No Deer Sign Doesn’t Mean There’s No Bucks in an Area

Every morning my longtime friend and hunting buddy, Dr. Bob Sheppard, would spot a buck on the left-hand side of a bridge as he came out of the woods from hunting. Although he scouted the area several times, he couldn’t determine how the buck got to the left-hand side of the bridge in the little woodlot where the deer fed.

Finally, Shepherd went down to the bridge and found the deer’s trail coming under the bridge just on the edge of the sand. He also noticed the trail went back into the water once it came from under the bridge. Apparently, this smart buck had learned that if he walked in the water and under the bridge from his bedding area to the woodlot where he fed in the morning, he would leave no sign. Once Sheppard determined the buck’s pattern, he set up a tree stand on the edge of the water. The following morning when the buck waded down the creek, Sheppard took him.

Often deer won’t leave sign in an area they use. Early in the fall, even when perhaps 20 to 30 deer are feeding in an acorn flat, they may meander in the 100 yard-wide and 300 yard-long flat and never establish a well-defined trail or leave much deer sign. Because you see no sign in the woods, you may decide you shouldn’t hunt until the rut. However, if you will spend a day or two where you know deer should hold, many times you’ll spot the deer, even though you can’t see the sign.

Regardless of what you may read elsewhere or what other writers and I may write, you’ll find no substitute for time spent in the woods for deer hunting success, particularly on bad days. Although you want to hunt as scientifically as possible and with as much information you can gather, many factors cause deer to move or not move. Not all deer do everything they should do when they should do it. In a perfect world, a man or a woman only will hunt under good conditions for seeing and taking trophy bucks. However, in the real world where I live, I have to hunt when I can and face whatever bad-day conditions present themselves to me on the day I hunt.

Click here to go back to part four, how warm weather and pressure affects whitetails.

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