« Bourjaily: My Favorite Flashlight | Main | Petzal: Some Responses to Comments »

November 14, 2008

This page has been moved to http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut

If your browser doesn’t redirect you to the new location, please visit The Gun Nut at its new location: www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut.

Petzal: Timing is Everything

This past Sunday, I watched the Jets’ 47-3 disembowelment of the Rams, and one play stuck in my mind. Bret Favre (who is a hunter, by the way) rolled out to the right and, ignoring the four 315-pound life forms who wanted his blood, waited for what seemed an incredible length of time before he zinged the ball right between a St. Louis defensive back’s hands and into the hands of his own receiver.

A less experienced quarterback would have panicked and thrown an interception, or eaten the ball, or tried to run and got nailed, but Favre, who has done this a lot, knew how much time he had down to the hundredth of a second.

So it is with big game hunting. There are situations when you have to shoot right now and situations when you can take can take your sweet time. Beginners never seem to get it right. They will panic, throw the rifle to their shoulder, and fill the air with lead. Or they will fuss and fidget and aim, and aim, and aim, and in the meanwhile, the critter will get bored and leave.

A veteran hunter will know from years of watching animals and studying their body language, just how much time he has. Usually it’s more than you would think, and it increases with the distance between you and the victim-to-be. Whitetails, for example, have a distinct facial expression when things are not to their liking. It looks like a frown. Years ago, sitting in a rhododendron patch on a West Virginia hillside, I was approached by a doe and a fawn. The doe was perhaps 10 feet away, and there were enough of my scent molecules in the air to cause her concern. The expression on her face was that of a Detroit automobile industry executive pondering his/her future. Then she got the full load of essence de Petzal and ran like hell.

They study us, too. In 1981, I was hunting sable in Zambia, and the instant the big antelope saw me and the PH they would go thundering off in a cloud of dust and sable s**t. After I killed one, we practically had to kick them out of the way to get to other animals. Most herbivores can tell what our intentions are, so try to adopt a non-threatening demeanor when in the woods, and take your time aiming. But not too much time.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Petzal: Timing is Everything:



On being non-chalant and non threatening in the woods, I remember the story of a young hunter with a once in a lifetime moose tag (must have been from here in WA...). He would stalk to almost within range and the moose would sense something sneaky and bolt. On the last day with the last chance, he charged the moose like a raving banshee through knee deep snow; the moose looked like "... yeah, whatever..." and went back to browsing. I trust it was a good last meal!


I've driven a tractor right by deer (within 50 or 60 feet) while they stood there and watched. They perceived no threat (the load of hay I was pulling probably had something to do with that). I once had 3 coyotes come out of the woods and trot along side the tractor while I drove across the field, never paying me any attention.

Scott in Southern Illinois

He probably never saw you. Not being there with you, that'd be my guess. Sometimes, I think, deer get interested in something and, like us, miss the rest of the world for a moment or two. Sometimes I can't remember my drive home from work due to being lost in thought.


I remember reading a story about a guy hunting on a military base many years ago, he realized that the troops regularly walked a certain trail thru the woods as part of training, making noise, smoking, ect. and so forth, so he did the same thing and his dinner to be ignored him just like they do the troops. Leisurely walk, shoot, and drag later he had his deer. I've kept that in the back of my mind for years and it seems to help, try to blend in with any "casual" human presence in the area.

Jim in Mo

Thats possible.
But all the other deer on my side of the fence sure stay'd away.

Jim in Mo

Scott, Zermoid;
This ties in to exactly what we're talking about, did you read it yet?



Regarding perceived threats by various animals I have noticed that at least some species tend not to immediately go into the fear and flight mode when they notice an approaching horseman versus a man walking. Elk mostly will flee at once, deer and antelope sometimes, moose rarely, but amazingly it has been my experience that bighorn sheep will lay in their beds as you ride by in full view if you act casual. I have had this occur a number of times along the Greybull and Shoshone River drainages around Cody. I believe that the animals might be confused by the passage of the four legged critters (can they count legs?) but they are certain that something upright on two legs is a variance from the forest norm. The sheep I think just don't have many life encounters with humans and tend not to consider us aggressors. This is just an idea from years of observation but I have not throughly tested it. I have heard of many bears, both black and grizzley, charge people on foot but only a couple of charges associated with mounted horsemen. At least one of the stories I heard in this regard came from a highly questionable source. Fortunately, even though I have ran into lots of bears in the past 27 years, none chose to do anything but stand still or leave whether I was afoot or ahorse.

Jim in Mo

ish, yep its the percieved threat. They know the difference between two legs and four., and it goes for vehicles too.
Now this is totally off subject but somewhat related. I've only done a small amount of crow hunting but I've talked to some experienced guys, and they say crows can count. If two or three of them guys walk into a roosting area and the same amount of guys don't walk out, the crows stay away. They know somethings up.


Counting Crows? Isn't that a grunge rock band.


