On a hunt, my brother Archie and I stalked 75-yards apart through a hardwood bottom. He and I had used this technique before with repeated success. One of us would spook the deer to send it running in front of the other. As we moved out into an area that led to a patch of flooded timber, I saw Archie go past a suspicious-looking briar thicket. I stopped and watched Archie walk 10-yards from the thicket, then move past and in front of the cover. With my binoculars, I could see antler tips in the briars and expected Archie to spook the deer as he went away from the briars. When Archie had walked about 50-yards from the briar patch, the fat 7-point buck stood-up and sneaked-out of the briars without making a sound. I readied my rifle. The buck went no more than 10-yards before I squeezed the trigger and dropped the buck. If you hunt in high-pressure areas during muzzleloading season, you’ll notice the older, smarter bucks often will hold tight to thick cover and let you walk right past them. But, if you hunt with a partner and watch each others back trails, you’ll see just as many bucks behind you as in front of you. Remember to glass the area ahead as well as behind you when you stalk. The number of deer you’ll see coming and going on your back trail will surprise you.
What’s The Secret to Seeing More Deer When You Stalk:
Whether you stalk or stand, to bag big bucks you must be able to see them in the woods. Writers have written thousands of articles on deer-hunting techniques, stand placement, shooting accurately and the many-other aspects of successful deer hunting. But rarely will you read an article about how to see the deer better. I know sportsmen who will spend hundreds of hours on bench rests, making sure their rifles will drive tacks from 0 to 200 yards. They’ll use different powder charges, wadding systems and bullets to try to make their CVA rifles shoot more accurately, hoping they’ll take more deer each season. However, those same sportsmen won’t spend a fraction of that time improving their spotting skills. But remember, if you can’t see the deer, you can’t shoot them. To spot a deer in the woods, you need to search for parts of a deer. If you can’t make out the difference between …
* a branch lying beside a tree trunk and a deer’s leg protruding from behind a tree trunk,
* the white feathers under a bird’s wing and the inside white of a deer’s ear,
* a bird fluttering in a bush and a deer’s trail swishing,
* a shadow on a small tree or the black circle of a deer’s eye,
* a coon moving on the side of a tree or a deer moving behind the tree,
* a turkey walking through the woods or a deer walking in the woods, and
* antlers or branches, then you won’t spot the deer you hope to take.
Before your next muzzleloader hunt, take these steps toward improving your spotting abilities:
* Have an eye exam.
* Wear glasses if you need them. Why buy eyeglasses to help you see better and then refuse to wear them? You’ll be glad you’ve worn them when you take that long-awaited big buck, or you’ll be eternally sorry you haven’t seen that big buck, because you’ve forgotten your glasses. You have to make the choice.
* Choose a pair of bright and lightweight binoculars that have a good field of view and magnification out to 200 yards.
* Select a clear scope with ample magnification. Make sure the scope has sufficient eye relief for a full field of view once you mount it.
* Set your scope at its lowest power while you hunt. Many hunters miss bucks at close range when they have the power on their scopes’ set too high.
Why Stalking with a Muzzleloader Rifle Is the Ultimate Hunting Challenge:
If you’ve never harvested a deer, buy a modern rifle and a quality scope. Then go sit over a green field or by a power line, and take a deer at 100 or 200 yards. You will harvest a deer, but you won’t have hunted for it. But to test your hunting skills, buy a CVA muzzleloader, and take it to the woods for a real hunt. Move slowly through the woods without spooking any animals. Watch for deer. See them before they spot you. Get as close to the deer as you can, without his seeing you. Then take your shot. Bagging your first buck like this will enable you to experience muzzleloader hunting at its best.
By: John E. Phillips, outdoor writer