Deer Hunter: Beat the Crowds for Better Deer Hunting
Look for a rugged area with jumbled cover where an old buck might feel safe. This can mean thick brush along a creek bottom or in a swamp, hollows full of vines and blowdowns, a bench just below a mountain ridge, knolls and hills overlooking feeding areas or a patch of mountain laurel or dense stand of conifers in an otherwise open, mature hardwood forest.
It’s tough, but taking these pressured bucks is definitely an achievable goal. One way is to strip down to the necessities and get mobile. Leave your tree stand or ground blind at home. Bucks in this situation tend to be so attuned to their habitat you’ll probably spook the animal just by setting up. Rely on camouflage, immobility and patience instead of hunting equipment. Begin deer hunting the minute you enter the woods. You may have to relearn how to walk soundlessly, recognize places to blend in and sit perfectly still.
Slip in to the downwind edge of a mature buck’s hideout or the thinly outlined trails leading to it, and sit back against a big tree or rock outcropping. Or hunker down in the branches of a blowdown. Don’t alter or brush it up in any way. Silence is key. Wear camouflage clothing except for the required blaze orange and put on a face mask. Wait patiently and watch intently. The buck you’re after may get up to stretch, urinate and nibble on honeysuckle, or perhaps he’ll slink in after a night’s feeding.
If you’re deer hunting with a partner or partners and it’s legal, you might also consider organizing a deer drive through pockets of thick cover. Focus on small pieces of dense cover so inconspicuous other hunters ignore them. Post standers on the side seams where deer might curl out, and have the deer drivers on the edges move slightly ahead of those in the middle to herd the bucks inward. Also station one or two deer hunters behind the deer drivers to get a shot at a buck that lays low and tries to escape out the back.
Silent deer drives are best. A crosswind is ideal, so bucks don’t scent walkers or standers. If that’s not possible, set up with the wind blowing toward the posted deer hunters, using the scent of the drivers to help push the deer.
Split-Second Shooting Required
Regardless of how you hunt these deer—stalking, deer driving, whatever—it’s a good idea to go to a rifle range and practice getting on target fast. You won’t have much time when you surprise a buck in dense out-of-the-way cover. A split-second shot is required.
Many deer hunters I know prefer a scoped rifle in this situation, setting the variable on low power. If there’s not time to get the animal cleanly in the crosshairs, they don’t fire. Others prefer deer hunting with open sights or a shotgun with buckshot.
Use whatever you’re most comfortable shooting, but be practiced enough you can make a good shot when you see the right deer. Move at a moderate walk on the edges of and through bedding cover, but make as little noise as possible. You need to analyze trophy quality and age quickly and be prepared to shoot immediately.
When you do bag one of these difficult, elusive animals, you’ll find the feeling of accomplishment runs much deeper than when you score on a private area where there’s less challenge involved. That makes the extra effort worthwhile.