By Naomi K. Shapiro
Consistently successful deer hunters have knowledge of some easily learned secrets and tricks of the trade that will increase your chances of getting that prize buck you're looking for. Here are just a few of them.
An important thing is your approach to your stand. First of all look at the route to your stand. You do not want to interfere with the deer who you want coming to your stand. Adjust your stand's position, whether it be for a morning or late in the day hunt. In the event you're hunting late in the day, you surely do not want to go through a bedding area. Find a route to your stand without disturbing bedding areas. And of course, the real savvy hunter will always take into consideration the need to play the wind, so that your scent will not go through the route you're taking, and right to the noses of the deer you're hunting. If hunting in the morning, don't use a route that goes through or approaches a feeding area, because deer will be there, and if you do use this route, the deer will simply move quickly out of that area.
The height of a stand is important. How high is too high? That's the classic question; and where the stand should be placed in height depends on cover, terrain, hills, brush and the like. You don't want to be up on a hill silhouetted against the skyline. And vice-versa, down in a swamp area, you want to be high enough to see over a tag alder thicket or high brush. One thing is different when using a gun as opposed to a bow when hunting a swamp area. With a gun you want to be high, but if using a bow you want to be low and on the ground, so you can get a clear shooting lane, and not have to worry about shooting through a tag alder thicket. Best suggestion?: Use common sense! Think before you act. Be calm, and store that adrenalin rush away for after you've gotten that prize buck.
You don't want to take the same route to your stand every day, because the deer will surely be able to pattern you. Take a different approach each day. You also don't want to get out of your truck, slam the door and just tromp through the woods to your stand. And I know it's hard to believe but a lot of hunters, even knowing better, do this.
What you want to do is get out of your vehicle quietly, get your gear on and then pussyfoot through the woods. Take some steps. Stop. Look around, and then move on. Savvy hunters feel the same adrenalin rush that you do, but they control that rush, and mentally tell themselves, "I'd better be quiet." You do the same. This type of trekking through the woods is almost like still hunting, but you are moving, and however surprising there are hunters who while going to their stands will actually get a big buck, because they were quiet, and very aware of their surroundings.
A couple of easy things to remember: Don't overdress, while walking to your stand. You'll get heated up, even on the coldest day. Put on your gear, and carry any extra clothing in your arm, not in a backpack, because a backpack can be noisy, and silence is golden while deer hunting. Once you're at the stand, and your body has cooled, then put on your other clothes. It works.
Don't over hunt a stand. Don't go there every single day, or you'll get quickly patterned. Go to different spots. Deer don't like being pressured. I'll say yet again: Play the wind. On certain days don't hunt a particular stand, because of wind direction, and you sure don't want the wind blowing your scent on a deer runway.
When you're walking for deer in the woods, or even from a tree stand, 99% of the time you won't see the whole deer. What you should be looking for is a nose, a tail, a wag, an ear flicker, and a brush, as they walk through woods. Maybe you'll hear a branch snap, or leaves rustle. Look in that direction. Look for any type of movement at all. Maybe it's the wind, but maybe it's a deer. Focus on the area you've heard or seen something and do it for more than a couple of minutes. Deer move. Then they stop. They look around. Maybe they feed a bit. Be patient, and wait for the deer to make some type of movement as they cautiously move through the woods.
What about scent? You've all seen the TV and magazine ads about scent free clothing. One expert and highly successful deer hunter told me that " . . .deer noses are still better than any scent blocker, and they'll nail you in a hot second." You must play the wind at all times. Make sure you're upwind. That's the best scent protector you can find. And yes, on occasion you will get a rutting buck to come in downwind. Even if they smell you they just don't care, but that doesn't happen often.
Lots of deer hunters use decoys. All well and good. But you can't just throw them out helter-skelter and expect a deer to just move in. You want to draw deer in between you and the decoy. You want the deer to face you in a quartering stance. Deer will always approach head on. Set your decoy up so that it's at an angle of maybe 45 degrees, and the deer will look towards that angle rather than directly at you. If your decoy is set up properly, the deer will not come at you directly, but at that 45 degree angle which will provide you the classic, perfect quartering away shot that you want. To tighten things up even more, remove one antler on your decoy. The approaching deer will always come at a decoy from the non-threatening side, that being the side without an antler. A good hunter can almost program how a deer will come in and at what angle.
Let's say you're within a comfortable shooting range when you spot a deer. And let's say the deer won't stop and keeps walking through. How do you stop a deer, for a still shot? Remember, 99% of the time deer hunters practice shoot at a stationary target. Here's a tactic that a number of deer hunters I've spoken to have utilized successfully. As the deer is walking, make a mouth noise like a "brrt" type of grunt sound, real soft and real subtle. Some hunters do a whistle, but that's not encouraged, because a whistle is not a natural sound in the woods, a "brrt" is. The "brrt" will get their attention and they'll stop, while a whistle will usually spook them. And that soft "grunt" or "brrt" which normally works, is not a for sure thing at all. Deer will often just keep moving no matter what you do.
Finally, it may sound simple, but one thing that can really help you success in your hunt is being ready and prepared. You know, your bow is hanging on a branch, and suddenly there is that big buck, and you don't have the time to get your bow (and in the same type of situation- - your rifle) ready, because the deer is too close and if they hear a thing you're toast. Keep your eyes and ears open when you hunt and have your bow or rifle ready to go.
I hope these suggestions help you not only enjoy the hunt, but also give you the added ammo needed for success.