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Advanced Hunting on Deer and Elk Trails

Advanced Hunting on Deer and Elk Trails

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Advanced Hunting on Deer and Elk Trails

198 pagine
3 ore
Sep 15, 2017


Successful deer and elk hunting goes far beyond luck, it is dependent for the most part upon knowledge and procedure. The man who takes his hunting seriously will be fascinated by the techniques and thinking of the perfectionist, Francis E. Sell. In his first book, The American Deer hunter, the author thoroughly grounds the student of hunting practices in fundamentals. Advanced Hunting, his second book on the subject, is a postgraduate course, detailing the many refinements which all add up to more action and greater interest. There is not a hunter alive, no matter how broad his experience, who would not glean much from this volume. It will have a tremendous influence on the young enthusiast as a guide to his approach, his attitude, his trend of thought. The book contains the sort of information which should be read and even studied on occasion by every analytical hunter.
Some of the pertinent subject matter includes: game highways, trail watching, sign reading, habits, food preference, noise and weather, woodland tattletales, woods ranging, shooting ranges, treatment of bagged game and all phases of equipment including: guns, ammunition, binoculars, sportswear and camping necessities.
Sep 15, 2017

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Advanced Hunting on Deer and Elk Trails - Francis E. Sell







Lanham Boulder New York London

Published by Stackpole Books

An imprint of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.

4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706

Unit A, Whitacre Mews, 26-34 Stannary Street, London SE11 4AB


Copyright © 1954 by Francis E. Sell

Second printing 1959

First Stackpole Books paperback edition 2017

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available

The hardback edition of this book was previously cataloged by the Library of Congress as follows:

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

L. C. Catalog Number: 54-7575

LCCN: 54-7575 (cloth)

ISBN 978-0-8117-3668-8 (paperback)

ISBN 978-0-8117-6647-0 (electronic)

The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO 239.48-1992.

Printed in the United States of America


To Ethel–Trail Partner.


I wish to thank the editors of Field and Stream, American Rifleman, Outdoor Life, and American Woodsman for permission to use material of mine which first appeared in those magazines.

Listings of Eastern Whitetail deer food preferences is used with the permission of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Those on Mule Deer are used with the permission of the California Department of Fish and Game. Other material was supplied by the Oregon Game Commission.

I am especially indebted to Eugene Burns for the long autumn evenings’ discussions in front of my fireplace when the thought of this book was taking shape–his invaluable editorial criticism when I was putting it down on paper.


Part I—The Game

Chapter 1Big Game Highways

2The Fine Art Of Trail Watching

3Reading Wind

4Reading Sign

5Big Game Habit

6Big Game Food Preferences

7Hunt The Hot Spots

8Woodland Tattletales

9Hunter Noise and Weather

10Still Hunter

11Lessons From The Game You Hunt

12Seeing Is Believing

Part II—Techniques and Tools

13Outdoorsman’s Binoculars

14Basic Survival Techniques and Equipment

15Woods Ranging and Compass Use

16Woodsman’s Edged Tools

17Big Game Rifles and Killing Power

18Rolling Your Own

Part III—Practical Aspects of Big Game Hunting

19Big Game Shooting and Range

20Look Before You Leave

21From Kill To Kitchen


The Game



If you have been on the short end of the stick for almost a week of steady hunting, then see two sleek bucks within a few hours, you would have understood something of Hal’s excitement.

He had headquartered at my cabin and hunted steadily for five days without seeing anything except does and fawns mooching apples in my orchard late in the evenings.

One day when he returned in mid-afternoon, tired, discouraged, ready to call it a season, I suggested he leave his rifle and return to the woods, not to hunt, but to get a more objective viewpoint to the problem of taking deer in heavy cover. This problem the most experienced big game hunter would do well to go over again.

Following directions, he walked about three-quarters of a mile into the woods to a criss-cross of broken brushy ridges where I knew most of the deer bedded which used the old orchards and briar openings about the place. Here he was to wait until about two hours of shooting light was left, then slowly make his way out, always keeping to deer trails.

Wish you didn’t have that sprained ankle, he grumbled. Maybe we could drive to each other and get something. But he went, and he followed directions. Two hours and eight deer later he was excited and slightly baffled by the turn of events.

