Published by archerchick on 10 Feb 2011
HIGH NOON DEER ~By Joe Byers
STILL-HUNTING for deer is a method rich in heritage and
enjoyment. More and more archers are adding this technique to their bag of
tricks; the ability to move silently and unnoticed closer to deer while they lay
unsuspecting of the hunter’s approach. Some folks boast of being able to stalk
so effectively that they can physically touch a deer before the animal knows
someone is around!
Each year, I become captivated by this most enjoyable method of deer
hunting and with absolutely the best of intentions, give it a try. The process
sounds so simple: move slowly, take small steps, look around and, in short,
see the deer before it sees you. Easy, right?
Deer hunting is exciting and just being in the woods during the season is
enough to get a guy’s blood pressure into the big numbers. It`s even worse
when a hunter’s feet seem to have only one gear: high. My mind says,”go
slow,” but every muscle in my body says,”get going,” “hurry up,” “move
Not one to let this promising technique go untried, I became serious
recently, perhaps crazy, in the attempt. For example, I tried tying my shoelaces
together, but found I couldn’t hop quietly. Next came the old “tie a log to
your leg” trick, but that didn’t help either as the logs kept wearing out. I
even invested in a “digital compound release,” but with no luck. This high-
tech gadget attaches to a tree and, by a slender cable, to a hunter’s belt. Each
minute it releases three feet of cord, allowing a consistent, but gradual
advance. This almost worked once as I got to within seven yards of a twelve-
point buck that was sound asleep. Using the tautness of the rope as a steadying
device, I came to full draw and was within a whisper of release when the
device kicked out slack, throwing me forward and nearly arrowing my foot.
From time to time, deer hunters are accused of exaggerating and perhaps
these stories are stretching things a little. However, those hunters who have faced
the frustrations of trying to stalk bedded deer can appreciate the feeling.
Seriously, still-hunting, the art of stalking quietly through deer habitat,
can be as productive as it is exciting and can perhaps double the amount of
quality hunting time for a sportsman. On the first Saturday of the deer
season I decided to, once again, give still-hunting a try. I came up with the
standard results: fresh, but empty beds, the sounds of rustling leaves in the
distance and several bobbing whitetails disappearing over the horizon. In an
hour of “sneaking,” probably ten to twenty deer had been jumped, far more
than I could expect to see from a single stand. If I had been serious about moving
slowly, really slowly, I probably could have had several opportunities.
This is the beauty of still-hunting. It is an excellent supplement to stand hunting
and, except during the mt when deer are often active throughout the day, can
more than double hunting time. The following Saturday, I was determined to
hunt the same ridge top. The weather was windy and cold, unlike the warm
sunny day the previous week. I expected to see deer bedded on the lee side of the
mountain, which was exactly where they were.
After traveling less than two hundred yards, I spotted a doe bedded and looking
away from me. Closing the distance to within forty yards, I was surprised by a
second doe that suddenly stood up. By 2:00 p.m. and several stalks later,
I was watching a large bedded doe, looking directly away from me. She was
quite in the open, but I moved carefully, only when her head was turned.
It was almost like watching a video.
When stand hunting, deer come and go often in a matter of minutes or seconds.
This was hunting in slow motion, but with the volume turned all the way up.
The bedded deer watched downhill, allowing step after step to be taken from
the uphill side. When her head would turn toward me, I’d stop and she would
continue chewing her cud, then focus on the downhill direction once again.
At fifty yards, the same problem as with the earlier stalk occurred; another
deer saw me. Only thirty yards away, an unseen doe stood up and went trotting
past the deer I was stalking. Both deer stood alertly, but couldn’t see me, even
though I stood in the open. Choosing an uphill escape, the pair circled slightly
and began angling uphill. At this point, the odds of the deer passing within
twenty yards were better than fifty—fifty. However, instead of continuing on the
trail, the big doe broke straight for the top, picking up yet another deer on the
Tiptoeing through a deer’s bedroom is difficult, but it certainly can be exciting.
Russell Hull of Hill City, Kansas, has bagged three Pope & Young Club record
book bucks by still—hunting. To most fellows, three P & Ys would be
outstanding, except that Hull has a whole wall full of them. A successful
hunter, his preference for still-hunting is during early morning and evening when
deer are moving.
“If they are bedded down, they are going to see you first,” he declares.
One of his three Pope & Young Club bucks was taken at noon during the rut.
Hull recommends this time of day for trophy animals in heavily hunted areas.
“At that time of day most hunters are out of the woods and many big bucks
know this,” he reasons. Hull saw the buck walking down a
trail some fifty yards ahead of him. A light rain was falling and the leaves were
quiet The big buck walked behind a large dead tree and Hull, aided by the
damp forest carpet, hustled, anticipating a shot as the buck emerged.
“I waited and waited, but he didn’t come out,” he remembers. “Peering
around the tree, the buck was rubbing his horns on a sapling and our eyes met.
“I couldn’t draw and shoot, because there was a branch in the way, so we
just stared at each other. For a clear shot, he need to take one step, which he
eventually did and I took the shot dropping him within eighty yards.”
Hull has a number of tricks that can be used to make still—hunting more
effective. It is important to remember that noise in the mountains is a natural thing,
All creatures make noise in dry leaves. grass, or corn. What isn’t natural,
usually, are sticks snapping or the rhythmic one-two crunch, crunch that
signals the presence of humans.
For example, during the first week of the season, I was sitting in a small
ground blind and a deer approached to within thirty yards. Suddenly, something
could be heard approaching from a draw directly behind me. The doe heard it
immediately and stared intently in my direction. I dared not move as the sound
continued out of a nearby ravine. By the sound, it was either a deer or another
The rustling stopped, but the staring contest continued. Finally, the scolding
sound of a squirrel could be heard and this doe on the verge of full flight, immediately
lowered her head and continued feeding. Hull recommends using calls such as
a deer call or turkey call to disguise noisy steps or snapped twigs. Another
trick he suggests is to use a walking stick which will break up the step, step pattern
that we two legged creatures have.
