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Hunting Tactics 101: The Keys to a Successful Hunt

Hunting, a time-honored tradition and pastime, is as much about strategy as it is about skill. Your marksmanship won’t have any chances to shine if you never manage to come close enough to land a shot. In the same way, knowing Hunting 101 doesn’t automatically mean you possess the skills needed to succeed. It’s a combination of both that marks the true hunter. We cannot teach you skills, but we can give you the information you need about a particular hunting method. After all, understanding how hunting tactics work can significantly increase your chances of success. This article will explore various popular hunting tactics, as well as do’s and don’ts for each of them.

Table of Contents

hunting methods

Understanding Hunting Tactics

Hunting tactics are strategic techniques employed by hunters to outsmart their prey, something that allows you to actually get close enough to even try to get it down. These techniques are an integral part of the hunting experience, influencing such factors as approach, timing, positioning and even hunting gear. Hunters have been accumulating their experience for thousands of years, passing on the knowledge for the next generation to adopt and improve. The methods we have now are the result of millennia of trial-and-erroring on the part of our ancestors. Here they are.

spot and stalk

Spot and Stalk Hunting

Spot and stalk hunting is a method that requires both strategy and patience, often used to target animals that are alert to their surroundings or difficult to approach. This hunting tactic involves actively seeking (though not necessarily through walking) and stalking prey in their natural habitat. It’s one of the most popular hunting methods on par with blind or stand hunting. This method is particularly popular with bow hunters, but those using rifles also partake in this type of hunting.

The Main Aspects of Spot and Stalk Hunting

Observation

The first step in spot and stalk hunting is careful observation. You need to first find your prey to start stalking it. There are a number of ways to do so. Hunters that choose this method usually scan their surroundings for signs of animal activity, such as tracks or droppings or look for game in its feeding areas. The main thing about this method is that stalking happens only after spotting, which means you don’t need to walk miles in search of your target. Finding a good vantage point proves to be more helpful than traversing miles on foot. After all, with a spotting scope in your service, you’ll cover more area with your eyes than on your feet.

Spotting

After having identified or spotted a potential target, hunters use binoculars or spotting scopes to get a closer look. This process helps assess the animal’s body language, its size and exact location, which is crucial for planning the approach and determining the feasibility of a successful stalk. It is also at this moment that you should plan your route towards the target. It’s easy to lose sight of your destination once you leave your vantage point, so make sure to first find some landmarks you can rely on during your trip.

Stalking

Once a target has been identified and assessed and the route has been made, it’s time for the hunter to start stalking the animal. This phase involves moving towards the animal, using natural cover like trees or rocks to remain concealed. Use whatever comes your way to avoid being noticed, be it land mass or vegetation. The goal is to get within effective shooting range without alerting the prey. Some hunters might suggest being slow and stealthy right away, but that’s not necessarily the best choice. After all, the animal didn’t give you their word they would wait. So, you can start at a rapid pace to catch up to the game as soon as possible and after having closed some distance switch to a stealth mode. 

Stealth and Patience

Stealth and patience are key elements of spot and stalk hunting once you get within the earshot of your prey. Hunters must move silently and avoid any sudden movements that could startle the animal. You should pay attention to a dozen little things: wind direction, cloud movement, the level of ambient noise – all to make sure the animal won’t spot you until it’s too late. Crawling or crouching will be your best companions in maintaining a low profile and minimizing visibility. 

Shot Placement

After getting​ within comfortable shooting​ range, hunters need ​to select the appropriate ​shot placement to ensure a​ clean and ethical kill. ​This is yet another ​test of skill since you​ need to have a good command​ of animal anatomy to identify the​ best place for a shot ​and be skillful​ with a gun to land this​ shot. At this point, it’s all-in: you ​either hit the bull in the​ eye, or you don’t and let it get away.

Do’s:

🟢Use binoculars​ or spotting scopes to ​spot and assess the ​target animal from​ a distance.

🟢Study the ​behavior and habits of​ the target animal to ​anticipate its ​movements.

🟢Use natural ​cover and terrain ​features to remain​ concealed ​during the​ stalk.

🟢Practice ​stealth and move ​slowly to avoid​ detection once​ you come ​closer.

