Well it’s finally here – opening week of rifle season for deer. With a cold front moving in and plenty of deer to choose from, it’s truly a magical time to be in the woods. For this gun season, I will be touching on some hunting strategies that have proven positive for me and my family for years.
This week I’m going to be writing about the most common hunting strategy: stand hunting.
Stand hunting is as exactly as it sounds, hunting from a stand. For years me and the guys seldom used tree stands for rifle, mainly because we hunted so much wooded areas and the deer may or may not be in a certain spot every year, this would allow us to move and find the hot spot within an area and we would just sit at the bottom of a tree. This method relies on deer movement to be successful. If we were meat hunting, we would concentrate on feeding areas, looking for areas with a lot of activity under oak timber. Deer will mill through the fallen leaves looking for acorns. Once they’ve found a tree with a vast amount of acorns, they will keep coming back to it and, as strange as it sounds, they will walk by covered acorns to feed under that certain tree, leaving tracks and turned leaves everywhere.
If the oaks didn’t make acorns one year, we would look for black gum trees. They produce pea-sized black balls and behind acorns they’re the most common food source in heavy wooded areas. If we were trophy buck hunting, we would concentrate on runways or proven traveling trails.
Mature bucks at this time of year are putting breeding in front of food, so they are traveling a lot in search of a doe in heat. Look for natural formations in the land like saddles on the mountain tops. A saddle is a dip in a ridge top. If you look at the top of a mountain and there are two peaks with a sag between them, that is a saddle.
When deer travel from one side of the mountain to the other, they, like most animals, will pick the path of least resistance. Also look for breaks in bluff lines. We hunt a lot of rugged areas in the national forest, so I like to start off walking up or down a drainage of a mountain looking for breaks in the bluff lines.
Sometimes I might travel up to a quarter of a mile without a break, but when it does, there is always tons of tracks. These runways are especially effective in drive hunting, which I will cover in the next column.
One might think that if the females have been feeding in an area than the bucks will show up to the feeding area to check them out and sometimes they do, but a deer can smell better than they can see, so sometimes they will just travel down wind of the feeding area and keep on going if there’s no estrus in the air.
Sometimes the feeding areas and travel routes overlap and these spots are ideal. If we are hunting areas with a lot of fields, the process of funneling is much easier. Funnels are areas of cover for deer that start off big then will neck down to small. They’re most commonly a stretch of woods that run between two fields, and these are especially effective when the deer are skittish and are less likely to walk out into the openings.
With all of this said there is no substitute for experience. Once you’ve hunted your area for a while, you will learn where the deer are at and you will learn how they travel and a good plan of attack from there is all you can do. If you’re wanting a trophy buck, well, those are like needles in a haystack but if you feel around enough in there, you might just pull one out!
Well that’s all for this week. Thanks for reading and happy hunting!