Proven Strategies And Lots Of Information…
If you’ve ever stood on the sideline and watched a great coach you would see an amazing person at work. From the sidelines the coach typically carries a playbook with details about his team, competition, plays and much more. He is also a very attentive to what is happening and making snap decisions to modify the game plan given the situation. After playing against a team he’ll take notes on that team so when they play them again he’ll know their weakness and strengths.
In the same token a great deer hunter has the same regimen and similar attributes. He carries a wealth of knowledge about his quarry and adapts to different situations. It takes strategic planning and a lot of luck to consistently score.
You often only get one chance at a mature buck. Therefore you have to be ready when the opportunity arises. This means putting in the legwork before and after season to place you in the best possible area for success. In bowhunting a few inches could be the difference between a successful or unsuccessful hunt. The same is true for timing, if you’re sitting on stand during the wrong time of day or year then you’ll be unsuccessful. Even if a buck is traveling the area you’ll still be unsuccessful. Everything must come together perfectly, location and timing.
Just like a coach carries a notebook of strategies and details I have also carried a similar notebook. By keeping a notebook I’ve been able to accumulate a tremendous amount of information. At a glance I can pick the best locations given the situation.
Keeping details will also help you keep tabs on the local deer herd. Many successful deer hunters often know travel routes for several nice bucks. They gather this knowledge through extensive scouting and good notes. Every year several of the bucks you see throughout the season live through gun season. Knowing those specific mature whitetails are still alive and putting together their prior years travel routes will put you miles ahead of the crowd.
Think about the incredible season you would have if you knew exactly where several mature bucks traveled. You’re probably thinking to yourself that you would absolutely kill a monster buck; there is no way around it. Let me tell you, it’s never that easy. Just like winning a Superbowl is never an easy task. But great coaches stay successful year after year by having proven strategies and lots of information.
Two of the key elements that I’ve used to enhance my knowledge are a detailed notebook of hunting properties and an informative hunting log. We’ll first dive into the notebook of hunting property. This will help you develop sound hunting strategies.
For well over 15 years I’ve used aerial photos and topographical maps to understand the land. This gives me a bigger picture view on how animals are using the terrain. Within my notebook, I have photos accompanied with complete details about the area. Let’s discuss the several major segments of details; stand details, deer activity, crops or food and other miscellaneous. information.
To start out I’ve marked each of my stand locations with favorable wind direction. Next I’ve indicated whether the location is a morning, evening, both or all day stand. Additionally I’ll break the stand locations into 3 major categories; early season, secondary October lull and rut stands. Lastly I’ve noted any special entry or exit routes needed to avoid detection.
All of these details help me understand where I should be heading given the weather, proximity to the rut and time of day. I often have stands that I can hunt under variable winds and time of year. Cornfield stands are great locations during the rut if the corn is still standing.
Since I have used aerial photos and topographical maps during my post season scouting, all deer activity has also been detailed. During the post season, I can fully explore rub lines, scrapes, travel routes, bedding areas and other rut activity.
This also includes heaviest deer travel routes. Right after the season closes, the fall sign is still easily deciphered. The details that I’ve often focused in on are rub lines and rut activity.
Understanding deer bedding and travel routes are key factors when picking favorable wind direction for your stand locations. If you don’t understand where the deer are coming from you’ll just be guessing about the wind.
Crop Rotation-Food Sources
Each year farmers rotate their crops and this has major impact on deer activity. Corn fields can be viewed as a temporary forest that is packed full of food. Points laid between corn fields are great but once short crops are planted deer stop concentrating around them by deer season. Keeping these details in your hunting notebook will tremendously help in upcoming years.
Also soft mast (apples, pears and others) trees can be dynamite during early season. Several varieties of apple trees bear fruit very late and this should also be noted. I have one apple tree that continues to drop apples until early November. There have been several years that this location has been very impressive during the pre-rut/rut timeframe.
Acorn trees are also big producers especially when the acorn crops are poor. When food is not plentiful, deer must fight for food. This means that when only small concentrations of food are available deer will gravitate towards these areas during daylight hours.
In Southern Michigan, we have a very high number of hunters and dealing with others is inevitable. Hunting pressure, non-hunting activity and construction all affects the way deer use the land. The biggest activity that causes deer to change their travel routes is other hunters. This is especially true when you are hunting for mature bucks. Since you cannot control others, you must understand how other hunters will be using the land. It won’t help if you have another hunter sitting just down your main deer trail.
Several years ago during an unseasonably warm fall a neighbor walked her dog around the property every evening. Since she was not a major threat the deer ran back into the woods but often reappeared a short time later, after dark. After having several frustrating hunts I decided to hunt only during rainy or bitterly cold days. This provided to be a successful strategy; I started having success in that location again.
Other details that I’ve included are special landowner requests. I have some landowners that only allow me to hunt during archery season and others allow me to hunt during any season. Other landowners want me to check in before hunting or park in a specific location. This ensures I’m obeying the landowner’s request. Since I’m hunting on their land I respect any request or special needs they have. This guarantees I’ll have a place to hunt in future years.
Just last season I was onto a very large eight point. By strategically planning my hunts I was able to move in throughout the season and within four hunts I saw him three times. All three times he came in just after shooting light. Unfortunately for me another hunter moved in during muzzleloader season and took this magnificent deer from my stand location. Although I wasn’t successful it again proved that by strategically planning your hunting you’ll keep the deer you are after unaware of your presence.
The final key is my hunting log book. For the past 10 years I’ve been writing down my experiences from each hunt. This gives me the ability to look back and see subtle trends I might not have noticed. During the season it also keeps me from over hunting or putting the pressure on my “hot” stand locations. Following are the details that I’ve found useful in my hunting logs:
In the details I try to capture information about where deer showed and why. Were they pushed by another hunter, coming into feed on apples or chasing does during the rut?
This can be helpful in future years to understand when the best time it would be to hunt the stand.
With food stands once the food is gone you must move on. I would do the same for areas with a high concentration of does. This would be a stand I reserve for the peak of the rut hoping to intercept a hot doe/buck.
In the past two years I’ve had one of my stands really heat up during the rut. After just one early season hunt I noticed a large concentration of does passing through to feed on a couple of acorns trees. Since then I’ve have not hunted this stand until the peak of the rut. Amazingly my success has dramatically increased at this location. These are the trends that you’ll notice through documenting each hunt.
Since mature bucks are so reclusive I find it extremely important to watch them every chance you get. This has led me to always write extra notes about the day, what they were doing and why. They are different creatures that take more work to get within range. Attention to detail makes all the difference when pursuing mature whitetail.
Logging these details will force you to restrain from over hunting. Even does and yearlings will not stand for too much human interference. Some of the trends I’ve noticed are more buck sightings from Oct 1-10 and again from Oct 25-Nov 14.
Just like a great coach deer hunters have the regular season and the playoffs. During different times of the year you’ll be able to hunt stands that are most effective for the time of year. This enables you to save your best rut hunting locations for the playoffs. With a little luck on your side you’ll also score big on a whitetail.
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