Breakout Bow Season: Ambush an Eye-Level Giant

Photo by John Hafner Ditch the treestand and score without the height advantage. When Kansas whitetail expert Richard Hale started … Continued

Photo by John Hafner

Ditch the treestand and score without the height advantage.

When Kansas whitetail expert Richard Hale started bowhunting in the early ’70s, commercially made treestands weren’t available. “So I just learned to move from one patch of cover to the next, looking for deer,” says Hale, a Boone and Crockett records chairman. “Now I find treestands too cumbersome, and I’ve noticed that today’s deer tend to look up—a lot.” So he continues to hunt from the ground—and to kill huge bucks in the process, including six over 150 in the last 12 years.

“I spend much more time scouting and observing than actual hunting,” he says. “When I finally go out to hunt or help a friend, I intend to kill the buck I’m after on that first hunt.”

Wearing thin-soled boots that let him feel the ground under his feet, Hale slips along in shallow depressions, such as drainage ditches or creek beds that hide his silhouette and enable a noiseless approach. “I never walk on deer trails because I don’t want to leave human scent there. I bring a pair of quality 10X binoculars with a watch strapped to the band. When I spot a buck, I note exactly what time it is.” Whether he’s looking for summer-pattern deer in remote beanfields or fall bucks on oak flats, his goal is to observe a shooter doing something specific and repeatable.

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Photo by Lance Krueger

That done, he pinpoints the perfect place to set up from the ground, a spot that parallels the buck’s line of travel for a broadside shot and offers plenty of cover for him to draw without getting busted. Then he waits.

“Undisturbed deer, even mature bucks, are pretty predictable,” he says. “If I’ve seen a buck come down a fencerow at 5:15, I want to be waiting for him there at 5. Any earlier and there’s more of my scent floating around.” If the buck doesn’t show up in the right place, but Hale sees him or another deer, he tries to slip in close enough for the kill.