How to Still-Hunt Whitetail Deer (2024)

Outdoor writers have been opining about still hunting being a lost art since I was a little kid reading issues of my dad’s hunting magazines. I don’t know if it was then, but it certainly is now. This type of slower-than-glacial-pace hunting isn’t even in the conversation anymore for most folks, but it should be.

Still hunting is a chance to be active, sort of, while getting on the ground and melting into the forest. It’s not easy, but it sure is fun. I’ll never forget the days of my early deer hunting career when the wind blew or the rain came, and I knew I’d get the chance to get out of a tree and try to walk a deer up.

I mostly didn’t, but I did have a hell of a lot of encounters. When I did arrow a deer while still hunting it was wildly satisfying because of the mindset and skills necessary to make it happen.

Plan First, Hunt Second

If you don’t have a good idea of where deer should be at the time you’re going hunting, you’re in trouble. I like to plan still hunts around the right weather (any weather that should cover my noise), and then make a good guess on what the deer should be doing at the time.

This is going to be when they are heading from food to bedding in the morning or the opposite in the evening. Pick a ridge, creek bottom, or some type of cover that you can slip through. Then factor in the wind. Conventional wisdom says to get it in your face and go, but I often find it works best for me to hunt a crosswind that slightly favors my direction.

Either way, pick a route or have at least a rough plan of what you want to do before heading out. It’s also not a bad idea to choose a path that will take you through an area you’d like to in-season scout, so that you’re vacuuming up current deer info while actually hunting.

Turtle Time

I’m naturally a fast walker, so still hunting is a challenge for me. It helps when I believe I’m around deer, which is why the planning phase is so important. It’s easier to slow down and stay slow when you believe you might encounter a deer at any moment.

Now, the old-school still-hunting advice was always about how you shouldn’t cover more than like 100 yards in three hours. To me, that’s not much different from just sitting on a stump and waiting for them to come by. It’s also, probably bullsh*t. I don’t know too many people who can go that slow, and I don’t think it’s necessary.

Slow, really slow, is a good idea, though. You want to see deer before they see you, and movement is the key in that situation. Whoever moves more, loses. Choose your steps wisely, stop next to trees, in shadows, and think about what you look like moving through the woods.

Use a good bino harness, and glass often. The goal is to immerse yourself in the woods so that you’re not a disruption. If the local squirrels and songbirds accept you, you’re doing well. If they don’t, you’re moving too much, or too fast (or both).

Stay Alert

The thing that has always surprised me while still hunting, is well, how surprising it is to have a deer close and unaware. Still hunting is generally a low-odds game, but when you do encounter a deer, it’s often in range. This means you need to stay alert.

This is tough to do if you’re going as slow as you need to, but if you do cross paths with a deer, your shot opportunity is going to happen relatively fast. You can buy yourself some time by using a ghillie or leafy suit, but often when a deer ends up in your orbit, it’s going to figure out you’re there before too long.

Even a couple of extra seconds of lead time in knowing a deer is coming your way can be the difference between being ready to shoot, or not. It can also be the difference between positioning yourself for a shooting opportunity or just watching the whole thing slip between your camo-covered fingers.

While still hunting is somewhat of a lost art, it’s a viable hunting strategy if for no other reason than it’s often more fun than sitting. With the right plan, a commitment to glacial-pace movements, and the ability to pay attention at all times, you can turn a super slow walk through the woods into a successful deer hunt.

Feature image via Matt Hansen.

How to Still-Hunt Whitetail Deer (2024)


How to hunt when deer aren't moving? ›

And when they won't move on their own, make them move. Still-hunting is a great alternative to stand hunting during a warm spell. Put on your very best stalking boots and slip through the woods slowly and quietly. Remember to pause every four or five steps and glass ahead with good optics.

Is still hunting for deer effective? ›

Still-hunting has its setbacks. It leaves you vulnerable to deer picking you out in the timber, but it does allow you to slip into their territory when hunting pressure forces them deeper in the cover.

