Words by Doug Durren
Mooching is a term that my friends and family use to describe a form of deer hunting that combines the best of 3 different deer hunting techniques, stand hunting, deer drives, and still hunting. The basic idea of a mooch is to take advantage of the terrain, wind direction, and deer travel routes to gently bump, rather than forcibly drive, deer in the direction of your fellow hunters.
Mooching works best if you have a few hundred acres of hunting ground with varied terrain. The Driftless Area of Southwest Wisconsin, with its mixture of hills, woods, bottomland, and farmland, is the perfect area for mooching, but the tactic can be used in many other parts of the country as well.
A “Mooch Day” begins with a plan drawn up while consulting maps and a weather forecast with detailed information about wind direction. Hunters then head out before dawn to established ambush stands that offer good vantage points of multiple deer travel corridors. After a couple of hours of being on stand in classic ambush fashion, one hunter will leave his stand and begin still-hunting.
Wisconsin allows hunters to use electronic devices for communicating, so we coordinate all activities with hand-held radios. As he moves along, the still-hunter is mindful of the wind direction and he travels in such a way that his odor will blow into likely bedding areas and thereby bump deer in the direction of the hunters who are still waiting at their ambush locations.
Meanwhile, the still-hunter may get an opportunity for a shot at a standing deer, or a deer that’s trying to slip away unseen through the brush. Eventually, the still-hunter reaches another good vantage point where he can stop and take up an ambush position. He uses his radio to let everyone know that he’s completed his mooch and he’s ready for the next one to begin. Then the next hunter lets everyone know that he is on the mooch and he begins his predetermined still-hunting route toward the next stand.
A Mooch hunt can go on all day if it’s well planned and executed. We conduct mooches with as few as two hunters and as many as twelve, depending on how much area we’re trying to hunt. What’s important is that the moocher acts like a still-hunter and not like a driver doing a traditional deer drive. Deer tend to just slowly move away from a skilled still-hunter and don’t usually don’t leave the area entirely. Rather than deer that are running full-tilt, the hunters on stand get to see deer that are moving at a slow pace and often stopping to look back over their shoulders toward the area they were bumped from.
This allows for cleaner standing or walking shots rather than the running shots that are typical of a deer drive. Mooching allows all hunters an equal chance of getting a deer, because everyone gets an equal chance to be a stander in a prime position. And the still-hunters get plenty of action as well. I’ve had deer that I bumped turn and come back in my direction after a shot was fired.
In one instance, I bumped two bucks and then moved several hundred yards by the time those deer finally made it to my friend Mike. He shot one of the bucks and the other one snuck off toward an escape route that was back in my direction. Knowing that at least one of the bucks was still alive, I crept to a location overlooking that escape route and got ready. The five-year-old buck trotted down a hillside and was walking through a thick bottom, quartering into the wind, when he tried to sneak through just 40 yards away.
He never knew I was there, and I dropped him right in his tracks.