Stand or Sneak?

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2006

Last revision: Feb. 16, 2011

I’d last seen the deer. I had all morning to hunt and told myself to use it all if necessary to get close enough for a shot—about 15 yards. From the time my foot first hit the ground, I took every step slowly, deliberately and quietly.

The wind that came up gave me a lot of confidence. I was mostly moving into it, so the deer couldn’t smell me, and if I was stealthy they probably wouldn’t hear me. The wind also whipped the grass where they were bedded, so they would have trouble seeing me. Confidence breeds competence: I have never been sneakier.

I plotted each footfall, kept trees between me and my destination and moved only when the wind gusted. If I did happen to snap a twig, I froze for at least a minute before even thinking about shifting my weight further.

A couple of very enjoyable hours passed before I found myself on the edge of the grassy plot without a clue of what to do next. I had an arrow nocked and was ready to draw, but I had no target. The deer were still hidden in the grass. I kept moving forward, extra alert, hoping that I could startle them into standing up without spooking them out of range.

It happened just that way. The deer popcorned up, one right after another, both within easy shooting range and both staring at me to the point of rudeness. I didn’t dare pull the bow, but the deer to my left forced my hand when she began to circle matter-of-factly to a point downwind of me. She apparently wanted to get to the bottom of my sudden apparition. If she whiffed me, I knew they would both be gone.

I slowly drew on the standing deer, even though it was looking at me. I could see its muscles tense, and we both seemed to release at exactly the same moment. It ran off, as did the sniffing deer, and I spent the next 15 minutes locating my arrow in the grass. What a great hunt!

Actually, they all are. It’s not really so important that I see a deer or shoot one when I’m hunting. It’s enough to know that I have a chance to do either, and that I can improve my chances by applying the hunting skills of stealth, patience, woodsmanship and awareness.

As a bonus, I don’t think I’ve ever been on a hunt when I didn’t marvel at or appreciate something wild and natural and worth telling others about. When you take such benefits into account, the odds in deer hunting, whether you’re standing or sneaking, are always in your favor.

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