Now, as he stood in front of my fireplace, just past good shooting light, his hands trembled as he touched match to cigarette. I saw more deer in the past three hours than I have seen during the last three seasons! he exclaimed. "A three pointer was less than forty feet away on that deer trail between those cedar thickets and the Scott Orchard. I saw two does and four fawns on the Divide. A forked horn was on the Homestead Run trail, stepping as if he were walking on eggs.

I could have filled on either of those bucks, if I had taken my rifle with me. Neither was moving fast. Ranges are a deer hunter’s dream.

Deer! And touched with some magic which made them move slow, hesitate, just asking for some hunter to take his pick. He could scarcely wait until morning.

Next day he filled his tag with a fat three pointer.

Easiest shooting I ever had! he said as he dropped his heavy burden at my cabin door near noon. Honestly, he couldn’t have been more than eighty feet away. I was taking it easy along a deer trail leading from that jumble of thickets on Dead Hill Ridge about eight o’clock this morning, when this old lunker stepped out of a side-trail directly in front of me.

That buck was a dramatic introduction to Big Game Highways.

Big game fields are covered with these well planned wilderness routes. There is no forest activity which isn’t in some way directly tied in with them. When big mule deer start from their high summer range each autumn, migrating into the foothills for the winter, sometimes moving as much as a hundred miles to winter ranges, it is the Big Game Highways they use. So constant and unvarying are these routes that they are often cut deep by countless seasonal migrations.

Elk coming out of Oregon’s high Umatillas follow the same pattern of trails. So do the elk moving down from Washington’s Olympic Mountains when the snow piles high on their summer ranges.

They may lay over for a day or week in some favored locality rich in browse, if the weather moderates. But they always come together again to travel Big Game Highways winding down from their summer range toward sheltered feeding ground in the foothills.

Game actions become obvious and predictable once you understand the specific purpose, not only of migratory routes, but those used the year around by big game which remain on the same ground year around. But you must know feeder trails in cover, escape routes and pathways leading to bedding grounds.

Hunting methods predicated on this intimate knowledge of Big Game Highways and their use will make it easy for you to take big game on bare ground or in snow. It is equally effective whether you drive deer, still hunt alone or with a partner. It will work equally well in west coast forests, Wisconsin woods, Upper Michigan or Maine; any place where there is big game and woods to shelter them. I know that sounds like a big game hunter’s pipe dream, but it will be proven to your satisfaction in every particular.

During the last ten seasons, I have never spent a day in deer cover without seeing anywhere from three to as many as fifteen deer. As for easy shooting, I have taken ten deer with sixteen shots, getting fifteen hits.

Still hunting elk, I have taken the last four killed with eight shots, getting seven solid hits. And with the exception of a four point bull killed across a canyon at a range of two hundred fifty yards, all were taken at average woods distances of fifty to sixty yards. Most of the deer were taken at even shorter ranges.

Such a record involves a system of hunting which puts game in front of the rifle at ranges where one has everything in his favor. No magic or superior woodcraft is involved. The technique is so simple that even the tyro hunter can use it.

Last autumn my partner and I used a bit of this fundamental knowledge of deers reaction to Big Game Highways to work the old shell game on a beautiful four point buck.

It was an Indian Summer day when we began our hunt. A ghost of East wind haunted the crimsoned vine-maple. The overgrown logging slash looked like an artist’s palette with blobs of crimsons, browns and vivid greens. Small patches of frost rime still sparkled on shady side of hills.

I was hunting with Elzie Randolph of Coquille, Oregon, that day, a wonderful still hunter. We separated at the foot of a steep hill, moving away from each other on deer trails which fingered out from the canyons where we started our hunt.

We were not hunting deer now, but searching for clues to the main Big Game Highways. These feeder trails, winding their way through rich browse of the hillside, are mostly used in early morning and late evening. But since the feeding period was over, we knew they would produce no game. Fresh sign here, however, could give us a hot tip on those important Big Game Highways.

First we found where the deer had been feeding. We unraveled their morning wanderings until they brought us to those wilderness routes leading into bedding grounds, and from there we started the active hunt.

That sounds complicated in the telling, much more so than it actually is.

