Consistent deer hunting success is found in the details. Sure, there are people who wander haphazardly into the woods with no preparation at all and manage to get lucky. But if you want to consistently put meat in the freezer and antlers on the wall, this pursuit requires an obsession with getting the little things right.
Of those most important little things, sound stands near the top of the list. You can scout, prep, and strategize all you want, but it’s no use if a poorly timed clink, rattle, or pop sends a big buck running the other direction.
Here are a handful of the most problematic pieces of hunting gear for noise and ideas for silencing each.
Metal First, before diving into specifics, it should be noted that the vast majority of the sound issues emanate from metal. Metal clips, buckles, plates, zippers–the list goes on and on. Metal is on much of what we take to the woods, and when hit on another hard surface it usually makes a loud and unnatural noise. The kind of noise that doesn’t belong in a deer’s environment and is something that right away stands out as a potential danger.
As much as possible, cover exposed metal parts on any equipment you’re taking to the woods, assuming you can do so without inhibiting its function. Hockey tape, felt, duct tape, and a million other soft fabrics with adhesive backing can help dampen these surfaces and reduce your risk of an untimely “ding ding.”
Bow Archery tackle introduces a great deal of noise into a hunt, especially when drawing or releasing an arrow. Fortunately, various accessories and modifications can reduce noise, such as adding a stabilizer, placing rubberized sound dampeners on the bow limbs, and adding silencers to the bowstring itself.
“My favorites are old-school rubber cat whiskers that I place in the string itself,” Tom Irwin of Irwin Archery Mechanics said. “If this is done right it can quiet your bow by about 30% and you’ll lose basically no speed.”
Another area of common noise on a bow is the arrow rest and shelf. This can be easily combated by adding a felt covering to the prongs or arms of the rest itself, so that the arrow slides silently across the surface when drawn. You can also add felt to the shelf below it, so that if the arrow falls off, it won’t clank against the hard metal riser.
Finally, Irwin notes that many bowhunters make adjustments to their bows without checking the distance the string stopper is set from the bow string, resulting in extra string slap. “Make sure your string stop is set a business card thickness from the stop,” he said.
Climbing Sticks Another one of the most common culprits for noise in the woods are the portable climbing sticks that so many hunters use to ascend a tree when hunting with a mobile tree stand or saddle. In many cases these sticks are made of metal or have metal pieces, parts, and buckles attached. All of that creates a high risk for noise, especially when hiking in with these sticks strapped on your back or while setting up in a tree.
My first recommendation for dealing with this is to cover as much metal surface area as possible, most notably on the main post of the stick, with some soft covering. I’ve done this with hockey tape, duct tape, and another popular product made specifically for this application called Stealth Strips.
I also advocate for avoiding straps with any kind of metal buckle or fastener because a metal buckle swinging through the air and crashing into another stick is a surefire way to attract attention. You can replace metal buckles with a number of alternatives such as Tethrd’s metal-free Versalink or Versastrap products, or a lightweight rope such as amsteel which can be used (with the appropriate safety knots) to attach the stick with no buckle at all. If you choose to use a buckling strap still, wrap that buckle with tape or or use something like a Yak Grip or bicycle tubing to cover it.
Tree Stands and Platforms Lock ons, ladder stands, saddle platforms–anything you can stand on in a tree is likely another invitation for sound. All of these items are made primarily from metal and will introduce noise to the environment if not properly prepared and cared for. Gregg Farrell, a Wisconsin native and First Lite’s lead whitetail product designer recommends several modifications to ensure whatever type of platform you use to elevate yourself is silent.
“For silencing my stands, I use Silent Touch Tape anywhere my stands or sticks could contact each other during my hike in or set up,” he explained. A similar effect can be achieved with the other tape options I described when discussing sticks. The key is to wrap any area of likely contact, which includes the stand post and the outer rim of the platform especially.
Tree stands often create noise at points of pivot or juncture, such as where seats and posts flip up and down, where cables connect, and where ladder stand segments come together. To deal with these sounds, Farrell uses a powdered graphite lubricant. “Powdered graphite is a great lubricant that doesn't have a harsh smell (even more critical than silence) like WD-40 or something similar,” he said.
Adjacent to tree stands are elevated box blinds, many of which sit on metal tripod stands of some kind. These metal platforms and the sound-amplifying hollow boxes standing on them are notorious for noise too. To nullify this common problem, lay carpeting or foam padding of some kind on the floor and even, if possible, up the walls.
Saddle/Harness Accessories Another noisy gear type to note are the ropes, buckles, cams, and clips that are associated with tree stand safety harnesses, lifelines, saddle hunting tethers, and lineman’s belts. All of these typically have some kind of carabiner, clip, or ascension device that is made of metal, which I almost always wrap with hockey tape to avoid metallic clanks. Another way to cover these metal surfaces, in certain applications such as on a lifeline, is to use a rubberized cover like the Hunter’s Safety Cowbell Carabiner Cover to shelter the metal device while not in use.
Clothing “Obviously the most important silence factor for me is my clothing system,” Farrell said. “Which is why I spend so much of my working time developing textiles that are quiet year round even when they get super cold.”
Most hunters put a lot into choosing the right clothing to wear, but the sound those clothes make is often overlooked. Make sure that the outer layers you use are not a brash hardshell fabric that crinkles, shushes, or pops in the wind when rubbing against itself or when shifting against the rough surface of tree bark.
If possible, test the sound of your clothing at the store or when it arrives at your home by rubbing it on itself and other surfaces–if it’s much louder than a pair of jeans rubbed together, it’s too loud to wear in the whitetail woods if you’re hoping to get within bow range of a deer.
Yes, this is a lot to attend to. But don’t let that keep you from getting started on your silencing. You might not be perfect right out the gate, but progress is progress. The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. So, pick one item of your gear to start silencing today and then keep working through the list piece by piece. Every little bit counts.