🟢Practice ​shooting from various​ positions and ​angles to be prepared for ​different scenarios.

Don’ts:

🔴Avoid rushing​ or making sudden​ movements that could ​startle the animal.

🔴Don’t neglect​ wind direction and ​scent control, as​ animals have a ​keen sense of​ smell.

🔴Don’t take shots that​ are beyond your effective​ shooting range, risking ​wounding rather​ than a clean​ kill.

🔴Always follow ​safety precautions, such​ as wearing ​appropriate hunting​ gear and using ​a safety harness ​when hunting​ from elevated ​positions.

🔴Never trespass ​or hunt in restricted ​areas without proper ​permission or ​permits.
still hunting

Still Hunting

Still hunting, despite ​its somewhat ​misleading name, is an​ active and highly​ strategic form​ of hunting. This ​method requires ​hunters to move slowly​ and stealthily ​through the​ animal’s habitat, making​ careful observations​ as they go. It ​shares many​ similarities with ​spot and stalking and they​ sometimes are even​ merged into one ​hunting method. But ​those are two different hunting ​tactics, at least when​ it comes to ​the beginning.

The Main Aspects of Still Hunting

Movement

In still hunting, ​movement is a ​delicate art. Hunters ​must move with​ purpose, taking​ careful steps to blend​ seamlessly with the ​environment, becoming ​a part of the​ landscape rather ​than an intruder. This is essential because in still hunting, you venture into the animal’s habitat right away, hoping to spot an animal rather than spotting it from afar and only then coming for it.

Stealth

Stealth is critical when still hunting. Hunters should use natural cover like trees, bushes, or rocks to hide their presence. It’s important to minimize unnecessary movements and avoid drawing attention to yourself. Remain in the shadows to further decrease your chances of being spotted. Remember that wind is your ally: the rustling of the leaves conceals the sound of steps better than anything else.

Observation

In observation lies another difference between still hunting and spot and stalk hunting. It never hurt anyone to stay alert during hunting, but that’s especially true for still hunters. The thing is, you venture into the animals’ domain hoping to spot them before they spot you. It’s no easy feat. Whereas spot-and-stalkers only start moving towards their target after having identified it, still hunters have all chances to remain in the dark about animals’ presence until they become too close not to spook the game. Constantly scanning your surroundings is of utmost importance. The success of your hunt depends on your ability to do so.

Patience and Endurance

Patience is perhaps the most important aspect of all the hunting tactics, regardless of which one you choose. But it’s one thing to spend hours in one spot, waiting for the right opportunity to make your move, and absolutely another to walk for hours in search of game. Maintaining focus during such periods is particularly hard, that’s why still hunting is not as popular as other hunting methods. You need to possess extraordinary endurance to succeed.

The general rule of stalking remains the same, only that you may spot an animal from a much closer distance and thus should always remain stealthy and careful. The host placement rules are also the same.

Do’s:

🟢Always move slowly and quietly, blending in with your surroundings.

🟢Stay alert ​and observe​ your environment​ for signs of animal ​activity.

🟢Use natural ​cover to stay ​hidden from ​potential prey.

🟢Exercise ​patience and be ​consistent in your ​sneaking.

🟢Carefully assess ​your shot selection, ​considering distance, ​angle, and potential ​obstacles.

Don’ts:

🔴Avoid making​ sudden or loud noises ​that could give away ​your presence.

🔴Do not move ​too quickly or make ​unnecessary ​movements.

🔴Avoid ​direct eye contact ​with animals – many ​species perceive this as ​a threat.

🔴Do not rush​ your shot – take ​the time to ensure ​a clean and ethical ​kill.

🔴Never compromise ​safety – always prioritize ​your well-being ​and that of ​others in ​the vicinity.

blind hunting

Hunting from a Stand or Blind

If you are not​ a fan of walking,​ then this hunting​ tactic will ​certainly float ​your boat. Hunting ​from a stand or​ blind is one of those ​tried-and-true​ hunting tactics​ that offer a ​unique set of ​advantages ​over traditional hunting ​methods. Whether ​you choose a ​treestand or a​ ground blind, ​this method of hunting allows​ for improved visibility, ​increased shooting​ range, and superior​ concealment – ​all while not making​ you spend hours ​traversing the ​wilderness.

