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Go Nuts

From trying to sound like a buck chasing does to hiding out in haystacks, the wacky tactics these hunters have used to take monster bucks will blow your mind.
Photo by Outdoor Life Online Editor
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Successful deer hunters think more like chess masters than cooks. Rather than adhere to tried-and-true recipes, they look for any kind of opportunity and adjust to conditions as they change. The ability to approach every hunting situation with the same kind of open mind and without preconceived notions about "how it's supposed to be done" is a trait all of the best deer hunters share. Plus, it's a lot of fun to pull off-the-wall stunts that actually work in special situations.



The improvisational skills of the following hunters have helped them make the most of unusual circumstances. Their examples are an inspiration for every deer hunter who has ever asked himself, "What do I do now?"
Any Tree That's Handy

Jim Hill, from Minnesota's Twin Cities, is one of the best and most creative deer hunters in the country. I've hunted with him for 10 years and have come to expect the unexpected from him. Hill so enjoys doing things his way that sometimes I think he looks for excuses to be original.



My high school football team had a tight end who could turn even a routine crossing pattern into an adventure that would end with a diving catch; the important thing was, he always caught the ball. Hill is like that-the straightforward approach is a bit too ho-hum for him. Two whitetails that he took with his bow are good examples of his imaginative approach to hunting.



Hill saw one of them for the first time as he left his hunting area after dark. The dandy buck crossed a county road in front of his truck's headlights. Early the next afternoon Hill was scouting the road's soft shoulder for fresh tracks when the farmer who owned the adjoining property drove up. Soon the farmer was showing Hill exactly where he had seen other bucks crossing in the past. He also gave Hill permission to hunt his land.



A large pine tree that had broken off 15 feet above the ground stood just inside the property line from the road ditch and within reasonable bow range of the most likely crossing. After the landowner had driven away, Hill looked around for a tree in which to hang his stand but soon gave up. What the heck, he thought. He climbed to the bare top of the broken tree.



"I felt silly, but I didn't have any choice and I wanted to see what would happen," Hill recalled. "I stuck out like a sore thumb. Every time someone drove by I dropped into the branches so they wouldn't see me. At least twenty cars passed under my stand that afternoon. My back got so stiff from all the crouching I could barely straighten up. Then, just before sunset, two does stepped from the nearest draw on my side of the road, followed by a big buck. They started heading toward the crossing. When the buck came even with the tree, I shot. He was about twenty-five yards away."



Hill drilled the buck through the heart and was able to recover the massive whitetail quickly. He might have felt ridiculous taking a stand in the
broken tree, but the absurdity of it all melted away as he admired the 10-point rack that grossed 160 inches.


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Do What You Gotta Do

Hill's next strange-but-true lesson in
creativity took place during the 2000 season. He first saw the buck he targeted in August as it fed in a bean field. Hill spotted it again in mid-October and a few times in early November. Despite his ability to zero in on the buck's travel corridors, Hill never quite found himself in the right place at the right time. Then, on a cold morning as he was putting up a tree stand, Hill spotted the buck across the field. The deer behaved strangely, milling back and forth in a small brushy area on the field's edge as if an invisible barrier kept him hemmed up there.



Hill concluded that the whitetail had a doe stashed nearby and wasn't going anywhere until she got up.
Recollections of past experiences ran through Hill's mind. A bowhunter has a tough time during the rut. Patterngo out the window. One morning a hunter sees a buck trailing does through the woods; he goes back there the next day and the day after that, but never sees the same buck again. Finally the regretful hunter realizes that had he been more aggressive when he first spotted the buck, he might have stood a better chance of getting within range.



After many years of deer hunting, Hill understands that premise as well as anyone, and he took such thoughts to heart that cold day. Changing gears, he spent the midday hours crawling in close to the sequestered pair. Using a ditch for cover, Hill got within bow range of the brush line. Then he belly-crawled out, carefully cleared a shooting lane through the weeds, and sat down in the ditch that drained the field to wait. He didn't even know if the deer were still there; all he had was hope.



Two hours into the watch, Hill's persistence was rewarded. A small buck showed up to investigate the heady smell of the hot doe. As soon as the young whitetail approached the area where Hill had last seen the monarch, the big buck walked out of the cover to confront the interloper.



The two bucks diverted each other, presenting Hill with an easy 30-yard shot. Seconds later the huge buck stumbled and fell, not 60 yards away. The giant 10-pointer grossed 182 inches. Again, the key to Hill's success was improvisation. Rather than try to figure out what he was supposed to do, he did what he had to do.


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The Haystack Maneuver

Sometimes being creative means thinking far outside the box...and into something else. A few seasons ago a bowhunter I know, who wants to remain anonymous, was hunting a particularly nice 10-pointer on public land. Most evenings, the buck my buddy was hunting entered a grass field from a huge burned-over cattail swamp that other hunters had completely overlooked. There were no trees on its fringes that were big enough to hold a stand.



