To be a successful deer hunter, you need to be in the right place at the right time. And in order to BE in the right place, you have to GET TO the right place. If you simply march in to your stand location, your chances of getting in undetected are slim. Instead, you need to SNEAK in, while paying close attention to three forms of stealth:
1. Visual Stealth
2. Audible Stealth
3. Olfactory Stealth
Have you seen that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie called Predator? The foe in the flick is an alien warrior who can cloak himself in camouflage that duplicates his surroundings exactly. He can sneak up on anything, anywhere. For hunters, maybe that kind of camouflage technology will exist in another few hundred years. But today we’re stuck with printed fabric.
Still, good camo that matches the surroundings will give you a stealthy advantage. Mathews, the bow company, has introduced a new pattern they call LOST that is exceptionally good in a variety of conditions. They worked with Gamehide on a full line of Mathews Collection jackets, pants, shirts and more.
To enhance your visual stealth in the deer woods, it’s critical to avoid quick movements. When you walk, reach for your call, raise your weapon or anything else, do it s-l-o-w-l-y. Deer are always in-tune to picking up even the slightest twitch of movement. Keep the skin on your hands and face camouflaged as well, since those are the parts of you that will be moving the most.
Also, when walking to your stand, try to stay low by bending at the waist. This disrupts your human silhouette and puts your back-line on a horizontal plane (vs. vertical). You’re more apt to look like another deer if you’re sneaking through the brush horizontally.
When you’re hunting deer (or anything for that matter), you want to sound like one of two things: either sound like nothing or sound like something that belongs. As you’re walking to and from your stand location, it’s almost impossible to be completely silent. I say “almost” because there are some precautions you can make to sneak in quietly. For example, when possible, take time to clear brush and rake away leaves on the path you take to your stand (do it long before you intend to hunt that spot). It can be a lot of work, but the rewards of a silent approach are well worth it. Also, select only the quietest fabrics for your clothing to avoid noises when you move or scrape up against trees and brush.
While walking in the woods, make every attempt to sound like a deer, squirrel or other critter. This means taking a step or two, then stopping for a moment (while looking and listening), before taking those next steps.
Animals rarely, if ever, walk at a consistent pace like us humans do. Remember also that animals typically step crisply when they’re content, and try to emulate that. A slow C-R-U-N-C-H of a human boot trying to be quiet in brittle leaves is a telltale sound that doesn’t belong in the woods. It also helps to wear boots that give your feet some feel²of the ground beneath (for the same reason Native American hunters wore supple moccasins when stalking game). Being able to feel a branch before you break it can make the difference between spooking game and getting closer. I recommend the soles of Muck Camo Camp Boots for their feel.
If travel to your hunting location requires the use of a 4-wheeler, then consider a silent, electric ATV like a Bad Boy Buggy. In addition to being quiet, there’s no stinky exhaust to foul up your hunting area. Plus, Bad Boy Buggies offer plenty of comfort and storage areas for all your gear.
Successful deer hunters are always concerned about eliminating human scent. But as important as it is to be scent-free IN your stand, it’s also critical to not leave scent behind ON YOUR WAY to the stand. Those Muck boots I mentioned earlier have 100% rubber bottoms, which is the best scent-free boot material (it’s not surprising that trappers insist on rubber boots and gloves when setting their traps for keen-nosed fur bearers). And here’s a little tip: If you come across some fresh deer droppings, smoosh that stuff into your boot soles to help make yourself smell like you belong
Before walking in, make sure all your clothing has been washed with scent-eliminating detergent, tuck your pants into your rubber boot tops, and douse yourself and your gear with a scent-eliminating spray. Avoid touching branches with your bare hands. And if you’re going to doctor scrapes with deer lure or hang scent wicks, wear some surgical gloves (available at the drug store) to eliminate skin contact with the woods or lure.
Finally, wear a scent-eliminating hat and facemask when hunting big game. A large percentage of the human odor you emit comes from your head and breath.
Does it sound like I’ve gone off the deep end with all this sneakiness? I don’t think so. Because taking these precautions can mean the difference between having antlers on the wall and venison in the freezer or spending a frustrating day in the deer stand watching squirrels and sparrows.
Babe Winkelman is a nationally-known outdoorsman who has taught people to fish and hunt for more than 25 years. Watch the award-winning “Good Fishing” and “Outdoor Secrets” television shows on Versus, Fox Sports Net, Comcast Southeast, WILD TV and many local networks.