Hunters: Spot, Stalk, Succeed!

On the television screen, the lioness made it look easy. She slipped through the grass, picking just the right moments to move, never taking her eyes off the Impala ewe. At the moment of truth, she made the effortless 20-yard dash to secure the meal for her hungry cubs.

How did this 350-pound hunter get so effortlessly close to an animal that uses its keen senses to survive daily? Well, for starters, lions have huge advantages. First, they were born and raised by the most efficient killers on the planet, and second, they must be efficient to survive on a daily basis. What can we as bowhunters learn from watching lions? The answer is everything.

First you must spot before you can stalk. Glassing from strategic vantage points is an effective way to to do this.

Learns From Mountain Lion
The slight movement of the mountain lion caught my eye. Through my tripod mounted optics, my first impression was that he was a mature male. He sat almost perfectly still, moving only his head as he intently studied the deep canyon between us. After 15 minutes, he slowly melted into the brush only to reappear 200 yards up the ridge and repeat his motionless watch. I watched this predator for more than an hour before he finally exited my view. He was doing exactly what I was doing that morning. He was trying to locate game before game located him, and he was using elevated vantage points and patience to do it. Locating unaware game is the first prerequisite for spot and stalk bowhunting.

The second requirement is the stalk. This can often be the hardest part to successfully pull off. Experience is the only true teacher of effective stalking and many stalks must be blown to reach that point. Understanding your prey’s survival characteristics is paramount.

In a nutshell, a successful stalk is described as getting yourself within bow range of your intended prey, and launching an accurate arrow into a flight animal’s vitals before it takes flight — but it’s easier said than done.

Take extra time before starting your stalk to memorize the route. It can look very different once you leave your vantage point.

Once you lay eyes on an animal that is worthy of harvest, you must immediately assess the stalking opportunities that are offered. Wind direction dictates every aspect of every stalk and must be decided and noted first off. Once wind direction is accounted for, other questions arise. Can you get to the feeding buck before he starts his move to bed? Will he disappear for the day if he makes it to his bedding area or will he bed in a stalkable location? How many other deer are between us to sabotage the stalk?

When To Start A Stalk
Many variables enter into play on deciding when to start a stalk. An accomplished big buck hunter offered me this single line of advice years ago. He said, "Hunt every big buck like it is the last time you will ever see him." This makes a lot of sense, since huge bucks seem to drift into an out of our lives like smoke in the wind. However, this advice does not mean to attempt stalks that are impossible to pull off, but being ultra-conservative, too often, will lead to missed opportunities and unfilled tags.

Before you leave your spotting location and begin your sneak, take a few extra moments to very carefully study the route of your stalk. Once on ground level, everything will look very different than it did from your elevated vantage point. Note anything that can help you stay oriented, such as trees with dead or crooked branches, peculiar rocks or land formations, or drainages that start/stop or fork. Ideally, your options will contain a route that will keep you completely hidden for as long as possible and hopefully until a shooting opportunity develops. All too often though, there are gaps in stalking cover or areas where you will be partially exposed, and this is where knowledge of your prey comes in to the picture.

Choose camo with colors that somewhat match the terrain you hunt.

Ungulate eyesight works differently than ours. Humans can stare at a bush and pull a motionless, camo clad hunter out of it, if we look long enough. A deer cannot do this if we remain still and have matched our camouflage to our hunting terrain. We must betray ourselves with movements for a deer’s eye to pick us off. Like the lion’s chosen movements in the grass, we must chose our times of movement carefully. Move only when a buck’s head is down and he is feeding, or when we can line up an obstacle between his eye and our position. When he beds with his back to us, his sight will be limited in our direction. Take the stalk moment to moment and adapt to whatever arises.

Approach Animal Carefully
As a big game guide, I often tell stalking clients to "move like tree sap." It is entirely possible to move in plain view of game if you do it slow enough. Tree sap runs so slow it is unperceivable to the eye, deer, or human. While within an animal’s sight, throwing your wristwatch away and mimicking this slow-moving style will kill game. However, move as fast as comfortably possible when you are 100 percent confident of not spooking the animal. Closing the gap quickly, while concealed, will cut down on the chances of your target moving or leaving, during the stalk.    

These are just a few of many ways to be a more effective spot and stalk hunter. So the next time a TV program featuring lions comes on, read into it a little more and see what you can learn from one of nature’s most efficient hunters.

For a fine selection of Archery gear, click here.

For a fine selection of Big Game Hunting gear, click here.

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Hunters: Spot, Stalk, Succeed!

On the television screen, the lioness made it look easy. She slipped through the grass, picking just the right moments to move, never taking her eyes off the Impala ewe. At the moment of truth, she made the effortless 20-yard dash to secure the meal for her hungry cubs.

