Open Country Stalking

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I could see the small band of mule deer picking their way towards me through the sagebrush 800 plus yards away.  With my 10 power binoculars I spotted a legal buck bringing up the tail. I dropped down and crouched behind a large chunk of sage just waiting for them to pass within range.  Unfortunately, they stopped and began milling around before finally settling down, with a few of them laying down right out in the open. They were not going to come to me; if I wanted any closer, I'd have to go to them.

No problem... I'll just execute a stalk and harvest myself a nice 3X3 buck..... Or so I thought.  I picked my way through a couple of small ravines and behind a knoll, cutting the distance to a mere 500 yards.  Then I was out of cover; there was nothing between me and those big-eyed, floppy-eared deer but wide open spaces.  And I was not just about to take a shot at that distance. 

As hard as I tried, I could not find another approach that offered any kind of cover.  As I stood to take a closer look, at least five of them zeroed in on me with ears cocked forward, trying to catch any irregular sound.  They knew I was there and there was nothing I could do.  The wind was in my face but I was out of cover.

I had nothing to lose, so I decided to walk right out in the open at a 45 degree angle that looked to them that I would pass right on by.  I tried not to stare in their direction but act nonchalant as I angled away.  But every step actually got me closer and closer.  When I had cut the distance to 250 yards, I rested my rifle over a set of shooting sticks and filled my freezer for the winter.

Since then, I've used this ploy on several occasions and it has yet to fail.  You can pull off an open country stalk if you make it look like you're not heading straight towards them.  Mule deer are used to watching predators and people walking out in the open and if you are not going straight at them, they will stand alertly and watch you walk by.  I think that as long as they can see you and you're not posing an immediate threat, they will let you walk by.  I try never to make eye contact with any of them.

So, if you find yourself right out in the open with no where to hide, just walk at a 45 degree angle towards, yet away from them until you get within range.  Hey, it's worth a try and you'll sure enjoy watching those deer watch you.


ndemiter's picture

this is an excellent tip, it

this is an excellent tip, it works on so many levels too. i use the same tactic to catch a wary horse as well.

as a predatory animal, we tend to focus our eyesight directly on the prey animal. we keep our head up and our eyes forward. every prey animal out there knows this game, and if you give thenm the warning signs, they will flee the area like prey animals do.

if we keep our heads low, and our attention not directly on them, they are less alert because oour posture is not threatening.

Deer Slayer's picture

Great tip, thanks for

Great tip, thanks for sharing. I'm a stand hunter and live here in Ohio in whitetail country. If I'm ever by a field and see deer out there I'm going to try that and see if it works. My dad has also told me about the 2 senses being activated. But I think it's the whitetail's 6th sense is the one we have to worry about, lol.


Ca_Vermonster's picture

Very cool.  I have tried to

Very cool.  I have tried to do this with people before, but never deer lol

I can see where it would work, especially in areas where the mule deer see a decent amount of human presence.

Maybe they will think you are some average hiker, rancher, whatever, just meandering on through.

groovy mike's picture

I will definitely give this a try ....

ArrowFlipper:  I’ll take your advice on mule deer, you have seen a lot more of them than I have and I’ve seen the photos of you smiling over dead big racked bucks to prove it. 


I will definitely give this a try if I ever find myself in the same situation.  I will of course try to use the cover to get within shooting range (just as you did) but if I’m spotted and have nothing to lose – I may as well give it a shot.  


Maybe I’ll get a chance to try with you at my side.  I’m looking forward to another opportunity to see those giant muleys of eastern Washington State!


Thanks for the tip!


hunter25's picture

Great tip arowflipper. I have

Great tip arowflipper. I have also used this a couple of times to good effect. I try to act just like ou said and even take it to the point that when I finally get ready to bring my gun up I still do not look at the animal but first aim at a spot to the side and then swing the rifle into position when I'm ready to take the shot.

So far this has worked very well on a couple of deer but I'm sorry to report that I have not had the same success trying it for antelope.

jaybe's picture

That IS a great tip, flipper!

That IS a great tip, flipper! I just might have an opportunity to try it out this fall in Wyoming.

All of my deer hunting experience thus far has been with whitetail, and I have never seen a time that they would let you approach if they saw you. I have heard it said (though it is unproven, because no one has asked the deer) that whitetails will run if two of their three senses tell tham that you are a danger to them. They have sight, smell and hearing. Whenever one of their senses detects you, they will often stop and stand stock-still until they confirm it by a one of the other two senses. As soon as two senses tell them they are in danger, they are gone.

It's nice to know that mule deer will stand and watch you and won't necessarily run. Of course, if those deer in your story had the wind in their faces, they might not have stayed around either!

Thanks for the tip!


ManOfTheFall's picture

Thanks for sharing, great

Thanks for sharing, great tip. I too live in whitetail country and have only hunted whitetail. Since I mostly stand hunt, and wide open spaces are limited where I live I haven't tried spot and stalk. But, that sounds pretty cool if it would work. I have also heard that if two senses are activated in whitetails they will book on out of the area. But I have also seen where I am positive only one sense was activated and they were gone. Anyways don't whitetail's have six senses? LOL