How to Still-Hunt for Whitetails With a Bow

The odds of scoring are low, but walking up a whitetail may be the ultimate bow-season thrill

Photograph by Lance Krueger

In this age of treestands and ground blinds, still-hunting for whitetail deer has become a dying art. The mechanics are simple: Take a step, stop, look around, wait a bit, and then take another step. While stealth is key, your mindset is equally important. A successful still-hunt is less a slapdash walk in the woods than it is a systematic stalk through promising cover. Here are three hot zones to still-hunt during bow season.

1. Trails of Glory
As the chase phase of the rut approaches, bucks will be on the move searching for the first does to come into estrus. This search-and-breed behavior will continue for the entirety of the rut, which is why connector runs between bedding areas are my favorite still-hunting routes.

The trails are often faint, but the simplest way to locate them is to look for fresh rubs. As you exit one bedding area, take the most direct and quiet path to the next.

2. Get the Edge
Before dawn during the rut, I often position myself downwind of an alfalfa lot, a bean field, a swamp meadow, an apple orchard, or an overgrown pasture. Then as shooting light breaks, I move slowly along the insides of these edges glassing for bucks. I spot them not only in the thick stuff, but also in the wide open as they check out does that are still in the fields.

In farm country, I hit still-hunting routes that separate one cornfield from another. Hedgerows are an obvious choice, but so are ditches, creekbeds, and fence lines.

3. Figure Out a Funnel
In thick woods, terrain features will dictate the path a buck will take to hook up with a doe in heat. Killer funnels are located where several terrain types converge. A gentle slope, for example, may lead down to a plateau that is bordered by a steep ravine. Look for saddles, gentle slopes, and nearby plateaus that steer deer toward the heads of ravines. Above all, remember that this is no simple stroll. Plan your route carefully and let the conditions dictate your pace.