before you go out with the intention of stalking your game. Deer have keen senses of sight, hearing and smell. All of the ramifications of these senses must be well thought out prior to the hunt.

Camouflage clothing helps break up a person's silhouette but one must remember to move slowly and in the shadows as much as possible. Walk behind big trees and cautiously peer around them. Movement will give a person away quicker than anything.

The sound of a twig snapping will put every deer in the area on full alert. When a person walks, always feel the ground with your feet before stepping down. I wear lightweight shoes with thin rubber soles so I can feel a stick or acorn before I step on it. These shoes are not the ones a person will wear in a tree stand or on an extremely cold day while still hunting. They work well for stalking, but one's feet will freeze off standing still. Clothes should be made of a soft material that will not make noise if brushed by a branch or caught on a thorn.

The simplest deer's sense to defeat is its sense of smell. I always walk into the wind. There are scent block materials that are supposed to trap all human scent. Deer have such a good sense of smell, I am sure this is impossible. One day I saw a doe run a rather random pattern across an open pasture. Several minutes later, what must have been her fawn from last year came running by. At a dead run, the fawn followed the exact pattern her mother had covered. I think deer can smell at least as good as a bloodhound.

Following this simple plan, anybody can walk within bow range of a deer. Try to avoid the obvious falling down the creek bank or swearing loudly when caught on a fence.

It is easier to stalk a single deer than a group. With a group, there seems to always be one or two paying attention. When you walk through the woods and see a single deer, move quietly and slowly, blocking their vision with trees or brush. If they get nervous, freeze in position. They will not see a person that is perfectly still. When they go back to eating or move behind a tree, step forward, ready, until you are in range. Get as close as possible, let the arrow fly, and food is set for the winter.

Though many people think it impossible, deer can be stalked from the ground. It is a satisfying way to hunt when a person is able to outsmart the acute senses of such an animal. It is also very tasty.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.

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