The Red Zone - The Final 200 Yards.

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david long

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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.

Carry Supplies

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.

Scent Wipes

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.

Thanks,

Dave
 

bowhnter7

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Feb 27, 2012
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Since I'm not in the somewhat open high country my "Red Zone" seems to be a bit shorter, I'd say 1/2 that.

At 100 yards I'm going to put on my sneeky feet, put on my face mask, eat a bar, make sure I have water close by in my fanny pack and then turn around and look at my "spotter" with my bino's to get a confirmation on the buck or bucks. I want to know if they are still bedded or if they got up and moved. We have a system and a set of "boards" to communicate. Once I have the info I need I too will check wind to be sure and try and find a high rock to step up on and get my last check point to where the buck or bucks are.

I will then SLOW DOWN and be patient, begin to move in, stopping often and looking carfully for a visual and checking with my "spotter" to confirm.

I will be prepaired to sit for many hours as I have before waiting for the buck/bucks to rise and shift as the sun moves.
 

robby denning

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Great Dave & bowhnter7, all of that. I'd add that I start glassing the new angles my new position is providing, as I've found other bucks in the "Red Zone" that I didn't know were there. It amazes me how deer can find other deer and often a new buck moves in, or my target buck joins another buck I didn't see while I was closing the distance. Oh yea, and pray! It keeps me calm.
 

pronghorn

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Feb 25, 2012
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I got stuck without my rain gear last year. Not a mistake I will repeat. I learned that day that game bags make poor rain gear. My boots are pretty much always off by that point and as Bowhunter7 said, slowing down. If I can hear my own steps so can the deer. I usually take a big drink of water before leaving my pack behind. But I have been known to skip that step when I get excited.
 

VANDAL

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Feb 29, 2012
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When I drop my pack I also like to take off my shoes. It may reduce noise but more importantly it slows me down and makes me focus on each step and plan the path ahead better. I also do a quick inspection of my bow and do a practice draw with an arrow nocked to make sure everything is working as it should...I also like to imagine the shot and angle at that point before going into the final descent.
 

a3dhunter

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All great things, one that was mentioned already is when you get to that point glassing for other deer that you weren't aware of.
If you suffer from tunnel vision focused on only one buck, chances are another one will bust you.
 
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david long

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Lawnboi,

The KU E&E would work perfect to carry needed supplies on the final stages of your stalk!
 
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I do like everyone else...but be sure if you take off your pack or shoes when you get close to a buck, that you remember to carry your GPS in your pocket or fanny pack and take a quick mark on your GPS of your pack and shoes. When you are in the heat of the moment a lot of things can happen and you can end up hiking a longer distance if your buck gets up, moves, and re-beds.

Trust me...it is not fun wasting time on a hunt after a stalk looking for your pack or shoes!!
 

Lawnboi

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^especially in the dark, in steep stuff! Hence why im going to get a Kifaru e&e for all my spot and stalk hunting from now on.

On a side note, i wont ever take my shoes off on the prarie again, i was picking cactus out of my feet a week later. Do you guys bring anything special to put on your boots to quiet them down? or just go with socks?
 

robby denning

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I usually just keep a really thick pair of cheap socks (you know, the ones that look like wool but aren't) in my pack.
 

evan williams

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I am a boots on kind of guy. I grew up in the "woods" and hunting in a lighter weight boot I feel like my feet are still sensitive enough to touch that I can feel a twig/pine cone etc. I am usually moving SUPER SLOW and had my brother time me on a stalk once. It took me an hour to cover 45 yards. That's one yard ever minute 20 seconds (roughly). I am glassing A TON every step at times checking out terrain features double checking this shadow or that. I carry my Liquid Smoke in my right hand the entire RED ZONE and check the wind as often as I am glassing. I like robby am saying a small silent prayer on my way in. Typically along the lines of, "Lord, keep me calm. Steady my hand. Narrow my aim. Keep me safe and guide my arrow along its path."
 

Jared Bloomgren

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The distance varies for me depending on the terrain.....The "Red Zone".....a stage in every stalk that I CRAVE! My bow is checked over one last time for anything that may have went wrong up to this point.....I recheck my position to ensure I am on track....Grab a quick drink and a take a quick stretch....Pack comes off, boots come off or booties are put over my boots, my senses enhance even further and my reaction time quickens all while slowing down. Each movement, each step, and each breathe is thought about with much more thought and concentration. Moving like a wild animal with stealth, concentration and thought out movement is a must!

One of my favorite quotes: "Getting close to game undetected and maintaining self control while delivering a well placed shot are the true keys to bowhunting success." -M.R. James
 
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