21. June 2021 By Bill Winke
Violating the bowhunting cardinal rule is the #1 killer of the season. This rule should always be followed: you can't kill them if they know they're being hunted.
Maybe it won't kill your season, but it will make it a lot harder to succeed. Once a wild animal realizes it's being hunted, it won't move as naturally and definitely not as much in daylight. For the Bowhunter, this change in behavior is the death knell.
So the trick is to keep them from knowing you are hunting them. To do this, they must understand all the ways in which they can recognize our intention.
They focus on whitetails and are not omniscient. You can't argue the way we can. They learn through experience and have no more senses than we do. You shouldn't attribute mystical powers to them, but you should respect their survival skills very much and work tirelessly to defeat them.
Whitetails are really good at using their senses to their advantage. In order not to be discovered, we must go to extremes. Here are the many ways wildlife discovers a human threat is near.
Smell at the booth:"Stand" is a whitetail term, but that idea could just as easily be applied to any big game animal's ability to smell you while you're waiting in ambush. Staying undetected in an ambush is a little more complicated than it seems. Two things will speak against the simple idea of just setting up downwind of a gamepath. The first force to contend with is shifting and swirling winds. The way the wind blows your scent away from your belay is greatly affected by the terrain and the amount and location of cover.
Terrain affects wind flow much like large rocks, and internal bends affect the turbulence of water in a trout stream. The wind will swirl in pockets of sheltered air just as water swirls in pockets sheltered from the main current. Anytime you hunt in a protected air pocket, expect turbulence. If the wind gusts all bets will be void on remaining undetected by deer roaming by on either side.
Sometimes you can anticipate the direction of the vortex and use it to your advantage, but usually it's not consistent enough to rely on. I would avoid these sheltered spots or chase them out of scented floor blinds. Examples of such places are narrow shafts and creek bottoms—anything that creates a pocket of dead air that the passing wind swirls into.
Surprisingly, the thickness of the tree cover will also affect the local wind direction. I have seen the wind swirling into small openings in the wood, even when the opening was at the top of a ridge where one would normally expect steady winds. This effect is even more pronounced when the trees are densely covered with leaves.
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The second factor affecting wind flow is gust. When there are gusts of wind, there is a rhythm of low and high tide that is difficult to predict. It's almost as if the air is being compressed and sucked back in after a strong gust. First it pushes hard in one direction and then drifts back in the direction it came from until the next gust pushes it back together. I hunt days when the wind is gusty, but I'm more careful to stay in open cover where the ebb and flow of the wind seems less intense.
See you at the booth:When hunting alone, I place my stance at the back of the tree; the side I expect the deer to approach from. I then get up and face the tree, using the tree to hide from nearby deer.
How high you are in the tree also affects your ability to remain invisible, but I don't like going over 20 feet. That seems high enough as long as I'm at the back of the tree and remain motionless.
Upon entering, smell:You don't just have to play the wind in the stands, you have to play it while walking to the stands. And if you're planning on chasing the spot again soon, you'll have to play the wind on exit.
This is a big part of the chess game of stand hunting - planning bulletproof entry and exit routes. I spend a lot more time figuring out how to get to and from my booths than figuring out where to place them. In fact, it makes more sense to work backwards; first find really good entry and exit routes and then find the best pitches along these routes.
Don't neglect the mental part of deer hunting. Planning the route upwind and where the deer are likely to be is perhaps the biggest part of consistent success.
Smell your floor scent:It took me a few years to figure out just how important this whitetail defense system really is. Since we don't see them getting nervous when they come across our trail a few hours after we left, we assume everything is fine. But every time deer smell human scent in places where they don't expect it, they get nervous and are less likely to move around that area naturally in the near future. If they meet your scent multiple times in the same spot, they're sure to adjust their patterns. Deer seem to respond to human soil odor for several hours but not days. If I had to give a number I would say 8-12 hours under normal scenting conditions.
The deer don't smell where your boots actually touch the ground as much as they smell where your pants brush against low vegetation. For this reason, a mowed or cleared path smells the game less than a path through dense bushes. When hunting areas with ground cover that I have to walk through, I wear long plastic ankle boots that come almost to my waist, or I wear waders. Be creative; You need to wear something over your pants that will keep the smell off the low brush.
