Story and photos by: Jared Bloomgren
It doesn’t matter what you hunt, where you hunt, or how you hunt; the two things that every hunter needs in any situation are patience and persistence.
These two attributes are more important than just about everything a hunter takes into the field, including what type of bow or rifle. More often than not, patience and persistence will lead to more success than any other factor that comes into play. In the following discussion I will touch on various types of hunting situations I have encountered and provide an example of how I used both patience and persistence to achieve a successful outcome.
Spotting and Stalking
More animals are missed during the spotting process than one would think. When you find a good vantage point and start glassing, it's easy to fall into the mindset there are no game in the area after an initial scan. When this happens, slow down, focus your attention on minor details and glass each area multiple times. More often than not, I have missed bedded bucks on the first look. I have to remind myself to be patient and persistent and go over the terrain again, looking for any little thing that might show signs of life. I try to look for something that doesn’t fit the terrain and spend extra time looking at shadows and shady areas that could provide a buck or bull a comfortable bed. I have found that after initially glassing an area, by simply slowing down and taking more time to look at the minor details, I often find numerous animals that I initially overlooked.
One situation in particular comes to mind. I had been glassing a basin for a particular buck for what seemed like an eternity. My eyes were tired, my legs were numb and my ass was sore from sitting behind my glass for a long time. I was sure the buck I was searching for didn’t stop in this particular basin, he must have moved on. I took a break, ate a snack, drank some water and enjoyed the view from my perch. After a break, I took in a few deep breaths, stretched and went back to glassing. I felt revived as I pressed the spotting scope back to my eye. A few minutes passed and suddenly I noticed something out of the ordinary: my buck was bedded in a location that I had already glassed numerous times. Sure enough that buck had been bedded there all along. A simple break was all I needed to regain my concentration and get my patience back in check.
When it comes to stalking an animal, patience isn’t an option, it is a necessity. Stalking pits your skills against that of your prey - but on their terms. Your prey is very familiar with the terrain in which they live. You must be too. Being patient will make it easier for you to complete a stalk. Impatience on the other hand may cause you to step on a twig or brush up against a branch that you should have avoided. I have found myself rushing a stalk numerous times, especially on trophy-size game, and have to remind myself to slow down and be patient. When I slow down, it is easier to notice more things that could ruin a stalk.
I learned that lesson the hard way. Many years ago, I was stalking a large buck I had spotted two miles from my vantage point. About midway through the stock I couldn’t figure out where I was in relation to the terrain. I looked back toward the vantage point where I spotted the buck from and realized everything looked much different from this angle. Impatiently, I pressed on and quickly bumped a buck that I didn’t know was there. That buck jumped up and blew out of the basin taking the big boy with him. I didn’t take the time to do terrain recognition like I should have. I rushed myself. The moment I watched the monster buck cross over the ridge and out of my life, something inside me changed. On every stalk since then, I remind myself to remain calm and patient. When I feel I am rushing things, I take a knee or sit down, grab some water and say a quick prayer. Then I recheck my position to make sure I am on track and then methodically go about my stalk. By being patient, more and more of my stalks turned out successful. There is no doubt that patience stacks the odds in my favor.
While sitting in the tree stand or in a ground blind, it is easy to lose concentration. Inevitably, that is about the time an animal will come along and bust me because I wasn’t paying attention. Yes, I have been that guy many times. Patience and persistence are key factors in stationary hunting. It can be hard to stay focused but keeping an open mind that an animal could come walking along at any time is the key to success. I can remember times seven hours in on my 10 hour sit when I finally had a shooter antelope buck come in to quench his thirst. Another time I was four hours in on my six-and-a-half hour sit when a mature whitetail snuck along the trail in search of a hot doe. Both animals are now on my wall! Why? Because I was patient and persistent. Remember, if it doesn’t happen that particular day, it will soon. Knowing that you are so close to either success or defeat and thinking about it can help remind you to stay alert at what is going on around you in any situation.
Persistence is critical in an ambush situation. Generally, you are on the move with the animal and keeping at least two steps ahead of them is essential. If an ambush fails, try and try again. Anticipate what the next move will be and adapt. The wind can change, animals can change heading, you may run out of cover, you may be hot, tired, and wore out. In any case, being persistent is vital to success.
This last season I had two spot and stalk situations turn into ambush situations. Spot and stalk and ambushing are much the same to me but in an ambush the animal is still on the move. On the first hunt, I spotted three whitetails moving from their feeding area to their bedding area. As I stalked closer I realized they were moving faster than I initially thought. I quickly decided to slip in front of them and attempt an ambush. After a couple of failed ambush attempts, I was finally in the right spot and the three bucks passed by around 40 yards. I opted to take the most mature buck in the group. My arrow hit its mark from 44 yards. Persistence and staying two steps ahead of these bucks made it possible.
On the second hunt I was after a mature Mule Deer buck I spotted at first light. At 8 a.m. I was moving along a shallow draw towards 14 deer, one of which was a buck I had hoped to pass an arrow through. I got a bit impatient on the stalk and a doe spotted me. I was moving too fast. After a long stare down, the doe moved the herd off to safer pastures. A half a day later, I was inching forward on the same group of deer. There was very little cover and I had to keep my body pressed to the ground and moving very slow. I knew it was the last stalk/ambush attempt of the day and I struggled to be patient. Slowly, I crawled 75 yards to the only cover available and got set up for a shot. I prepped the area and moved the weeds/grass that I needed to get out of the way. As the deer approached, the same doe picked me up from about 30 yards. The buck was still pulling up the rear and I remained calm. As the buck came into the opening at 62 yards, I hooked my release and pulled my bow back slowly in one motion. I watched my arrow fly true and that hunt ended perfectly with one of my largest mule deer bucks.
Another hunt I am reminded of occurred a few years back. On this hunt I played cat and mouse with the largest bull elk I have ever laid eyes on. I messed up on this old bull several times early in the hunt because perhaps I lost my patience or because he was just that smart. In one encounter with the bull, I watched my arrow cleanly miss him at 40 yards, likely because I wasn’t patient in waiting for the perfect shot opportunity. I had to remind myself multiple times to take my time and remain both patient and persistent. 39 days later I killed that bull. He is my largest bull to date and I will be lucky to ever see another bull of his stature in the wild. He scored 412 7/8 inches. No doubt patience and persistence paid off big time.
I would venture to say that almost all successful hunts, regardless of what type of hunting you are doing, spot and stalk, ambush, still hunting, tree stand, blind, drives, etc. are a result of both patience and persistence. Consistently successful hunters keep patience and persistence in their pocket at all times. Increase your patience and persistence and I guarantee you will increase your success.