Most of my Western stalks take place after gaining a high vantage point, plopping down and picking apart the landscape with quality glass. Most of the time – although not always – my target is a bedded animal. I prefer to stalk bedded animals for a number of reasons, but mostly because time is on my side.
One of the biggest mistakes most spot-and-stalk goers make is rushing into the stalk. Yes, there is a time to be aggressive and toss caution to the wind, but stalking a bedded animal isn’t one of those times. Your spot-and-stalk success rate will increase greatly if you take the time to heed the following landmark advice.
First, use your binoculars and a spotting scope to pick at least five distinguishable landmarks you feel you should be able to see at different points during your approach. I always pick five to better ensure that I will be able to see at least one of them at any point during my stalk. Remember that once you leave your elevated perch, the visibility will change significantly several times throughout the stalk. There have been times when I can easily make out all five of my landmarks and other times when only one was visible.
After you have five distinguishable landmarks, take a small digital camera and snap some photos. No, I don’t recommend a cellphone unless you plan to attach the phone to your spotting scope. I like a high-zoom, packable digital camera that allows me to quickly zoom and snap pictures of each of my chosen landmarks. Why? There is nothing better than having an up-close image of your landmarks to revert back to during your stalk. Countless times I’ve used my camera and binos to double and triple check my landmarks during a stalk. Having a quality digital image of each landmark will pay off in spades for you.
You have your photos. You have your landmarks. However, you’re still not ready to start inching across the earth like a worm. If you’ve come into the modern age you most likely have a GPS with topographical map capabilities. If not, you need to invest in one of these small, handheld devices. The GPS will show you your exact position, allowing you to estimate the targeted animal’s exact position and the location of each landmark. During the stalk, you can use the GPS in conjunction with your digital photos to better triangulate your distance from your target. It’s a foolproof system that, if used correctly, will put you in close quarters of the animal of your dreams.