The Main Aspects of Hunting from a Stand or Blind

Choosing a Location

The first step in this ​process is selecting​ an ideal location for​ your stand or blind. This​ involves studying the ​behavior and, most ​importantly, movement ​patterns of the ​target species. Look​ for signs of animal​ activity, such as game ​trails, feeding areas ​and water sources to​ make sure ​you aren’t just sitting in​ the middle of the​ wilderness where​ no animal​ dares to tread. Ideally, ​the location should ​provide a clear view ​of these areas ​but also have enough natural ​cover to conceal ​your presence.

Setting Up the Stand or Blind

Once a location​ has been chosen, ​the next step is setting up ​the stand or blind. For​ treestand hunting, find a ​sturdy tree that can​ support your weight and​ the stand. The stand ​should be securely attached to ​the tree, with safety ​harnesses used at ​all times during​ installation and use. Don’t take more ​than you need while​ using the three stands – the lighter ​you are, the safer it is.

For ground blinds,​ look for a spot that ​provides a clear ​shooting lane while​ blending into the surrounding​ environment. The blind should be​ camouflaged and positioned in​ a way that ​doesn’t obstruct the ​view or alert the​ animals to your ​presence.

Concealment and Camouflage

Regardless of whether ​you’re using a stand or ​blind, effective concealment is​ crucial. Choose hunting clothing with camouflage patterns and ​materials ​that match ​the surrounding ​vegetation. Additionally, ​scent control measures ​should be taken to ​minimize your odor ​and prevent ​detection by the ​animals. You don’t really have ​a choice where to ​stand regarding the​ wind, so you should​ mask your scent with ​other means. 

Patience and Stillness

It comes as no surprise that hunting from a stand or blind requires patience and stillness. We’ve mentioned patience more than once, but you need a different kind of patience when sitting still. You may need to wait for extended periods for the target animals to come into range and are not recommended to move too much. Any movement or noise can alert the animals, so remain as still and quiet as possible for as long as you can to increase your chances of a successful hunt. If you did a good job of choosing the location, the animals won’t be long in coming.

Shooting Angles and Visibility

Since you get the​ unique opportunity to ​choose the location and ​shooting angle ​yourself, you should make the ​most out of it. Your setup ​should allow for optimum shooting ​angles and visibility. In a treestand, the elevated position offers​ a wider field of view ​and shooting angles. However, ensure​ you’re comfortable with ​shooting downward​ to avoid trajectory ​issues. Ground blinds may limit visibility ​due to their enclosed​ nature, so shooting ​apertures must ​be carefully positioned for ​clear sightlines.

Do’s:

🟢Choose a sturdy and ​secure treestand that can ​safely support your weight.

🟢Choose a ground ​blind that blends in well​ with the surrounding ​terrain.

🟢Practice setting up ​and using your ​chosen platform before ​the actual hunt to ensure ​the setup won’t be a​ problem during the ​actual hunt.

🟢Always wear a safety harness ​when using a ​treestand to prevent​ potential falls ​and accidents.

🟢Position your stand or​ blind in an area known​ for high game​ activity, preferably ​near food sources or game trails.

🟢Exercise​ patience and stay ​quiet while in your ​stand or blind to ​avoid alerting nearby ​animals.

🟢Wear camouflage ​clothing and use​ scent control products ​to enhance your ​concealment.

Don’ts:

🔴Avoid exceeding​ the weight limit of ​your treestand ​or compromising its stability ​by overloading it with gear.

🔴Don’t neglect ​proper tree selection ​and inspection when ​using a treestand. The tree ​should be healthy and ​capable of supporting ​the stand.

🔴Refrain from making sudden ​movements or creating unnecessary ​noise that could ​startle game.

🔴Never leave your stand​ or blind unattended ​for extended periods as ​it may attract ​unwanted attention or even ​be stolen.

🔴Always check local ​hunting regulations regarding the ​use of treestands or ​ground blinds in your chosen hunting area.
drive hunting

Drive Hunting

Finally, we have drive hunting, probably one of the oldest hunting tactics in existence. It is a communal hunting method often employed for its efficiency and effectiveness. This strategy involves a group of hunters working together to drive game into a confined area, where other hunters remain ready to intercept it. It has been used since the time of mammoth hunting and hasn’t gotten old yet.

