Top Hunting Tips: Every step you take…

Any step you take could ruin a stalk so think before you move

Any step you take could ruin a stalk so think before you move - Credit: Archant

“Practise placing the outside of your heel down carefully and then rolling the foot slowly flat”

I might seem obvious when I say that when we’re hunting we need to be quiet, but some people just can’t. I have a good friend who finds it nearly impossible to sit still and be silent, and when he walks he makes one hell of a racket. Does he get close to the rabbits? Let’s just say he shoots a .17HMR these days that can reach 125 yards. Enough said?

Moving silently through the countryside is a real skill that needs time and patience to learn. You can start by making sure nothing you carry or wear rattles. Metallic sounds are very unnatural, and wildlife is sure to understand that there’s something strange lurking in the woods.

Then we need to think about the action of walking. Sounds daft I know, because you’ve been doing it since you were one year old, but walking quietly is different. Firstly, shorten your stride. When you take little steps you can place the front foot very carefully so that if you sense you’re about to stand on a stick and snap it, you can take the weight off it. If you’re bowling along using big strides, you’re committed to planting that front foot, no matter what.

Next, practise placing the outside of your heel down carefully and then rolling the foot slowly flat. This gives time to feel what’s beneath your boot. Allowing the sole just to slap down hard is a complete no-no. It’s also worth considering which footwear you’ll be quietest in. I wear lightweight boots that offer grip and support, but are still supple and flexible. Huge, rigid mountaineering boots offer tremendous support and protection, but they’re noisy and clumsy, so they’re a poor choice.

One of our most famous airgun hunters, the late John Darling, swore by running shoes for their lightness, flexibility and grip, but they don’t work for me. They offer little stability, few are waterproof, and they generally come in pretty bright colours. Wellingtons make sense for the wet weather to keep you clean and dry, and I used them for years, but they can be noisy and generally lack support. Lace-up boots are my top choice, and I have a taller, insulated pair for the winter to complement the light summer ones.

The final piece of the jigsaw is to use your eyes. Look carefully where each foot will fall and decide, before you move, where the ground will allow silent movement. Just striding along won’t do. Each step can make or break any stalk, so go slowly, shorten your stride, roll your feet. Your ‘noise signature’ will be greatly reduced and your hunting success will increase.

For even more hunting success have a look at our Top Tip for camouflage, here.