One thing about hunting that I’ve benefited from on more than one occasion is hunting based on the pressure placed on deer from other hunters. This is extremely true here in Virginia, where during shotgun season people can run dogs and often do drives to get deer moving. The pressure is off the charts! In other states where you can’t run dogs it might be slightly less, but is still valuable to consider.
I know some guys who hunt almost exclusively with a bow and will sit out various seasons because of the hunting pressure. While the pressure can get annoying and put the deer in hiding, if you’re smart about it, you can be waiting for them in their hiding spot! Well, not necessarily in it but right outside of it. Gun season represents a mass influx of hunters making their way into the woods. The sheer number of people entering the woods in some areas can definitely change any deer patterns you had figured out. The key is understanding where the pressure is and when it’s there.
Most places have peak hunting pressure on weekends. Here in Virginia you can’t hunt on Sundays so that means EVERYONE is in the woods on Saturday. This is a great time to get in early and hunt near cover and bedding areas. As hunters flood the woods any deer not in a bedding area or thick cover by shooting light is most likely heading to one of those areas. On your way in always take note of what you see parked on the way in. Make a mental note of every potential hunter and when you get to your property look at a map, mark each area you saw hunter’s then factor in the prevailing wind. Using those factors you can pinpoint an area where the deer are most likely bedded. Depending on the terrain, you either still hunt your way through that area if it’s open or set a stand or blind near the best trail headed toward food. They’ll probably move at last light but if there is enough pressure on one side and the wind is still in your favor they may move early and bed close to the food source until dark.
With all that said, there is considerably less hunting pressure during the week during gun seasons. There is definitely still pressure and more people in the woods but not nearly like it is on the weekend, try hunting on a Wednesday or Thursday. If the pressure has remained low, some deer will return to a more normal pattern having been left somewhat alone for a few days. However, still keep your eyes out for parked trucks on the way in and take any into consideration when choosing your stand.
It’s easy to get frustrated with hunting pressure increasing but try to make the best of it and hunt smart. Keep the pressure on your property as low as possible and target areas that you think deer are being pushed to by pressure from neighboring properties. Keep an eye out for Part II here, I’ll talk about a whole other type of pressure!