See you when you enter:I find that too many people take the shortest route or the most convenient route to their booth. Instead, they should take the path that keeps them out of sight. Streams and ditches are some of my favorite terrain features, which I hunt for precisely this reason. Use any type of cover or terrain to avoid being seen!
Upon entering, hear:There are two parts to this. First, they can hear you walking. Second, they can hear you when you stop and park your vehicle. I rarely hunt my best stands on still mornings unless I can walk across fields of grass or the like that aren't covered in crusty leaves. Wet mornings are fine too. Otherwise, I love a 5-10 mph wind to mask my sound. I've had too many promising hunts that went up in smoke because the deer heard me coming in. It can even pay off to wait until first light to go inside, when the forest comes alive with squirrels, birds and other wildlife.
On calm mornings, deer can hear a vehicle from afar, especially on gravel roads. They hear the screeching of the tires, and when it suddenly stops, they raise their heads and stare in the direction. I've seen it many times and learned to park well away from my intended hunting location, or I will take advantage of normal human activity and park as close as possible to a neighbor's driveway, a place where deer are used to vehicles hear .
A simple goal
Beating all the deer all the time is a very difficult task. The goal is to hit the most deer most of the time so they move naturally for as long as possible in the season. It's fun dreaming of stalls overlooking a large Buck sign, but sitting there will be a boring and frustrating time when all the deer know you're there. The simple goal of preventing them from knowing they are being hunted is more important than anything else you can do.
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and the best time of day to hunt late season deer is definitely the evening. After the rut, bucks are weary and need food, and the colder weather tends to get them on their feet earlier in the afternoons.Will a mature buck come back after being spooked? ›
Spooked deer will return to their bedding area, but when they return depends on how much the intrusion frightened them. If they can't pinpoint the threat, they'll likely return sooner than if they saw or smelled you. You can evaluate your impact on a deer by studying its body language.How do you attract bucks late in the season? ›
Don't be afraid to hunt over a food plot in the late season. Mature bucks will be searching for green food sources. Don't be afraid to think out of the box when trying to lure a big bucks within bow range. It may take a decoy, deer scent and a rattling bag to pull a whitetail within bow range.Will a buck come back after blowing? ›
The answer is yes, no, and maybe. If your target buck blows, oftentimes that's a busted hunt. Mature deer rarely blow and then stick around for another opportunity. Generally, the gig is up for the day, if not longer.What time of day are most big bucks killed? ›
Early Morning and Late Afternoon
No matter what the conditions, deer move best early of a morning and late of an afternoon. That's when they're wired to move most. It's when their eyesight is most effective. And there are few things that impact this movement, other than hunting pressure.
- Large temperature swings will often boost deer activity, especially if the temperature begins rapidly dropping. ( ...
- Freezing rain and sleet in the woods. (
Some deer do return, although it might take a few minutes, hours, days, weeks, or months to do so. Other deer never return at all.Does urine scare deer? ›
According to an article in Hunting Lease Magazine by Ben. H. Koerth, human urine does not frighten deer. On a large lease, mock scrapes were created and different lures were used to attract deer.How often do hunters miss deer? ›
Most hunters only took one shot at a second deer, but they often fired at least twice at the first deer. And whether they fired at one deer or two, over 50% of the hunters missed their first shot.What is the best buck call for late season? ›
Bleats and Grunts
A couple more effective calls during the late season are grunts and bleats. These calls are less aggressive than antler rattling, so they're smart to use post-rut. Again, because the deer herd will be depleted of energy, you don't need to call as often.
