The perfectly quiet morning silence was broken by the slightest splash from behind. Slowly a small group of deer was entering the swamp from the oak forest. As the deer filed by each decided to cross the creek in front of me and then cross the creek a few yards down stream. The last deer in the group wore headgear. Pulling back the PSE bow and placing the Nikon red dot on the chest cavity the arrow was released. The Muzzy broad head did the trick and the buck was down within 50 yards.
Talk to the folks that get a deer each year or close to it and a number of items pop up that spells success. The majority of the work is done prior to the actual hunt. To me the work is fun.
1) Scouting should be fun and an easy way is by the seat of your pants. My daughter and I take rides around the general areas that I plan to hunt. Carrying a camera captures many great photos. As a bonus I often find new turkey locations as well.
2) Hunters need to tune up their bows, sight in their rifles and practice well before the opener. Get the bow tuned and shoot a few arrows through a paper test before the opener. Shoot a dozen shots through the rifle to get reacquainted with the gun. Archery hunters should practice each day or every other day. Shooting 1-3 dozen arrows each time pays huge dividends. I shoot my broad heads when practicing.
3) Equipment needs vary for each hunter. I experiment during the summer with new products and found a few items that I would not hunt without again. A long rope to pull up your weapon. A high quality safety harness and a lightweight portable rain gear are a must.
4) Locating a hot location is key. Don’t hunt memories or locations that have worn down trails with no fresh tracks. Some runs will look worn down years after any use.
Locating that special spot takes a bit if work. Tie thread across any runway that shows promise. Keep it two feet above the ground. Often when a deer breaks the thread the ends point in the direction that the deer are traveling. After tying thread over a dozen potential runs and verifying which runs have had the thread broken, it’s time for the orange survey ribbon.
Follow each runway 100-300 yards marking the run on occasion. Hang the ribbon up high for easy visibility. Wherever two runs cross mark with a few extra pieces of ribbon. You will be amazed at how often two hot looking runs either merge or end up fairly close to each other.
5) Crop fields are always a prime area to spot deer. They can be hard to hunt because of the openness and various entry points. Often the hunting is better when staying away from the field edges by 50-100 yards.
Fence rolls and drainage ditches are prime traveling routes. A key location will be where they meet the main woods. This is especially true in the farm belt areas where cover is sparse.
6) Hunt the corners of the small woodlots for best action. I try to sit 5-10 yards from the field edges when hunting small woodlots. This gives you a chance to shoot at two edges of the field and still get a good shot behind you.
7) Hunt the oaks when the acorns drop. This was perhaps my number one mistake over the years. I hunt swamps and left the oaks alone. Now I hunt the swamps and bedding areas early in the season but keep a constant watch for the trees dropping the most acorns. If you don’t have oaks then hunt the prevailing food source that is at its’ peak.
8) Hunters need multiple stands to cover wind direction, hunter pressure and to keep the stands fresh. We set numerous stands and have one ready to back pack in.
9) An additional tip that I use is setting up with the sun at your back when possible. Whenever possible I try to set my stand so that a traveling deer will have the sun in their eyes. This might mean that a good run will be hunted where it makes a bend or travels around some obstacle. Better the deer with the sun in their eyes than the hunter squinting while attempting a shot.
10) Prescription sunglasses really help me out. I use the yellow tinted color lenses because they gather the most light under low light conditions.
11) I love pine and cedar trees. These are the easiest trees to hide in and offer a great place to hang a daypack. An oak tree with multiple limbs is the next best bet. Use the natural cover to help conceal your location regardless if you hunt from a tree or from the ground.
12) I hunt the ground 100% with a gun and maybe 20% with a bow. A thick group of pines or cedars works great. Sit in the thick stuff maybe 3-5 feet and prune out a few shooting windows. Thick cattails also work well and are used with great success. The sound of sucking muck or water will tip you off that a deer is close.
13) This brings up the next location to concentrate on. Hunt bottleneck areas. Hunt areas where the terrain forces the deer to pass through a narrow spot. A river or a creek often can be used as a funnel. Two ponds or a pond and a stream within 100-200 yards of each other are one of my favorites.
Fences can be great. Walking slowly along a fence will often show an area where the deer prefer to cross. Hair on the fence or a section where the fence is bent down is a sure give a way.
14) Hunters need good cover and attraction scent. If you don’t stink the deer are less apt to smell you. I use one of the scent eliminator spray products and a mixture of vanilla and water. I spray every thing before heading into the woods and at least once during the hunt.
Cover scent is critical and is practiced by a number of hunters. Carry it one step further than the rest. Keep your cloths in a plastic bag. I throw in fresh leaves each time out as well. Spray your cloths, hats and gloves and then your heads, boots and hands.
15) Wear rubber knee high boots and keeps a change of cloths in your vehicle. I repeat, never go into a restaurant or store with your hunting cloths on.
Scent control also includes clothing. Scent gathering suits can easily be the last link for total coverage.
16) Mock scrapes can work and the best scrapes are started before the season starts. Like anything it takes some planning and not every spot will produce. Locate a good runway near a bedding area and make up a scrape. Add some of your favorite scent and check back in a week. Make sure that you have a licking branch above your scrape. Tinks and Buck Fever are my two favorites.
17) Use a deer call. I like a deer call that makes fawn bleats, doe grunts and rutting grunts. Hunters Specialties carries the True Talker that is hands free. This is critical for the bow hunter. Blow on the small mouthpiece and stop the deer dead in it’s tracks without using your hands or getting the call in the way of the shot.
18) During the rut hunt the does. The bucks will find the does and this is the easiest way to a shot. Once again locating a bedding or feeding area that the does are using is the prime area to hunt.
19) If you located a bedding area then hunt there during the mid-day hours. This is especially true during the gun season. Without a doubt my hunting party has shot more bucks between 10:00 am and 3:00 p.m. than any other time.
20) Use other hunters to your advantage. Identify where hunters will enter the woods and use their movement to help push deer to you. When scouting I carry along some papers and make a rough map. Mark down the runway locations, the two tracks and any blinds or stands that you run across.
Part of my success comes from knowing where other hunters will be and how they will enter the woods.
21) Be in the woods when the weather changes. If it rained hard all morning and now is letting up, hustle to your favorites feeding location. High winds and heavy rains will change the patterns of the deer. The same applies just before a big storm blows in.
Deer can sense when a storm is coming and if they will be down for a few days. Just prior, regardless of the time they will be feeding. Most of our bucks shot after opening day have fallen during this type of condition.
Following the twenty-one tips and paying close attention to small details will dramatically increase your deer sightings. Archery or gun, staying focused will pay dividends. All it takes is one well-placed shot to enjoy some fresh tenderloin in mushroom gravy this season.