Spot and Stalk Hunting … for the not sneaky
Stalk Ambush Hunting …
Spot and Stalk Hunting … for the not sneaky
Many of us use spot and stalk strategies in our hunting especially in big open areas. This style of hunting requires the hunter to be : 1) proficient at glassing 2) able to pick a route and execute it 3) plan for wind 4) cover distances quickly and efficiently until in the slow zone 5) be patient and methodical once in the slow zone 6) lastly and most important be sneaky. I saved sneaky for last because I am not inherently sneaky or very patient in my movements. So I have adapted a hybrid tactic I like to call spot and ambush..
Spot and ambush is exactly what it sounds like, over simplified, it is spotting game from a distance and moving into a position to ambush them. I adapted this type of hunting into my skill-set because I was tired of getting within 100 yards of game and blowing it trying to make up the next 30 yards. So I started slipping in close and praying that they would eventually move in my direction to make a shot. I got lucky a few times but most of the time it just provided and up close and personal education in futility when my attempts to will animal in my direction did not work. I quickly learned that I needed to study my prey and how they used the landscape and get more in tune with their behavior. Since the majority of us do not have ESP or carry crystal balls into the field making an educated guess to where your target is going to move to requires you to be as in tune as possible with how, why, when and where animals do what they do. Of course this is not fool proof but going in armed with all you can certainly gives you a leg up..
Case and point: on my Ibex hunt in 2015 we had seen the ibex use this ledge and bench complex to traverse the mountain range several times that week especially when they were spooked by other hunters. So when this billy was bumped by another hunter I knew quickly to get to that area to provide me with an opportunity. My observations paid off and I was able to get into position in time for this billy to work his way to me and provided a 75 yard broadside shot..
Spend the off season taking notes:
To make the most accurate guess I typically spend as much time in the off season studying game and their movements. Paying close attention really taking note and literally notes on how they use the landscape.. I notate the normal scouting stuff like: what they feed on, where they water, bed etc. but also how they travel from bedding to feeding, the times of day, the moon phase, the temperature, the wind. I try to watch how they react to predators, what their escape routes are when pressured. I try to take note of the terrain features they use ie: benches, saddles, drainages, edge, and natural barriers. I look into the trail systems using google earth and verifying on foot early in the season to give me a big picture, a map I can relate to in my head of where I may potentially intercept game. Believe it or not spending the better part of 20 years trying to figure out where to hang treestands to intercept whitetail helped me become a better spot and stalk western hunter. The more you study movement and behavior of a species the more accurately you can pick a spot to get ahead of them.
Learning Behavior will improve your chances in other areas:
You may not always be hunting in the same area and you may not have the luxury of becoming intimate with how they use the area. Studying behavior of a species in a similar habitat type Ie: desert, prairie, alpine etc will allow you to make an educated move to ambush an animal if you have mastered the behavior of that species in a similar habitat.
For example rutting mule deer in the desert tend to cover a lot of ground while pushing does around and they often move in more linear paths on the desert floor where on ridges they tend to be more “erratic” in their movements and don’t move as far. Knowing this if you spot up a buck on the desert floor by determining the progression of the lead doe you can get a good idea of where you need to get to for the deer to move toward you for an ambush. In states that you are allow the use of radios and are hunting with a partner this tactic becomes even more effective
Case and point: the 2016 season I was in hunting mule deer in my home state of Arizona and witnessed a buck pushing does in the flats bellow me and the lead doe was slowly making her way along the base of a ridge I was able to glass up an ambush spot within her path I knew I could get to faster than the herd. I got to my spot when my cameraman radioed down to me that the deer started moving up the ridge a bit still in same forward direction and that I needed to back up a bit or they would pass behind me. It was my knowledge of mule deer behavior that got me close and that detail from my cameraman that helped me harvest that buck.
My knowledge of the whitetail rut and its phases afforded me my next example of how animal behavior helped me fill my tag. Whitetail during the seeking phase will travel great distances like a bloodhound following the trail of hot does, often throwing caution to the wind to find a doe willing and ready to breed. These bucks will use the very same trail as the doe following it exactly how she walked it even if the doe is much closer in a straight line he will still take the long route if that is the way she walked.
Case and point: Another excellent example of deer behavior giving me an opportunity to fill my tag this past season, We were hunting the rut in SD and bucks were cursing. I had witnessed on several occasions deer were crossing a creek at a pinch point. I had been glassing this area and watched does take this long trail that headed for this creek crossing and like the rest of the deer I witnessed they crossed right at the same spot. Shortly thereafter way up on the ridge where the trail originates a buck appeared I knew I had to beat him to that crossing point because that buck was going to trail those does right to the same spot. My straight line distance was far shorter than the route the does took which allowed me to make it to the c
reek crossing before he did and sure enough that buck came through offering me a shot and I was able to fill my tag.
I have hunted antelope every year for the past 10 years and over time I observed some behavioral characteristics that have allowed me to be successful with archery tackle. I realized that every-time I stalked a buck and he caught my movement he would turn and run but every-time i got in front of a buck and he came to me (even though he saw me) he would stand and stare and give me time to range, draw and shoot. If I snuck up on them directly I was danger, if they came to me I was something curious.
Case and point: Antelope hunting in WY I had been watching this buck run this doe back and fourth behind this ridge line and I could only see him when the passed between these two hills and occasionally when they skyline themselves. I knew I could use the ridge line to hide my approach and quickly get to that point between the two hills. I had no cover once I got there and knew I would stand out like a sore thumb but taking my past experiences I knew even when they saw me I would still get an opportunity. Sure enough the buck and doe came running over the hill and stopped dead in
their tracks when they saw me but did not run away I ranged and slowly drew my bow and made the shot
Moral of the story is if you’re not super sneaky, traditional spot and stalk is just not working for you and sitting at a water hole or food source just bores you to pieces you can still make it happen by learning your quarry and learning landscape and how it’s used.