How to Jump Shoot a Buck

Tired of waiting in a stand? Too cold to sit still for hours on end? Try jump-shooting a buck. This is one of my favorite tactics when I'm exploring new territory and want to cover a lot of ground, but it's also great on a known hunting area late in the season, when you've pushed bucks around and don't know exactly where they are. Here's the skinny:

The Tactic
Unlike still-hunting, you don't ease along slowly, stopping to peer into every thicket. Instead, you walk at a normal clip, scanning the cover for movement. Your goal is to detect a buck just as it's rising from its bed or starting to run--in time to take a clean-killing shot.

A casual walking pace seems to make bucks underestimate the danger you pose, perhaps thinking you're just a hiker or logger. Some bucks will even try to sit tight and let you walk past them. But occasional pauses near the thickest brush will make these bucks stand up.

The Terrain
You need a balance of cover. The vegetation should be thick in spots but open in others so that when a buck rises, there's some opportunity for a shot. Likely spots include brushy, semi-open creekbottoms, hollows, and draws; swampy areas; and isolated, overlooked pockets of cover (see "Late Lairs," p. W15). In hill country, check out blowdown-strewn benches just down from the tops of ridges.

The Technique
The key to making a quick shot is to always be ready to shoot. Carry your gun at port arms, safety on, scope at its lowest power setting. When a buck jumps up, flip the safety off and bring the stock snugly to your cheek. Find the crosshairs (if you're using open sights, concentrate on the front bead or post). Aim at the vitals and pull the trigger. Do not lead a running buck at short range; aim right at the front shoulder and shoot.
That said, always be prepared to pass up shots. If you don't have a good chance for a clean kill, hold off. Eventually a buck will give you that extra split second you need.