Never underestimate a buck! If you hunt long enough, this will ring loudly in your head.
To be kind, let’s call him Joe. A few years ago I went elk hunting with Joe. After a long, fruitless, half-day hunt, we finally spotted a herd of cow elk bedded on a steep hillside. Since I was really holding out for a bull, I let Joe lead the charge on the unsuspecting elk. What transpired was sad and kinda ridiculous. I crouched behind Joe as he steadily climbed through the thick scrub oak towards the bedded elk. There were probably 20-30 animals total, but we could only see bits and pieces of a few. As we got closer, a bedded cow came into full view and was looking right at us. At more than 90 yards, I pleaded with my Joe to slow down and wait for one to feed into view. But he persisted forward. Joe was somehow convinced that he was invisible to the cow because he was wearing camouflage. At about 40 yards, the bedded cow leapt from its bed and blasted away, taking the whole herd with it. Surprise, surprise.
Had Joe been just a little patient, I’m certain he would have gotten a shot. The wind was perfect in our faces. The cows couldn’t see us crouched in the brush, and some of the elk were feeding randomly around us. Because of the snow and steep terrain, they felt safe and weren’t going anywhere.Even if it had taken three or four hours, inevitably one of the cows would have wandered close enough for an easy shot. Instead, we went home empty-handed.
In 2012 I was hunting the extended hunt for deer. On the second day I spotted a massive, tall-racked, mature 4×4 buck. He was a true giant. Unfortunately, I spotted him late in the morning as he was bedding down with a group of does. The ground was blanketed with crunchy snow and I knew it would be nearly impossible to stalk close. But I had to try. For the next seven hours I worked carefully into the area. As I got closer I literally had to break the frozen ground with my hand before placing my foot down. It was the most arduous stalk I’ve ever been on. Finally I knew I was close, but the thick oak brush made it impossible to see anything. So I just sat and waited.
Right around 4 pm I heard the crunching of hooves in the snow. By some miracle, the group of deer were up and feeding in my direction. Long story short, the buck appeared briefly in the only window I had. I misjudged the distance and sent my arrow sailing harmlessly over the giant buck’s back. Game over.
Although I failed with my shot, I succeeded in my stalk—a stalk that burned up then entire day. The failure still stings today, but not as bad as it would have if I’d simply rushed in and blew out the deer.
In bowhunting, the hunt only just begins when a deer is spotted. Having patience and getting close is the real challenge. But if you are patient, there is almost no buck you can’t get close to. Since hunters are really predators, we can learn from studying other predators. Have you ever watched a lion stalk a gazelle on TV? Have you noticed how carefully, calculated, and slowly it’s done? Wild predators have innate and instinctual patience. Otherwise they starve.
Next time you’re on a stalk, remember the lion in the grass. He might not be successful every time, but he never gives up and he moves with eternal patience. Be a predator; be patient. Let nature unfold at its own pace.
Click here for my Secret Bowhunting Tip #4: Hunt Alone