How to Still-Hunt Bucks This Fall

How to Still-Hunt Bucks This Fall

A long sit the day prior revealed bucks were chasing heavily, but in the randomness of the rut, none ambled under my stand. That night a front turned the south wind inside out and hauled with it a November rain that rendered potato chip leaves into pool table felt.

So the next morning I audibled to a new attack. I set out into the wind, sloth-like, pausing every few feet to examine new slices of woods unveiled by each methodic step.

I actually smelled his tarsals before I saw him. The buck cruised across me, curious-eyed, 30 yards away. I spied 5 points, a matching side, and decent width. I nudged the safety off my .308 and found the buck's chest in my scope as he cleared an oak.

how-to-still-hunt-whitetail-bucks-this-fall


With my hand on the buck's still-warm chest, I had a thought: Hunting whitetails from treestands is mighty effective, but it's surely not as fun.


The Still-Hunting Technique


Still-hunting, or slip-hunting as some call it, is the technique of sneaking through the woods on foot and using all of your senses to get within range of an animal or to put yourself in a position to let it get within range of you.

The challenge is to see a deer before it sees you. This means you must move so slowly that your overall movement becomes as imperceptible to the fauna as a clock's hour hand is to you. It requires placing a foot ahead of the other as if it were in slow motion, then pausing for a minute before moving the next.

It requires being aware of your silhouette at all times. It also requires a Zen-like attitude and flowing with the woods to use what it gives you to your advantage. Most of your time should be spent not moving your feet, but inspecting the woods ahead of you with your eyes. Your best tool is a binocular, and it should seldom leave your hand.


I hold my 10x32 binos in my right hand so I can cradle my rifle in my left arm with its butt under my armpit, barrel forward and down. Keeping my right elbow tucked to my side, I raise the glass to my eye with minimal movement.

If I could glue them to my face, I would. Vision at 10X allows me to pick apart subtle edges and colors among the vegetation that could be a part of an animal, and it allows me to see through the woods that otherwise distracts and hampers my normal vision. A binocular harness is handy. Leave the lens caps in the truck; if it's raining, cover the ocular lenses.



"Taking a trophy whitetail while slipping through the woods is one of the most rewarding feats in hunting."


When you lower your binocular to take a small step, scan the woods with your eyes, looking for flickering light that betrays movement. I take a slow step, glass, scan, and repeat.

Stalking in this fashion takes incredible mental discipline, and if you're doing it right, you'll notice how quickly you'll become tired and hungry. Take a break when you begin to get impatient — it will become obvious when you start making clumsy mistakes — as that's precisely the time you'll spook something. Take that break in a spot where you'll possibly see a buck.

If you can hear yourself walking, you're too loud. If deer routinely see you before you see them, you're going too fast and not glassing enough. When you get it right, you'll notice how many deer you see before they see you.

Confluence of Conditions

For best success still-hunting bucks, you'll need the rut, recent rain, and the wind in your favor. The rut dulls a buck's danger impulse by a half-step. That second-long pause is often all a hunter needs when hunting with a rifle. (It's much more difficult with a bow, but it can be done.)

A whitetail uses its ears like radar beacons, so it's nearly impossible to stalk one when the forest is laden with dry leaves. So for all but the Natty Bumppos among us, still-hunt only among damp or otherwise quiet ground. And if the wind isn't right, don't bother still-hunting.

You'll benefit from a steady breeze that pulls your scent away from whitetails ahead of you, and it also masks your sound. Move only when the wind blows, and if it shifts, turn into it. Take advantage of the opportunities the rut offers you to bag a Booner buck from a stalk.

Challenges of Stalking Bucks

When a seasoned still-hunter gets the right conditions, killing a deer from the ground is easy; it's trophy hunting that's tough. Because the vast majority of deer in the field are not shooter-quality bucks, most deer encountered while stalking are passed by the trophy hunter.

how-to-still-hunt-whitetail

These deer often flow around the hunter as they continue foraging. Eventually, they'll cross the hunter's wind trail and spook, alerting other deer. So spooking deer while trophy hunting is a part of the game. But if you continue to slip within killing range of deer, it's only a matter of time until you get in range of a shooter who's thinking about his next date instead of his own safety. Taking a trophy whitetail while slipping through the woods is one of the most rewarding feats in hunting.

