12 Tips for Successful Whitetail Still Hunting
MLF and Bassmaster pro angler Greg Hackney shares old-school still-hunting tips for whitetail
Not having multiple treestand setups doesn't mean a whitetail hunter can't be successful; learning the art of still hunting can be a rewarding, buck-tag-punching experience. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
The following are some of Hackney’s best, simple and old-school tips for still hunting.
#1. Learn to squirrel hunt
“When I was squirrel hunting I was always watching for deer. And you learn how to slip-up on something by starting with the squirrel."
#2. Sticks are your enemy
“The biggest thing in still hunting is to never break a stick because that puts every animal in the woods on alert. Now you can crunch some leaves and you can get by with some of that, but if you ever break a stick you’ve alerted everything out there from the squirrels, the deer, everything. When you break that stick that squirrel all of a sudden he’s quit moving because he knows something is slipping around in the woods. And all animals know that. They know other sounds.
“They know what deer sounds like. They know what all the others sound like. You’ve got to try not to sound like man.”
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#3. Choose your ground carefully
“I like to find an old logging road. You’ve got to have somewhere where you can slip quietly. It’s hard unless you get a big rain or a heavy wind to hunt in the woods, to just get out in the woods slipping, you’ve got to have the right conditions for that.”
#4. Edges can by key
“I like to walk an edge. I like to walk a thick edge where that thick edge kind of backs me and I'm looking into an opening. I want to see the deer before they see me.”
#5. Control your speed
“Do not hunt too fast. Every time you get in too big of a hurry, and you’ll have a tendency to do that when you’re not seeing anything, you want to speed up just so you can see some.
“But what happens is you’ll end up bumping one. I won’t hunt very far before I stop and look, and really watch my surroundings before I move again. I want to make sure there’s not an animal in sight of me when I move because if I can see them, they can see me.”
#6. Divide and conquer
“On whitetail deer it’s hard to slip-up on multiple animals. The perfect scenario is when you find one. You can slip-up on one animal. It’s hard to slip-up on two. And what you want to make sure of is when you see one is to make sure there’s no chance of another one being around it because if you alert any of the rest of them, the one you’re hunting is going to run just because of whatever.”
#7. Pay attention to other critters
“You don’t want squirrels barking at you. You don’t want anything to get that animal on alert because with a bow you’re going to have to get in 30 yards or so.”
#8. Assess deer movements
“When you see a deer, stand and watch that animal for a while, don’t be in a hurry when you see one to run to it. Try to figure out which direction it’s traveling. Is it going away from me? Is there a chance of it moving this way? If you can let it come to you, you’re much better off than having to go to it. Once you spot it, you’re better off just to set there to make sure where it’s going before you make a move.”
#9. Work the wind
The wind is the other most important thing. You have to hunt into the wind. I mean there’s no chance if you have the wind to your back. You cannot do it. You can get by with a cross wind.
#10. A spooked deer might be an opportunity
“If you jump a bedded deer, you really have to pay attention because normally if they’re not sure what you are, that deer will stop. They’ll jump up and run a little ways and stop. If you’re crashing through the woods, they’ll have a tendency to run off. But if you’re slipping along, a lot of times when one jumps up they’ll hesitate. You have to be ready. That sucker will hesitate for a second before they run a lot of times."
#11. Be ready
“Have your arrow knocked and ready because this isn’t going to be like hunting up a tree where you see an animal coming to you.
“In a tree, you’ve got all this time to prepare for the animal to get there. You’ve got to have the mindset ‘This is all going to happen quick.’ It’s one of the most exciting ways to deer hunt. It is not a high percentage way to deer hunt with a bow. It is hard but it really challenges you.”
#12. Timing is critical
“October is the best month to still hunt. Once the leaves fall off the trees it’s impossible. Or when you get a frost and all the leaves fall off, you can’t slip-up on one with a bow hardly because by that time the deer have been hunted. They know there are hunters in the woods. They’re on alert from everything. Their senses are keyed up.
“But October is when, in our part of the country, they’ve just went hard horn. They’re not really rutting yet. They’re just out. There haven’t been a lot of people in the woods so they’re not on alert. But October is when you have all that foliage and you can hide on the ground. Once the leaves fall off, you know, you can’t walk around or they’ll see you from 200 or 300 yards away. They’ll see you way before you see them.”