With the bowhunting season in full swing, it’s noteworthy that the vast majority of bowhunters opt to do their hunting from tree stands. There are several advantages to doing so – being higher makes the hunter less noticeable to approaching deer; the height also keeps any human scent higher so it may drift above a deer that’s close by; and the hunter can get away with a bit more movement without the deer spotting it. But there’s becoming a downside to this as well.
Blame it on hunters that hunt both the archery and the gun seasons from tree stands, or on all the TV deer hunting shows that usually focus primarily on both bow and gun hunting being done from tree stands (and normally seeing lots of bucks and almost always being successful), or maybe on the aging hunter group as a whole, who just don’t like to walk as much as they use to. However, with so many gun hunters now opting to sit for hours in tree stands, rather than still-hunt, fewer deer are being seen because they can cease moving (bed down) for a good portion of the day without being disturbed by hunter movement.
Other than the peak deer movement times of just after dawn and just prior to dusk, about the only other period some deer will be moving is around noontime, as many hunters leave the woods to have lunch or take a break from hunting. What this is translating to in recent years is that gun hunters are seeing fewer deer when they’re on watch. It’s quite simple really … with far fewer hunters on the move in the woods, there are far fewer deer being forced to move. Oh, a few hunters still practice limited deer drives drives, but even that practice has declined in recent years as less land has become accessible to hunting.
The lament given by many hunters that choose to sit a watch has always been “if I move deer, the chances are, I’ll just push them to other hunters.” Well yes, that can happen, especially when the hunter is moving too fast, making too much noise, and doesn’t keep tabs on the wind or air thermal direction. True still-hunting has unfortunately become somewhat of a lost art. And with the number of deer hunters in the woods declining, the risk of moving a deer to another hunter has declined.
What many regular deer season hunters may not have discovered yet is there are more similarities between sitting on a watch and still-hunting than meets the eye. Done right, still-hunting is not walking, but rather carefully sneaking and stopping often to scan for unalerted deer. Physically, the hunter doesn’t have to be an Olympic speed-walking champion to successfully still-hunt. Each hunter can move at whatever speed is the most comfortable. Some take as few as a half dozen steps before stopping. Others may move for a predetermined time span, such as perhaps an estimated 15-30 seconds, then stop and scan...