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SITKA Team | Photos: Jay Beyer | 7.22.2020

Decidedly Close

High up on an alpine vista in the American West, South Cox sits, glassing the panoramic landscape. He spots a mature mule deer buck feeding in the distance. He’s studied the topography and the wind direction. This is his chance to fill a tag. Recurve bow in hand, he begins his stalk.

If he plays it perfect—and nothing unexpected happens—he’ll come within stickbow range of the buck from above and behind before the animal even knows he’s there. Easier said than done, but for Cox, owner of Stalker Stickbows, that’s what makes this hunting style appealing.

For Cox, a successful hunt is as much a connection to the land as the harvesting of an animal, especially while hoofing it long distances to find solitude. “I love the idea of public land being accessible to everybody. It’s not the number of zeros on my tax return that got me to this specific location,” he says. “It’s sweat equity, and anybody with the heart and lungs and willingness could be right there beside me. Generally, it takes hard work to find that solitude when you’re hunting public lands and, to me, that’s something that I get an immense amount of pleasure from. Put on a backpack, tighten the straps, tie your shoelaces and start hiking.”

Of his hunting style, he says that he tries to hunt mature deer, but the size of the trophy is no longer his priority. “The stalk, how close I can get to him, provides much more excitement to me than the size of the antlers,” he says.

When he first started spot-and-stalk hunting with traditional archery methods, he says he experi - enced a level of anxiety and fear that he’d never again have success as a hunter.

“I thought gee, I’m going to be a vegan now. I’m never going to get an animal again,” he says, “but then I learned to be more careful and selective on my stalks.” He says he’s learned to pass up trophy bucks when their location isn’t conducive to a good stalk—a tactic that took some getting used to.

For stalks like this, Cox says, success comes down to personal hunting skills, wits, woods - manship and the ability to be silent. “Everything that I’m wearing or using during my stalk has got to be as absolutely quiet as possible. And that’s where the Apex system has come into play for me. From a clothing standpoint, it’s about as quiet as you can get.”