Deer Hunter: Beat the Crowds for Better Deer Hunting
One of the most satisfying aspects of deer hunting is spending hours in the field carefully patterning the movements of deer, then using that knowledge to ambush your quarry as it goes about its daily routines of feeding and traveling when the season opens.
Unfortunately, most of the deer we pursue today are heavily pressured by deer hunters. Unless you hunt during archery season or on large tracts of privately owned, heavily controlled hunting land during modern firearms seasons, you’ll probably find it tough to enjoy this pleasant experience.
This shouldn’t ruin your hunt, however. It simply changes the nature of the challenge facing you. How well you cope with this pressure element in today’s hunting equation often determines whether you have enough venison to fill your freezer or have to head to the grocery store’s meat department.
One of the first things to think about is the option of avoiding the most heavily pounded areas. You may think without a large tract of private land available that you are forced to hunt public land and go to areas thick with other deer hunters, but if you really sit back and analyze the situation, a different story reveals itself. The vast majority of these deer hunters are in areas within a quarter to half mile of a road or parking area. On big tracts of federal or state lands, you often can get beyond most deer hunters by simply starting earlier and walking in a bit farther. Study topographic maps and find areas where no roads or trails are present, then look for features that would make them prime deer habitat.
Scout for Signs
Check out such potential areas before the season to see if there are tracks, trails, buck rubs and/or other signs of deer use. Then try to determine the animals’ patterns of movement. The nice things about these locations is that the bucks are not as apt to change their routines much after deer hunting season arrives because they rarely see people.
Besides seeking out hard-to-reach areas, also consider hunting isolated, cut-off tracts of public land that are so small they tend to get neglected by other deer hunters.
Public areas are usually big spreads with plenty of parking areas and good access. But often there are also a few small parcels that are cut off from the main acreage. If there’s no easy parking, these isolated patches of habitat—sometimes just 50 or 75 acres—may hold several deer, and if it’s really overlooked, possibly a nice buck.
Dense cover or steep rugged terrain are the keys. When bucks feel the pressure of just a few hours of hunting, they immediately move to places where they can escape the pressure from humans.