John's Journal...

Silent Stalking Deer

Day 2: Stalk Hunting Trails and Stalking with a Bow to Take Deer

Editor’s Note: When you know how to move through the woods like a ghost, you’re bad news for sly whitetails – in every type of terrain. The silent stalker is a part of all that’s around him. He moves with the ease of a warm summer’s breeze that’s never seen and barely felt. He is a predator who moves in for a clean kill. He is a silent stalker of deer. The stalk is one of the most-effective methods of taking game. Man was not the originator of stalking techniques but merely the imitator. He observed cats as they stalked and killed their prey. He watched the foxes move in close for their attacks. And, he saw other predators as they closed distance and then came in for the kill. Because of his primitive weapons – his spear, knife and bow and arrow – early man had to learn to stalk in close if he was to harvest game and survive.

Hunting Trails:

Click for Larger View“During the rut, hunting down well-defined deer trails is one of the most-effective means of stalk hunting that I know,” my hunting friend Billy Joe Thomas, explains. “I know that when the bucks are in the rut that they are usually trailing the does. With that information I have observed that many times a buck deer will move down a trail with his nose on the ground, following a doe and hoping for a mating encounter. By moving down the same trail that the buck is on, many times I have had trophy whitetails walk within easy gun range of me.

Click for Larger View“Two seasons ago I was slipping down a trail when I saw a trophy 10-point buck that weighed over 200 pounds coming. The big deer had his nose on the ground and was walking at a steady pace right down the same trail where I was. I kept my scope on the animal and allowed him to continue to come toward me. I was hunting in mature hardwoods and would have been easy for the deer to see. But that buck never looked up. My game plan was that when the deer looked up and presented a better target, I would shoot him. However, the deer never looked up. He continued to come to within 20 yards of me. Finally I could no longer stand the pressure of having a trophy buck come any closer to me. So, I aimed between the deer’s shoulder blades and fired. Still he never looked up as he fell in his tracks. I feel that slipping down well-known, well-defined deer trails during the rut is the most-effective form of stalk hunting.”

Stalking Deer with a Bow:

Jerry Hill, a man who still uses the primitive longbow explains his method of stalking. “The reason I prefer to stalk and hunt from the ground instead of from a tree stand is because once I see game I have the ability to move to it. If you’re in a tree stand, the game has to come within bow range, or else you won’t get a shot. But on the ground, once I spot a deer and determine its direction of movement and the wind’s direction, I then can decide which way I can move, so that the deer will continue on its normal feeding pattern and walk to within 20 or 30 yards of me where I can take a shot.

Click for Larger View“Stalking deer is more of an adventure for me, because there are more calculations that have to be made before the arrow is released. A good stalk hunter with a bow must first determine the direction that the deer is feeding. By expecting the deer to continue on in that direction, the hunter then can decide where he needs to be to intercept the deer – a primary calculation. Next you have to determine wind direction, because you can’t move where the wind will take your scent to the feeding deer. You have to move to the point where you want to intercept the deer without alarming the animal with your scent. The third calculation is observing what type of cover is available for you to move through, so the deer won’t see you, what natural barriers like rivers or thickets will prevent you or him from arriving at your intersect point at the same time, and whether your stalk will involve circling the deer and losing eye contact with him before you arrive at the point in the woods where you want to take a shot. All of these evaluations should be made right after you see the deer and before you ever start to move.

Click for Larger View“Once a hunter begins a stalk, he should move so as not to spook any squirrels or birds as he slips to within shooting distance of the deer. Even if a deer stops feeding and looks directly at you, if you don’t move while he’s watching you, you can continue your stalk. Oftentimes I’ve spooked a deer when I’ve been stalking. That’s not necessarily bad, especially with young deer. Sometimes spooking the deer may be an advantage. I’ve found that a young deer will run from movement he doesn’t understand. But after he’s been gone for awhile, often he will return to investigate that movement and try to determine what has spooked him. So, if I don’t get a shot before I spook a deer, many times within 30 minutes to an hour, if I stay still in the same spot where I’ve been before I’ve spooked him, the deer will walk back in for a look-see, and I can take him.”

For more deer-hunting tips, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” “How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” and “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” go to, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.

About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: Stalk Hunting the Hills for Deer

Check back each day this week for more about "Silent Stalking Deer"

Day 1: Stalk Hunting Deer in the Woods
Day 2: Stalk Hunting Trails and Stalking with a Bow to Take Deer
Day 3: Stalk Hunting the Hills for Deer
Day 4: Stalk Hunting Fields and Slipping Down Roads to Take Deer
Day 5: Stalking Deer in Water and Ingredients for Successful Stalking of Deer

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Entry 740, Day 2