Bowhunters must get close to their quarry. To do so, they use hunting tactics that best match animals and their habitats. By assessing each situation and then waiting – whether in treestands or ground blinds – or moving slowly, bowhunters can get within bow range by sneaking toward the game or letting it come to them.
Each tactic has its place. The key is knowing when to employ each. Treestand hunting is great, but if you can’t find a suitable tree where you wish to wait, a ground blind might be a better option. But if you don’t like waiting quietly for hours, your best options might be spotting and stalking game, or still-hunting sites where your quarry rests or feeds. Still-hunting means moving slowly while searching for game.
Before heading to the woods, of course, check your state wildlife agency’s website for its hunting laws. Some states restrict when or where hunters can use treestands and ground blinds. You can find wildlife agency websites here.
What’s the best way to pursue game in your area? Let’s take a look.
The most common technique for hunting white-tailed deer is placing a treestand near a game trail or food source. Treestands come in three models. A platform-and-ladder combination is called a ladder stand. A hang-on tree stand is an independent platform that requires separate steps or a detached ladder for ascending and descending the tree. The third model is a climbing treestand, which doesn’t require steps or a ladder. It consists of two small, portable platforms that help bowhunters climb and descend the tree.
Treestands put bowhunters above the deer’s normal line of sight and help hide them while they await shot opportunities. The elevation also helps hunters see deer approaching from farther away, even in thick cover. Treestands require safety precautions because you’ll be 10 to 20 feet high. When you buy your treestand, the archery shop’s pro will explain how to use the stand and the safety equipment.
Treestand hunting requires mature trees, preferably straight. They must be strong enough to safely support the bowhunter’s weight. Bowhunters must choose trees in good condition, not dead or rotting. If you find a suitable tree near a likely deer trail or feeding area, a well-positioned treestand is an excellent hunting tool.
If you find a great spot, but no suitable trees, a ground blind can put you into bow range. They are also excellent options if you’re afraid of heights, enjoy hunting with a partner or just enjoy having two feet on the ground.
Ground blinds help conceal a bowhunter’s movements by putting a wall between you and the deer, with small screened openings to look and shoot through. Deer have average eyesight, but they detect movement extremely well. A blind’s added benefit is putting you at eye level with animals, which is a cool experience.
Ground blinds set up easily, and pop-up models available at archery shops are light and portable. These blinds look like a camouflage tent with windows. The windows’ mesh screens let you see out but make it difficult for animals to look in. You can shoot through the mesh without disturbing your arrow’s flight, but take a test shot or two through the mesh before hunting so you can shoot with confidence.
For the best results, set up your ground blind two or more weeks before hunting from it, which lets animals get used to its presence. If regulations prevent you from leaving the blind in the woods, take time to camouflage it further with brush and vegetation to help it blend into its surroundings.
Still-Hunting and Spot-Stalk
If you want to hunt animals one-on-one, pitting your stealth and vision against their natural defenses, then try still-hunting or spot-and-stalk tactics. Still-hunting does not mean sitting still. It means moving extremely slowly while trying to see your quarry before it sees you. If the animal is within range when you see it, shoot. If not, stalk into range.
That brings us to spot-and-stalk bowhunting. The name says it all: You spot distant animals and try to sneak within bow range. That sounds simple, but once you try it, you’ll learn the meaning of “difficult.” This technique works best in relatively open areas where you can watch a broad landscape, and spot animals as they walk, feed or rest. Binoculars and a spotting scope are musts. They help you see things the naked eye cannot.
Practicing these techniques on small game is a great way to refine your skills because you’ll get more stalking opportunities per hunt. You’ll learn when it’s OK to move and when to stand still. You’ll also learn to use the terrain and vegetation to hide your movements as you stalk the animal.
With fall approaching quickly, study your bowhunting options. It’s time to scout and find locations to place your treestands and ground blinds, and look for surveillance sites to spot and stalk game. Likewise, note bedding and feeding areas to try still-hunting. By having several tactical options, you can stay afield all day in your quest to harvest wild, delicious, healthy and organically grown meat.