But when excessive hunting pressure and rut intensity impacts deer movements, bucks will surprisingly remain active from late morning through early afternoon (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Hunters typically spend these hours eating and socializing.Should you hunt mornings late season? ›
Mornings are much greater risk at this time of year and much lower reward. With that being the case when I'm after a mature buck in the late season, I avoid morning hunts. Of course, it's possible to kill a mature buck in the mornings at this time, but it's much less likely than during the evening.How long can deer smell where you walked? ›
ANSWER: Under normal conditions, a deer can smell a human that is not making any attempt to hide its odor at least 1/4 mile away. If the scenting conditions are perfect (humid with a light breeze), it can even be farther.How do you know when a buck is near? ›
1. Hearing the signs. An angry squirrel barking or a blue jay sounding the alarm can often alert the hunter to an approaching deer. An experienced woodsman is always listening for changes in the sounds of the woods as other animals will often sound off when startled or angered by the presence of deer.How do you tell if a doe is big enough to shoot? ›
Body shape and size and head shape and size are the two most defining criteria when judging antlerless animals. A mature doe will have a longer body, while a juvenile deer will have a body that is boxier. Think of them as a suitcase compared to a briefcases.Do big bucks move in the middle of the day? ›
There will be a mid-day activity period just like always, but deer, especially bucks, can move at all times.Where do big bucks hide? ›
They find both around the edges of marshes. They love to bed down in areas where marshes meet hardwoods and other forms of standing timber. These areas often receive less hunting pressure and aren't frequented as much by the rest of the deer herd.Where do bucks stay during the day? ›
The quick answer is, “anywhere they want.” Deer sleep anywhere they bed and may do so singly or in groups. However, during daylight it's far more common for deer to sleep in heavy cover where they feel secure.What makes deer move the most? ›
Deer will move every day, but you may find some increased activity as the temperature gets colder. That activity is always associated with some extreme event, such as an extreme temperature change, wind increase or barometric pressure change that occurs in concert with the weather change.What hour are deer most active? ›
Deer are most active during the twilight hours of dusk and dawn. Most sleep during the day. They typically feed in the early morning hours before sleeping and then again in the evening and through the night. However, deer can also be active during the day and even midday, especially during rut and around the full moon.
Try to be in your stand and ready to go at least an hour before shooting light, which often means leaving the truck a solid 2 hours before shooting light. This gives you time to cool off from that extra-long hike, get your gear ready and let the woods settle back down before the sun peaks over the horizon.How often do bow hunters lose deer? ›
If, for the sake of argument, we assume that bowhunting wounding rates are approximately 50% (the upper end of reported wounding rates) then the Camp Ripley study suggested that only 6 to 7% of deer that are shot by hunters arenxe2x80x99t recovered and actually die from their wounds.Where will a wounded deer go? ›
When a wounded deer seeks a place to bed down, it often uses the thickest available cover. Some will lay down and watch their back trail. Most will not penetrate deep into the thicket. Typically, they will go inside a thicket only a short distance to bed.How far will a wounded deer travel? ›
Usually a wounded whitetail deer will only go a 100 or 200 yards or so if it has been shot, and sometimes a lot less then that. By giving the animal a chance to lay down, without the fear of being chased, it will stiffen up. Then when you go to find the deer, you will have a much better chance of finishing it off.What scares deer the most? ›
Research shows that predator urine, from bobcats and coyotes, are the most effective repellents in deterring white-tailed deer specifically.Does cigarette smoke spook deer? ›
Whitetail deer can absolutely smell cigarette smoke, but they do not seem to mind it. Many hunters have reported that it has zero effect on their hunt, which is hard to test.What colors do deer see best? ›
They can pick out short (blue) and middle (green) wavelength colors, but they're less sensitive to long wavelength colors such as red and orange. “They're essentially red-green color blind,” said Brian Murphy, a wildlife biologist and the CEO of Quality Deer Management Association.Is it worth deer hunting all day? ›
But when you've waited all year to spend time in the field, deer hunting all day is the best way to maximize your chances of bagging a buck, especially the biggest ones out there that seem to morph into ghosts when you most hope to see them.Why am I missing so many deer? ›
It can have to do with not practicing enough from an elevated position or from a sitting position. A miss can happen due to low light, poor judgement of yardage, or the deer can move. The reasons it can happen are many, and it's easy to get caught up in the “why” it happened.Should you hunt all day during the rut? ›
Deer Rutting Season
For the hunter, this period represents the best time to harvest a buck, as deer become more active during the daylight hours, making them easier to spot and kill. During some phases of this season, some deer might even wander off into open areas in broad daylight.
