Me: Mostly by looking. ;)
A fellow photographer was lamenting to me about missing a particular shot. She said "I waited for hours and when it finally happened the deer ran right over my head. I knew then why National Geographic Photographers are paid a lot to sit and wait for the perfect photo."
As she said this, I thought to myself, wildlife photography is about 25% knowing where to be when, 50% waiting and/or tenacity to go back to the same location over and over, 15% photography skills, 5% photography equipment, and 5% luck.
She did everything right:
I feel her pain.
Wildlife photography is particularly challenging because subjects seem to be hard to come by. As wildlife photographers, we must learn a lot about our intended subjects. Using Elk as an example, I created a one minute video on how I find them in the field (link).
I was richly rewarded for my work:
To get to a particular wildlife subject, spend time learning about your subject's habitat and habits. Go to the location, setup your gear, and wait. You may have to visit that location many times to get the photo you want. Even if you don't get the photo you want on the first, third, or fifteenth visit, it is time well spent learning: the location, the movement of the wildlife within its habitat, the best times of day, the right position yourself, signs of their presence, and so on.
Canon 5D Mark IV + 600 mm lens