Typical conditions out here in the west during archery season are hot and dry. Every step seems to make noise and there’s nothing like crunching your way through the forest only to ruin a well planned hunt. Here are seven things to keep in mind before you set out.
I always like to go out before the season starts and get a feel for what the ground’s like and if last year’s paths will work. Often it’s something unexpected like a downed tree or an area where there’s a lot of extra debris from storms etc. If it looks bad, now is the time to re-route yourself.
Even though you have no control over the dry ground, you can lessen the noise by what you’re wearing on your feet. There are many great hunting boots available but when you’re trying to be quiet, you simply can’t with traditional rigid boots. Our ancestors, when they weren’t bare footed, used soft-soled shoes that helped them feel the ground. Moccasins are awesome.
And while many folks will stick to their boots because of rugged terrain, rattlesnakes or whatever else might cause concern, the simple answer in being quiet is to slow way down and plan every step. It’s better to look where you’re going than to look for deer while you walk. I like to take five slow steps, stop and then spot. As the old timers say, “When you think you’re going slow enough, go half that fast.”
Move with noise
Another great technique is to move when there’s noise in the forest. I’ll try to make up ground when the wind blows loudly or Mr. woodpecker starts rattling away at a tree nearby. Paying attention to all the sounds and moving when it’s noisy is an old Native American trick that works well to cover your sound.
And speaking of wind, remember that you can be the best stalker in the world but if you’re not aware of the wind direction (and scent-control) you’ve probably alerted half the deer in the forest to your whereabouts. You’ll never even get close enough to see one. If the wind’s not in my favor, I go right to plan B. It’s a waste of time, especially when there’s a good breeze. Mother Nature loves to play wind tricks on hunters.
Act like a deer
One of the best advise I ever got was to continually think like a deer (or whatever you’re hunting). How would you travel if you were prey? If I stalk like I’m always being watched, I tend to be more careful about the path I take. Being quiet is one thing but being unseen is even better. Think about your outline and work the shadows. Look for the slightest movement and scan all around. Many of us have walked right by deer and never even knew they were there.
It all comes back to awareness and it pays off to give yourself extra time. Get up earlier, walk more slowly and use all of your senses. It’s amazing what we see when we’re looking at everything. Try it and hopefully you end up in the “zone” that many of us have experienced. It’s truly an amazing experience!