June 15, 2016
The secret to killing big bucks for most hunters boils down to doing a lot of work. That's it. It's not a new call, or the latest decoy, or anything that you can buy.
Those of us who don't have access to tightly managed land or bank accounts that accommodate top-end guided whitetail hunts must be willing to put in the labor to get our chances.
This involves plenty of different bowhunting aspects from shooting to scouting, but probably the most important is hanging stands and prepping sites. This is a lot of work and it also tends to occur when the woods are about as inviting as a PETA fundraiser.
The bugs, the stinging nettles, the heat and humidity, they all make stand-hanging excursions less than enjoyable.
The reality of this situation is, however, that the woods aren't really going to get any more inviting until well into the deer season. And worse, every day you push off this task brings you one step closer to the season.
That means that your intrusion into the woods when very few two-leggers are bothering the deer will have a greater impact on their movements the closer you are to hunting season. Delaying stand-hanging missions also has a deleterious effect in the form of feeling rushed, which causes us to trim fewer lanes, fret less over level stands, and generally not do our hunting selves any favors.
Because of these reasons and others, it's best to develop a strategy and get out there now. Here are three things to consider.
Time & Timing
No one wants to bother the deer at sunrise or sunset if they can help it, so we tend to focus our stand-hanging efforts around lunchtime. This is also the hottest time of the day a lot of times. Personally, I'd much rather wait for a truly windy day, or maybe a day where a light drizzle falls. This isn't always possible, and sometimes I just suck it up and go when I have the time.
If you're forced to hang stands when it is hot and humid, limit the amount you're sweating your way through the task. I'd rather hang two or three stands correctly and have to come back next week, than rush through and get seven of them hung haphazardly. Each set needs to be right, and setting a goal of getting "X" amount of stands up does not lend itself to quality work. Take your time, trim correctly, and you'll be much happier during the season.
Think It Through
I'm of the opinion that how you get into and out of your stands is the most important part of any set besides the actual location. This sentiment is pretty common among diehard whitetail hunters because it's a lesson you're bound to learn after enough seasons.
The catch, however, is that it's not enough to know where you should enter or exit a site. You need to prep it so you can get in and out while it's dark, and you need to be able to do it quietly. You should also be able to plan around certain wind directions for your ingress and egress.
"The secret to killing big bucks for most hunters boils down to doing a lot of work. That's it. It's not a new call, or the latest decoy, or anything that you can buy."
This is the part where the work kicks in, because we all expect to get a little sweaty hanging stands. But the real work a lot of times comes in when you've got to clear a trail to get to the stand. This is the easiest part to overlook, and the most likely to bite you in the rear once the season opens. Clear it, tack it or flag it, and reap the benefits of it.
Don't Force A Spot
There are some killer deer hunting locations that don't lend themselves to an ambush well. This is very, very difficult to admit for some of us. There are just some unhuntable spots, and that is that. Not coincidentally, those are the same areas big bucks tend to use frequently.
If you find an area like this that you desperately want to hunt, take a long look at whether it's possible. I've hung stands in tiny trees, killed big bucks from natural blinds, and have spent a lot of time pondering little patches of deer cover that I really want to hunt. Some are workable, others aren't. June is the time to figure that out, not October.
If you're sitting on a spot like this, get in there now and be honest. If there is a way, set it up. If not, back off and look for the next best thing. There might be a way to hunt the same deer a mere 100 yards from that spot, but you'll need to do some sleuthing to figure it out. It's worth it though, just to know whether you can make it happen or not.
So much of whitetail hunting is really not that much fun, but it is rewarding. Nothing feels better than chugging a bottle of water at the end of a hot, miserable day where you've put up several stands and have set yourself up for deer-season success. It's not overly enjoyable, but it is the secret to filling more tags.