Fall is officially here; deer seasons are opening, and Stan Potts is energized. “It’s almost the first of October, fall is here and it’s time to lay them down!” he says. The early season is all about finding bucks that are traveling to food, and this time of year the hunting can be tough, Stan says. During the early season, food sources are key. The ability to locate bucks, get into your stand or blind and get deer on their feet before you lose the light in the evening can be challenging. A hunter has to put in a good amount of time scouting and hunting to walk away successfully in the early season. Stan is no stranger to spending a lot of time in his stand and says later in the season, a hunter’s willingness to stick it out instead of calling it a day early can be the difference between a tag filled and one still in your pocket. During the late pre-rut, throughout the rut and in the early post rut, deer will be on their feet in the middle of the day looking for does. It’s during this time that longer sits in your stand can be very advantageous. The mid to late morning and early afternoon time periods are when big mature deer, who do not have a hot doe, are cruising food sources, bedding areas and in between looking for a doe, Stan says. Staying put when other hunters are heading out to lunch can give you the upper hand and provide you with a shot opportunity. Knowing where to look and set up your blinds or stands is essential. You can sit all day and if you’re not in an area that deer frequent, your sit will likely be a bust. Stan says that he scouts and identifies natural funnels that concentrate deer activity. It’s these areas, especially during the rut, that he sets up to ambush big bucks that are cruising. In particular, Stan talks hourglass like land features as well as saddles and why these areas are popular among big, mature bucks.
Calling, rattling and decoying can be very effective tactics when used during the right time of the season. In the latter part of October in what would be the late pre-rut, through the entirety rut and into the early post rut, Stan says he is very aggressive with these tactics. Using a rattling bag, instead of actual antlers, Stan begins his rattling sequence by slamming the bag against the trunk of a tree and then aggressively working the bag for 30 seconds to a minute taking brief pauses throughout the sequence. He repeats that rattling sequence once per hour and then immediately follows it up by grunting a little, giving an estrous doe bleat or doing a couple of snort wheezes. Most of the deer that you rattle in will be immature bucks, Stan says, and that’s because they are a bigger percentage of the herd compared to the big dominate bucks that are the lowest percentage of the herd. However, that’s not to say that rattling isn’t effective on big bucks. The bottom line, he says, is that it works, and you just have to stick with it. Decoying during this same time frame can also elicit aggressive responses from bucks. Stand says he sets up his decoys 20 to 25 yards out with the wind blowing from the decoy toward him and positions them so they are quartering toward his stand. Placing them out 20-25 yards will give bucks some room to get in between the decoy and his stand which at that point will put them 10-20 yards out. Normally, he notes, a big mature buck that comes into a decoy will circle around toward the head end of the decoy and if the decoy is turned in your direction, it can make all the difference in the world as far as shot opportunity.
Be sure to catch this informative two-part interview with whitetail hunting legend Stan Potts as he discusses food sources, funnels, mast crop, rattling, decoying, hunter pressure and more. Make sure to tune in to Sportsman Channel to watch Stan on “Whitetail Explorer”, Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. ET and “North American Whitetail TV”, Wednesdays at 8:00 pm ET. Plus, hit up MyOutdoorTV for access to previous seasons and episodes of both shows!
Stan says good luck – shoot the biggest buck of your life!