Since my youth I’ve preferred stalk hunting. It is admittedly less productive than many hunting practices since the hunter is at a great disadvantage: You’re moving within the games’ natural surroundings. Wild critters generally have much keener hearing and sense of smell, and strong survival reflexes that were honed over thousands of generations. Even if they don’t hear or smell you, they often notice things out of place or something new to their domain (you), the same as you would if someone moved your sofa or put a new table into your living room. That puts them on alert almost as much as a twig snapping under your foot.
Silent stalking works best for small game, like squirrels and rabbits. And you never know what you may encounter, like turkey, hog, bobcat, fox or coyote. Since deer have extremely keen survival senses, it’s very difficult to sneak up on a “wild” deer. I say wild because I’m not referring to the deer in state parks or petting zoos or your yard. I mean those deer in the woods that stay alive by their own instinctive reflexes and are not accustomed to being around people.
While I’ve jumped deer numerous times, I can’t truthfully say that I’ve succeeded in stalking a deer while hunting. But I’ve been hunting with some who have done it many times. It’s their way of hunting and they’ve honed their stalking skills to the highest level. It takes practice and dedication and time. They are like pro-athletes. But there’s one thing I’ve noticed about the skilled deerstalkers I’ve known: They seem to have the most success when it’s drizzling rain because rain tends to cover both your sounds and smell.
I have encountered deer while stalking, but when that happens, they have moved into the space where I was at the time. But without a silent stalk, that would not happen. For me the stalk while deer hunting has now become my way to get to a deer hunting spot with minimum notice by the wood’s wild inhabitants. Then I wait.
Stalking With a Muzzleloader
I believe stalking with a muzzleloader is the best way to hone your stalking skills. You know you have just one shot and it has a very limited range. Those facts cause you to adopt a different attitude. You actually have to “be the hunter.” This attitude is akin to that you see in the film of a big African cat hunkering down as it stealthily closes on an antelope, often with ears laid back and with full attention on its prey. As the hunter, you must move slowly and smoothly, stay focused, and pay attention to everything around you and every little sound while making none – not alerting your prey. When you spot something, you hear a little voice inside your head saying, “Get closer.”
If you’ve never tried it, I guarantee that it is the most satisfying hunting you can do – especially when you pull it off. Daniel Boone could not be more proud. And even if you don’t bring home the bacon, you challenged yourself and your skills – and there will be a next time.