Jim in Mo, a writer named Ed Zern figured that out about 30yr. ago, and worked out a formula by which 5 hunters,going to the blind in relays, 3 out, two back, 3 out, four back, 2 out, 2 back, and on and on and on, until, in total confusion the crows fell off their perches in a dead faint, so that Ed's office boy, Dyconfoose,(sp?) dispatched then with a club, not a shot fired.
I'll have to go back and read those instructions again before I go crow hunting, but Mr. Zern was totally honest and dependable for his hunting advice.

Dr. Ralph

One more time with a different story... I took my stepson out on his first hunt when he was 10 with an H&H $79.00 20 ga. single barrel and sat him in the biggest muddiest doe trail I could find, leaning against a tree. I figured he would at least see deer and that would be enough for a first hunt. But NOOOO! Seven or eight does walked right up to him and stopped, stomped their feet and snorted fully expecting him to get up and move. He had no camo, no scent block, a wool checkered shit and blue jeans and tennis shoes any of which had probably not been washed anytime soon, He killed his first deer from less than six feet. His big blue eyes were staring at them out of a flourescent coloed face with freckles.


Crows can only count to three. Have five or six or more people go into the woods or area, and all but one leave and they will be all over the place.


KJ, I believe the coyotes were just waiting for you to fall off the tractor...


Could be, Sarg. But by the time we got to the road at the north end of that field they had lost interest and headed off into the woods, while I headed to the barn. I was pretty skinny back then - I wouldn't have made much of a meal.

Jim in Mo

seriously what I think those coyotes were doing was letting you be the dog and hoping you'd flush out a rabbit.


I checked and Ed Zern's office boy's name was Duiconfuse. Sorry about the misspelling.

Clay Cooper

Jim in Mo

Fort Chafee is just East of Fort Smith Arkansas with some of the best deer hunting I know!

Clay Cooper

Want to have some real fun with a herd of deer the next time your busted crossing a field. As soon as they notice you, stop and bend over at the waist like your picking something up and pause for a moment and raise straight up as fast as you can, wait a couple of seconds and do it again 4 to 6 times move a little closer and repeat it over and over. I have had deer at 250-300 yards out actually start walking towards me almost in bow range to check me out. Sounds really stupid but it really works “NO JOKE”!

Clay Cooper

Talking about crows, a family friend Bob Mohalt Page Oklahoma shot a crow just behind a Café in Page Oklahoma in the garden with a 25-06. He retrieved the crow, walked back to the Café and while this Abner was eating a big bowl of chili right next to the window, held up the crow by the wings showing its back then turned it around to the bullet exit side with all ht e blood and guts showing. Ol’Abner lost his appetite he did and almost his cookies too!


Jim, you may be right. I just know that my presence and the presence of the tractor did not alarm the coyotes at all. Their demeanor suggested complete ambivalence to my presence. I'm certain that if I had been on foot they would have stayed far away.

Clay Cooper

The biggest mistake I know of when it comes to hunting Mule Deer is, the hunter immediately goes full auto when he spots that Buck! Hold the shot, get into position quietly and try to judge where he will be crossing over the top of the ridge line and will stop if not pushed just before going over the top to give you another look and a perfect broadside shot.


Just yesterday, in very pressured public lands, I bumped a doe that slowly loped broadside around me. I just watched in amazement. Pretty dainty thing. She must have known I only had a restricted buck license.

In video hunts, it seems that the animals often zero in on the camera. I imagine the lens on professional cameras must look like one huge psycho eyeball, especially when they zoom in and out.

swing and a miss

Dave, you are so right about timing. I have been hunting since I was a little guy, but this weekend, I must have had a brain freeze. Several does popped out into a field about 50 yards away right at dusk. For some reason, it never occured to me to take a deep breath, get set, put the iron sights on the deer (primitive black powder hunt) and hold it on the target while the primer ignited. I rushed it, got thrown off by the cap popping in my eyes, didn't follow through--and dug a large divot in the dirt just below the deer. I knew better, but I still choked on a shot I should have nailed. Lesson learned, again.



On the doghouse blinds - I use them for bad weather and hunting with the kids. I hunt part of the time north of Little Rock, and the deer are starting to identify the blinds. I hunted in the blind with my oldest during the youth hunt, my youngest opening weekend and my middlest last weekend. Katie and I watched four separate does Saturday evening, ALL identified the blind as something different. All stopped and tried to spook the blind into moving. Nervous, but not alarmed.

The deer seem to lose the blind more when the camo shoot thru screens are up.

I also adopted turkey tactics during bowhunts. (Facemasks WORK!)

Del in KS

Don't buy an Eastman blind. I have one and it is a POS. The hubs never stay in place. You need 4 arms to pop the damn thing up. After what I consider not a lot of use it is starting to fall apart. My next one will be anything but Eastman. Put some cedar limbs or other brush around it and the deer will not notice it as much. Saturday mine was in a pasture the deer like to cross to get away from public land. Five bucks and 6 does came by without noticing the blind at all. Shot a really nice lon tined wide 8 pointer.

Our Blogs