I scanned the string of orange-clad North Country types that made up the Ravndalen gang. It was the whitetail opener and we were lining up for the first deer drive of the morning. Some of the hunters shuffled their feet in the subzero temperature. Most were uninspired, viewing their brush-buster role as a required exchange of labor—the dues paid to swap places with the posters on the next push. They considered their odds of killing a deer while tromping through the woods remote.
Like many of the lingering whitetail gangs scattered throughout northern Minnesota, where I grew up, we now do considerably more stand-hunting than we did back in the day, but we never fail to conduct a few organized drives on opening weekend—partly for nostalgic reasons, partly because this traditional whitetail tactic sometimes pays off.
While many of my fellow hunters hold a dim view of dogging the brush, I see it as an opportunity. I realized years ago that the chance of killing deer during a drive is very real if you’re super sly and follow a few golden rules.
Instead of stomping through brush, try to make as little noise as possible. Deer trying to circle back through your fellow drivers will interpret your stealth as a soft spot in the ranks and try to slip by.
Move slowly and stop frequently. It’s difficult to hear when you’re walking, and deer are quick to detect motion.
Scan ahead and pick your next stop. I pause next to a tree to break up my outline and to use the trunk as a rifle rest.
Keep your riflescope on its lowest setting. Deer encounters will be sudden, fleeting, and
in your face.
For more opening day tactics, click here.