When hunting from a stand becomes tedious, tiresome or unproductive, try still-hunting your game. The old stand/stalk technique remains a viable, productive method for taking deer that a stand hunter might never even see. (Bob Kornegayfirstname.lastname@example.org)
Do you enjoy hunting white-tailed deer, but dislike sitting in a tree stand or ground blind for several hours?
Does all this time in one particular spot, all the while trying your best to remain motionless, often tax you to the limit?
Have you ever ended your hunt and gone home early because you simply could sit still no longer?
These are queries posed by deer hunting expert Forrest Worthington, who offers some advice for whitetail hunters afflicted with a common malady, what he calls "standitis."
"Admit it," Worthington began, "most of us can answer yes to all three of those questions, at least on occasion. I don't care how comfortable a stand is, even the most patient and laid-back among us sometimes find stationary hunting more than we can bear."
According to Worthington, there is a viable alternative to stand-hunting tedium that most people, particularly deer hunters in the Deep South, seldom consider trying. Though it will never, and should not, replace or surpass stand-hunting, it just might serve to keep a person hunting longer during those days when sitting in one spot is not to his liking. It comes handy when hunting from a stand becomes tiresome and, when successful, it is also a rewarding hunting challenge.
This secondary deer hunting tactic is still-hunting, a proven method of which most modern hunters have heard, but have seldom, if ever, attempted. It is also a term many confuse and mistakenly associate with other hunting techniques.
"Since the word 'still' is involved," continued Worthington, "many hunters think it's the same thing as hunting from a stand. On the contrary, though you are indeed motionless a great deal of the time, still-hunting does involve some degree of movement on the part of the hunter."
By the same token, the technique is often confused with stalking. Unlike a stalk, however, the still-hunter has not yet seen, and thus is not sneaking up on, his quarry.
"Think of it as something sort of in between stalking and stand-hunting," Worthington said.
Okay, so just how does a hunter put into play the art and science of still-hunting? According to Worthington, the theory is easy, but practical application takes some work.
"Still-hunting demands that a hunter think and move as much as possible like the animal he's seeking," he explained. "He has to proceed slowly, deliberately, and stealthily when he's in motion, and he must remain in motion for only short periods of time. Just a few seconds, no more."
Between these brief periods of movement, the still-hunter must be "still," keeping his mind and instincts attuned to all that is taking place around him. It is not necessarily easy, but when successful can bring on a great sense of accomplishment.
"A still-hunter who takes a nice buck, or even a doe for that matter, really feels like he's earned it," Worthington offered. "It's a good feeling. The challenge, fair chase, and all that."
Basic still-hunting how-to involves walking slowly and lightly from Point A to Point B, working against the wind as much as possible. Every few steps, stop and carefully survey everything within your sight radius, being careful not to make sudden movements. Ideally, it should take a very long time to go a very short distance. Done properly (it takes practice), it is a good way to see deer you might otherwise miss while sitting on a stand or in a blind. With practice, the shots you get using this method will increase.
Still-hunting in the south Georgia region is most successful in two types of terrain: swamps and mixed pine-and-hardwood stands with well-worn roads or manmade trails cutting through them. Thick stands of immature planted pines crisscrossed with firebreaks can also be good locations, but time is often limited to very early or very late in the day,
To still-hunt swampy terrain, don't venture into the heavy cover of the swamp itself. That will only wear the hunter to a frazzle and drive all the deer in his path out the other side. It is impossible to still-hunt properly in thick, tangled cover.
On the other hand, swamps have perimeters. The edges of swamps can be relatively open and easy to negotiate. Circumnavigating a swamp along its edges can put the hunter within striking distance of deer moving into and out of the low-lying area.
Pay close attention to points of swamp land that infringe upon semi-open country. Deer are likely to enter and leave a swamp by these routes at various times of day. Such places may even bear watching from a secluded spot for 30 minutes or so.
When still-hunting the woods, use firebreaks, roads, and wide trails as hunting highways. These allow quiet walking and clear shooting lanes. Deer frequently cross and even move along woods roads enroute to feeding and bedding areas. A good still-hunter may intercept or ambush them. Pay particular attention to obvious deer crossings and areas where different terrain types face each other from different sides of the road or trail.
Finally, try combining still-hunting activity with stand-hunting. Never just leave the stand and trudge heavily back to the truck. Still-hunt back to your starting point.
"Whenever I take a deer while still-hunting, I feel much prouder of myself than any of the times I've taken deer from a stand," Worthington concluded. "It's certainly a good option now and then and, with practice, anyone can do it well."