How do you plan for a hunt? Jeff says that it’s important for hunters to get away from random hunting and instead, hunt with purpose. Many hunters each year will go out with hopes that a deer will walk by and present them with a shot. However, they do so without any scouting or due diligence which greatly decreases their odds of success. If you are hunting in more western territory where the landscape is wide open, Jeff says hunters should find a good vantage point, on top of a hill or elsewhere that you can see a long way. From there, your optics do the leg work for you, scanning the terrain helping you pick out deer. By scouting from a distance, you find the deer without having any impact on them, pushing them out. Once you put in the time scouting, know where the deer are and have watched long enough to understand or establish a bit of a pattern, then you can go in for the stalk and kill. At that point, if it doesn’t work out you can always regroup at your vantage point and start over again. Jeff emphasizes the importance of finding the deer first and analyzing their pattern before you go busting through their territory and pushing them out. Well planned, purposeful hunting will pay off in a much bigger way than random hunting.
Persistence is important when hunting. Deer are smart and evasive and you are operating on their turf, the place they have the upper hand. As such, persistence is key to filling your tag. However, you have to be cautious with your persistence and pair it with smarting hunting tactics. You can’t hunt from the same stand or blind every day. You have to be able to read the situation and react accordingly, moving and hunting from different locations based on wind direction and other factors. Jeff says that he has probably shot more big deer out of stands he didn’t necessarily want to be in, however the conditions of the day required him to be in a less desirable location that ended up paying off. Jeff says he hunted a buck he named “Huckleberry”, a massive 183-inch behemoth, a few seasons ago. It took 17 days straight of hunting before he was able to shoot this buck. Persistence, smarting hunting and patience are all important when you are investing such a large amount of time into a deer.
Scouting and watching the patterns of summer bucks during the preseason can give hunters a decent idea where the deer will be early on. However, patterns change rapidly, as the season progresses and those summer patterns will very quickly be abandoned for new ones. Does will adjust their patterns for fall cover and fall food sources and rut ready bucks will often deviate from their patterns in big ways. How does a hunter navigate this period of change? One of the best tools and technology hunters have at their disposal today are trail cameras. Jeff says he is deploying trail cameras right now for inventory purposes, putting them up not just at stand/blind sites, but rather hot spots for activity, whether he will be hunting there or not. The goal is to find out what you have on your property. In order to do it effectively, Jeff says he uses test piles, putting out some corn and then waiting to see what comes in to the camera. Those photos can show not only inventory, but can also help establish patterns, too. When you have the most recent information possible, that trail cameras can provide, you can see where the deer are and formulate a better plan to ambush them. Jeff warns that while trail cameras are great and offer a tremendous amount of inside information about the wildlife on your property, they can also be used to the hunter’s detriment. Excessive use, going in and out of areas too frequently to check them can actually hurt hunters by putting too much pressure on the deer. Aside from trail cameras, Jeff says history is an important tool to have as well. If you have been hunting the same property for awhile, you should have a decent grasp on how deer use the property at different times of the year which will help a hunter narrow down where the deer are or are not at any point during the season.
As hunters, it’s important to know exactly what is going on with deer at different points throughout the year. It will change your strategy from early season through the rut and into the late season. Right now, with bucks in velvet, Jeff says the only thing they are thinking about is building up their fat reserves in preparation for the impending rut. They are eating and beefing up for what will be a very physically taxing period on their bodies. For that reason, Jeff says that they will be sticking close to food sources, conserving energy and putting on weight. The bucks will be very sensitive right now, and increasingly more so as we edge closer to September because they don’t want to be bumped and don’t want to be expelling extra energy, Jeff notes. As soon as the bucks begin to shed that velvet, they go right to thinking about breeding. While the does are not yet ready, the bucks are, and this is where you see their frustration begin to grow. Jeff says that understanding changes in deer throughout the year - how they look, behave and feed differently with the seasons - can help you better anticipate movement and translate that to hunting success.
Listen in as Jeff also talks about the importance of access points for getting in to and out of your stand or blind without spooking the deer. He’ll also highlight the role scent elimination should play in your hunting strategy.
Be sure to watch “BuckVentures” every Wednesday at 9:30 pm ET on Sportsman Channel. You can also catch previous “BuckVentures" seasons, episodes and monster buck action by using the MyOutdoorTV app to stream awesome hunting content anytime, 24/7/365.