If you always caught something when you went hunting it would be called catching instead of hunting. Many would-be hunters quickly grow weary of the sport since not only do they not catch animals – most people don’t even see an animal their whole trip out. If you’re new to hunting, this can be extremely frustrating – you’ve bought your gear, picked out your rifle, and are out on the grounds with nary the sound of an animal, much less a sighting. Maybe you need to learn to locate where animals congregate!
Tips for the Fruitful Hunt
Locating animals is the first part of hunting. If you can never locate the animals, you can never shoot the animal and thus you will never catch anything. This seems like a basic statement, although countless brand new hunters are out in the wrong spot looking for game that just isn’t there. Such an activity isn’t called hunting – it’s called nature walking with a rifle in your hand. So how can you locate animals? Here are some tips:
Local knowledge: Surprisingly, many new hunters are possessed of the idea that hunting is an individual sport in which any outside advice constitutes “cheating.” They think that a true hunter must track his own game and do all of his own legwork to find out where the animals are. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Even the most celebrated professional African hunters use guides to actually locate the general area where game can be found. There’s nothing like a little bit of local knowledge to help you narrow down a really big area into a much smaller, more manageable area. If you can obtain local knowledge from hunters or land owners who are much more familiar with the terrain than you are, you can save lots of time in your hunts and be more accurate. Don’t be afraid to ask!
When, not where: Another new hunter mistake is to ask the “where” questions and ignore the “when” questions. Realize that just like you, animals have a routine they abide by. Just as you are not home twenty-four hours per day – you go to work, come home, go out to eat, etc. – they have patterns as well. Just because you know where a given animal beds down, for example, doesn’t mean you will find that animal there whenever you want. You need to become intimate with the animal you are hunting, as well as its routine. All animals sleep, but some may sleep at times you would not think they do. External hunting pressures and crowded public lands sometimes turn deer, for example, into nocturnal creatures, which means you are unlikely to see many of them by day in some parts of the country. Again, local knowledge is key here.
Go where the food is: Go where the food source for the animal you are hunting is, but be careful not to get too close. The average game animal uses three senses – hearing, smell, and sight – and you as a hunter barely use one (sight), with the other two distant seconds. Positioning yourself incorrectly when observing an animal’s food source could prove to be a blunder. Make sure you are downwind of the food source for the animal you are stalking, and prepare to patiently watch and wait.
Find the watering holes: Besides food, stalking watering holes is the next best thing. Every animal needs water to survive, and setting up a stand or observation point downwind of the only water in the area is a sure-fire bet to locating animals. Keep in mind, however, that while most types of animals eat different foods from one another, they all drink the same water. What this means in practice is that many different types of animals will use the same watering hole – and some are keener than others. You might spook another type of animal than you were hunting, which could in turn spook the animal you are after. Stalking a watering hole requires patience and discipline.
Game trails: Game trails are the interstate highways of the bush. Animals are creatures of habit too, and they will often use pre-established routes from their dens or where they bed down to the watering hole and food sources. Trails enable an animal to move silently and stealthily rather than crashing through the bush – but that doesn’t mean that you should use them! Consider that you could leave a scent trail by walking a game trail that would scare animals away. When setting up a stand near a game trail, walk parallel to it but not on it, and place the stand appropriate to the wind (you can still be detected by scent up in a tree), and near a natural bottleneck. Just remember that game trails, like watering holes, are used by several types of animals.
A little common sense and patience as well as studying the terrain of where you plan to hunt will go a long way to you actually seeing and being able to take a shot at a game animal. Find animals by knowing where they go!
©2012 Off the Grid News