Tag Archives: hunting

The October Lull

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Finding mature bucks on public land can be one of the most challenging endeavors anybody could engage in and sometimes it can make you question your overall hunting abilities.  We plan all off season and set stands early with high hopes that when October comes around, we’ll be seeing giant antlered deer ambling past us almost constantly as we sit on stand.  The reality hits about a couple weeks into the season when after sitting on stand for hours, you have yet to see a deer.

Although it would be easy to question your off season scouting, it’s not time to panic just yet.  The October “lull”, as some call it, is the time of year that bucks start to change their patterns and switch food sources.  They go from summer patterns, where they are feeding on beans and other agricultural food sources, to really hitting the acorns and other tree nuts, hard.  This accompanied by the bucks starting to leave their bachelor groups and becoming more of a solitary animal, makes hunters scratch their heads and wonder where the deer have gone.

The truth is the deer haven’t gone anywhere (almost literally).  With the abundance of food close to their bedding area, deer will only have to take a few steps to eat and lay back down.  Because the woods are still green and lush, deer feel comfortable and relaxed and don’t feel the need to venture anywhere and risk running into predators.

This is what makes hunting hard in October, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.  We just need to move in a little closer to the bedding area.  This in itself creates a list of obstacles, which means we will have to pay close attention to small details in order to not spook the deer.  The first of these is to make sure you only hunt an area with the wind in your favor.  Don’t go sneaking up to a known bedding area with the wind blowing your scent into their beds, make sure the wind is in your face and use as much of your prefered scent control product as you can afford.

Another tip for moving in closer is to wait on a rainy day to go.  The rain will wash away your scent and your will make far less noise.  This weekend I had the opportunity to hunt both Saturday and Sunday.  After not seeing anything on Saturday, the forecast for Sunday was rain.   With the rain moving in I figured it would be a perfect time to move my stand.  What I thought would be a light rain, turned into an all out gully-washer.   I didn’t bring any rain gear and became soaked to my underwear.  But that being said, I had the opportunity to move in on an area and set my ground blind up with very little encroachment of the deer.  I will be sitting in that setup this Saturday afternoon and Sunday has a good chance of being the first morning sit of the year.  Stay tuned……..

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A Disappointing Start

As always, my expectations were high going into this first weekend of the 2017 deer season, but the Tennessee heat had other plans.  With a high temperature of 92 on Saturday and 98% humidity, scent control became pretty much impossible.  As a matter of fact, by the time I got my blind set up and I got ready to hunt, I had to strip down to my underwear. (no joke.. lol)  I tried to spray myself, along with my clothes with scent killer, but I can only ask that stuff to do so much.  With this scent control issue in mind, I set up on a hardwood flat on top of a hill, with the small amount of wind there was, in my face.  The acorns were dropping so heavy that it sounded like hail stones raining down.  There was sign that the deer have been using this area heavy for food, but I wasn’t sure how much daylight activity was taking place.  Because of this area being public land, I use my trail cameras very sparingly in season for fear of them getting stolen.   cedarshybridmap

Plan for Week 1

For my first sit of the year, I decided to pass up on hunting the morning.  I have been reading a lot of information about the disadvantages of hunting the mornings in the early season, so I decided to get to the woods by 1 pm and pack my pop up blind into the area I wanted to hunt and get set up.  I put my blind at the location marked in the center of the map above.  It is about 40 yards from an open pasture that has cows and horses grazing and the deer tend to stay out of the open field, so I keep that field to my back and watch the oak/ hickory flat with an eye on the pinch point to the east that is about 150 yards across and gets really thick towards the eastern most point of the public land, where Cedar Branch Creek cuts through.  This is where I believe the deer are bedding.  When the hunters come in from the road (the solid red line that looks like a “J”), it pushes the deer back to the thick stuff on that point.  From there they can go either direction into an open field and run as fast as they can away from any danger.   So with the North- East wind this weekend, I tried to catch them coming out to feed before dark, but the heat kept them in their beds until the sun went down and I didn’t see a single deer.  Next weekend, the forecast is for a cold from to come through on Saturday and if the winds stay the same direction, I might be able to catch them before dark.

 

Keep an eye out for my weekly blog posts during this year’s deer season to follow along on my public land quest for a mature buck.

Hunting in the Heat

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When I moved to Tennessee from Upstate New York in 1997, I was really excited to live in a state where the opening day of bow season was in September, but it didn’t take me long to realize that it wasn’t all the fun I had imagined.   With 90 degree heat and ticks that seem to hide behind every single plant, I quickly discovered I was going to have to start all over in my approach.

