Sometimes doing the tried-and-true can guarantee failure.
By Dale R. Larson
The bruiser buck started to side-hill toward my stand. As I reached for my bow, flashbacks of past encounters started to run through my mind. I had seen this buck several times, and each time he detoured far enough to stay out of bow range.
I had contemplated relocating the stand on numerous occasions but still felt I was in the right spot. Coming back to my senses, I noticed the bruiser had settled in on the rub-strewn side-hill trail, which would give me a chip shot of 18 yards. At 60 yards, he stopped, looked down the slope, took a 90-degree right turn and slowly worked downhill away from any shot opportunity.
If that has happened to me once, it’s happened a hundred times. Such encounters make you question everything you know about hunting and setting up stands. Rather than dwell on the past, however, it’s better to shift gears and become more proactive.
In the above scenario, I could have crawled out of the security of my treestand, positioned a ground blind further up the hill and possibly earned a shot opportunity. Instead, I couldn’t pull myself out of the perfectly concealed treestand. By not being proactive, I never got the chance to arrow that bruiser.
How aggressive you should be varies from situation to situation (and buck to buck) and can produce as many failures as successes. But in some situations, the following proactive tactics just might earn you a shot opportunity you wouldn’t otherwise have had.
Treestands vs. Ground Blinds
Elevated treestand platforms might be a bowhunter’s best defense from the whitetail’s senses, but there isn’t always a tree available. Many bowhunters are still skeptical of their chances at whitetails from the ground. Don’t make that mistake.
Bowhunting from a ground blind can be challenging, but isn’t that why we bowhunt? The biggest benefit of the ground blind is its portability. Built-in scent control is an added bonus.
If you just can’t stomach the idea of a ground blind, try stalking or still-hunting. Nothing will get your thumper pounding any harder than going eyeball-to-eyeball with a rutting buck. Still-hunting timber during the chase phase of the rut is hard to beat, with bucks pursuing does through leaves that even a deaf man could hear.
Move slowly and stop every few feet. Listen and glass the area, look for the flicker of a tail or the shape of an ear. You cannot move too slowly or spend too much time observing. If the buck isn’t on a hot doe, he’s likely using the same tactics you are: walking, looking and listening — except he’s still-hunting does. If your hunting area is open enough for spot-and-stalk, spend time glassing for bedded or doe-tending bucks. Glass through the midday while other hunters are relaxing at camp.
The Easy Push
While all-out deer drives are not a great bowhunting tactic, easy pushes that move deer at a slow pace toward predictable escape routes can be very effective.
It’s important to know your hunting area well enough to know how deer react to disturbance. Knowing their travel patterns and favored escape routes will help you pick the right stand for a mini-push. These pushes should target specific animals using escape routes that you’ve seen them use or suspect they use.
One of my favorites is to allow my scent to push the deer without any other physical disturbance. When planning an easy push, consider setting up your shot for a returning buck — one that was pushed out and is returning to his lair. In small areas of cover, a buck will move out and circle back rather than leave the cover entirely.
Channeling Deer Travel
You can actually channel deer to your position by cutting new travel trails, physically blocking existing trails, lowering fences, strategically placing human scent or parking a vehicle. Take advantage of a deer’s reaction to perceived danger or his habit of taking the path of least resistance.
Changing Deer Patterns
Deer can pattern people and disturbances even better than we pattern them. Some things to consider include:
• Alter your normal hunting time; wait until daylight to access your stand, then sit through midday or all day.
• If you think your stand site has been noticed, position a stand along the buck’s new route and place a dummy in the original stand.
• Instead of driving your vehicle to your normal parking spot and walking to your stand, have someone drop you off or even drive you to your stand and then drive off. Re-analyze entrance and exit trails to stand sites, making sure your movements are concealed.
• Do not rely on darkness for concealment; darkness just gives hunters a false sense of security.
Hunting within your comfort zone can get you stuck in a rut and limit your success. Being proactive is sometimes thinking out of the box, but there are times that taking the hunt to the buck will be the only shot you get.
This article was published in the November 2006 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.