The Red Zone
Closing the Final 200 Yards
In football, the Red Zone is known as the last 20 yards before the end zone. How many times have you seen a team march right down the field only to stall out and settle for a field goal, or even worse, walk away with no points on the board?
In hunting, I consider the last 200 yards of a stalk on a big ‘ol muley to be the Red Zone. Unlike football, there is no settling for a field goal, you are either successful, or you go home empty handed.
While you can often overcome mistakes made during the early stages of your stalk, any mistakes made within the Red Zone, will more than likely be very costly. When entering the Red Zone, here are a few things that I always do:
Re-evaluate the wind.
At 200 yards out, it is critical that you take the time to reevaluate the wind. In the high country, it is not uncommon for the wind to switch directions throughout the course of the day. To do this, I carry a small bottle of Liquid Smoke powder that can detect even the slightest breeze. If the wind is still in my favor, I proceed with the stalk as planned. If it has changed direction since I began my stalk, I make adjustments accordingly or totally abort the stalk.
Drop my pack
At this critical part of the stalk, there is no reason to continue with my pack on my back. By doing so, you are increasing your odds of being detected by the buck you are stalking. Large packs are very noisy and have lots of straps that can make unwanted noise when they brush up against branches, rocks, etc.
Although I leave my large pack behind, I always make sure that I carry enough water, snacks, rain gear, etc to last for the remainder of the day. There have been several times that I have left everything behind thinking the stalk was only going to take a few minutes, only to find myself sitting for several hours waiting a buck out and wishing I had some water or food. On another occasion I was forced to sit out a toad-strangling downpour without my rain gear – no fun! What works really good is if you have a large pack that the top detaches and converts into a small fanny pack. The fanny pack is large enough to hold everything you need, but is small enough that it does not get in the way.
Often times, during extremely physical demanding stalks, it is easy to work up a good sweat. Before entering the red zone, I like to use scent wipes by Wildlife Research (similar to baby wipes) to wipe down high perspiration areas of my body. I normally wipe down my entire head and face, neck, underarms.
Those are the steps I take when entering the all-important Red Zone. I would be curious to see what steps and special precautions you guys use at this critical point in your stalk.