  Face Paint No More

The first change I had to make was with my face paint, basically, I couldn’t use it anymore, at least not until late October.  By the time I would walk from my truck to my stand, I would have sweated most of it into my shirt collar.  I tried to wait and apply it in my stand, but that didn’t seem to matter much, because I found myself sweating anyway as soon as the sun came up.  Because of this, I started to wear a face mask.  Although I generally don’t feel comfortable with a face net on, I have grown used to it.  It also helps out with the bug problem that I had to deal with for the first time, now that I hunted down south.  That leads me into my next change….

These Bugs are Driving Me Nuts!!!

It never even crossed my mind, and I really don’t know why, but having to deal with ticks, mosquitoes and chiggers was something that I never thought I would have to deal with deer hunting.  I mean, sure, maybe in the spring while hunting turkeys, but not deer hunting, but this turned out to be the biggest difference between bow hunting in the north and hunting down south.  Thank god for Thermacells…  that’s all I have to say!  This little tool has become a must have in my pack when I am bowhunting.  Before Thermacell, I would have to suffer because wearing any bug spray would surely alert any deer within a mile.  Besides the Thermacell, a good face mask that keeps the bugs off your face is a good idea.  When the bugs are really bad, you can tuck the bug net into the neck of your shirt and also wearing some thin gloves can keep them off your hands.

Man, I gotta Stink!!

When hunting in the month of September down south, it is almost impossible to not sweat, and we all know how important scent control is, for this reason, I never enter the woods without a big bottle of scent control spray in my pack.  I am not too picky on the brand, I usually just get what is on sale at Wal-mart, but the Super-Charged Scent killer by Wildlife Research Center or the Dead Down Wind 3-D Evolve are usually what I get.   I apply this spray liberally and often.   You can not spray too much, because you are constantly putting off scent.  Because we are putting so much scent into the air, we also need to make sure we are hunting with the winds in our favor.  The best scent control is a stiff wind in your face.

Although deer hunting in the heat can make things a lot more challenging, if you take your time and do your best to control your scent, the rewards can more than make up for it……

 

Preseason Rituals

huntingIt’s the beginning of August and most normal people’s minds are focused on summertime and fun in the sun, but if you are a deer hunter like me, August brings along the excitement that fall is right around the corner and reminds us that we need to start getting our preseason preparations in order.  I wanted to share a few of my preseason rituals that I always do every year to get me ready for opening day.

  1. Tuning my Bow

The first of these is getting my bow out, if I haven’t already, and start to get into a routine of shooting my bow on a regular basis.  This way I can find if I need to tune my bow or make adjustments to my equipment.   I try to make time to shoot at least 3 times a week.  This not only makes you a better shot, but it also gets your upper body in shape.  I want to make sure that if I get to full draw on a deer and have to hold the bow back for a long time, that I can physically handle it.   This time of year you can usually find 3D archery tournaments on weekends and these are a great way to replicate hunting conditions because the distances are often unknown and at targets you are not always ones you are familiar with.

2. Checking my Tree Stands

The most important piece of advice that I can give that most people don’t think about is checking the condition of your tree stands and ground blinds.  This is something that I learned the hard way and one ritual that I will never skip.  If I have my stands and blinds at home, I will get them out and inspect them for any wear or damage.  I will set up my stands on a tree in my yard, at the base only about a foot off the ground.  This way I can get into it and really jump around on it and make sure there are no loose or rusty cables or straps that could break during the season.  Although tree stands nowadays are generally made better than they ever have been, they spend most of their time outdoors in the weather and mother nature has a way of wearing out a good stand.  This is also a good time to oil or grease and squeaky parts because it will give ample time for as much scent to dissipate as possible so you do not alert deer during your hunt.  I also get my pop up blinds set up and make sure all the zippers and velcro are in working order and make sure the chairs that go with these blinds are working, too.

