It is no secret amongst hunters that a whitetail that knows you're coming is a whitetail on the move away from you. Whether is it sight, sound, or smell that gives you away, a whitetail deer is simply not going to sit around in the Missouri woods waiting to become prey. Instead these animals move their feet opposite of you, the perceived threat, in search of safe haven.
Though it can be very frustrating when deer evade to the point where you cannot get a decent shot, you should take these experiences apply them as learning tools. Just like with all other aspects of hunting, stalking and sneaking up on whitetail deer is a skill and mastering skills takes practice. If you are having trouble stalking deer then perhaps your skills need a little polish. Here are some suggestions as to how to apply some:
The number one adversary of a hunter is wind as it sometimes seemingly carries your scent right into the nostrils of your quarry. Sure, we all take great pains to eradicate as much of our natural human odor as possible but knowing wind behavior is equally useful. Things to remember are that hot air rises while cold air sticks close to ground level. Obstacles such as hills will redirect wind and a good way to find out where is to watch the movement of foliage. Base your movement on wind behavior in order to give your own movement the best possible chance of cover.
Once you know what the wind is doing, it is important to decide what you will be doing. Where are you planning to go? Do you know the topography in the area you are hunting? Which trails can you take that correlate with deer travel patterns? These are things you need to plan in advance so knowledge of your hunting area is vital for successful stalking. If you didn't do enough scouting over the summer, be sure to incorporate scouting into your next off season so you will have nature's nooks and crannies committed to memory.
Watch and observe both near and far. Keeping an eye on your immediate surroundings is easy enough, but what about deer moving about in the distance? In order to sneak up on deer, you need to know where they are, hence being able to see them at a distance. Binoculars play a vital role in not only spotting deer but also spotting something that may decide to stalk you, such as a bobcat in the video below.
It is also incredibly important to watch what your intended target is up to. Deer that are having a snack are otherwise occupied and may take longer to notice you whereas a buck on the move is already putting distance between himself and you. You may have to move quickly but cautiously, taking note of deer body language cues as you move. Raised heads and watchful eyes are a sign they could be onto you so you may need to adjust or even halt your pace. In the event that your quarry is distracted, you may have freedom to move more quickly to close the gap between the two of you.
Remember that there are many natural sounds which occur in the Missouri woods. Deer hear these sounds all the time so you should learn to mimic these sounds. Particularly useful are sounds that mimic the actions of other animals in the natural world. Animals do not tend to stride about with the same purpose as a man walking down a city street, instead taking a few steps and pausing. In search of food items, animals may scratch the ground. If you suspect your quarry is onto you, do your best to avoid behaving and therefore sounding like a human and mimic a fellow woodland resident instead.
Masking yourself with camouflage is a useful tactic but it only goes so far. Being able to sneak around the woods in pursuit of whitetail prey is just as useful if not more so than blending in with nature. Wear that camo dutifully but also be sure that you know how to best conduct yourself in the woods once you're wearing it.
Do you have any stalking tips and tricks that you swear by? Which of these do you find most effective? Tell us in the comments!