This doesn’t mean that archers shouldn’t be concerned about noise, but by using
these tricks, errant steps can be camouflaged.
Hull also uses a belt bowholder. This allows an archer to use both hands to
operate a rangefinder or binoculars. The holder allows the use of both hands with-
out having to lay the bow on the ground. For mid—day stalkers, one essential
piece of equipment is a pair of binoculars. If the deer sees the hunter
Erst, the archer will still be there, but the deer will not. I could catch the deer
in its bed if I moved slowly and glassed often. My mistake was not continually
glassing until all the deer were located. Bucks may be easier to approach in this
situation, since they are often bedded alone and their antlers may make them
The final advantage to still—hunting is what a hunter learns while doing so.
Hunters are going to see lots of deer and cover ground that could pinpoint the
perfect spot for a tree stand at the end of the day. As Hull points out, “The things
learned while still—hunting can be invaluable, especially where the big bucks
In this context, still—hunting can be thought of as “slow scouting” and, as
most successful bowmen know, a person can’t know too much about the deer he
is hunting. I had spent a recent fall morning in a tree stand in a promising area. Arriving
just as day broke, I was barely in the stand when a small doe came by. As it
paused at ten yards, offering a perfect shot, the opportunity was difficult to
pass. However, l wanted a buck and, if the tree stand didn’t pay off, there was
always the stalking opportunity at the top of the mountain where I had the
close calls earlier.
By 10:30, I assumed that most deer had bedded. I returned to the truck to
get rid of the portable stand and shed some clothing that was all too warm.
The day was bright, sunny and certainly not prime hunting weather. Further-
more, the heat had dried out the mountain to the point that leaves sounded like
crunchy cereal with each step. These were certainly the conditions that would
send most archers home for a nap or at least to town for some lunch and a cold
drink. However, I knew that opportunity was ahead and planned to make the
most of it.
I dressed in my stalking gear. My out- fit was a Polartuff jacket and pants by
Spartan Realtree in camo. This high·tech weave gives warmth in cool—to—cold
weather, yet was comfortable in the heat of the day. In one of the pockets was an
accurate Ranging 500 rangefinder. It is a fairly large model, but is on the money
to within one yard at one hundred yards, a bit more distance than I needed, but
the precision was important. My wide- angle binoculars rounded out the gear
and I began the climb.
The going was difficult. Deadfalls, briars and thick, brush—covered rocky
terrain, made the question of whether to continue a frequent thought. However,
deer prefer a sunny slope and the leeside of the mountain was a perfect place
to lay out of what usually was cold weather. I was barely to the crest when a deer
jumped from it’s bed and bounded out of sight. Other deer were seen going down
the other side. Although the group would likely circle to rejoin, the large
doe had seen me and she would certainly be alert. Still looking for a buck, I
continued along the top using the Held glasses to look things over as I went.
A number of promising bedding areas were empty, probably due to the heat
However, within twenty minutes, I was looking at something strange. Just above
a log were two tiny objects twitching vigorously. Concentrating on the movement,
it appeared to be deer ears with a rack included in the picture. Apparently,
flies were giving the animal a fit and he flicked his ears to avoid them. The range
was about l25 yards with a number of large tree trunks directly between the
deer and me. With caution, I could probably sneak up on the buck. Remembering
my last experience, I checked for additional deer. Sure enough, feeding in
the shadows were three more whitetails. Stalking a bedded buck was one thing,
but to stalk a whole herd was another.
The best strategy seemed to be to go to the other side of the mountain parallel
with the deer, then return back over the top above them. Thanks to the falling `
leaves and slight breeze, any noise made was not detected. Carefully raising my
head above the ridgetop, I located one of the feeding does. I was careful to
stand against a large tree, relying on the camo pattern to disguise my silhouette.
Inching to an upright position, I could see the three feeding deer, but the buck
was nowhere to be seen. Remembering the log, I glassed carefully and finally
found him behind a large rock. Ranging in the distance, it looked like fifty yards;
a long shot to be sure. More than the distance, the rock was covering most of
Slowly lowering myself below the skyline once again, I moved ten yards
away, hoping to get a better angle on the buck. When I reappeared on the skyline,
things got really sticky. Try as I might, I could not see the buck. To further complicate
things, one of the does decided to bed down, facing directly toward me.
Luckily, a squirrel or other animal chose this time to make a racket down
the mountain and the doe turned her head to check for danger. Seizing the
opportunity, I slowly disappeared from the horizon and went back to almost the
original position. Like smoke from a smoldering fire, I lifted above the
horizon and was surprised at the sight.
The deer had shifted its position and now lay in the open; sound asleep. It
was bedded with its head back over its back. The vitals were exposed and
presented a fairly clear shot. I had all day to get ready. I had practiced with
the Golden Eagle Turbo bow at distances well beyond the range. The
Satellite Titan broadheads had grouped well and I had confidence in their flight.
The advantage to this type of hunting is that I was in charge. I literally gave it
my best shot. The arrow seemed to barely leave the bow when the buck rolled over and was
still. The big broadhead had grazed the shoulder and entered the neck, thanks to
the unusual position, breaking the spine. As I tagged the buck and began the job
of Held dressing it, I couldn’t help glancing at my watch with a broader smile
than usual. It was 1:30 in the afternoon. I was probably the only hunter within
miles still in the woods. While they were waiting until evening to get back into
their stands, I was dragging out the