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Deer Hunting Success
Be creative. Do whatever it takes to get to and from your tree stands without being detected by deer. The best deer hunters have mastered this fundamental while most unsuccessful deer hunters struggle in this area. Maybe this is the true art of deer hunting. Don’t get lazy. Go the extra mile to be sure your route is undetected and you will shoot more and bigger bucks.
A Good Deer Hunting Spot
No deer hunter can overemphasize the importance of having a good hunting area. If you had to bet on who would shoot a bigger buck, a great hunter in an average area or an average hunter in a great area, most deer hunters would choose the average hunter in the great area every time.
Location is the second most important fundamental to deer hunting. Never stop trying to find better areas and never stop trying to improve the ones you have.
Here is a quick test you can take to see if you need a new deer hunting spot. If your most vivid memories from the past season are of a pre-dawn foot race with six guys that bolted from a Winnebago when your headlights swept the access site, you might need a new deer hunting spot. If your only trophies were the cigarette butts left on your tree stand’s platform by the previous day’s trespasser you might need a new deer hunting spot. If you suspect the urine in the “fresh” deer scrape next to your tree stand is not from a deer, you might need a new deer hunting spot.
Below is a more serious test you can follow to see if you really need a new deer hunting spot. If you compete heavily with other deer hunters, you will have a very hard time controlling the human impact on the deer you hunt. They will become nocturnal or move off. Either way, you are going to have a tough season.
Time is the Third Fundamental
A great deer hunting area and a strategy designed to maintain the element of surprise are just the tools. To apply those tools you need time on a tree stand. There is no question that nearly all of the consistently successful bowhunters spend a lot of time in the timber. Those who can count their vacation days on two hands must spend those precious days very carefully to make sure they are deer hunting at the very best times.
Most years, the best week of the season is roughly November 3 or 4 through November 10 or 11. Year in and year out, that is when you will see the best bucks. So if you are serious about shooting a trophy buck this year, plan to spend as much time in your best tree stands as possible during this time. In fact, because the bucks will move all day long, sitting from dawn to dark is a good idea. For sure, there will be dead times during the day, especially on warm days, but a trophy buck can be on his feet at any time of day during this fast-paced week.
Any additional time that you can add beyond this week is also going to up your odds of getting a trophy buck. For example, some deer hunters are able to take their vacation time in one-hour blocks. It wouldn't be a bad idea to take one week off during the key rut dates and then two hours off each morning during the rest of the rut. Some deer hunters like hunting mornings, but you could just as well take two hours off each afternoon. Again, be creative and do what you can to increase your hours in the tree stand. Every single hour you are in a good tree stand brings you one hour closing to shooting a nice trophy buck.
Don’t get distracted by exciting new strategies. Remember every deer hunting tool and strategy has its place, but it has to fit into an overall scheme designed to accomplish the three most important fundamentals of whitetail bowhunting. You have to keep them deer from knowing that you are hunting them. You have to deer hunt the best places and you have to put in the time. If you focus on those three fundamentals, your deer hunting will become a lot simpler and a lot more productive.
How to Test Your Deer Hunting Area
Try this test. If you end up with more than five strikes, it’s probably time to look for a new deer hunting area. For the first five questions, a yes answer is a strike. For the next ten questions, a no answer is a strike.
1. Do you usually see more than one other deer hunter on foot from your tree stands for every three full days of hunting?
2. Have you found evidence that someone else has sat in your tree stand or used a nearby tree for their tree stand?
3. Do you feel an almost overwhelming urge to rush to your deer hunting area each morning to beat other deer hunters?
4. Do you see small game hunters each weekend in the same area you’re deer hunting?
5. Have you ever had a confrontation with another deer hunter over a tree stand location?
6. Do you see a rack buck hounding a doe during the rut at least three times from your tree stand each season?
7. Do you see does moving slowly, acting content and relaxed as they travel through the woods?
8. Did you hear at least one buck grunt last season?
9. Do you find at least one deer scrape and four or five buck rubs along every field edge?
10. Do the squirrels and small game animals seem relaxed and behaving naturally? (If they’re being hunted hard they won’t.)
11. Did you have at least one close encounter (a shot or an occasion when a shot was almost presented) last season?
12. Did you see more than one rack buck that was obviously older than one and a half years?
13. Do you see at least one buck during daylight hours for every two days (morning and evening) of hunting?
14. On average, do you see at least some kind of deer every day (a morning and evening hunt make one day) while on stand?
15. Overall, did you see enough deer to make the season interesting?
How to Find Better Deer Hunting
1. Find the most remote public hunting land within a reasonable drive of your home. Look for areas within these that appear too hard for most other deer hunters to reach. Make use of maps and aerial photos.
2. Find an area within a reasonable drive of your home where the hunting pressure is relatively light. Use a local motel or camper as your home base. You may even be able to park a camper in a farmer’s yard or field. Even if it takes six or eight hours to drive to the spot, it is worth it for a few days of high quality deer hunting.
3. No matter where you decide to deer hunt, you need to be persistent. Even in populated areas, a polite request by a bowhunteris sometimes rewarded. Be willing to trade work or your skills for hunting rights.