Become a Better Deer Hunter-It’s in the Details
If you want to become a better deer hunter, I have some tips that can help you. First, hunt small properties and public land. Why do I say that? Doing that made me pay attention to details far more than I would have had I learned to bow hunt on a bigger plot of private land. Ok, so many of you already have private land and are not going to leave that! Put it this way, pay closer attention to the details. Here are some tips I learned from hunting private properties of 30 acres or less, public land and my current spot, 55 acres of private land.
Entry and Exit to Stands
The first tip is a popular one, entry and exit to your stands. You probably heard about this already, and read about it, but are you REALLY being as proactive as you can? I hunted two woods on one 40 acre property for a few years. One of the woods was maybe 5 acres and there was a house on it! The second was mainly pines with a mixture of oaks, it was about 10 acres. The rest of the land was crop land and a small meadow. The first year I saw a few deer during the rut, but that was it. I had pictures of some really big deer that moved through the area but never saw them. The second year I saw a lot more deer, passed up some smaller bucks, and had a much more enjoyable season. So what changed?
I changed my approach to my stands. That land was so small that if you made a wrong move on the way in, the deer would either wait until you left to move after dark or scoot down a tree line to a neighboring wood plot. Game over. So I looked at google earth and figured out how they were using tree lines to travel from wood plot to wood plot. I used trail camera information from the year before and only approached a stand when the wind was perfect, not only sitting on the stand, but the entry to it. I know, that is not always possible. I had to put up more stands to give myself enough options so it was.
So more studying and more stands was the first step, what else? I made it quieter to enter and exit. A snapped twig or scraping my jacket on branches made a difference on what I saw that night. So I took a rake and a branch clippers and went to work. I raked trails to my stands about a month before the opener. Yes, this took a long time. Several of my trails were over a hundred yards long. When I had the trail raked I could walk on it without a sound. I then walked the trails and clipped back any branches or brush I could snag in the dark. My Dad started calling me the “Ninja”, and although I didn’t do back-flips and wear all black, I was extremely quiet.
Use Other Hunters
This is no secret for gun hunting or bow hunting public land, but the same can be said for private land. Use other hunters. If you have other hunters in the area, how are they getting to the popular spots or their stands? What do the deer do?
I bow hunted some public land that was very popular with small game and pheasant hunters. I pheasant hunted it with my Dad enough to know where the main areas of focus were for both the pheasant, and squirrel hunters. I then grabbed a climber stand and when my Dad went after the pheasants, I went the other way and climbed up a tree in a distant bottle neck. It took about a half hour but when the pheasants started dropping the deer started moving. I sat for a few hours and had 7 deer sneak right by my stand. Ears pinned back, stiffed legged walk, yup, they had been pushed by people not long before I saw them.
Where I hunt now, the private 55 acres, a neighbor hunts RIGHT on the edge of our land. But he only has a few stands. He basically hunts the ten yards off our woods, and before a field. So when the wind is from the direction of his stand, I use it. I watch deer skirt him and come down to where I am. I can even tell when he is sitting his stand with a wrong wind and I am not out there, my trail camera shows me. If they looked spooked on the camera I look at the weather on that date, normally it is a North wind and I bet he was sitting there. Pay attention to other hunters, I can’t stress that enough, especially if you are after an old buck. It will help you on both public and private land.
Hunting small properties and public land changed how I walk in the woods. It developed “Ninja Mode”. I guarantee 90 percent of hunters I know do not walk as slowly and quietly as I do when heading to a stand. Not a year goes by that I couldn’t have taken a deer with a bow on the approach to my stand. The picture below shows me during late bow season a few years ago. There was an active late gun season so I was wearing some orange. Look closely behind that deer, see some orange? That is me at the top of the ridge. The camera was just right and the deer had just walked by. That deer never did see me. She walked slowly down the trail and looked left, I drew and aimed behind her shoulder, then let down. I was 10 yards from my stand and had a big buck I was chasing so I didn’t take the meat deer. I wanted to see if I could have shot her. She kept moving. I waited 5 minutes and climbed up to my tree stand.
So there is the proof. What exactly do I do? Nothing special. I do have a machete to clear brush from my entry/exit trails that I use so I am not snagged on anything. But I watch where I am putting my foot down and rarely make a loud noise. I take, at most, ten steps and stop. I put my heel down and roll forward to my toe and if I hear something breaking, I lift my foot up off of it. Sure, there are areas that I go faster but when I am anywhere near where I know deer travel, I do not. When I leave my truck I am hunting, not when I get 100 yards from my stand. I treat it like I could take the buck I am after on the way in. I 100% guarantee I see more deer than the average Joe due to this. Many times I sit in my stand and have deer within view as I sit down, or minutes later. It works, they are not keyed in on that type of movement being a threat. Sure, if they smell you it doesn’t matter how fast you went, but that should have been taken care of when planning the approach.
If you are going to focus more on this approach, one thing is obvious, you need to allow more time to get to your stand. Consider the time spent getting to your stand as hunting time.
If you put some time and thought in to your entry and exits to your stands, pay close attention to other hunters’ effect on the deer, and work on your “Ninja Mode”, you will see more deer and have better luck on stand. It’s more about the details than most realize, pay close attention to them and become a better hunter.