Most people are not aware of the vast amount of wildlife around them. People venture into nature, hoping to see…well… to see something…anything…and are often times disappointed by the lack of what they saw.
The key to seeing more wildlife in natural settings is to not look for animals as they appear in magazines or television specials. Let’s face it; animals are not going to strike a pose for you when you enter their domain. Most likely, they are going to attempt to avoid you all together.
As a result of this avoidance behavior, animals are going to move to places where it is difficult for you to see them, places that provide cover. Look to low-lying areas as opposed to open spaces. Brambles and underbrush provide excellent cover for animals, so check out those areas when scanning for wildlife.
Another great place to see animals are those areas where the forest joins a meadow, or a stream. These fringe areas provide animals with cover, and yet allow them to take advantage of the adjoining terrain to find food or water.
When trying to see more wildlife, it is also important that you do not look for the entire animal. Remember, the animal sees you as a threat, and is most likely going to evade your sight. Instead look for part of an animal. You might see an ear, a tail, or perhaps the lower portion of a leg hiding in the underbrush. The odds of you seeing a portion of an animal are far better than you seeing the entire thing, at least at first.
Time of day is also a factor in seeing wildlife. Keep in mind that animals are habitually nocturnal or diurnal. The best time to see a lot of animal activity is just at sun up or just as the sun goes down. Most birds are most active in the morning, while other animals (raccoons, skunks, etc.) prefer to come out at night.
Whether you are in to hunting or not, there are some wonderful game calling devices used by hunters that can be used to help you see more wildlife. There are some really compact, inexpensive, radio-controlled modules that can be used to call fox or coyote. It is interesting the other types of animals that will also come to investigate the sounds made by these devices, so don’t think that if you are trying to call in a fox using a distress call that a deer or other animal won’t come to investigate!
Camouflage is also important when you are trying to see more wildlife. There are many ways to camouflage, both primitive and modern. The key thing to remember is that you need to break up your outline, and remove the straight lines associated with the human body. Typical commercially available camouflage does not do this very well. Consider instead using a ghillie suit or ghillie wrap (basically a ghillie style hooded, poncho-like piece of apparel that wraps around you).
Ghillie wraps offer convenience, as they are easily put on and taken off. Additionally, they break up the human outline quite nicely, and individuals are also able to incorporate the local foliage into their construction.
Make sure that before you utilize any type of camouflage that you first check the local hunting season calendar. Some hunters, particularly those who are new and inexperienced, are of the shoot first and check-what-it-was-later philosophy. We don’t want you getting accidentally shot, being mistaken for a bear or other animal. I can hear it now, “Hey, honestly officer, I swear I thought he was one of them there sasquatch big-foot critters!” Yes…please, let’s avoid this scenario.
Scent is also something that one needs to worry about when trying to observe more wildlife. You must mask your scent as much as possible, and there are several commercially available methods available to do this. One of the best and most simple ways to de-scent is to stand in the smoke of a campfire. Contrary to what some folks believe, a faint wafting smell of smoke does not disturb animals. The amount of smoke that you are going to absorb will adequately mask your smell without disturbing wildlife.
One last issue related to scent is cleaning your clothes or ghillie suit. People wash their camo, and then go into the woods. Cleanliness being next to godliness and all, they believe it is a good thing to do. Keep in mind that the scent of the detergent announces your presence like a foghorn. It is important to purchase detergent that is specially designed for hunting clothes.
Also, you need to be aware that any detergent that has color enhancing components basically embeds your clothes with particles that reflect ultraviolet light, and some animals see into the ultraviolet range. Deer are included in that list, according to the findings of a 1992 study conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia in Athens. Their findings, you ask? Basically, when you wear clothes into the woods that have been washed in color enhancing detergents you appear as a huge, glowing, neon light to those animals who can detect the ultraviolet being reflected by the color enhancers. The moral of the story, don’t wash your camo or your ghillie suit in color enhancing detergents.
Learning to see wildlife isn’t a difficult skill. Time, practice, and a little know-how will provide you with wonderful experiences and memories from the great outdoors.