The term still hunting is a misnomer as the hunter is actually moving around trying to locate deer. It seems a simple way to hunt deer but is a lot harder than it sounds.
That is why most hunters use the ‘stand’ method where they are stationary in a stand or blind waiting for the deer to come close enough to them to take the shot.
So why is still hunting so difficult?
The hunter, while moving around, has to avoid being detected by:
The deer’s ability to utilize scent is legendry. Hunter’s scent in some cases has been picked up by deer several hundred yards away. Deer have excellent vision to pick up movement, so they can easily spot a moving hunter. Their hearing is also superior with large ears and the ability to move their ears independently to pick up sound direction very well.
So the hunter is at a great disadvantage when moving around still hunting.
To be a successful still hunter, it’s important to see the deer before it is aware of you. To do this, you need to avoid being scented, heard or seen.
When you are trying to avoid your scent being delivered to the deer’s nose, the key is to use the wind to your advantage. You should hunt upwind or across the wind. With the wind in your face or your side, it will minimize the chance of your scent alerting the deer to your presence.
Be aware that the surface winds are influenced by the terrain and so using a wind direction device regularly to test the wind direction such as powder or ‘floaters’ will help ensure wind changes don’t catch you by surprise.
Minimizing your sound involves watching where you place your feet so you don’t break sticks or make other noise. Wet ground is a great time to hunt as your noise is so much less. Try to wear clothing such as wool that doesn’t make a noise when brushing against vegetation.
To avoid the deer picking up your movement try walking slowing and stopping regularly to look and listen for deer. By stopping every few steps and checking for deer, you are more likely to be aware of the deer before it sees you.
You are less likely to be seen if you walk along edges or fringes rather than in the open. Staying just inside the edge of vegetation rather than in clearings will allow you to remain hidden but still look out into the clearing. When crossing ridges try to do it using saddles and keep your profile low as you cross over the ridgeline as you stand out against the skyline.
When you are walking around looking for deer, as the vegetation grows upwards, look for any horizontal lines against a lot of vertical vegetation. Sometimes you can also see ears or parts of a deer because other parts are obscured by trees etc.
Deer use their sense of smell as the ultimate determinant of danger. They will usually wait or watch if they hear a noise they are not sure of until they can determine exactly what it is. This can present an opportunity for a shot.
So when still hunting, the most important consideration is to prevent your scent reaching the deer. Hunting upwind or crosswind and constantly re-checking the wind direction will give you an advantage.
Combining the wind direction with quiet, slow movement, and always being on the alert should increase your success when still hunting.