The Main Aspects of Drive Hunting

Teamwork

Drive hunting relies heavily on teamwork. It’s the main difference between this method and all the others we’ve covered so far. Hunters typically divide into drivers and shooters. Drivers move through the terrain, pushing game towards shooters who are strategically positioned to take the shot.

Planning and Coordination

Successful drive hunting requires careful planning and coordination. As you can, coordinating that number of people is not particularly easy, especially given they will be somewhat scattered. In addition to understanding the terrain and animal behavior, hunters need means of clear communication amongst themselves to drive the game in the desired direction.

Knowledge of Terrain

Understanding the landscape is crucial in drive hunting. It’s vital to use both natural features such as rivers and cliffs and man-made structures like fences to direct animals towards a designated area. Your ability to take advantage of the local landscape can bring you the trophy the same way as the inability to read terrain can leave you bereft of any reward.

Understanding Animal Behavior

Knowing how your target species reacts under pressure is pivotal for all the hunting tactics, but especially so for drive hunting. The animal will feel threatened and most likely will dart off from you. But it might as well dart right towards you, and in a direct confrontation with not a second to react, your chances of getting injured might be high. As such, you need to always be prepared for both scenarios. And act accordingly.

Do’s:

🟢Establish clear communication and coordination among all participating hunters to prevent accidents.

🟢Designate safe shooting zones and ensure all hunters are aware of their locations.

🟢Be aware of the positions of fellow hunters and maintain a safe distance between them.

🟢Understand the terrain and use it to your advantage.

🟢Study the behavior of the target species to predict their movements.

🟢Equip yourself with appropriate gear for safety and efficiency.

🟢Respect local hunting regulations and ensure you have the necessary permits.

Don’ts:

🔴Avoid shooting ​towards other​ hunters or populated areas.

🔴Don’t rush the drive; slow and ​steady movement is ​more effective.

🔴Avoid unnecessary​ noise that might ​alert the game​ prematurely.

🔴Do not disregard ​safety measures, both for ​yourself and the team.

🔴Never hunt without ​proper permission on ​private land.

Conclusion

As you can see, ​hunting is a complex sport, ​with each strategy requiring its ​own set of skills ​and insights. By understanding ​the peculiarities of different​ hunting tactics and​ correctly applying them, you can significantly ​enhance your chances ​of success. Remember, the do’s and​ don’ts mentioned above are​ not just recommendations, but​ guidelines that serve as a beaten​ path to a safe and​ successful hunt.

Check out our other article on hunting and hunting-related equipment:

FAQs

What are some effective hunting tactics for different types of game?

Different game species ​require different hunting ​tactics. For instance, ​hunting from a hide or​ blind is often effective​ for deer, while stalking​ might be better ​suited for hunting​ elk. Experienced​ hunters can tailor ​their strategies​ based on the​ game, terrain, and​ weather conditions.

What is still-hunting and how is it done?

Still-hunting​ combines the pleasure ​of traversing the​ woods with the ​discipline of being on​ a hunt. It involves moving ​slowly and quietly in the animal’s ​habitat, stopping ​frequently to listen and​ observe, and using ​stealth to get ​close to game.

What is drive hunting and how does it work?

Drive hunting​ involves a group of ​hunters where​ some act as ​drivers, moving in​ a line through an ​area to drive game towards ​other hunters called ​standers. It requires ​well-oiled teamwork​ and good communication ​between the parties.

What are some safety tips for hunting from a tree stand?

Always wear a safety harness ​when climbing or sitting in a​ tree stand. Check your​ stand regularly for any signs of wear or damage. Never​ climb with your gear – use a haul line to bring ​up your equipment after you are secured ​in the stand.

Timothy Chandler

Timothy Chandler is a long-time outdoor enthusiast and shooting range regular who decided to put his passion into words. Having tried an immeasurable number of firearms during his hunting trips across Texas and several other states, Timothy has accumulated a knowledge base worthy of sharing. The possible blanks in the expertise he compensates with the help of his numerous shooting buddies. Timothy is set on a seemingly impossible mission to try it all in the realm of firearms. Follow him on his never-ending journey through the gun world.

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