I grew up in western Colorado where hunting for deer and elk was a way of life. We successfully hunted them by learning their habits, scouting their habitats, and stalking them. I learned a lot more about stalking and stealth as an instructor at the US Army Ranger School. Later, I successfully used the Ranger Secrets in combat as a Platoon Leader and LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol) Team Leader with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam.
We used Ranger training to plan every LRRP combat mission. Our planning included reconnaissance, daylight/time management, stealth/movement discipline, tactics, noise/odor control, and camouflage. Our lives hinged on performing our mission without our enemy’s knowledge.
Once inserted into enemy-controlled territory, the LRRPs moved silently to the target. We hunted an implacable enemy, one that never took prisoners. Often, we were being hunted by them. Those missions honed my stealth capabilities to razor sharpness. The Ranger Secrets we learned, and refined in combat, kept us alive and helped us successfully complete our mission.
I will share the 10 Best Ranger Secrets with you now. Use them to bag that big buck or put that elk in the freezer.
Planning and execution will determine the success or failure of a LRRP patrol and your next hunt.
First, learn all you can about your hunting area. Review a good map, then scout your hunting target area. There is no substitute for getting out in the area and seeing what’s there.
Decide where to park your vehicle outside the hunting area. Find good routes for approach to and within the hunting area. Determine where you can remain hidden while looking for game. Locate areas to avoid, like hillsides where you will be silhouetted, areas with loose stones or gravel, and noisy vegetation.
Find where your quarry will locate at different times of the day. They will move out of hiding to water and then forage in open areas during specific hours based on the amount of sunlight available to them.
Determine where you must be at Morning Twilight. This is when night first begins to lighten. They will move out of hiding to water and begin foraging. Be in place and be alert.
Find the best place to be at Sunrise, when they will be foraging in earnest.
You may need to be in a different place during Early Morning, when they will begin to move back into hiding for most of the day. Remain ultra-alert.
During midday they lie in brush to chew their cud and are difficult to find.
In the late afternoon, about an hour before sunset, the animals will again move to water and they will begin to taper off foraging. Stay very alert.
At Sunset, they will move toward the area where they will spend the night. You may need to change locations to take advantage of their movement.
During evening twilight, they will begin to bed down for the night. Again, change your location if necessary and stay alert.
You can find the daily start and ending times for each of these light-related details for any location and for an entire year by month and day at:
Enter your city, state, and country. You can also enter your zip code, or for any place in the world, you can enter longitude and latitude.
For every day you will see a start or ending time for these times during each day.
BMNT (Beginning Morning Nautical Twilight) When early morning twilight starts. It ends at Sunrise.
Sunrise: When it is legal begin to take animals in many states. Consult your state’s regulations for exact times.
Sunset: When it is required to stop taking animals in many states, consult your regulations.
EENT (Ending Evening Nautical Twilight) Twilight begins when the sun has completely set. When late evening twilight ends, (EENT) the sky becomes totally dark.
Animals that experience extreme hunting pressure may become nocturnal during hunting seasons. They may only show themselves at BMNT and before EENT. Knowing the actual time for these key events can be very important.
Use light-related times to plan your arrival, departure, and movements in the hunting area.
2. Reaction Planning:
Disruptions require well-thought-out reaction plans. Assess the likely movement patterns of the animals during disruptions. Multiple disruptions cause multiple moves. Determine where the animals will move; you move with them. Frightened animals may not react as you thought. Reaction planning will allow you to know the most likely places to look for them.
The unexpected arrival of other hunters is a huge disruptive event. Use the Ranger Secrets and neither the hunter, nor the animals, will know you are there.
Other hunters can be dangerous. Novice hunters may fire on ANY movement in the brush. Always wear Hunters’ Orange, even if your state doesn’t require it, so that your unexpected appearance will not get you shot. (For more on Hunters’ Orange see Secret 5 below.)
3. Vehicles & Weapons:
Park your vehicle at least 400 yards from your hunting area. Do not allow the wind to carry the smell or the sound of your vehicle toward it. If this happens, park up to a mile away.
Do not slam doors or bang equipment.
Check your weapon’s action and lock and load before leaving.
Leave loose belts and buckles in your vehicle, tape down anything that will rattle, swing, or make noise while you walk.
Turn off all communications devices, they are only for emergencies.
Do not talk.
Find the wind’s direction. The slightest breeze carries everything about you; smells, sounds, even pheromones, directly to the animals. No breeze? Notice the side of your face which seems cooler than the rest. The slightly cooler area is the windward side. A slight breeze is coming from there.
Walk into the wind. If the wind is from the wrong direction you must take a different route. This is where planning for an alternate route in step 1. becomes important.
