On a recent turkey hunt with a friend, we debate how to deer hunt an area covered with whitetail sign. Numerous trails are worn down to mud through the security cover. An abundance of natural food sources covered the landscape. Rubs and scrapes, this location had it all. What I realized is that he and I are two different hunters with totally different styles.
My friend is a great hunter. He has killed some great Ohio whitetails with one topping over 155 inches just two short years ago. His tactics tend to be more conservative than those of my own. As we discussed the pro’s and con’s of the hunting area, he noted that for him access was not optimal and he was afraid that he would bump deer on his way into his stand. I completely agreed with avoiding bumping deer but felt he was missing out on the best part of the property.
This is the property where Mr. Crabs is roaming along with Jack Daniels (a nice 7-point), and the big 10-point (unnamed) I saw last season. While this area does not belong to him, we choose to stay out of each other’s way when hunting out of respect for each other. Hence why I do not hunt Mr. Crabbs back there. Three of us hunt this area and all of us share intel on the deer and celebrate one another’s harvest. There is zero animosity between us and it makes for a great friendship and fun hunting experience.
Not wanting to take a chance on disturbing the deer, he has avoided that hot corner for a long time, opting to hunt the fringes and play it safe. I cannot argue with his results, but something inside me was stirring. My mind was fixated on my own philosophy of “if I cannot see them I cannot hunt them.” I quickly realized I was pushing my tactics and personal style on a fellow hunter and that those methods may not work for him. It was time to back off and let him hunt how he hunts. Again, his results speak for themselves.
We both agreed that accessing the area undetected would be the key to a successful hunt. My thoughts were to trim access routes into the stand location now (May) and touch them up in late August to ensure quiet access. The brush in the area is over our heads and with multiple 4-wheeler paths through the overgrown field, I felt confident in my ability to slip in undetected well before dawn and set up on these target whitetails.
My style of whitetail hunting is more aggressive than his. It is not right and it is not wrong. It is just right for me and how I like to hunt. I am not haphazard in my approach. I use the wind to guide my entrance and exit strategy and try to avoid bumping deer. But I am the type of hunter who will dive in when the time is right and take a calculated risk. If I hunt an area like this, I am going to enter two hours before daylight with the wind in my favor. I have found that if I bump deer in the dark, they may alarm, but often will not blow up an area if they cannot smell me. I just want them to have enough time to calm down prior to legal hunting hours.
When the rut is on, I am willing to take those risks because whitetail bucks will be moving through this cover all day in search of a hot doe. It is all in the timing. For me, going in and setting up long before daylight allows the woods to quiet down and any spooked deer to return to normal behavior. I would prefer not to bump anything, but again I am the type to take that risk as long as I have the right wind and the location warrants it.
I talked to my friend a week later and he chose to enter through a family members property adjacent to the prime corner. This will allow him to slip in and move down to some apple trees where he plans to hang his stand. I thought it was a fantastic idea and it should put him in a great position to harvest Mr. Crabbs or one of our other target bucks.
The moral of this story is that whitetail deer hunting is not a one size fits all proposition. Each one of us has a unique style and approach that evolves with time and experience in the whitetail woods. No single approach is the right approach and just because someone thinks differently, doesn’t mean that they are wrong. It is good practice to listen and understand why a person does what they do and use that knowledge to continually develop your own strategy.
It is the middle of May and the whitetail season will be here before we know it. Good luck everyone in the upcoming season.