What is the best way to hunt whitetail deer? ›

Ambush hunting is by far the most common whitetail strategy, with most whitetail hunters preferring to ambush the animals on or near agricultural land. Aside from hunting pressure, the whereabouts of whitetail deer are dictated largely by the locations of their favorite foods, and whitetails are suckers for crops.

What do hunters do in still hunting? ›

In still hunting, you move slowly and deliberately until you spot game—before it spots you. Generally, the hunter will take a few slow, deliberate steps and then stand or squat motionless for several minutes while scanning all surrounding areas for game.

Why do I only see does and no bucks? ›

The more time you or other hunters spend on the property, the less likely you are to see deer, especially older deer. Studies have shown that as hunting pressure increases, mature bucks move less during daylight. They also spend more time in thick cover, where you're less likely to see them even if they do move.

Can deer see you if you don't move? ›

“You'd probably do as well with a blurry camo. That's why deer struggle to see stationary objects, but easily see moving objects. Their eyes catch movement much better than our eyes can.”

Where to never shoot a deer? ›

Where Not to Shoot a Deer
  • The High Chest.
  • The Paunch.
  • The Shoulder.
  • The Ham.
  • The Liver.
Dec 20, 2022

How long should I sit in my stand? ›

During all times but the rut, I like to plan for a solid, 3 hour sit. Because of blocked and hidden access there are certain stand or blind locations that I can easily slip into an hour to two hours before dark, even with deer in front of the stand location.

How long will deer avoid an area? ›

This is not surprising given the fact that most stands are set over food plots and feeders that would naturally attract deer. However, if the stand was hunted the previous day, bucks appeared to respond immediately and displayed avoidance behavior. This avoidance lasted on average for three days.

What should you not do while deer hunting? ›

Don't: Spend all your time hunting over food plots. The biggest bucks—the smartest of the herd—are often too wary to visit major feeding areas except at night. Do: Hunt your plots, but also primary food sources used by deer all year.

What kills most whitetail deer? ›

Predation and Deer Population. Predators kill white-tailed deer. Field studies from across the United States, including Pennsylvania, show that predators - notably coyotes, bears, and bobcats - prey on white-tailed deer. Predation is a natural form of mortality for white-tailed deer.

What is irresistible to deer? ›

food plot in the middle of the woods sprayed with antler grow to provide a healthy food source that will attract deer to your property like crazy! You can be dumping minerals, some sort of powder or even corn. Now from my experience This creates a red flag to the deer.

What is an advantage of still hunting? ›

It's like being on the final leg of a careful stalk, except it lasts for hours and you're never sure of the animal's location until it's time to raise your bow or rifle and shoot. It is this sense of the unknown that makes still-hunting so rewarding.

What do hunters do after killing a deer? ›

Hang Your Deer — Once you get your deer to your destination, make sure to hang it up right away. This keeps the deer off the ground and allows any remaining blood to drain out of its system. Now you can get your deer to the butcher or do the work yourself.

How long should you wait before trailing your game? ›

If the deer has run off, mark the time then wait for at least 30 minutes to an hour before beginning to trail. After incurring a mortal wound, an animal, after a short run, will usually lie down, go into shock and die. If you move in too quickly, the animal's flight instinct will kick in.

What causes deer not to move? ›

Temperature. Temperature also had an influence on movement – whitetails without doubt have a “comfort range.” If it's too warm after they are sporting their more efficient winter coats, they tend to move much less during daylight hours.

What to do if you shoot a deer and can't find it? ›

If you lose the trail of a gut-shot deer, go in the direction you last saw them. The deer will often be found not too far ahead. If you went in the direction of the deer but still can't find it, you can try to get a blood-tracker to bring their dog. If you can't get a tracker, do a grid search.

Why am I not seeing any deer when I hunt? ›

The deer in the area may be smelling you long before you can see them. It is incredibly important that you pay attention to the wind and stay downwind of deer. If you plan to hunt feeding grounds, make sure the wind isn't blowing toward approaching deer. As the wind changes directions, you need to move too!

What time do deer stop moving? ›

Deer tend to sleep during the day, between 12:00 pm and 4:00 pm but they will resume activity in the hours just before dark.


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