No gimmick can replace knowledge
The author approaches a downed bucked he tagged during a recent rifle season.
There is so much stuff out there, these days, for deer hunters.
Trail cameras, food plots, four-wheelers, the list goes on and on.
But as much as this modern stuff may increase one’s chances while deer hunting, there has been a lack of emphasis on what really matters in the deer woods — We’re talking about what it means to be a woodsman.
Back in my early days of deer hunting, all we had was a rifle and our wits. No grunt calls, no doe-in-heat lures, no scent covers. We learned that whitetails, from a very young age, learn how to avoid hunters.
Today, because hunters are inundated with hunting shows, some hunters seem to think that, the more gear you get, the more deer you get.
The fact is, scouting, studying, hunting and learning about deer behavior — critical aspects of deer hunting that come free of charge but demand time and effort — will result in more success and more satisfaction than any new gizmo out there.
Deer hunting isn’t easy, not up here in the Northeast, anyway. Our deer face fearsome winters, habitat loss, coyotes and hunting seasons.
Now, I am not suggesting you go out into the woods with just a gun and what you know about deer. I do not claim to be some kind of purist. I carry several grunt calls and have called bucks in using them. I always take a compass when I set out for big woods. I like to pour on earth scent, if only because it makes me “believe” that it might work. But that’s about it, as far as “gimmicks” go.
More than anything else, I carry more than 45 years of learning about whitetails and their behavior into the woods with me.
Meanwhile, let’s touch on the subject of “cover scents” for a moment. I don’t believe there is anything, out there on the market, that will cover the scent of a human.
If you’re going to be a successful deer hunter, the one big thing you must pay attention to is wind direction. I’ve had deer, mostly does, come across a small opening and watched and waited.
I would glance up at the 15-inch strip of dental floss I hang across a convenient branch and then wait. Just as a deer steps into the direction that floss is drifting, the tail goes up and the deer bolts away.
In short, a deer’s nose is its best defense against predators and you, as a hunter, rank right up there.
So if you are moseying through the woods and find a nice spot to sit for a while it might be a good idea to check the wind, then set yourself up where the wind is blowing from the direction you expect the deer to come and into your face.
There are no guarantees, of course. Wind direction can change in a heartbeat. But the point here is to get the prevailing wind.
I always check the wind direction with a simple match. I strike the match, blow it out and make note of the wind direction by the drifting smoke.
Here’s another tip for deer hunters, particularly young ones. After you’ve settled in, pay attention to your surroundings. Scan the area, moving your head slowly, back and forth. Look for movement. Any movement. Don’t look for an entire deer. Look for that white of the throat, the tail swinging back and forth as a deer feeds, the tip of an antler, the white underbelly, the black nose.
I like to pass the time by picking out any movement at all — a blue jay landing on a limb, a gray squirrel scurrying through the leaves, a noisy red squirrel chattering up a tree.
But, more than anything else, enjoy those hours in the woods. Look up, slowly, when a big flock of Canada geese goes winging and honking overhead. Take in the day. Relish all that goes around you — the smells, sights and sounds.
But be ready when that antlered buck steps into view.