Have a secret, special place that you never tell anyone about? That BLM reservoir where you consistently find sage grouse and chuckers? That little canyon where you camp, and where you always find several bucks under the ridge? Do you want to keep it a secret? Then don’t advertise it by leaving any evidence that you’re having a great time there.
Last year I found an excellent place to hunt ducks along the river. It didn’t look like much from the road, but there was a fresh set of tracks where someone drove a couple of hundred yards down an old two-track road. I noticed it because they unfortunately drove it after a rain, had made some big ruts, and fishtailed all the way.
Two hundred yards from a hard, gravel-surfaced road I found a pile of feathers. Scavengers had cleaned up the entrails and anything else edible, but not the feathers – or the empty shell boxes, or the paper towels used to clean up the hunter's hands. I found where they had set up their blind from the pile of empty shotgun shells they’d left. I scouted up and down stream and found a better spot to set up. Next Saturday I was there before dawn and was leaving with a limit of ducks when another vehicle pulled in. I smiled and waved, and thought, “Thanks, suckers, for telling me about this spot.”
I’ve been scouting for hunting spots and discovered good ones just because people leave trash that advertises that, “This is a great spot!” You don’t have to be an ace detective to figure it out when you find a meat pole hanging in the trees with 24 deer feet, six hides, and assorted other trash lying around! Empty shotgun shells around a reservoir are a real tip-off.
I practice stealth hunting simply because I don’t want anyone else finding my special spots. I don’t drive any closer to the spot than the road will allow and I don't create any new roads either. I wouldn't travel on ones that are barely visible because those aren't roads -- those are there because someone else decided to wander off, and damaged the resource in the process! The key is to stay on existing or designated roads and trails, and do more walking to get to your destination.
I also try to pick up all my empty shotgun shells. I even pick up loose feathers that come from the birds that I knock down. If I’m camping, I leave the spot as clean as I can. If I cut some wood and build a fire, I hide the leftover wood and any evidence of a fire pit, because I don’t want to come back the next year and find someone else set up there. A ready-made fire ring and a stack of wood virtually begs someone to camp there. So they do, early, before I can get there.
Where I have permission to hunt on private land, I do the same stealthy things. I don’t want the landowner seeing any trash or new roads as a reminder that they let someone hunt on their property.
So, the next time you go out hunting you might want to think about what I've said. I believe you'll find it's best to keep your secret spot secret.
By Chet Wheeless, Worland Field Office Fisheries Biologist