No hunting experience rivals spotting an animal and sneaking undetected into bow range. When hunting from ground blinds or tree stands, bowhunters quietly and patiently wait for animals to come to them. In spot-and-stalk hunting, bowhunters go to the animal. It’s a heart- pounding tactic every hunter should experience.
Most big-game and small-game species can be spotted and stalked. However, it’s all about cover and terrain. Given the right gear, topography and habitat, skilled bowhunters can spot game from a distance and execute a stalk.
To start, the hunter must locate an animal without being seen, heard or smelled. Sites that are open or semi-open give hunters their best opportunities to spot distant game. Hunters set up where they can see far, and then use quality optics to search for their quarry.
Gear for Spot-and-Stalk Hunts
Optics, like binoculars, help hunters spot and identify game that isn’t visible to the naked eye. Binoculars and spotting scopes used with a portable tripod are a spot-and-stalk bowhunter’s best friend.
Binoculars give a wide view of an area, and spotting scopes can zero in for better looks. Most spot-and-stalk bowhunters use both of these optics. However, quality binoculars can do the job alone in most situations. And quality matters. Buy the best binoculars you can afford. You’ll see a lot more game, and suffer less eye strain.
Sitting and looking for animals is called “glassing,” and it can be tiring and uncomfortable. Therefore, most spot-and-stalk hunters carry a thin cushion in their backpack. A tripod to support your binoculars and spotting scope is also vital. It steadies the image and minimizes fatigue. During long glassing sessions, binoculars and spotting scopes should be mounted atop a tripod for hands-free glassing.
Another great aid is a lightweight tarp, which can be rigged for shade and shelter.
Spot-and-stalk hunting sounds simple: Spot an animal and stalk it. If only success were that easy. First, find an elevated site overlooking a large area. Glassing from high, unobstructed vantage points lets you see vast areas, so you can search for game with your eyes instead of your feet. When glassing, choose observation posts based on the sun’s position. Try to keep the sun behind you when glassing. This keeps sunlight out of your eyes while making animals more visible by highlighting or reflecting off their coat. Meanwhile, when they look your direction, the sun will be shining in their eyes, making it hard for them to spot you.
Once you spot an animal, note its location and nearby landmarks for reference. It’s easy to lose track of that spot once you start your stalk. If time permits, sketch a map to plan your stalking route, noting landmarks to help you navigate.
Wind must dictate your route. Make sure it’s blowing toward you or quartering into you so your quarry can’t detect your scent. Land features like boulders, hillsides and gullies can conceal your movements. Once you’re close to an animal, consider removing your boots and sneaking in wearing just socks. Or pull thick, oversized socks over your boots for added stealth the final few yards. Just don’t leave your boots where you can’t find them later.
Spot-and-stalk hunting is a thrilling way to hunt, and there’s no better way to test your hunting skills. Visit a nearby archery shop to test and evaluate optics, tripods and accessories, and to get the necessary gear for spotting and stalking.