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Concealment: a legendary glassing story, and legendary advice, from a pro.

Aug 10, 2015 |  #Hoyt #bowhunting #compound

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This is the first article of a two-part series on pre-season glassing by Marlon Holden. Check back in Thursday for further strategy.

While we are in the midst of pre-season scouting, I figured it would be fitting to address how invasive we are into our quarries environment, or more specifically, home. Let’s touch a bit on concealment and discuss how to remain undetected while afield pre-season scouting.

Most of us, as hunters, see that answer as being extremely simple: stay out of sight and far away. This is one of the single most logical ways of remaining off the radar. However, there are scenarios which simply do not allow for us to glass from 5-7 miles away.  Even if we can glass from that far, this type of scouting never truly allows us to discern what type of quality were dealing with, whether it be age class, tine length, mass, etc.  Often, truly old bucks will choose tight avalanche chutes in the high country, tucked away in pocket basins, where the best chance to see them is for a few minutes before first light before they go into the timber. This behavior makes it extremely difficult to locate them regardless of effort, and makes it seem as though blind luck is your only hope. However, with a little ‘buck-sense’ and education, you can put yourself in these spots, turning what you once thought to be pure luck into a regular occurrence.

Since mature animals are solitary by nature, anything that appears out of the ordinary, however minute, can send that particular animal into a nocturnal, reclusive lifestyle.  Remember that a summering animal will rarely, if ever, truly leave his summer range.  Even if you do not see him, he will be there. 

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Case in point, last season a buddy of mine hunted a large 6 ½ year old buck we nicknamed Freaknasty.  He lived a solitary life and rarely socialized with the other bachelored-up bucks. “FREAK”, as we called him, would be out in the open in July and early August for the first 30 minutes of light, feeding amongst his buddies… After the second of August, though, this old, mature non typical would wander off on his own and bed in the timber.  He began going to bed earlier and earlier, every day.  By the time season was two weeks away, he was almost nocturnal… Even though we were in a remote and secluded basin that required a lot of sweat-equity to get into, this buck acted his age, and wisdom had prevailed.  By a week prior to the opener, if you hadn’t patterned this buck, you’d have no idea where his bed was, simply because he was in it by daybreak and didn’t move until around noon to stretch and readjust his bed. Even then, he only got up for a brief moment equaling less than a minute before re-bedding. Talk about reclusive! 

On the season opener, he was already 200 yards below treeline in his bed and we only knew he was there because of the antler tips sticking up above some skunk cabbage. Only 3 inches of his left G-2 showed, that’s it! Day one was a bust, because the wind swirled on my buddies stalk and sent Freak busting over dead-fall down the canyon!  My buddy was heartbroken, but experience told us he wouldn’t go far and that is where the work really began.  

You see, we stayed in our glassing positions for nearly two weeks straight looking for a glimpse of Freak, but he never showed in his regular bed again that season.  We did, however, catch him moving through some dark timber on the 17th day, about 300 yards below and across from his old bed. By some twist of luck, we caught his movement and it was all we needed to secure another stalk on this High Country Monarch.  After the thermals shifted and the wind was driving itself uphill hard, my buddy took off after the big buck. Within 4 hours of carefully navigating deadfall down a 55 degree avalanche chute, my friend was positioned 36 yards above the unsuspecting buck and he was able to successfully smoke that deer in his bed with one well placed arrow! One of the best high country experiences to ever be a part of. “Freak” ended up gross scoring 218’ Non Typical with a 190” frame…

I think that there are many aspects to being successful on that hunt, which candidly would have sent many people in search of a new deer to chase.  This experience was a large factor in my belief that bucks don’t move country after being bumped. Remember that they do, however, change how they use that same country. One key that hunt was an unrelenting drive from my partner to pursue, another aspect was that we both had faith in his core summering range, that he was there and never left. 

Something of importance to note is that during the toughest hunts, most animals are right under your nose and it’s not always how hard you hunt but how much you are a student of your quarries habits, and how well you utilize that knowledge in hunting these “ghosts”.  In reality, many hunters give up because they have already mentally thrown in the towel.

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Aside from what this story shows, there are a few key things to remember. Firstly, you must be convinced in your own mind that when you go into a bucks home, you must leave without a trace. Things like spitting, touching branches with your hands after eating breakfast, urinating and even wearing boots with human odor on the rubber soles are all things you want to make certain to not do while afield in a bucks core territory. All you are doing is educating that animal, and while he may not leave the country, you’re advising him that he needs to go nocturnal or possibly change his routine.

Preparing your clothing before you go afield is something to consider as well. There are many detergents available that are UV resistant and do not leave all that crazy “smell good” stuff all over your hunting get-up. While it is impossible to not sweat in country that nearly swallows even the toughest athletes, you can control things such as the greasy fingers you wipe on your jacket after enjoying a Sausage and cheese McMuffin while driving to your destination. Sure, enjoy breakfast, just be sure that you don’t leave residue on your clothing, ESPECIALLY campfire smoke or fuel from the gas nozzle at the station on your garments. These are all big red flags that will play against you in the field in the long run.

Remember that anything and everything that you CAN control, you must control. There’s such a thing as paranoia, no doubt, and I may sound paranoid, however, after a buck grows his fourth point, he earns his sixth sense, I swear it! While we do all of these things to stay concealed while scouting, we all know that hunting the wind is our most effective tool and likely will account for most successful hunts. Simply put, over the years, I have found that in order to be successful, you must consistently do certain things in order to level the odds and make what once appeared as luck turn into a relative certainty. With practice comes proficiency. Stay undetected, make stealth a part of your arsenal, and consistently see the results of your hard work.

Good luck out there,

~Marlon Holden