Getting Close: Part 2

We have already explored the use of  cover, concealment and advantageous wind direction in February Sporting Shooter and in this final chapter on getting close we will look at some threats that can arise in a more complicated stalk.

CAMO – The last decade or so has seen a strong uptake in the use of camouflage clothing by the hunting community. I have to admit that I love “camo” but am yet to find an absolutely ideal pattern that suits my needs.

The seasons here in the high country, like most places, are constantly changing and I find that most camo clothing on the market today seems a little dark for the lighter foliage contrasts in my area.

Instead I prefer to wear dull coloured clothing, such as a light khaki/tan coloured work shirt and pants. My mate Warren and I refer to it as “urban camouflage” and have no trouble getting in close to unsuspecting game. (Humorous note: you can also go home via town to the shops without potentially drawing a SWAT Team down on you.)

Without doubt camouflage has its advantages though and of course it is the personal preference of the individual. Is it necessary? For my type of hunting, probably not, however I would like to see a company consult with experienced shooters to produce a camouflage that will suit seasonal Australian conditions.

If you have a couple of old copies of shooting magazines lying around, you will undoubtedly see a lot of trophy game shot by hunters wearing flannelette shirts and jeans. As I said, to wear or not to wear “camo” is entirely up to the individual and their circumstances.

(Editor’s note: I have found Ridgeline’s buffalo camo blends in beautifully in many Australian dry forest environments, particularly close in.)

OPEN GROUND – Having to cover open ground when stalking a trophy animal is a real pain in the butt, as the hunter is totally exposed. Personally, I hate open ground and will avoid it if possible, preferring to alter my approach to use available cover.

Earlier this year in New Zealand, I spoke to an experienced hunting guide who provided me with a very simple and common sense approach to covering open ground. As a lot of stalking on the South Island of New Zealand is done in exposed terrain, the guide’s simple suggestion was to reduce the hunter’s profile. By this he meant bending at the hips so that the hunter’s upper body is horizontal to the ground. This observation is supported by the fact that an upright human figure is very easy to spot in the bush.

By bending at the hips, not only does this reduce the hunter’s profile, it also creates the illusion of horizontal rather than upright movement. If you think about it, deer and pigs etc move horizontally to the ground because the move on four legs.

Although somewhat last ditch, this simple method “may” give you an option when all other avenues are exhausted. It sure beats the hell out of crawling on your stomach for several hundred metres through burrs and rocks but you may be reduced to that for the last 50 metres. The best tip however, is to alter your course, keeping cover and wind in your favour.

BUSTED – The majority of Australian game species are herd animals and are very seldom found on their own. This is particularly true during the rutting season when a dominant stag will be surrounded by females and subordinate juvenile males.

Should you find an animal and decide to stalk in for a closer look, be aware that there will likely be other animals in the near vicinity. These animals act as look outs to increase the safety margin of the herd and will give you away very quickly.

It is important for the hunter to remain observant and not give in to the temptations of tunnel vision when a quality trophy is located. Continually scan surroundings, not just the antlers/tusks etc. Kangaroos and Mickey Birds are the bane of the Australian hunter and have spoiled countless stalks.

Slow your stalk down and wait it out. If you have been spotted by other animals, simply freeze and do not move until they look away or continue to graze. This is a sign that the animal is not alarmed by your presence. Be aware however, that deer in particular will try to fool the hunter by momentarily putting their head down to graze.

Upon doing so, the deer will quickly lift its head to look directly at the hunter in an attempt to detect movement. This defence mechanism is predictable. The simplest tip is to stay still until the animal grazes or looks away without alarm.

Stalking at first seems to be daunting to the inexperienced hunter. Practice and knowledge of animal behaviour will soon have you getting in close to your quarry. To practice these skills, does not require hunting time. Take the camera to the local park and see how close you can get to birds and other animals using some of these handy hints.

This article was first published in the Sporting Shooter March 2014 issue.




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