Judging on the Hoof

When you see movement through the woods, immediately get your binocular on it to identify it as a deer and then move to its head to see if it's a buck. At close range — inside 50 yards — it's often best to lower the binocular and use your eyes to get a relative view of a buck's rack compared to its body.

When a deer is moving in thick woods, you'll seldom have time to examine each tine. If you determine he's a shooter, get him in your crosshairs, click the safety off, and hammer him the very first opportunity you get.

Gear Must-Haves

Fleece or wool is best for still-hunting. Pants and jackets that crinkle and swish are not worth having. Because I most often stalk on damp ground or in the rain and I frequently stop to sit, I prefer water-resistant, breathable pants that are quiet.

In a light rain I add a waterproof jacket and hat. (A hood restricts peripheral vision.) Wear thin gloves to camouflage the hand's constant movement while raising a binocular. Wear flexible, soft-soled boots that are waterproof — something like a Scent-Lok Silent Stalk Sneaker. This is no time for rubber boots. Don't worry about insulation — you'll be active.

If you get serious about stalking, consider leather moccasins over Gore-Tex socks. Leave the backpack and all the other brush-snagging gadgets at home. If you must carry a bag, consider the Browning Billy 1000 Lumbar Pack. It's small and goes around your waist, limiting snags.

Recommended for You

The most modern ammo and gear increase the odds of bagging a tricky tom this spring. Other Game

Today's Updated Turkey Hunting Gear

Joe Arterburn

The most modern ammo and gear increase the odds of bagging a tricky tom this spring.

Steiner Predator AF Binoculars: Putting The Porro Back in Quality Binoculars Optics

Steiner Predator AF Binoculars: Quality at the Right Price

Joe Arterburn - May 28, 2019

Steiner Predator AF Binoculars: Putting The Porro Back in Quality Binoculars

Hunting in Quebec offers plenty of quality outfitters, affordable hunting options, great fishing and plenty of bears. North America

Bear Hunting Makes Quebec the Ultimate Springtime Destination

Lynn Burkhead - February 01, 2019

Hunting in Quebec offers plenty of quality outfitters, affordable hunting options, great...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 7: Beginner's Luck

Host Kali Parmley takes first-time hunter Danae Hale of CZ-USA to Wyoming for a mule deer hunt. After covering all the basics with Danae, the girls head into the field and what happens next goes way beyond either of their expectations!

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 8: Midnight Sun Grizzlies

Kevin Steele and CZ-USA's Jason Morton return to Alaska's arctic tundra for Kevin's second and Jason's third attempt on the legendary species. Things are looking up on day one but time will tell if the boys will get a shot a the king of the tundra.

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Have a freezer full of ground elk venison from your fall hunting trips? Never fear, the folks at Camp Chef have a great SHOT Show recipe that is lean and mean, easy to prepare, and a crowd-pleasing favorite!

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Perfection takes practice, a little skill and the understanding that not all steaks are created equal. Recipes

How to Properly Grill Venison Steak

Hank Shaw

Perfection takes practice, a little skill and the understanding that not all steaks are...

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these guns. Survival

Which Firearm Is Best for Bear Defense?

Larry Case - July 11, 2018

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these...

A new wave of allergies threatens to turn hunters into vegetarians. News

The Ticks Making Hunters Allergic to Meat

David Hart

A new wave of allergies threatens to turn hunters into vegetarians.

See More Stories

More Whitetail

Here's why hunting with a deer-specific cartridge is a smart move
What do we want a whitetail Whitetail

Whitetail Ammo — Why it Makes a Difference on Deer

Keith Wood - November 22, 2017

Here's why hunting with a deer-specific cartridge is a smart move What do we want a whitetail

New technology and tactics may help kill big bucks, but these proven old-school methods work just as well. Whitetail

These 5 Old School Tactics Are Death on Whitetails

PH Online Editors

New technology and tactics may help kill big bucks, but these proven old-school methods work...

Craig Boddington arrives in Montana and gets his gear ready to track whitetails in the wooded Whitetail

Gearing Up for Montana Whitetails

PHTV Adventures - April 05, 2017

Craig Boddington arrives in Montana and gets his gear ready to track whitetails in the wooded

See More Whitetail

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.