How did this 350-pound hunter get so effortlessly close to an animal that uses its keen senses to survive daily? Well, for starters, lions have huge advantages. First, they were born and raised by the most efficient killers on the planet, and second, they must be efficient to survive on a daily basis. What can we as bowhunters learn from watching lions? The answer is everything.

First you must spot before you can stalk. Glassing from strategic vantage points is an effective way to to do this.

Learns From Mountain Lion
The slight movement of the mountain lion caught my eye. Through my tripod mounted optics, my first impression was that he was a mature male. He sat almost perfectly still, moving only his head as he intently studied the deep canyon between us. After 15 minutes, he slowly melted into the brush only to reappear 200 yards up the ridge and repeat his motionless watch. I watched this predator for more than an hour before he finally exited my view. He was doing exactly what I was doing that morning. He was trying to locate game before game located him, and he was using elevated vantage points and patience to do it. Locating unaware game is the first prerequisite for spot and stalk bowhunting.

The second requirement is the stalk. This can often be the hardest part to successfully pull off. Experience is the only true teacher of effective stalking and many stalks must be blown to reach that point. Understanding your prey’s survival characteristics is paramount.

In a nutshell, a successful stalk is described as getting yourself within bow range of your intended prey, and launching an accurate arrow into a flight animal’s vitals before it takes flight — but it’s easier said than done.

Take extra time before starting your stalk to memorize the route. It can look very different once you leave your vantage point.

Once you lay eyes on an animal that is worthy of harvest, you must immediately assess the stalking opportunities that are offered. Wind direction dictates every aspect of every stalk and must be decided and noted first off. Once wind direction is accounted for, other questions arise. Can you get to the feeding buck before he starts his move to bed? Will he disappear for the day if he makes it to his bedding area or will he bed in a stalkable location? How many other deer are between us to sabotage the stalk?

When To Start A Stalk
Many variables enter into play on deciding when to start a stalk. An accomplished big buck hunter offered me this single line of advice years ago. He said, "Hunt every big buck like it is the last time you will ever see him." This makes a lot of sense, since huge bucks seem to drift into an out of our lives like smoke in the wind. However, this advice does not mean to attempt stalks that are impossible to pull off, but being ultra-conservative, too often, will lead to missed opportunities and unfilled tags.

Before you leave your spotting location and begin your sneak, take a few extra moments to very carefully study the route of your stalk. Once on ground level, everything will look very different than it did from your elevated vantage point. Note anything that can help you stay oriented, such as trees with dead or crooked branches, peculiar rocks or land formations, or drainages that start/stop or fork. Ideally, your options will contain a route that will keep you completely hidden for as long as possible and hopefully until a shooting opportunity develops. All too often though, there are gaps in stalking cover or areas where you will be partially exposed, and this is where knowledge of your prey comes in to the picture.

Choose camo with colors that somewhat match the terrain you hunt.

Ungulate eyesight works differently than ours. Humans can stare at a bush and pull a motionless, camo clad hunter out of it, if we look long enough. A deer cannot do this if we remain still and have matched our camouflage to our hunting terrain. We must betray ourselves with movements for a deer’s eye to pick us off. Like the lion’s chosen movements in the grass, we must chose our times of movement carefully. Move only when a buck’s head is down and he is feeding, or when we can line up an obstacle between his eye and our position. When he beds with his back to us, his sight will be limited in our direction. Take the stalk moment to moment and adapt to whatever arises.

Approach Animal Carefully
As a big game guide, I often tell stalking clients to "move like tree sap." It is entirely possible to move in plain view of game if you do it slow enough. Tree sap runs so slow it is unperceivable to the eye, deer, or human. While within an animal’s sight, throwing your wristwatch away and mimicking this slow-moving style will kill game. However, move as fast as comfortably possible when you are 100 percent confident of not spooking the animal. Closing the gap quickly, while concealed, will cut down on the chances of your target moving or leaving, during the stalk.    

These are just a few of many ways to be a more effective spot and stalk hunter. So the next time a TV program featuring lions comes on, read into it a little more and see what you can learn from one of nature’s most efficient hunters.

For a fine selection of Archery gear, click here.

For a fine selection of Big Game Hunting gear, click here.

Leave a Reply

Commenting Policy - We encourage open expression of your thoughts and ideas. But there are a few rules:

No abusive comments, threats, or personal attacks. Use clean language. No discussion of illegal activity. Racist, sexist, homophobic, and generally hateful comments are not tolerated. Keep comments on topic. Please don't spam.

While we reserve the right to remove or modify comments at our sole discretion, the Sportsman's Guide does not bear any responsibility for user comments. The views expressed within the comment section do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of The Sportsman's Guide.