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Today I walked in the woods and it was quite late in the evening. While I was walking, a deer jumped and ran away. I guess I disturbed it while it was sleeping. And it came to my mind that I'm the only one who is making some noise at this hour.

So my question is:

  • What is the best way to become like a ghost, in respect to shoes, clothes, walking technique etc?

I'm interested in how hunters (not modern ones) prepared for the silent hunt with primitive weapons.

  • You could try it Ninja style. – Wills Apr 20 '15 at 17:34
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    @Wills - That's the exact same foot step I describe below. I wonder who would win in a sneaky contest: a Ninja or a Deer Toucher? – ShemSeger Apr 20 '15 at 18:24
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When I was a boy I learned about a tribe of natives (Lipan Apache) that had an initiation into manhood which involved plucking a hair from the tail of a live deer. These people had developed a mode of stealth that allowed them to walk right up to deer–head on–without the deer sensing their presence or noticing their advance. I adopted the technique for moving through the woods silently, but never to the point where I could stealthily touch a deer.

I'll skip the masking your scent and disguising your appearance parts and just give you the silent walking part.

First of all, you must have good balance, so take a semi-squat stance to lower you body weight. With each step, you will balance on one foot, while you test the ground ahead of you with the smallest toe of your other foot. You want to plant your foot where it isn't going to make any noise, first touch the ground with your small toe, using it to part the grass or move leaves, then gently rock onto your lateral arch down to your heel as you shift your weight onto your forward foot and flatten it out onto the ground, the last part of your foot to touch the ground is your big toe. Complete the step by transferring all your weight to your forward foot, then feel ahead with the other.

The deer touchers did this very slow, averaging about 80 seconds per step, in a breeze they could rock with the grass and branches and go about 60 seconds a step. The super slow speeds were so the deer wouldn't register them moving, even if they were staring straight in their direction.

When nothing's watching you you can move quickly through the woods stepping this way, just touch with your small toe first and ease into each step, when you get good you tend to glide more than you stride. The part to practice is making contact with the ground without making a crunch, it's easy to do on a path, but harder to do when moving through the bush.

As far as what clothes and shoes to wear: the deer touchers went barefoot and wore nothing but a loincloth and ash from a fire, but any soft soled shoe will work for foot wear, toeshoes would be the best. For clothing you don't want to wear anything synthetic, nylon and polyester make that whishing sound when you walk. Soft cotton or wool is best for moving silently, think ninja knickers, light and breathable.

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    @urosjarc - The natives used ashes from a fire to neutralize their scent, and they'd stick grass and twigs in their hair to break of their shape. There are hundreds of products available from outdoors stores for scent control but you should still stay down wind even when using them. Any type of camouflage will usually do, but regardless of what you wear, it's important to consider your surroundings, especially what's behind you. It's easy to get sky lined even while wearing camo, deer register shapes, which is why you want to blend in to your surroundings best you can. – ShemSeger Apr 20 '15 at 16:28
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    Deer don't wander much when they're eating or bedding down. Any animal with a rhinarium will smell danger before they see it. If you break up your outline (with twigs, grass, or other camouflage) then animals won't register you as a human as long as you stay still, or appear to be staying still (moving 80s per step). I'm not a hunter, but I've spotted with friends who are. You can sit in plain sight down wind without them even knowing you're there. If you know where they bed, they're pretty easy to sneak up on, it's getting super close that's a trick. – ShemSeger Apr 20 '15 at 17:50
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    Deer, and most if not all other animals, including humans, perceive motion much more easily than simple shapes. I've never really tried sneaking up on animals (other than my dogs), but if the wind is right and you stay still long enough, they'll often wander close to me. – jamesqf Apr 20 '15 at 19:04
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    I think it may have been the Lipan Apache that initiated their scouts by having them bring back a deer hair. – ShemSeger Apr 20 '15 at 21:31
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    Tom Brown talked about this technique (he also learned from Native Americans) in his field guide for wilderness survival. I started practicing it before I started studying martial arts, and now that I have, I can tell you this 'slow stalking' is great exercise and great preparation for any serious pursuit of martial arts. Thanks for this answer! – DukeZhou May 25 '18 at 16:20
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While looking for mushrooms mid-morning in the summer, I saw a deer perhaps 50' away, in brush maybe 5' high- it was upwind of me and couldn't smell me. It was browsing and slowly moving as it ate. Slowly, stopping frequently, and gradually approaching, I stopped and listened. I'm sure the deer was able to hear me but not see or smell. I kept my head and body crouched down, below the top of the brush, and got within 6' of the deer before the wind shifted, it looked up and saw me moving. I believe my mimicry of slowly browsing deer behavior was the key.

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