|This big buck came close but not close enough for a shot
photo courtesy Dave Richey Outdoors ©2012
A first-time deer hunter in new terrain is at a major disadvantage if he doesn’t have someone to help him locate a good spot to hunt. They don’t know the country, and have little clue where deer travel.
Coming into new deer country is always somewhat exciting. Those of us who have been involved in bow hunting for many years, always study the lay of the land. We note the thick cover, obvious funnels, saddles or low spots between two high hills, and we start check out everything about the land.
We know that the normal morning travel cycle is from feeding areas to bedding zones, and in the evening, deer leave normal thick bedding cover and work their way toward farm fields, oak flats, food plots or big corn fields.
Looking around, and checking for deer sign and travel, is required
Given an hour of looking around, most hunters with several years experience will have found deer trails, and they’ve separate the well traveled routes from other seldom used trails.
They pay particular note of the wind direction, and how that wind would carry human scent to the deer. This may be of the utmost importance because once winded, a hunter is not likely to see anything more than the south end of a deer heading north.
But sizing up a hotspot involves considerably more investigation. Given time, we can locate the bedding and feeding areas, and from there draw on our knowledge of deer travel habits to find key spots to ambush the animal. It’s easy to be a bit off on the first night, but careful study often can predict the most likely route for deer to take.
A buddy once hunted Tara, an island in the middle of the Mississippi River, in the great deer state of Mississippi, and he hadn’t been there 15 minutes before he spotted the ideal tree within 100 yards of a thick palmetto swamp. He had a self-climbing stand, and the tree was straight with no low branches. Up he went, forearms leaning on the handles, and he quietly lifted his feet. Up and up he went to a height of about 20 feet.
Once he found the best spot, he used a self-climbing stand
He made very little noise, and since he was hunting during the rut, he felt the soft noise of climbing the tree might sound like two bucks banging their antlers together. He got into position, fastened his full-body harness to the tree, and sat down after pulling his bow up into the stand.
He nocked an arrow, pulled down his face mask, and sat without movement. The tree had little cover, but it offered a panoramic view of the bedding area and trails leading out of the palmettos toward an open green field.
Two hours later as the sun began dipping toward the western horizon he spotted a doe moving fast out of the palmettos. It crossed a tiny nearby creek with one splash, and then came the unmistakable sound of a tending buck grunt.
His bow was up and ready and his body was positioned so he could draw and shoot with the bow limb outside of his left leg. The first doe squirted out on a dead run, and then came another mature doe being tended by a big 10-point buck. If they followed the same trail as the first doe, the other doe and the buck would cross at a quartering-away angle at 15 yards.
His set-up was absolutely perfect, but as is true with many hunts, Mr. Murphy of Murphy’s Law raised his ugly head. This law states that if anything can go wrong, it will.
Murph was in the saddle that night. The doe and big buck passed within an easy 15 yards of his stand, and they had to pass a big magnolia tree. When they did, and he was screened from their sight, he made a silent draw.
The only problem was the doe was on the side closest to the bow hunter. He was at full draw but the buck, oblivious to any danger, was perfectly screened by the doe. They marched quickly off in lock-step, and the episode passed without a clean shot.
Common sense is important when hunting an area the first time
He had never hunted that island before, had little clue of anything but the bedding area and where the food plot was located. He was downwind of the deer, and he had done everything according to the rules of common sense, but there is no predicting how deer will line up when they walk past a hunter.
Each new area requires study, and the same attention to detail should be noted if someone places you in a stand. Note possible travel routes, the wind, and if you play your cards properly, the buck will walk past and not be screened by a doe or heavy brush.
But, it’s just the luck of the draw. That’s why they call this hunting rather than killing.