Want to See Wildlife? Think Like a Hunter
Want to see some animals next time you’re outdoors? Wes Siler and Eric Whiting show you how to adapt knowledge from hunting to general wildlife viewing. These methods work just as well in Yellowstone National Park, where we filmed, as they do anywhere else in the country.
WES SILER: We're in Yellowstone National Park. And this is a place that a lot of people come to to see animals. And you can just drive through the park and see what you see. I don't think that's the most successful way, and the most sort of productive way to actually go out and see animals, even in a place like this where there's lots of animals.
So here's my friend Eric. Both of us are big hunters, and we want to teach you how to use the tools we've learned from hunting to just advance your wildlife spotting abilities. You can use this stuff next time you go outdoors, and we guarantee you we'll see animals. If you want to see animals, you need to think like a hunter. Eric and I are going to show you how.
Animals need cover, food, and water, and you can find a place that has all three, you're going to find animals.
ERIC WHITING: So animals like deer and elk, they move down to water at night, and then back to cover in the morning. They need plenty of grass, plenty of food. They're going to be there kind of during the twilight hours in between when they're in cover and when they move to water.
WES SILER: And in addition to grass, look for nice, low growth, broad-leaf plants. That stuff is like candy to them.
Predators also look for food. The food's obviously just meat. So if you can find, here in Yellowstone, a dead bison, that's where you're going to see wolf, that's where you're going to see grizzly bears, that's where you're going to see coyotes. Anything else like that, you often find wolf packs following elk herds. Right?
ERIC WHITING: Exactly . And another thing is if you find birds flying around all kind of the same area, that's a great spot to look because there's likely a downed carcass.
WES SILER: Bears are omnivores, and during springtime like this, there's just so many roots and so many fresh plants out there. They're loving that stuff, too.
ERIC WHITING: Yeah, exactly. They're eating a lot of bugs out there, believe it or not, as well.
WES SILER: You get grubs.
ERIC WHITING: Grubs.
WES SILER: Yeah.
ERIC WHITING: Yep. So if you see dark timber, those edges next to the dark timber where there might be logs with different beetles, bugs, they're going to be right on the edge of there. And that's a great spot to glass them.
WES SILER: Within those larger cover, food, water environments, the animals are going to move through those specific areas. And you can figure out where that is by looking for game trails, which look almost like a little faint hiking trail like humans would use. Go on those game trails. Look for fresh tracks which are going to be defined, have very defined edges, and no fill in.
And then within that, also look for natural choke points. So a shoulder on a mountain or a gap in a fence the animals are going to have to pass through, and that way you can get close and sort of predict exactly where the animals are going to move.
ERIC WHITING: That's right. And so once you know there's a good chance animals are in the area, you're going to want to keep in mind the direction the wind's blowing. So if you think there are animals up in this cover above you, and the wind's blowing uphill like it does most days.
WES SILER: Yeah. The wind moves uphill during the heat of the day and downhill as the evening cools. So bear that in mind, and keep the wind moving towards you, not away from you if you want to see animals.
ERIC WHITING: Yep, so if you stop and wait to find an animal, and the wind is blowing from you into their bedding area, the dark timber, they'll likely never come out, and you'll never see them.
WES SILER: Animals don't necessarily see shapes and colors all that well. They see a little differently than we do. What they you see really well is motion. So if you hold still, that's really the key to having animal not bust you.
ERIC WHITING: Yep. And it's so funny, because as humans, we can see each other clear as day.
WES SILER: Yeah.
ERIC WHITING: But you got to keep in mind that animals' vision is different from ours. So when we're not moving, we blend right into the background. We're almost a 2D image to them. And when we do move, we stick out like a sore thumb.
WES SILER: Yeah. And then this is incredibly obvious, but it's just worth stating. Animals don't like people. If people are being noisy in a place, people are making smells, if people are moving around, there's not going to be animals there. So you just go away from other people. These tips work. These are exactly the methods Eric and I use to find animals.
ERIC WHITING: Yep.
WES SILER: Last night we identified an area with cover, food, and water that we thought would be ideal for elk. We went back at first light this morning, walked over a rise, and there was a herd of elk standing exactly what we predicted that they would be. Get up early, stay up late. Cover food, water, game trails, tracks.
ERIC WHITING: Good points.
WES SILER: Stay-- hold still.
ERIC WHITING: Hold still.
WES SILER: And you're done. You'll find animals.
ERIC WHITING: You'll find them.
WES SILER: Yeah.
ERIC WHITING: And you'll have a great time.
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