After he puzzled over the situation for a few days, the light of inspiration began to glow in my friend's mind. He paid a visit to the farmer who owned the field and obtained his permission to work out a crazy hunch. The next afternoon, the bowhunter reached the field early and tore into a nearby haystack with one of his rattling antlers. Soon he had hollowed out a hole large enough to hide in. The
buck showed up on schedule that evening, but he came around the bale from the
opposite direction and caught my friend flat-footed. The bowhunter regained his composure in time to make a very unconventional 7-yard shot.



Another friend of mine, Rod Ponton, was faced with a similar tough stand-entry challenge a few seasons ago. The tree he wanted desperately to hunt, hardly bigger than a sapling, stood on the bank of a narrow creek directly below a bedding ridge. November was very dry that year, and crispy oak leaves covered the forest floor to ankle depth.



"It was like walking on corn flakes," Ponton says. "I knew I couldn't sneak to the tree without being heard by every deer on the ridge. So instead, I ran to the stand from the edge of the woods, trying to sound as much like a buck chasing a doe as possible. Less than a minute after I got into the tree, a giant eight-pointer came down off the ridge to investigate and stopped to hit a scrape right under my tree. He worked the overhead branch so hard I had to grab onto a limb to keep from falling out of the narrow crotch stand I had wedged into that small tree." Everything happened so quickly that Ponton had to rush his shot. He missed the buck. Still, the fact that he was able to fool the buck's ears to get him to his stand gave him some consolation.



I've heard other stories of hunters who used terrain features to stay out of sight long enough to run within easy gun range of a buck. Iowa hunter Bruce Hupke opened my mind to the idea several years ago when he told me how he ran to within 40 yards of a buck that was hidden behind a ridge. Deer don't necessarily associate the sound of something running with danger, as they do the sound of something trying to sneak toward them. Sometimes you can actually get away with more using the bold approach. When there's no way to sneak closer without being heard, and you've nothing to lose, it's worth a try.



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Don Those Deer Ears

The late Roland Hausmann was one of the best whitetail bowhunters in North America in the late '50s and early '60s. Hausmann lived on the border of Minnesota and South Dakota and
specialized in hunting marshes in both states. One of our mutual acquaintances tells of visiting Hausmann's home in the early '70s and seeing a set of deer ears attached to a cloth band hanging next to his host's camouflage jacket. When asked about the ears, Hausmann turned a bit sheepish but finally admitted that he wore them when hunting the marshes.



Hausmann went on to offer a seminar in marsh hunting. Deer move along the upwind side of any openings in the rushes, he said. From there, they can smell anything in the thick cover and see anything in the open, thereby covering all the bases and making it very difficult to catch them unawares. Hausmann overcame the challenge with a set of big brown ears.



He would hunt the opposite side of the openings and crunch around inside the rushes with the deer ears on his head. Bucks that caught a glimpse of the "doe" often came
closer for a look. Hausmann dragged some big bucks out of the swamps back then, though such a tactic would be dangerous to try nowadays.



At times, deer hunting presents unique problems that can't be solved with conventional answers. When such times arrive, the best hunters don't think in terms of what they should do; they study the possible outcomes in light of what they know about deer and then they think of what might work. If it's within the law, it's within bounds.yards of a buck that was hidden behind a ridge. Deer don't necessarily associate the sound of something running with danger, as they do the sound of something trying to sneak toward them. Sometimes you can actually get away with more using the bold approach. When there's no way to sneak closer without being heard, and you've nothing to lose, it's worth a try.



[pagebreak]
Don Those Deer Ears

The late Roland Hausmann was one of the best whitetail bowhunters in North America in the late '50s and early '60s. Hausmann lived on the border of Minnesota and South Dakota and
specialized in hunting marshes in both states. One of our mutual acquaintances tells of visiting Hausmann's home in the early '70s and seeing a set of deer ears attached to a cloth band hanging next to his host's camouflage jacket. When asked about the ears, Hausmann turned a bit sheepish but finally admitted that he wore them when hunting the marshes.



Hausmann went on to offer a seminar in marsh hunting. Deer move along the upwind side of any openings in the rushes, he said. From there, they can smell anything in the thick cover and see anything in the open, thereby covering all the bases and making it very difficult to catch them unawares. Hausmann overcame the challenge with a set of big brown ears.



He would hunt the opposite side of the openings and crunch around inside the rushes with the deer ears on his head. Bucks that caught a glimpse of the "doe" often came
closer for a look. Hausmann dragged some big bucks out of the swamps back then, though such a tactic would be dangerous to try nowadays.



At times, deer hunting presents unique problems that can't be solved with conventional answers. When such times arrive, the best hunters don't think in terms of what they should do; they study the possible outcomes in light of what they know about deer and then they think of what might work. If it's within the law, it's within bounds.

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