Growing up whitetail hunting I had about three hunting spots. Sometimes I would check the wind, but for the most part I just hunted a stand until I quit seeing deer and then started hunting a new location. If you are new to whitetail hunting it can be tempting to rush out to your best stands as soon as the season starts. Here are five rules you can follow to see more deer, and especially big bucks, this season.
Leave if the wind shifts
As I watch more successful whitetail hunting videos I realize just how much professionals value the wind. Mark and Terry Drury will leave a stand if the wind shifts, and all of the other hunters take the wind just as seriously. There are options out there like nose jammer and ozonics, that can make it tempting to take the chance with the wrong wind. But you are far more likely to alert deer of your treestand and ruin it for the rest of the season, then you are to trick a bucks nose with your vanilla perfume and the chemistry lesson box whirring away above your head. If you get to your hunting spot and the wind is in the opposite direction from where it was expected, you have to find another way to hunt, don’t take the chance. Hunting smart early leads to less spooky whitetail late in the year, and you will be surprised at how many more deer you see late in the season if you never break the rules of the wind.
Adjust every stand
Even just moving a treestand to the opposite side of the tree can make an old doe more comfortable. Old does will check trees that they know have held hunters before, so don’t get complacent and think the bucks won’t care, you have to trick the does as well.
Don’t hunt a stand before October 25th unless you have a buck patterned
October 25th is the day I think of as the second opening day. Before then, I hunt public ground and go after does in areas with smaller bucks early in the season. Up until this point I am not going into a stand unless I have a buck patterned. Once October 25th comes around you can get the rattling antlers out and get your first hunt of the season underway at your top stands.
Have a few “Rut Only” treestands
If you have been hunting for a few years you likely have your favorite stand. The guaranteed spot to see something. You may think it is a good idea to hunt this stand early, however, if this spot is a doe bedding area your strategy is likely to yield a bunch of does and a couple small bucks. I have a couple stands between doe bedding and feeding areas that make for my best hunts of the year on November 5th and 6th. Hunting these stands now, even if you don’t think you are spooking deer, will make them worse when the buck parade starts moving through. A good option if you just can’t help it is to try to find a stand nearby that isn’t going to break the bank early in the season and view the other stand to see if a buck large enough to shoot is moving through regularly.
Try not to hunt a stand more than three times
The first time you ever hunt a stand can be unbelievable. You probably think that you are really getting the hang of this hunting thing, and you hung the perfect treestand. And then before you know it, you don’t see a single deer at that stand within weeks. I am not sure if it is deer spooking from the trail you walked in on, smelling your treestand after you left, or just getting an uneasy feeling, but you should treat your first hunt of the season as your best chance to shoot a buck there. So try to only go into a stand three times. This means you can hunt it around the 25th, a rut stand, and if need be a late rut stand around November 15th. This likely means that you need to create more hunting locations. If you are planning on going on 30 hunts this year you need ten stands in order to not over hunt them. Good luck.