You glass the hillside and see a bull elk moving slowly to the east about a quarter mile away. The wind is in your face, blowing your scent away from your target. It rained hard last night, making the ground soft and quiet for your approach. Your heart pounds as you realize these are perfect conditions for a spot-and-stalk hunt.
“Glassing” is when you use binoculars or a spotting scope to find game animals from a distance. The goal of spot-and-stalk hunting is to see the animal before it sees you, and craft an approach plan for a good shot opportunity. This technique is used most often in Western prairie and mountainous regions for bowhunting elk, pronghorns and mule deer.
Tips for Spot-and-Stalk Hunting
- Elevation. Find an elevated vantage point, such as trees, rocks or hilly terrain. Check the area thoroughly. If you see nothing, move to another vantage point and check the next area.
- Fresh Tracks. Look for fresh tracks and sign, moving slowly, walking a few steps at a time, and stopping often to scan and study the surroundings. Always be ready because a shot might suddenly present itself.
- Wind Direction. Know your wind direction to avoid an animal catching your scent as you approach. Stay downwind of the animal (the wind is in your face) to avoid being detected.
- Walk quietly through the terrain. Avoid stepping on sticks and other debris that could make noise and alert animals to your presence. Wet or damp conditions create better stalking conditions because the terrain becomes quieter when leaves, pine cones and other woodland debris are wet, soggy and less brittle.
- Clothing. Dress comfortably in soft, quiet, scent-free clothing so you can move freely with ease and stealth
- Tune into your senses. Listen to all the sounds around you. they might reveal an animal’s location. Animal sounds can indicate other animals and birds are aware of you, such as squirrels chattering, crows cawing, elk barking or deer snorting.
- Vision. Look around to detect shapes, colors and movements that identify prey. Peripheral vision — seeing what is off to your sides when looking ahead — is vital because animals often move at the edge of a hunter’s sight.
- Dress lightly and strategically. Do not dress too heavily or you’ll make some noise and larger movements. You’ll also sweat, which could make it easier for animals to smell you. Quality boots are a must and a hat with a bill helps shield your face from the sun’s glare.
- Stay calm and collected. Bowhunters who spot animals they’re pursuing, but don’t immediately get a shot, must continue to use the same tactics to spot the animal again. If your breathing quickens and your heart starts racing, stop and regain your composure before resuming the stalk.
Never shoot just because you see the animal. Make sure the shooting lane is clear to ensure a clean shot.