Hunting Without a Pattern
The book on hunting early season has always been rather straight forward: Scout your hunting area until you find a target buck, then find out as much as possible about his daily routine so you can put yourself in position to get an easy shot. Sounds good on paper, but what if you don’t have time to scout? What if this buck is elusive and doesn’t do the same thing on two different days? For some bucks, their pattern is that they have no pattern. Even if you do have time to scout and found a nice buck, what if you can’t easily access his location? I say, “go hunting anyways”, and scout with your bow in hand. If you hunt smart, keep your scent away from the majority of deer, you should be able to put more pieces of the puzzle together for later in the year, and with luck on your side you might even get a shot opportunity. According to a recent online poll from Lindsay Thomas Jr. of QDMA, 64 % of bucks killed by hunters were bucks they had never seen before.
Step 1 – Pick a Close Observation Tree
Regardless of how much you have scouted, what a buck did 3 weeks ago might not match what he is doing this weekend, so sitting in an observation tree will help you determine entry and exit routes to fields or get a better idea of preferred food sources. Try to find a tree that you can access without alerting too many deer in the area, yet still feel like you are somewhat “in the game.” If you don’t see any target bucks the first evening, push into the woods and try to find places where bucks might be spending time. Listen for acorns falling and keep your eyes open for fresh rubs and scrapes. Also, look for trails that parallel open farm fields, as bucks feel more secure walking within cover rather than being exposed. I know it feels highly intrusive scouting during the season, but with all the leaves on the trees you can sneak into areas at this time of year that you would not be able to get away with in November.
Step 2 – Make Aggressive Moves When the Weather Allows
If you see a buck enter the field 200 yards form your stand and spend a lot of time, chances are good that is where he will spend a lot of time over the next week. Don’t move your stand 40 yards with hopes of him moving farther toward you on the next hunt. Move your stand to a position where you can get a shot at that buck when he is in his comfort zone. Try and find a spot where your scent blows away from where he will be as well as where he steps into the field. Positioning is key here because the best spot for you might also be the best spot for you to get picked off, so you have to balance between pushing in far enough for a shot without pushing so far that deer are alerted to your location before the big one steps out. When moving your stand, try to target midday on days with high wind or rain which will help cover your noise/scent. The time of year, wooded areas are naturally noisy, so you can get away with more than you think.
Back in 2017, my friend, Thomas Mlsna of Reconyx, shot a 214” buck on opening weekend in Wisconsin just minutes after climbing a tree with a climbing tree stand. He had to be within 50-75 yards of where that buck was bedded, based on how quickly the deer came in, yet he was still able to climb the tree and get in position. The buck he shot was a ghost based on the previous month of no trail cam pictures, but the weather was perfect, so Thomas went in and hunted. It was the first north wind after many days of south and the temp dropped 10 degrees from the previous days.
Step 3 – Get Out Clean
As much as we would like to think all hunts will end in a kill, that is seldom how it plays out. If you sat in a promising spot and maybe even saw your target buck, but were unable to close the deal, you need to think of a clever way to get out of the woods without all the deer knowing you were there. I like to coyote howl if I have a field full of deer, but no shot. This usually clears the field and as soon as it clears, I head for the truck. You will know if the deer sense your presence if sightings decline the next time you sit that location. If you do harvest a deer, make sure to post the picture to the Ani-Logics Braggin’ Wall! Good luck everyone!