Spot and Stalk Deer Hunting: How to Master the Biggest Thrill of Hunting

Of all the many methods one can take to shoot a deer, none are as exciting and fun the whole way through as is the method of Spot and Stalk Deer Hunting. Though it may not be quite as relaxing as sitting in a tree stand or blind, it is definitely more of a thrill from the beginning to the point of shooting.

Spot and stalk deer hunting demands a lot of skill out of a hunter, as well as the right habitat and the right gear. There are many different tricks and tactics that deer hunters can use to give them more of an advantage, and here we will talk about them.

What is Spot and Stalk Deer Hunting?

Spot and stalk deer hunting is a method by which a hunter first attempts to spot a deer, and then stalk to within shooting range. Shooting range can me a lot of things to different people and weapons, but the theory is the same. You must concentrate on sneaking (stalking) into a position that you can ethically make a good, clean kill.

How close do you need to get? A good rule of thumb for most people would be 300 yards for rifle hunters and 40 yards for archery hunters. Of course this will be 100% up to the individual hunter and whatever he or she feels comfortable with. With a lot of practice, especially for archery hunting, these ranges can be increased.


No matter where you are, spot and stalk deer hunting can be a great method for taking deer. That being said, there are some areas that are much better suited for the method of spot and stalk deer hunting than others.

The more open and the less cover, the better spot and stalk hunting will be. Spot and stalk deer hunting requires looking over a lot of country to find the deer you are looking for. If you are after a mature buck, then you might have to put in a lot of time depending on the area. A lot of good spot and stalk deer hunting areas have a low average buck age as people shoot too many immature bucks when they are young and very dumb without a place to hide or the smarts to run away.

Most of the better spot and stalk deer hunting areas lie in the west half of North America, as it tends to be a bit more arid without as many trees, except in the mountainous areas. Even in the mountains, some great spot and stalk areas can be found as you can look across canyons and spot deer or you can go above tree line for some alpine spot and stalk deer hunting, which happens to be some of the best area to get a big mule deer buck.

Spotting Deer

Once you are in an area that you think should be good for spot and stalk hunting, the first task is to find deer. The best thing to do if you have time before the season starts is to do some preseason scouting. It is very helpful to know what size of deer to set your standards on as well an idea of where to find them. Opening day can get pretty crazy, as there is typically other hunters that have done some scouting and will be looking for specific deer, so you will want to be in the best place possible as soon as legal shooting time arrives.

Keep Your Distance

The key to spot and stalk deer hunting is to see the deer before they see you. For this reason, it is best to find deer from a long ways off. Once you find them, then you can devise a plan on getting to within range. Once the deer are alerted to your presence, things will get much harder as the deer will be on guard making tough to close the distance without being seen.

Spotting Moving Deer

Early in the mornings is the best time to find deer moving around. Morning time usually finds the deer the furthest away from their bedding areas and focused on eating. For this reason you will want to focus on feeding areas first thing, and then work your way to checking their in between areas as they browse about on their way to the bedding areas. If you are after older, mature bucks, they are usually the first to head for wherever they feel the safest and bed down for the day. Many are nocturnal by the time deer season starts, and you will have to find them in their beds. This can be tough as a deer can blend in to its surroundings very easily.

If you have not found a deer that meets you minimum requirement to put a stalk on before they bed down, do not be discouraged. Most deer, including bucks will get up, stretch, nibble on some nearby plants, or just get up to reposition themselves out of the sun. I have found many bucks that I have put stalks on in the heat of the day.

Spotting Bedded Deer

It is also possible to spot deer as they are bedded down. This takes a lot of patience and skill to beable to pick out the small details that you can identify as a deer. First of all, you want to be able to identify areas that deer will likely bed down. Some areas anywhere can be possible bedding locations, but there are certain similarities to the places deer prefer to bed down most.

The most obvious place to look is around trees and shrubs. Deer will hide amongst and on the edges of these areas in an attempt to be in the shade and to hide them from predators, like hunters. Many times a big buck can lay in a brush patch not much bigger than the deer himself, yet be almost totally concealed. The spotting skill comes out when you can pick out the fork of an antler, a rump, a nose, or a moving bush that should not be moving. You have to really pick these areas a part with your optics, and even then you might not see what is hiding in there. I have had deer magically appear out of shrubs after I thought I could see all of it.

Other areas that deer like to bed down are amongst boulders and under cliff faces where they can find shelter from the sun and avoid cougars and other predators. Anywhere you see shade is a possible bedding area, especially early season when it is hot. Even once the temperatures get colder in the fall deer will still seek shade as their coats thicken up.

Spot and Stalk Deer Hunting Video

Check out where this 165 inch mule deer bedded down on this hillside of boulders right at first light. Other hunters came in from the top after him, but my brother and I positioned ourselves in a perfect spot to see him first thing, and then watched him bed down just out of sight of the rifle militia above. Unfortunately for the buck, we had a good plan to find him from a far. A 300 yard shot across the ravine and the rest is history.

Stalking Deer

Putting the final stock on a deer is the most exciting part of spot and stalk deer hunting. The object is getting as close as possible without the deer detecting you. This is the part where rifle spot and stalk and archery spot and stalk deer hunting differ a lot. Of course, many times, a deer will position its self in an area where it can only be seen within range at 50 yards. I have had several situations where I could spot bucks from 800 – 1000 yards away, but could not see them on the final stock until I was within 20 or less yards.


The best defense a deer has is his ability to smell. One molecule of human scent will make a bedded down deer turning into a running deer instantly, typically not giving the hunter anytime for a standing still shot. For this reason, you have to play the wind more than anything else.

When spot and stalking deer, wind can be your worst enemy or your best friend, it is all about how you play it. Wind, especially a decent wind can help to cover up the sound of a hunter stalking within range of a deer. Also, wind can be used to take your scent away from a deer. You can get 10 yards away, and as long as there is a decent breeze blowing your scent away from the deer, you can remain undetected to the nose of a very smart deer. Regardless of the weapon you are using, you will need to use the wind to your advantage, especially with a bow or other close range weapon in your hand.

Many times while spot and stalk deer hunting it is necessary to make the final stalk until the wind is right, especially while bow hunting. I have had to watch deer for hours until the wind changed before I could put on a stalk and typically I have been glad I waited. I have also blown plenty of archery stocks because I did not wait for the wind to change and stabilize, but then after the stalk was a bust, the wind picked up and stabilized.


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