Monday, November 17, 2008
Try To Avoid Stressing Winter Deer
It happens almost every November about now when people continue to deer hunt from the same blinds day after day. Two or three mornings or evenings of climbing into the same stand means the deer will soon have you patterned.
What happens after they pattern the hunter is they seldom show up during legal shooting time. I proved it to a friend two nights ago.
He’d told me that every deer that steps out of heavy cover seems to be looking at his stand. He couldn’t understand why they seemed so interested in his spot.
He had shot a doe that night and it ran into the woods 50 yards before dying. We followed the deer after dark, and I suggested he look around the edges of the heavy cover.
“You’ll see deer beds everywhere within 20 yards of the edge of the cover,” I told him. “Those deer watch you walk in from the road, and see you climb into your stand and lay there and watch you climb down and leave. The deer have you patterned.”
Shifting from one stand to another, and never hunting the same one two nights in a row, eliminates much of the problem. It’s difficult to sneak into anywhere when snow covers the ground, but one trick that that does work in farmland country, providing the snow doesn’t get too deerp, is for one person on a four-wheeler or a truck to drop the other hunter off.
Deer can’t count. If the see and hear a four-wheeler or pickup truck come in, and both people get out, one stays and the other leaves, and nearby deer seem to think that everyone has left. That is unless the hunter makes too much noise, moves around or is spotted by the animals.
The same can hold true in the evening. If a hunter is pinned down by deer out in front of them, and they climb down, every nearby deer is educated to the human presence. However, if a four-wheeler or truck comes putt-putting in after dark, it scares off the deer, and then leaves, the animals are not overly frightened by the vehicle. Deer see cars or trucks every day, and we’ve used this method effectively for years.
The vehicle is what spooks the deer, not the hunter climbing down in front of a deer. The whitetails run off, the hunter climbs down and gets into the vehicle, and the deer are none the wiser.
Often. our deer are gone by full dark. We can then climb down and walk out without spooking any animals.
Late November and December be hard on bucks that are recovering from the rigors of the rut. They need to feed heavily in a short period of time to build up enough body fat to carry them through the winter. Anything that disrupts their schedule of moving out to feed can lead to stress, and in areas like this one with very low deer numbers, we try not to stress the deer any more than possible.
Stress can be caused by a variety of reasons. If deer traditionally bed near a stand, and night after night a hunter walks in to that spot, the deer get a mite spooky and often hold off on their travels until full dark.
Changing stands, changing arrival times at a hunting spot, or giving a stand a rest for a few days allows deer to settle down and start getting back to their normal travel patterns.
Whatever hunters can do to make human impact on deer even less will often result in better deer hunting. The more stress we put on nearby deer, the poorer the hunting becomes.
Right now we are already putting a bit of stress on deer with heavy snows. We have six-seven inches of snow at my place, and the Traverse City area is supposed to see snow daily for the next several days. If any major accumlation falls, it will only make matters worse.
Try a new approach with the rest of the hunting season. Move around, change the times you arrive and leave a stand, and if possible, have someone drop you off. It certainly doesn’t solve every problem, but it can lead to slightly better hunting if the animals aren’t stressed out by hunting pressure.