by Jack Payne
The countdown has started towards the opening day of gun season for deer. This season I am a bit more pumped up than normal. While archery season did produce a decent buck for me, the rut has not hit high gear like anticipated. Hopefully that changes next week.
Success during gun season encompasses a few additional items of consideration as compared to the archery season. Hunting pressure will greatly increase, some favorite food sources are gone and yes, the rut will factor in.
Our group success rate is way above that of the state. This can be attributed to the location. Location, much like in real estate dictates travel patterns, bedding areas and of prime concern, safety locations.
A nice buck will hole up in any type of cover that offers protection. In southern Michigan a one acre cattail swale, a small impenetrable thicket, a small group or trees out in the middle of a field, a deep ditch line with tall grass or a dense stand of pines can hide a deer.
Water is a great safety net. My favorite location has lots of water. On the worst years I needed hip boots to get into the small dry island. Most years knee high boots will work.
What a deer really wants is a location that they can either see danger coming to them or hear danger approaching. With water they can hear noise well before danger can reach them. A spot out in the open they can use their eyes and nose. A thick briar patch or a thick stand of pines they can hear and smell danger approaching.
Locating a likely spot that offers protection is the first step. Figuring out how to get there and how to hunt it is two other items of concern. Get there early is the first step. Try and get into your sweet spot well before daylight. You want to be seated before other hunters start pushing deer towards your cover.
Prune out a few lanes to shoot through. You need to see and determine if a tree is best or the ground. I sit on the ground. I listen, I wait and most often I see a piece of a deer long before I see a full deer. Then wait, wait for the deer to move into a lane.
Another consideration that we use is the location of other hunters. Where will the other hunter be? How will they get into and out of their spot. Let other hunters work to your advantage. Most hunters hunt 2-3 hours and then take a break.
You should plan on sitting from dark to dark. Carry in your lunch, extra cloths and possibly a book. I can’t read but my son does and he shoots nice bucks. Other hunters will spook deer walking in and out. Deer will run and hide anywhere and once it calms down return to their best security areas where hopefully you are sitting.
In the UP, where I will be for the opener, our best spot is huge. It covers hundreds of acres so we hunt tight to the cover, in a transition area, and catch the deer entering or leaving the sanctuary. We know where every other hunter sits; we know the location of the best available food source and the most likely direction that the deer will travel.
And then we sit. Some years we will see 2-3 bucks, some years only one. It only takes one to complete your hunt except when targeting a large rack. We have multiple stands in the same general area to contend with shifting wind patterns and the change from morning and evening travels.
When we hunt at home, in southern Michigan, we normally have one stand location for the entire day. We wait for the deer to arrive or leave. We shot a deer that we watched bed down that took hours before a shoot was available.
With the rut running later than expected, you will see bucks still on the roam. If pressured, they still will rut but under the security of thick cover, isolated pockets overlooked or under darkness.
My son shot his best buck to date late during the gun season, just before dark, as it left one small thicket and was heading into the next thicket only 50 yards away. His nose was to the ground and grunting when shot.
Patience, hunting spots where others will not travel, considering the effects of hunting pressure and deer travel routes, will place deer into your sight path. Security cover and access are the two primary areas of concern followed by patience. Good luck during the gun season.