As with walk-up hunting, stalking large game demands patience, acute observation and absolute silence. Originating in Germany, this practice is inspired – like the majority of hunting methods let us not forget – by the ruses used by some animals of prey in their natural surroundings to find food (from polar bear to pike, including big cats and snakes).
Over and above the pleasure it gives the hunter, it has the double advantage of providing a selective shot – much more difficult to achieve in a driven hunt, for example – and making it easier to manage populations in a responsible way.
In our latitudes, the main species stalked are fox, roe deer, boar and red deer. Let’s be clear that for the time being, we are not talking about small game – since just as the hunting blind, to name but one, is certainly more appropriate to this kind of hunting where stealth reigns supreme.
Get some height…
By definition, the hide is in a fixed position. For the most part, we are talking about a stand or a similar installation positioned high up. This specific situation is mainly adopted for two reasons: firstly it stops the hunter being seen, heard, and above all scented by animals that are able in this context, to use all their sensory faculties. Secondly, it makes it possible to shoot downwards most of the time which is safer – although of course it still means you need to be fully vigilant when pulling the trigger.
Furthermore, given the fixed nature of this kind of hide – in place all year round – local wildlife becomes accustomed to its presence. Although it never completely disappears, the animals’ mistrust is lessened, which again is a not inconsiderable advantage.
When considering the chosen location, obviously a detailed knowledge of the terrain is necessary: the edge of a forest, proximity to a water source or a field where deer, for instance usually graze, a track or a large hedge – the place depends on levels of presence and passage.
… and blend into the background
Naturally, the hide has to be appropriately camouflaged, with nets, vegetation, etc. This is designed to give an overall impression of literally blending into the background. In order to gain the best opportunities, the hunter too has to pay close attention to the choice of clothes, guided by the environment and amount of light.
Nowadays, there is a wide range of comfortable and quiet clothing specifically designed for stalking. The face and hands (especially when a shot is fired) can be a giveaway: hat, balaclava and gloves are therefore some of the essential equipment, along with a decoy (for and roe-deer in particular) or binoculars.
A key point: only rifles, that is with a rifled barrel, are permitted for high-seat hunting. Using a shotgun is not only inept, but it is also illegal and it is easy to understand why.
Equipped with a calibre adapted to the game being hunted, as well as with a well-adjusted scope to match, the hunter can stay in the stand (alone, and without a retriever!) all day long if desired (hunting from a hide is done during daylight hours) – but everyone knows that the best time is the evening or the morning (in France, high-seat hunting is allowed one hour before sunrise and one hour after).
As this type of hunting is stationary, it is advisable to choose a heavy and relatively powerful weapon in order to avoid recoil – which is never very pleasant – but mainly to improve chances to the maximum of a direct, deadly and clean shot.
A considered shot
As opposed to stalking, with high-seat hunting one expects to shoot an immobile and conveniently placed animal (preferably sideways on). More precise identification is possible because of the lack of movement (whether for a clean shot or because you intend this to be a high-quality trophy). It also reduces the risk of wounding the animal.
The hunter won’t pull the trigger until, using adequate support, it is certain that there is no obstacle between the target and the hunter, that the distance is reasonable (this depends a lot on the calibre used and the type of game: about a hundred metres on average) and that the bullet should end up in one or other of the zones of the animal meant to be fatal (neck, or failing that, the shoulder).
Not easy, no, but it’s all part of the ethics of the high-seat hunter! It cannot be said often enough: knowing when not to shoot makes a hunter a better shot.