Spot and stalk vs. ambush hunting: What’s the best option?

Video what is stalk hunting

Josh Kirchner making a stalk on a mule deer

To spot and stalk or ambush hunt — that is the question

I have always been plagued with that dilemma ever since I started down this venture we call hunting. Growing up, we always still hunted or ambush hunted. I really wasn’t exposed to spot and stalk hunting until a few years ago. When I did go down the spot and stalk path, I couldn’t help but just want to find somewhere where I could sit and wait for that bear or buck to walk by though. In turn, when I was ambush hunting, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I could be seeing if I was glassing at that time. It was definitely a “grass is greener on the other side” scenario for me and, sometimes, it still is.

So which is better?

I feel like there really isn’t a concrete answer for this question. Everybody is different and different situations call for different types of hunting strategies. For instance, it wouldn’t be the best idea to spot and stalk hunt in country where you couldn’t see 10’ in front of you. This would call for more of a still hunting/ambush hunting approach. The whole idea behind spot and stalk is to spot the animal from a good distance away and plan a stalk in order to get close enough for a shot. Could that be done in dense country? Yes, it could. Is it the most productive way of hunting there? In my opinion, no. Let’s take a look at both applications.

Spot and stalk

Josh Kirchner glassing for bucks

This is by far my favorite way to hunt. Sitting on a high vantage point and overlooking vast open country with my binoculars brings a calming feeling to me. It’s like a never ending puzzle that is begging to be solved. Where will you see the animals? What animals will you see? Will you even see anything? If you do, how are you going to make your approach? I have learned more about deer hunting this way than any other animal. It is such an added benefit, in my opinion, to be able to sit there and watch animals from a long ways away act like themselves and do their thing. What part of the hill do they tend to walk on? What facing slope are they choosing over the others? Where are they bedding? That one is the most important, especially for a spot and stalk bowhunter. If you can glass a deer up and actually watch where it beds, now the game has really begun. Being able to do this is going to give you a lot more time to get over to where that animal is because you really don’t need to worry too much about that animal moving its position. Also, if you have never experienced the rush of sneaking up on a bedded deer or herd of elk, you are missing out. This is where our natural predatory instincts kick in and they are put to the ultimate test. Try it out sometime.

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Ambush hunting

Ambush bowhunting technique

This type of hunting brings its own set of adrenaline rush. I can remember being a kid and sitting up against a tree with my dad. It was the first archery hunt that I had ever gone on. The day before we saw two or three amazing mule deer bucks and found a prominent trail leading up a fence line right towards where we were positioned for the morning. Just as the sun was peaking over the hillside in front of me, I saw antlers along with it. A beautiful old buck with a gray patch on his back slowly worked his way down towards me. I was so shaken up, I literally couldn’t pick up my bow. The old warrior walked right past me at 10 yards without an arrow to his name. That deer still haunts me.

Continued below.

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Ambush hunting can be the most boring experience known to mankind, especially if you are a little kid. I have had the thought of bringing an audio book with me into the blind or perhaps a podcast. The hard nose in me says that this will take away from my experience and that those things don’t belong in the mountains and maybe they don’t. The plus with it, though, is that if you do see something, chances are you are going to be presented with a shot. I will admit that it is a very exciting experience hearing something walking towards you and not being able to see it until it comes into view. There is no better way to get close to game than letting the game get close to you.

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Which method is the best way to go?

Spot and stalk or ambush hunt what is best

I am afraid that only you can answer that question. How do you prefer to hunt? If you don’t care, then take a look at the country you will be hunting. What application do you think is going to lend success? I myself prefer to spot and stalk as I have stated above. Because of this, I try to find country that allows me to do so. The past few months, I have been fighting with myself on how to approach my next spring bear hunt. In the past it has been a constant battle of spot and stalk or ambush hunting. In the end, I decided to do what makes me happy and plays to my strengths, successful or not. If you like sitting in a blind or treestand, then do it! If you’re like me and enjoy looking through your optics and playing “Where’s Waldo?” with the quarry you seek, then do it! You write your own story.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>