According to Bo Pitman, longtime guide and deer hunting teacher, although there is no surefire way to guarantee a hunter that he will take a deer, he’s identified some problems that successful hunters have learned to eliminate from their hunt plans.
Not Looking for the Right Signs While Hunting:
Many hunters are expecting deer to pop-up in the middle of a field and walk around like they do in a zoo. But very rarely will you see a deer standing in the open – unless you’re hunting the plains country of the west.
Deer are shy animals that prefer cover. Instead of searching for a whole deer, successful hunters look for the tips of antlers, a twitching ear, the dark circle of a deer’s eye, the glint of a shiny black nose, a parallel line to the ground that may be the deer’s back or a limb sticking out from beside a tree, which may be a deer’s leg and not a limb. Many hunters leave their stands too early, more concerned about getting out of the woods rather than looking for deer. That last 15 minutes before dark is when the most deer travel. Trying to spot parts of a deer is especially helpful during low-light times. Unsuccessful hunters look for the whole deer in open places in broad daylight. An old saying that I believe in is, “When and where you least expect it – expect it.” I apply this idea to my deer hunting to mean to expect to see the deer in the places where I normally won’t look. Many sportsmen don’t expect deer to come up behind them, to come out of the thickest part of the cover or to be wading down a creek. But successful hunters know that when and where you least expect a deer to appear, that’s when he’ll show up.
Not Knowing How Much Ground to Cover:
Although most hunters’ fannies will sit still, their feet won’t. They just have to walk to…
- that next ridge to look;
- that next bottom to see if there is a deer; or
- that next bend to look around it.
So, all they do is walk and spook deer. The hunters who harvest deer walk the least and sit the most. Walking hunters leave their scents all over the woods, ruining the places they’re hunting for themselves and anybody else who may hunt there. Moving hunters may spend three days walking and swear there’s not a deer on the property. Successful hunters will find productive-looking places in the woods to sit and stay there until they kill deer. Letting the deer come to you is much easier than attempting to go to a deer.
Not Locating a Stand in the Best Place:
If you’re going to set up a stand that you plan to hunt from for two or three days or for two to three weeks, place that stand so that it faces the direction of the prevailing wind. For instance, at our lodge in Alabama, our prevailing wind is from the northwest. This doesn’t mean that the wind always blows from the northwest in the wintertime, but this is the direction that it most often blows from during the winter months. Therefore if we’re putting a stand up to hunt from for several weeks, most of the time we’ll have the stand facing northwest.
The best stand placement also depends on the time of day that you plan to hunt from that stand. I’ve seen hunters put tree stands on a high ridge with good hardwood bottoms on either side of the ridge. They’ll hunt from these stands in the afternoon, never realizing that in the afternoon the human scent, because of the thermals, will come down the tree, run down both sides of the mountain, go into the bottom and spook everything that’s coming up the two draws. In the mornings, that same stand will be productive for hunting, because the thermals will carry the hunter’s scent up, off the ground. And, if this stand is in the bottom, they can hunt either side of the ridge. But you must know what time of day which wind direction is prevailing, and what’s going to happen to your scent while you’re in your tree stand to hunt successfully from that stand. The blackpowder hunters who don’t take all of these facts into consideration don’t harvest many deer.
Another mistake outdoorsmen make in locating their tree stands is that many times they’ll place a stand in an area so they can see for a mile to 1-1/2-miles. The western hunter may need to do this, since there’s not as much cover in the west as in the east. But the hunter must remember that the deer like thick cover and usually move in thick cover. Then the best spot for his tree stand is an area where he can only see 30 to 40 yards. If that hunter has done a good job of scouting, he’ll be able to harvest more deer in the 30 to 40 yards from his stand than if he’s placed that tree stand where he can see 1/2-mile to a mile.