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Stand or Sneak?

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2006

Last revision: Feb. 16, 2011

usually find new places—trails or scrapes, for example—to place my stand.

When I’m sneaking, I feel more like a hunter. Maybe it’s because I can’t multi-task. I’ve hoisted books, MP3 players, video games and notepads into my treestands and still saw deer, but sneaking forces me to be focused and deliberate.

Everyone knows how to sneak. We’re always surprising brothers, sisters, cats and dogs by sneaking up on them—great fun! Sneaking through the woods isn’t much different. We have to travel quietly and slowly, hiding behind trees or brush whenever we can.

Because we don’t know what we’re looking for or where it is, we have to remain extremely alert. Experts tell us that we shouldn’t look for a whole deer, but for parts of a deer, especially the horizontal line marking the bottom or top of the deer’s body. One of my favorite sneaks involves creeping like a box turtle through cedars, looking beneath the limbs for deer legs.

Travel slowly enough that you can spot almost any movement, even the flick of a deer’s ear. Remember, they are as likely to be lying down as standing. Your goal is to see a deer before it senses you. If you’re startled by sudden noise and see a white rump bouncing away through the woods, you’ve lost the sneak game.

I can be quietest when the woods are soggy, but I also like to sneak around in dry, windy conditions. I think strong breezes whisk my scent away quickly, giving only those deer directly downwind a chance to sniff me. Also, the wind rustling through the dry woods provides a kind of “white noise” that masks any ruckus I might make. The same wind shakes branches and leaves, which probably makes it more difficult for the deer to pick up my slow movements.

My most memorable sneak actually was a stalk. I disturbed a couple of deer when I approached my treestand early one morning. They clumped off noisily in the dark, but they didn’t go far. Not long after full light, I could see two deer milling around in a patch of tall grass about 300 yards away. As I watched them through binoculars from my perch, they suddenly vanished.

The deer had bedded down.

They weren’t coming to me, so I decided to go to them. Before lowering my bow and easing myself out of the tree, I noted landmarks and planned a stalk toward where

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