3.Getting myself in hunting shape

To many people, this can mean a lot of things, from having a strict regimen of weight training and cardio to taking a short walk every day.  I am more in the latter category, but it all depends on the type of hunting you are planning on doing this fall.  If you are planning a western hunt, where you will be doing a lot of spot and stalk up and down mountains, you better have yourself in top physical condition.  Nothing can ruin a once in a lifetime hunt like being out of shape and not being able to get into position for the shot you want to take.  For these hunts, hitting the gym is probably your best bet.  If you are mainly an eastern whitetail hunter, odds are you are spending most of your time sitting in a tree stand and not as much work is required to get ready.  Personally, I like to walk about a mile a day.  During my work day, I will take my breaks and walk around the property of the plant.  It is a half mile, and I can do it in 10 minutes and I will do it twice a day.  I try to not just “loaf” around, but power walk so I get my heart rate up.  I will also push mow my lawn in August instead of using the riding mower.  These small things will get my lower body in better shape so when I walk into and out of my stands, I don’t feel like I need to take a rest break halfway in.

These are in now way the only things I do to get ready for opening day, but they are a few of the more important things that I do every year to make sure I’m more prepared when the season starts.

“I hunt deer because I love the entire process; the preparation, the excitement, and sustained suspense of trying to match my woods lore against the finely honed instincts of these creatures.”- Fred Bear

 

Staying Away From Field Edges on Public lands

Trying to pattern a public land buck can be a lot trickier than their private land cousins.  Sure, you can find sign of deer in an area and think you have them figured out, until opening day comes around and that great place you thought you found is quieter Rosie O’Donnell’s dietitian.

A lot of deer sign is commonly found along field edges and they can be awfully tempting to hunt over. Some of the longest rub lines I have seen have been down the side of a field, but most of these sign are made well after dark when the deer feed and congregate in the fields.  On private lands, big bucks might venture out into the open in daylight hours, but with the hunting pressure commonly associated with public tracts, big bucks will almost exclusively wait until dark to come out into the open.

For this reason, you will need to locate their bedding areas and try to ambush them way before they get to the fields or in the A.M. when they are making their way back to bed.  In the mornings I like to set up as close to the bedding area as I can and try to approach the stand from the back door.  I try to get within 100 yards of their beds.  This isn’t always easy and usually involves taking the long way around.  I try to get into these stands as early as an hour before any hint of light.  This way you can get into the stand as undetected as possible and when the other hunters come in from the fields and try to hunt the field edges, they will bump the deer up to you.  In the evenings I try to find the staging areas before the fields.  These areas are usually close to a thick area of cover, where the deer can quickly find safety and not all that far from the fields.  A place with some acorns or apples were the deer can slowly move through and browse would be a perfect situation.

Every situation isn’t the same in the deer woods, but for a buck to get old on public land he has to do things different than the average deer and staying deeper in the wood might just be that key that brings the big boy within range at shooting light.

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Getting Past the Public Part of Public Land

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Anyone who hunts public land has had it happen. You’re setup, waiting for that buck you have hunted to walk right by you. The wind is perfect, the time is right, when you hear something. Problem is, its not a deer, its another hunter, walking right through the middle of your setup. This is about the time most people pack up and go home.
Getting past the public part of hunting public land can be the hardest thing to accomplish when hunting these land tracts. I would say its the number one reason people don’t like hunting public land, especially in the east, where the hunters per square mile can be up to 20. But If you embrace your situation, and follow these three tips, you can score big on the tracts.

1. Don’t get frustrated
This may be the hardest thing to do (it was for me anyway). Just because you keep seeing other hunters doesn’t have to mean your hunt is ruined, as a matter of fact it could help. The deer that live on public land have grown to live with the pressure and are adept at dealing with it. I have lost count the number of times a hunter has walked by me and ten minutes later, the deer will walk right down the same trail behind him. These deer think they know where the danger is, so they keep him a safe distance and go about their day.

2. Get away from everybody
This may sound like a no-brainer and easier than it is, but most hunters hunt within a half mile of a road. So if you want to find that big buck, your gonna have to do some “bushwhacking”.
I know there might be a bunch of sign on the field edge or a logging road, but chances are, everybody else knows they are there too. If you can try to get closer to the bedding grounds, deeper into the woods, chances are the other hunters will push the deer right to you.

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3. Find the deer’s “danger zone”
When big bucks get pressured they do two things, go nocturnal and get to their “danger zone” as I call it, and because jack lighting deer is illegal, I focus on the latter. The danger zone is an area where the deer can bed and feel safe when they are in danger. This could be a stand of pines or a ridge where they can see long distances or the thickest, gnarliest place in the woods where you have to step on them to find them. Again, the latter is where I like to focus. I try to find swamps or thickets adjacent to food sources and ambush them coming into or out of these areas.
Hunting public land can be a challenge, but if you adapt to your situation according, you can kill some giants on public tracts.