By Tim H. Martin
Last week we published the “Disappearing Hunter Trick,” a unique time-honored tip submitted by Buckmasters fan Mark Skiles.
Basically, when animals hear a hunter coming into their area they wait for the hunter pass by, then they carry on with normal activities.
In actuality, there are two hunters, but one dropped off and got into a stand.
Some hunters might be skeptical of this idea, but I know firsthand the vanishing hunter tactic works incredibly well.
The first time I saw it happen was by accident in the 1970s, and it was also the first time I’d ever shot at a white-tailed deer.
Two teenaged friends and I were walking along a mountain ridge in north Alabama, and I dropped off to sit against a tree while they continued on, talking and tromping through the leaves like a herd of Angus.
This was before commercial tree stands, mind you, so sitting on the ground was the norm.
My buds hadn’t even disappeared over the next ridge — probably 200 yards up the trail — before I heard hooves approaching down a steep ridge behind me.
A gorgeous 10-point buck appeared, and I gazed in slack-jawed amazement as the buck intently studied my friends. After their ruckus faded, the buck continued closer without a clue of my presence. It came so close I could see the fog of its breath rising in the frosty air.
It took a minute before it occurred to me that I was holding a rifle.
I’d like to say I made a great shot with my trusty, iron-sighted Winchester Model 94 .30-30 lever-action, but the truth is I got a nasty case of buck fever and flat out missed — three times.
I was such a rookie, but I discovered something interesting that day which became useful for tricking squirrels, black bears and even a herd of intelligent zebras in Africa.
Zebras are smart enough to know when a Land Rover stops, bad things often happen, and they will stampede. But if a vehicle keeps moving, they know it’s likely a farmer and that zebra isn’t on the menu, so they’ll usually walk a short distance and simply wait for the humans to pass by.
My South African guide knew this tendency, and we slipped off the tailgate of a slowly moving Land Rover when our driver spotted a herd about the same time the zebras spotted us.
They trotted off the road and continued to watch the vehicle go by while we secretly hid in the acacias. This enabled the tracker to lead me on a slow, effective stalk on unwary zebras. If our truck had stopped, we would’ve been left in a cloud of dust and I wouldn’t have the gorgeous zebra rug that hangs in my den today.
Another amazing instance of the vanishing hunter phenomenon occurred in Nebraska. My outfitter walked me to a treestand just before sunup, whispered, “Good luck,” and continued on his way.
I climbed the tree and harnessed myself securely while the guide walked away. His footsteps had only been gone for a minute or two when — just like in Alabama — I heard the unmistakable sound of hooves approaching.
In the dim light, I made out antlers — big antlers — coming directly to me. I hadn’t even hoisted my bow yet!
The buck stopped at the base of my stand, listened for the guide to disappear, sniffed my bow and took two steps back. It never spooked, which was unbelievable, and obviously it thought the danger had hiked on by.
With my bow still hanging on the string, I watched helplessly as the old deer disappeared into the cedars, but I saw it later that day chasing a doe 45 yards away. It never came into bow range, but I later learned someone had taken the 160-incher with a rifle.
While hunting a spooky black bear in Saskatchewan, Canada, I witnessed a similar scenario.
A guide on an ATV had dropped me off at the base of the tree. He instructed me not to step onto the ground AT ALL, but rather, to step directly off the 4-wheeler onto metal steps attached to the tree. This would make it appear as if the ATV had passed by, but no humans had gotten off at the stand.
Again, the native animals resumed activities within minutes of the ATV leaving, and soon I added the skin of one streetwise bear to my trophy room.
One thing I’ve learned about the vanishing hunter illusion: If you and your decoy helper try it, be sure you get settled into your stand quickly. And after the decoy hunter disappears, be prepared for the animal to appear much sooner than you’d expect.
– Photos Courtesy of Tim H. Martin
If you have a unique or special tip you’d like to share with Buckmasters fans, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and, if chosen, we will send you a cap signed by Jackie Bushman, along with a knife!
Read Recent Tip of the Week:
• The Disappearing Hunter Trick: More than a half-century ago, a game warden taught a boy a vintage tip for tricking game. Today, that boy is passing this knowledge down to you.