UF Timmy asked some questions in the comments of my last post, and I’ve seen similar questions on the Gamers With Jobs forums. Timmy asked
How do you know when it’s time to visually start looking for them and when to start crouching?
Very short answer: I almost always walk, until it’s time to position myself for the shot. However, I’m not in visual range when I position myself; I use the bleat caller to get them to come back to me.
Very long answer: I’ll explain bleat calling in (possibly too much) detail, but for people who might not be having success even getting to that point, the first thing I’ll talk about is the HunterMate, your PDA/GPS device that simulates how a real hunter would be tracking, using their five senses.
When I start a hunt, I pick a direction and I start walking. I have headphones on, and I’m listening for mule deer calls and keeping an eye on my HunterMate (HM). When you hear a call, your HM flashes a red circle on the meter at the top of its display screen (Sometimes it will just flash red, if the deer is quite far away. Treat it the same way, even if you didn’t hear a call). Click your left mouse button, and the HM identifies the animal you’re tracking and puts a point on the map where the call came from. Head in that direction, walking (unless it seems incredibly close…you’ll get a feel for what’s close in just a few hunts, and it’s really, really rare to get a call for the first time when you’re very close to the deer) and listening for more calls. I don’t think I’ve ever had a situation where the deer and I were walking toward each other, but I do scan with the binoculars just to make sure they’re not closer than they were when I first heard them call. If you do spook them, it’s ok. Just watch the direction they went in, pick up the trail and continue tracking. You can reel them back in.
I rarely switch from the animal I’m tracking to another animal. The more tracking clues you get for an animal, the better the information you receive. Your directional cone narrows when you find tracks, or when you find scat, the circle indicating how far the animal could have moved since the droppings were….dropped….gets smaller. It’s not unusual for deer to travel in groups, so switching from one animal to another just muddies the tracking information, in my experience. The only time I break that rule is if I’m following tracks that seem cold (not hearing any bleats, just finding tracks and old droppings…you can tell they’re old by the size of the circle on the HM, right?) and I hear a new deer bleating nearby. Audible clues are the best signal to follow.
Ok, so you have a deer bleating nearby. I spent a lot of time on my first couple hunts trying to track the deer until I could see it. Trust me, this can take a long time. Between watching for tracks, stopping to scan ahead with binoculars, and worrying that you’re going to be heard if you’re in the walking stance instead of crouching, it can be difficult to move fast enough to come within visual range of the deer. By the time you’ve had your third track encounter, and you hear the deer again and it seems a little closer, it’s time to pull a new tool out of your backpack.
It’s time for the bleat caller. I’ve had much better success following behind them at a walking pace until I find a good shooting location and then calling them in. Find a spot with good cover, a spot you can crouch in, and preferably a spot that gives you a good field of fire in front of you. If you can manage a little elevation, that helps a lot too. You can crouch down, but still see deer moving toward your call. I’ll sometimes crouch next to a tree in some cover as well, and it’s pretty rare that they see/smell me (I’m still not sure how smell works in the game).
I give three short bleats, but I think you can vary your bleats and still have success. You don’t always get an answering bleat! If you know that you’ve closed the distance on the deer you’re tracking, but you can’t seem to get in visual range, give a bleat and sit tight. Use the binoculars (which have better magnification than the scope) and watch the direction you last heard the deer, or the direction the last tracks indicated.
Watching a deer respond to a bleat call is pretty amazing. First of all, they behave realistically. They’ll come in cautiously, looking around for the deer that was calling them, moving slowly, maybe grazing on the way, but always taking a few steps toward you. The caller is a powerful lure :)
The benefits of this method are many. First, you’re sitting completely still, so it’s really tough for them to see you. Second, you don’t have to worry about moving fast enough during your own tracking that you get within visual range of the target. I’m always afraid they’re going to hear me and I’m going to spook them, but, if you spend too much time crouching while you follow them, they’ll always stay ahead of you. Third, you’re going to get some really close shots, which makes it much easier to kill with one shot. Finally, it’s possible that you were tracking a doe, but there was also a buck in the group. When you spot your tracked deer, look left and right to see if it has any friends. Sometimes a trophy buck is right there with her.
Using this method, I made four kills last night in an hour and fourteen minute hunt (Some luck involved: I heard a bleat just outside camp as I started the hunt, which has never happened to me before. It’s not unsual to walk for 5 or 10 minutes before I hear a bleat). After the kill, I’d start walking again, listening for more bleats, or following tracks from the friends of the deer I had just killed. They’re usually a good distance away after your gunfire, but if you get on their trail, it’s possible you’ll hear them ahead of you and you can repeat the whole process of calling them in.
There have been a few times that I bleat called a deer I was tracking, but they didn’t respond. I don’t know how long is too long to wait, but I do know that I’ve thought “Man, that deer isn’t responding to my call” only to spot one in the direction I last heard them. Patience is key, but there have been times the bleat caller didn’t trick a deer into coming close. You’ll get to know how long is too long through experience…or maybe I gave up too early and spooked one off and didn’t even know it.
Finally, I found this PDF. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of everything (I think it was made during the closed beta), but it does explain the types of tracks you’ll see, and how to know if you’re getting closer. That will help you get close to a deer, where you can call them in.
Timmy, if you’re still reading, I think you’re already close enough to start bleat calling. Let me know if you have more questions!