Hunting From The Ground
By: Eric Clark | Okayest Hunter
Why I started hunting from the ground
No joke, my first ever ground hunt was because I was too tired to be in my tree stand. I literally climbed down from my tree stand, so if I actually fell asleep, I wouldn't fall and be snapped awake by my safety harness. If you're a hunter and haven't napped in nature, you're probably lying. There's something about sleeping in nature, and all of the wildlife medleys that the best mattress money can’t buy.
Can you kill deer by hunting from the ground?
Absolutely. Have I? Yes, a doe fawn from 10 yards with my bow and all of my gun deer. I'm by no means on the level of someone like Jarred Scheffler with Whitetail Adrenaline. Their approach kills deer, but they are experts and have spent countless hours in the woods over many years to perfect their skills to stalk deer from the ground. I believe that regardless of your time in the woods, we all have something we can teach one another, so I'm happy to share some of my learnings to help you on your future hunts! My approach might help you kill some deer.
The most significant advantage of ground hunting
What you lose in terms of a vantage point from setting up in a tree, you gain back with extreme mobility. You are not tethered or anchored to one spot. Even if you're mobile hunting with a saddle or a hang-on-tree stand, there's still a process of setting up and tearing down that may discourage you from making a timely move.
I'm a big fan of blending comfort and convenience. I like to be comfortable but need to act quickly when that shooter buck shows up! I use an air-filled seat that attaches to my a** with a waistband. It goes where I go. When I find a spot to set up, it keeps a nice air cushion between my cheeks and the ground. This is especially important when hunting wet ground, rainy days, and even in the snow.
My Dad uses a portable chair for his ground hunts. Some products strap on or prop up against a tree's base. You'll have to find what works best for you and your approach. You might not need anything for sitting and can utilize a make-shift, natural blind made of blowdowns, shrubbery, or pine bows. Use your resources and get set up before first light or last light.
Making moves on the ground
On one of my podcast episodes, I had a guest tell me he used natural sounds from nature to conceal their sound when they moved. Things like airplanes, trains, cars, crows, and wind can all help cover your steps. This same podcast guest brought a crow call with him and would call crows to help conceal his sound if needed. That's like some wildlife sorcery! A good buddy uses a small handheld squirrel call to help cover and plan his next steps.
This method of stalking whitetail or slowly making your way through the timber is ironically called "still hunting." Here's the definition from Google: As the name implies, still hunting is walking stealthily through an animal's habitat, stopping frequently—sometimes for long periods—to scan and listen for game. Typically, big-game hunters use this method in unfamiliar terrain or where stands are impractical or forbidden.
Spot and Stalk:
You may have heard the term Spot and Stalk hunting. This is not the same as still hunting, although it's similar. Still hunting applies when you've made visual contact with the animal you're hunting. From there, you are making deliberate maneuvers to get into shooting range. Spot and stalk hunting is more akin to what Whitetail Adrenaline is doing.
Depending on how much ground you intend to cover, in my experience, I’ve found that less is more. Try not to bulk yourself down with more than you need. Last season in 2021, I speed scouted a few properties and brought my bow, and a knife to gut and that was it. It allowed me to cover a lot of ground in search of sign and deer. I had areas of rapid movement and then extended pauses to watch and listen before moving again. This style of hunting allowed me to nix some properties off my list for later in the season, or add a couple depending on the sign I found.
In conclusion, there are several advantages to hunting from the ground. Ultimately, it is just another tactic or tool in your arsenal to help you successfully hunt based on specific challenges in terms of terrain, weather, and so forth. If you haven't tried hunting from the ground, I'd recommend giving it a try to increase your overall knowledge as a hunter and add to your avenues of approach. If nothing, maybe you'll be able to take a nice nap out in the woods!