If you’re a midwestern tree stand hunter who is planning a western whitetail hunt for this upcoming Fall, spot and stalk hunting should be a part of your game plan, especially if you are hunting public land. Many people view this style of hunting as “reckless” or “risky” but I’m here to tell you, it can be very effective given the right scenario.
The pursuit via spot and stalk, above all else, is exhilarating and will give you a rush like no other when closing the distance on a mature whitetail buck. Western hunting in states such as South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas offer some of the best whitetail deer hunting in the nation and in order to be successful, it is critical to think outside the box. Sure, tree stand hunting is a great strategy for river bottoms but what happens when you see a giant bed down with a doe in an open CRP field? Do you roll the dice or do you play it safe?
Keep in mind that there isn’t a right or wrong way to spot and stalk and not all terrains are best suited for this tactic but hopefully you can implement some of these strategies on your own hunt later this Fall.
Keep A Visual
Keeping your eye on the prize seems like an easy thing to do but with terrain changes and heavy cover that whitetails thrive in, one can quickly lose sight of the target. Keeping a visual is the most critical element to success and you as the predator should do everything in your power to maintain a line of sight at all times.
Let me give you an example. My buddy Joey and I located a buck bedded with a doe while hunting public land but he was just over the fence on private. We watched him for over five hours hoping and praying he would push the doe over to his core area on to the public. Eventually, he lost interest and we changed our position to a higher vantage point on top of a hill so that we could keep a bead on him as he went in search of the next hot doe.
As he closed the distance to within 300 yards of our position, we made the fatal mistake of moving off the hill and setting up in a draw for a hopeful ambush scenario. Doing this meant we lost sight of him and long story short, he didn’t read the script.We completely lost sight and the hunt was over. Had we kept a visual on him, we could have changed our strategy with calling or moved in closer for a potential shot opportunity.
Anticipate The Next Move
Business moguls of the world such as Elon Musk and Steve Jobs created empires through innovation and the ability to foresee the marketplace that they competed in by anticipating market demand. The same holds true for spot and stalk hunting. A key piece to a successful spot and stalk hunt is the ability to anticipate where the deer is going to move next and then adjusting your strategy based on prior intel.
Predicting the next move of a whitetail deer is dependent on a number of factors but the ability to interpret data in real time, such as knowing frequented bedding areas or travel routes, will increase the odds of getting a shot. If you can setup with the wind in your favor and in between where he currently is and where he wants to be, you can then formulate a plan to move within bow-range.
Jared Scheffler of Whitetail Adrenaline talks more in-depth about “anticipating the next move” on the Wired To Hunt Podcast, Episode #32: Extreme Rut Hunting Tactics With Jared Scheffler Of Whitetail Adrenaline. I highly recommend you give it a listen.
In today’s world of whitetail deer hunting we often hear that low-pressure and low-impact is the secret to killing mature bucks and although this may be true, it is simply not the case for a spot and stalk hunting style. I’ve found, through many failed attempts, that it is best to be more aggressive than passive because of the sheer unpredictability of whitetail deer movements due to unforeseen circumstances that you cannot control. This especially holds true while hunting public lands.
We sometimes give these animals too much credit and burn it into our minds that mature bucks are almost impossible to kill because of their ability to outwit predators. I’m here to tell you that you would be surprised at what you can get away with when it comes to stalking whitetail deer. If the conditions are in your favor, it’s best to attempt the stalk and get busted than sit back and watch an opportunity slip away, even if there is a slim chance of pulling it off.
What Do You Have To Lose?
Let’s face it, if you’re reading this article, you are risk-taker and enjoy the challenge of pushing the limits beyond what others think is capable. Do not be afraid to leave the tree stand behind and set out on a belly crawl to your next trophy of a lifetime; you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So get out there, mix things up, roll the dice, and have your most exhilarating hunt yet!
If you’re longing for more info about western whitetail deer hunting, check out some of my other articles: Early Season Strategies For Hunting Western Whitetails and 3 Strategies For Hunting Whitetails In Standing Crops.
– Adam Parr