October 05, 2012
Deer Hunting Tips: When to Move Your Stand - 1
by Doug Howlett
Most deer hunters understand that as Indian summer transitions into cooler, shorter days, a whitetail buck’s attention shifts from feeding to breeding.
Food still plays a role, mostly because that’s where the does will be, as does growing hunter pressure and even changing weather patterns.
Despite this, I’m amazed at the hunters who attach a ladder stand to a tree and leave it in the same spot year-in and year-out, hunting it from the first hot day of September or October right through the bitter end of the season.
To make the most of every moment you have to hunt, note the factors affecting deer movement in your area and use that information to decide when and where to move a stand. Here’s how to make that call.
Get Off the Fields
If your goal, however, is to score on a bruiser as the rut approaches, then as soon as you spot bucks chasing, scraping, and seriously sparring, it’s time to slip back from the field edge at least 30 to 50 yards. As the rut cranks up and hunter pressure simultaneously grows, big bucks will work the downwind edge of a field just inside the timberline where they can stay protected by cover while scent-checking for ready does or antlered intruders in the field. Many bucks will also stage near the field and linger in the woods during the final moments of light before making an appearance in the open field after sundown. Identify a favored trail or corner bucks prefer to enter from on the usual downwind side of the field—as evidenced by trail-cam photos and the presence of rubs and scrapes—and set your stand a little farther downwind of that trail. The trick is to be deep enough in the woods to cut down the buck’s approach angle.
Funnel Your Odds
As the rut kicks in, it’s time to focus on funnels, particularly for bowhunters because of their limited range, which might be 40, 30, or even 20 yards. Look for points of timber that jut into a field or bottleneck between two open areas, as well as slivers of woods that butt up against a steep incline or that pinch between a wide river and a field. In suburban locations, identify fingers of trees and green space that run between homes that bucks use as prime travel corridors as they take to the hoof in search of does. Fence corners or holes in fences also provide features that funnel deer movement to a predictable spot. These narrow strips of cover promise repeat visits from big bucks at close range as they make their daily rounds. You need to be sitting in one riddled with sloppy, well-worn deer trails, keeping your stand on the prevailing downwind side of the biggest, most well-used trail through whatever thick cover there is.
Bucks checking scent in the open will seek the comfort of having cover nearby should they need to get into it, and a lone tree or isolated patch of brush serves as a navigation point for both does and bucks alike. Never hang a stand in a lone sentinel tree unless it is amply leafed out, otherwise a buck will spot your silhouette. It’s better to put a blind at its base, brush it in, and wait four or five days to allow deer to get used to the presence of this new object before hunting it.
Adjust for Pressure
Before the season, locate the thickest, most tangled patches of briars and honeysuckle, overlapping blown-down trees, brush-choked ravine heads, and overgrown islands in the middle of a swamp. Hang a high stand from which you can shoot into the middle of the cover. Then cut a path to the stand, and clear it of leaves so you can silently access the location. (In the swamp, be sure you can get to the stand from the water using hip or chest waders.) As soon as the pressure turns up and bucks disappear, hunt these spots all day when the rut begins to peak. Odds are you’ll catch a bruiser slipping in or out at some point in the day where you might not have seen him otherwise.