Game feed and bed down for the day. The primary reasons for this laying up" are security and comfort. By choice all game bed where there is the most warmth and shelter. (Chapter 7 is devoted to signs which indicate such spots.) There is always a Big Game Highway leading in and out of these hideaways. Game bed close enough to this trail to use it instantly when danger threatens.

These are the trails to watch if the territory is being heavily hunted by an army of sportsmen, as is the case in much eastern and northern deer cover. Any game which is moved will use these trails as escape routes. It is here, too, that standers should be posted if your hunting party plans on an area drive.

Consider a wise old buck bedded on a sun warmed hardhack ridge. He has come into his bedding ground on a deer trail. Along that trail he has left a broad scent path, telling all other deer which may travel that Big Game Highway later about the time he passed and the direction he took. Now securely bedded in a patch of laurel, he is taking his regal rest.

Other deer seeking out a place to bed for the day will use cover near him by preference. The rich pungent odor, at times so strong it is easily detected by hunters, will tell them he hasn’t been disturbed since bedding. The ground is also familiar from older scent patterns of other beddings, for the tendency of all game is to bed in those’ warm specific spots. If a buck is pin-pointed as the one bedding on a certain ridge, he will be there a week from now, unless heavy hunting pressure or storms have driven him into more secure territory.

If danger threatens, that buck is going to make his sneak or break along a definite escape route. This Big Game Highway will have two obvious characteristics. First, it will lead into other heavy and apparently secure cover. Second, it will be the most direct route to that security. There will be none of the casual meanderings of feeder trails. This route is normally used for the comings and goings of big game from one part of their territory to another as browse becomes scarce. It is used constantly when game is in rut, the bucks moving over it at all hours of the day. In short it is a main Big Game Highway, with the normal traffic of the wilderness over it day after day.

That is why we can say deer or other big game movements are predictable. You can see, too, why we were so eager to unravel casual feeding trails and come to those leading into bedding grounds.

Elzie and I were a hundred yards apart, he taking one side of a draw leading upward through the vine-maple, I taking the other. The trail I followed showed two dainty prints and a set of larger ones, a doe and two fawns. These were on top of several day old prints.

From time to time I glanced across at my partner, his progress marked through the low growing slash by his red hat. He moved slowly, cautiously, dividing his time between trail sign and the cover ahead. We expected to jump no deer here, but a woodsman never varies that slow gait acquired by years of still hunting elk and deer.

Once I thought I had found what we were primarily looking for, a great blunt-toed set of tracks in the moist earth. On closer examination I found a small bejeweled spider web spun across one, showing those prints had been made at the very earliest the evening before.

Elzie was standing in an opening the next time I glanced across the draw. When he saw he had my attention, he put his hands above his head, fingers outspread. Then he pointed to the ground. I waved to tell him I understood. Fresh tracks of a solitary deer, more than likely a buck, were in evidence.

I threaded my way across to the place where he waited. We worked out the trail for a short distance. It led through a fern opening toward an island of fir standing cooly green on a south sloping ridge in the flaming maple.

Beyond this island of evergreens the ground fell away in a gentle slope, lush with small maple and asp. At the foot of the slope, perhaps two hundred yards away, a dense forest of hemlock and fir outlined a small basin and threw a green mantle of young forest across the next ridge.

Here was the setup, fresh tracks leading into the heavy cover of a forest. How about the predictable pattern? Could we reasonably expect to find that deer in some certain locality, much as an experienced dry fly angler reasonably expects to find trout in some specific spot with no rise to guide him? Obviously, two hunters couldn’t possibly expect to cover all sides of a bedding ground. Our hunt had to be predicated on habitual game reaction.

Big bucks are smart, perhaps the smartest of all big game animals. They are also lazy. Unless their autumn moon madness is upon them and they are in rut, they never move beyond the first warm, secure bedding-ground. That dense island of second growth answered ideally for that.

If our deer conformed to a predictable pattern in bedding in reference to those big game highways, there should be a broad escape route leading away from his hideout to the next security. The nearest security would be in the basin at the foot of the ridge. So sure was I that an escape trail would be found here, that I asked for only ten minutes to locate it before Elzie began his still hunt on the trail leading into these firs. I had three minutes left when I found it. It led down through the vine-maple, cut up with tracks coming and going, some fairly fresh, but most a day old.

Elzie, I knew, would stay

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