Editor’s Note: Between the cover where deer bed down, and the places where they feed, trophy-racked bucks are on the move and vulnerable early in the morning and late in the afternoon.
One of the most-overlooked reasons for a deer to be on the move from one location to another is hunting pressure. Deer, like most other animals, are trainable. A friend of mine utilized this knowledge to take three trophy bucks in a recent season. Every Saturday that Leroy Collins’ hunting club met to have a deer drive, they hunted the land the same way each time. Toward the end of hunting season, their deer drives – whether they drove with dogs or men – produced fewer bucks. However, the sportsmen who stalked and hunted the land during the week saw big-antlered deer slipping through thick cover. Collins told me that, “The bucks must be leaving from the cover prior to our beginning the hunt.”
Acting on this assumption, Collins chose to stand on the back side of the woods each Saturday and waited for daylight. As Collins explains, “The hunt was scheduled to begin at 8:00 am. Around 7:00 am, hunters started arriving in their pick-up trucks. When car doors slammed, and the laughter at jokes echoed through the woods, I spotted deer slipping out of cover. Those smart whitetails knew exactly what was happening. By 7:30 am, I had a nice eight point well within range.” For three consecutive Saturdays, Leroy bagged trophy deer that the unknowing hunters had trained to leave before the hunt began because of hunting pressure. And, on many public-hunting lands after the first few days of hunting season, the hunters there have trained deer to move during certain periods of the day.
For instance, deer will move just before daylight because that is the time when hunters are moving. Then when daylight arrives, the deer often will bed down. About 11:00 am, many hunters leave the woods to return to their vehicles for lunch. By noon, most hunters are out of the woods, and the deer can move from mid-day until 2:00 or 3:00 pm when the hunters return. At mid-afternoon, deer usually will bed down or head to thick cover and remain there, until hunters leave the woods about 45 minutes before dark.
Employing this information a hunter can set-up several tactical game plans utilizing hunting pressure, to lead a big buck to him. Knowing the deer will move to thick cover at daylight, and many hunters will be where they can see a long way, the wise hunter will move into thick cover, get high in a tree and have limited visibility of maybe no more than 10–20 yards. But knowing the bucks will move away from the pressure into the cover, the sportsman will have a better chance to taking a whitetail than the ridge sitters who have a view of 200–400 yards.
The mid-day hunter – the one who goes into the woods at 10:00 am and takes a stand on the edge of heavy cover until 2:00 pm – may see more deer than the early or the late hunters. And, the hunter who’s not afraid to walk out after dark may be able to sight-in on a trophy buck in the last 10 minutes of light, when the deer are moving, and the rest of the hunters are headed to their houses.
The weatherman may provide the best information for hunting when the hunting pressure is at its lowest ebb. Often hunters won’t go to the woods when they know bad weather is coming. However, sometimes deer will feed and move more frequently ahead of a storm front than any other time. For the hunter willing to brave the weather, a big buck may be just ahead of an impending weather change. Once the storm does hit, the fair-weather hunter definitely won’t go into the woods. But this may be the most-opportune time for you to find your big buck for the season. Briar thickets, blown-down treetops and any other type of heavy cover may provide a refuge for whitetails during a storm.
“By walking up to a brush top and standing there looking at the brush top for a long time, a hunter often can see a deer in the bed,” Edwin Hitt of Laurel, Mississippi explains, “Even if you don’t see the deer, but he sees you, he’ll get so nervous, he’ll start to quiver. Finally he’ll bolt from cover, and you can take him.”
For many hunters, meeting a big buck deer are chance happenings. And, the odds are most often in the deer’s favor. However, by understanding deer, their movements, their habitat and the effects of hunting pressure on them, hunters can more accurately determine where to big deer.
To learn more about hunting deer, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” available in Kindle, Print and Audible versions, at (http://amzn.to/YpoQHA).