Tactics for Bagging Whitetails
“To be an effective hunter, I take stand sites where other hunters either don’t or won’t hunt,” Dr. Bob Sheppard reports. “Also, I hide from other hunters. If a sportsman consistently bags deer, then the other outdoorsmen who hunt that same land may spend more time attempting to learn where the productive hunter is hunting and then try to locate deer on their own. Oftentimes the sportsman who brags about where he’s hunting, how he’s hunting, and what deer he’s taken will make enemies of the other hunters on his property who aren’t as successful as he is. He’ll also give away his hunting tactics and sites to people who are less experienced and who will go into that area to hunt, foul up the spot with their human odor and/or spook deer by hunting at the wrong time of day.
“One of the keys to successful deer hunting, especially in Alabama, is to camouflage a productive spot when you find it. Then no one else will realize you’re hunting there. Try to make sure that no one else sees you going to or coming from that area. Developing your own hunt plan from your knowledge and experience with the deer in your area is another critical key to being successful afield. If you use someone else’s knowledge or experience, you don’t have all the facts the other person had who hunted that region. So, when I go into a new area to hunt, I rely very little on deer hunting information from other outdoorsmen. Instead, I survey the area myself, study aerial photos, topo maps and highway maps. I then develop my own hunt plan and do my own on-site scouting. Being a successful deer hunter involves being as individualized and personalized as being a successful bass fisherman. Each sportsman must diligently study the deer in his area, develop a game plan that’s best for that parcel of land and then hunt according to that plan.
“Also, never forget that the older, smarter bucks move into thick cover as hunting pressure builds through the season. These are the smartest deer in the woods, as well as the best trophies and the most difficult deer to take. If a sportsman hopes to bag one of these hard-to-take deer, he must begin to hunt that deer before bow season starts and the deer retreats to thick cover. Often thickets where you successfully can take a buck are small (less than 10 acres in size), as well as narrow and long – possibly 100-yards wide and 500-yards long. Get inside the thicket in February after the season ends, and see where the deer are moving through the thicket. Because deer have spent most of December and January in those thickets due to hunting pressure, they’ve made trails that are easy to spot. Although you may have to belly-crawl into a thicket like this, learning where to set up your tree stand, so your shooting lanes will intersect at right angles to the deer’s trails, will help you be more successful in the coming season. Don’t forget to take into account from which direction you’ll approach that stand and then optimize the wind direction.”