by Naomi K. Shapiro
There are some nifty, but simple, "trade secrets" to use when choosing the best time to gun deer hunt, which, if followed, will increase your chances for success tremendously. We'll be using Wisconsin's gun deer season regs and stats to demonstrate, but these can be easily adapted to whatever state or area you hunt.
Guide Phil Schweik says there are three "primo" times to gun deer hunt during the season.
Phil says the number one best time to hunt is opening weekend. Unlike bow hunting, where you have a three-month staggered season, gun hunters only have nine days. Typically. a good percentage of your deer get shot on the very first weekend of the season, especially the first Saturday. You've got maybe 600,000 hunters in the woods and the deer are panicking. looking for cover. The savvy hunter sets up in an ambush, after locating some type of "escape route" that the deer are using to find safety.
To take advantage of these panicking deer, you can't just set up on field edges or at some opening. Typically your big bucks or "educated" deer are not going to be running around in the open. You need to set yourself up in a funnel type area, between two openings, or along the edge of a cedar swamp or tag alder thicket. These are the areas the deer seek out for safety and cover.
Now, you've been patterning all year long, and you think you know where the deer are bedding, or where forage areas are, but once 600,000 hunters enter the woods, you can throw all of that "knowledge" right out the proverbial window. Why? Because the deer aren't thinking of eating or resting. They're seeking every bit of cover they can find to hide in, as quick as they can get there. Phil says he's been successful every year by his willingness to understand deer habits, and to be willing to traverse the most unforgiving, tangled, dirty areas there are. It's much the same strategy that bear hunters use -- and yes, these areas are some that most "self respecting" hunters won't even consider going near. Those who do so, however are the ones who usually end up with a scratch or two, dirt and grime all over them, but smiling like all get-out with the number one trophy buck taken that season in the area.
The second best time to gun deer hunt is the Wednesday -- or fifth day -- of the season. Opening weekend you've got the 600,000 hunters in the woods. By Monday, most of these folks are back at work, and things get back to "normal." Monday is quiet, Tuesday quieter, and the deer are feeling a lot safer, and are more at ease. They're feeding again, and they're back to their old habits. By Wednesday, the deer are at ease. That's the day that you set up on an escape route, or set up in traditional feeding-to-bedding route areas. Phil Schweik says that he has been successful several years in a row, hunting on the fifth day of the gun season!
The third most important time is Thanksgiving Day. Some of the biggest deer of the year are taken on Thanksgiving. All of a sudden, the 600,000 hunters are back in the woods because it's a holiday, and the deer who had a respite are now back in panic mode, running helter-skelter for safety. It's like opening day again. Just set up on your escape routes, and get ready for some fast action.