If you disturb something, STOP! Listen! Do not move for one or two minutes while you listen and watch the area. Pay attention to any indication that you alerted your quarry.
Such unexpected delays need to be added to your plan so you can still be in your area for key events, such as the start of early morning twilight.
4. Stealth and Movement Discipline:
Wear soft, loose clothing and soft-soled boots or shoes. Your movements must be slow and deliberate. Use your preplanned approaches. Avoid tree branches or bushes, tall grass, loose gravel, and other noisy areas.
Minimize your outline. Don’t silhouette yourself on a hilltop, walk around the shoulder of a hill. Stay close to bushes and trees. Move from shadow to shadow; preplan each step.
Don’t use lights.
Look to the side of an object. Your peripheral vision will let you see things that you don’t perceive when looking right at them, allowing you to move with confidence in almost total darkness.
Train your brain to see what is there. Look carefully at an area where you might expect to see animals but there are none there. Tell yourself “They’re there; I just have to see them.” Tell yourself again, and again. Your brain will untangle the visual information you receive. You will see the hidden animals no one else would see.
This technique saved my life many times in Vietnam. It allowed me to identify the cleverly hidden enemy. I was able to avoid them, or engage them, as needed.
Spend several minutes watching, listening, and smelling the air. Mentally insert yourself into the environment and become a fierce silent predator. This is not a foolish game; predators hear and see details that ‘normal’ people miss. Your next moves are based on what you learn and your plan.
Odor control is vital. Bathe using a non-perfume soap, use a scent-free deodorant. Wash your clothes with non-perfumed detergent; and non-perfumed softener or dryer sheet.
Do not use an animal urine-based scent mask to cover your human smell. These products put an unusual scent on the air which alerts game.
Do not smoke in or near the hunting zone. Do not make a campfire at your parking area. If you do smoke, or are near a campfire, change your clothes to fresh ones before you hunt. Tobacco or campfire smoke will move ahead of you with the wind and alert your quarry.
When something stops working, recognize it. Think on your feet, change your tactics, and move on. The flexible hunter is the successful hunter.
Camouflage clothing is designed to fool human observers by blending in with the environment. It lets them see what they expect to see. It is designed to break up your outline by imitating foliage and other environmental colors.
In the 1970s the US Army performed a study on camouflage clothing. They found if camouflage does not match its surroundings it makes the wearer more obvious.
Loose, dark solid color clothes were found to be just as effective as camouflage patterns because the folds and creases of the clothes mimic the light and shadows in the background. A soft-brimmed hat will keep your face in shadows, effective camouflage for your face. See the following picture.
How game animals’ eyes function dictates what camouflage to wear.
It’s commonly believed that big game animals see only black and white. This is not true. Rods perceive light intensity allowing vision in low light situations, cones provide color vision.
Deer have short wavelength cones in their retinas: they see blue colors. Therefore, blue jeans stand out very well; don’t wear them.
They also have moderate wavelength cones to perceive greens and some browns.
They do not have long wavelength cones like we do. Instead of seeing red, orange, yellow or most browns, they see gray.
They do not to see bright colors like hunter’s orange. To them, a blaze orange vest looks like a mottled gray among many other shades of gray.
They don’t perceive color shading well. Their eyes blur color details. Camouflage patterns are lost on them, they look like gray, or green, blobs which stand out clearly from the background. (So, all the fancy-and expensive-camo on the market is almost useless when hunting deer and their cousins – ed.)
Deer have extraordinary peripheral vison. They can see to the side as clearly as they see straight ahead. They see you even if they aren’t looking at you. However, their vision will not adjust well for distance. They don’t have the clarity at distance humans have. Distant camouflage looks good to us but becomes a shape-revealing blur to them.
Deer see extremely well in the dark.
Their eyes detect movement, even at a distance, very well. They initially freeze and try to figure out what they saw moving, then run away.
They are not good at shape recognition but have an intuitive fear of unusual objects or patterns in their immediate environment. They will move away from them.
They also have poor vista comparison. They see something, look away, turn back, and don’t recognize something changed. Use this to move toward your quarry in small increments.
These are the top 5 Ranger Secrets you must know as a hunter. Use them to become a disciplined, stealthy, and successful hunter. Like the US. Army Rangers, you will control what your quarry sees, hears, and smells so you can sneak in and drop ‘em.
Good luck and good hunting!
Richard Townsend is a free lance writer and avid hunter living in Arizona. He is a combat veteran who is a graduate of the U.S. Army’s Infantry Officer’s Candidate School, a graduate and instructor at the Army’s Ranger School, a graduate of the Army’s Airborne School, the Pathfinder School, and the Jungle School at the School of the Americas in Panama. He commanded infantry and reconnaissance platoons, an infantry company, and led extensive long-range reconnaissance operations while serving with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam.
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