During those couple weeks of peak rutting activity bucks are in perpetual search of females, while also fighting off any and all competition. Contact grunts, buck growls, and snort wheezes are all effective, but you can be louder and more aggressive with all of the above.What call attracts Bucks during rut? ›
Using a grunt call is a great way attract the attention of mature bucks. You should look to only grunt periodically, every 15 minutes to 20 minutes. 'Blind calling' can work but it is best to make the calls subtle and sparingly because you don't know how close a deer might be to you.Should I shoot a doe or wait for a buck? ›
For several reasons, the National Deer Association's answer is: shoot them as early in the season as possible. When there is a doe-harvest goal to be met, don't delay. Use any opportunity to kill does early, including archery and muzzleloader seasons.How long should you sit for a morning hunt? ›
By mid-season, or before the rut is in full swing, the best hunting time is the first 45 minutes of light in the morning, catching bucks moving back to bedding after night feeding or as some get up from their nighttime bedding.Do bucks move in heavy rain? ›
Whitetail deer will always be active and on the move except if the weather is severe, such as there being a downpour and a lot of wind. Therefore, if you are able to endure a little rain, you will most likely catch that big buck on your trail cam right when the rain begins to stop.How do you get a buck to come closer? ›
Use a grunt call to lure in bucks within earshot. Every half hour or so, let out two or three medium grunts with your buck call. This call will get their attention and bring them in. For the deer, you can see in the far distance, try a hale grunt to get their attention and lure them in with a handful of tending grunts.What are the best times to hunt late season? ›
The best time to hunt during the late season is during the afternoon and evening when the day is at its warmest. You can most certainly hunt the morning hours but deer tend to bed for the day before the sunrises during the winter months.Should you deer hunt the morning of a full moon? ›
Another theory offers that during the full moon, deer move more at night and less during the day. While it's not pronounced, my personal observation from over 40 years of whitetail hunting and study has been that daytime deer activity does seem to decline during the full moon.Should I hunt mid day during the rut? ›
Increased Chances of Seeing Deer
You increase your odds of seeing deer merely by increasing your time on stand. The total action might be slower during the midday window, but what you do see has a high likelihood of being a buck on the prowl, or perhaps one even pushing an estrus doe.
To a whitetail deer, the detergents we wash our clothes in, and the soaps and colognes we use on our bodies, are repulsive. Even our natural scents, like the bacteria that grow when you sweat, are enough to alert a wary buck to your presence.
It's important to have multiple stand locations to avoid hunting the same location day after day, and you should rarely hunt a single location on consecutive days. While it's true that you can shoot a deer your second day in the same stand, your odds are never as good that second day as they are on the first.Can deer smell human breath? ›
Scent compounds also come from the human body itself when it breaks down molecules to make energy. The odors are emitted through the skin and breath. These substances — the VOCs — evaporate into the air and can spook deer when you're hunting.How far will a buck roam? ›
Average dispersal distances ranged from 1.9 miles to 23.6 miles, depending upon the amount of available forest cover. Typically, scant forest cover contributed to greater dispersal distance, sometimes exceeding 100 miles.Should I shower before deer hunting? ›
Your regular clothes, right down to your underwear, should be washed in scent-free detergent with no dyes or perfumes. When possible, take a shower with scent-eliminating soap and shampoo just before you head for the woods and use the scent-eliminating deodorant too. Never ever wear cologne or scented deodorant.How long does a buck fight last? ›
Fights may last a matter of mere seconds to as long as eight or more hours. During this time, bucks tend to be vocal, often grunting as they walk through the woods and brush.How old is a 7 point buck? ›
Age Estimate: 2 ½-Year-Old Buck
Often, it grows between six and 10 points, with a typical average number of eight points. The head is still long and slender. Body weight distribution shows a heavier rump than front end.
Many yearling bucks with superior genetics and good nutrition have eight or more points on their first set of antlers. Nearly all bucks with superior genetics and adequate nutrition have eight or more points when 2 years old. Bucks with inferior antler genetics may never have more than seven points, even when mature.Do Bucks get more points as they age? ›
Age and Antler Size
Whitetail bucks will often increase antler points as they get older, but their antlers will peak and begin to decline if the buck is allowed to get really old, becomes ill, gets injured or if nutrition falls off.
Late season deer tend to move much less during the morning than during the afternoon. One researcher found that most deer finish feeding about two hours before sunrise. They then pick their way slowly toward their bedding areas. This makes morning hunting a risky proposition when the rut is over.Are morning hunts good late season? ›
Because the potential spook factor is so high, morning hunting during the late season can be one of the best ways to end your hunt before it even begins.
Evenings provide more predictability because of the food factor. Even when the rut is rocking hot and heavy, deer still have to eat. Food sources are the go-to location for evening hunts. They attract does, and those does attract bucks.Should hunters hunt all day during the rut? ›
For the hunter, this period represents the best time to harvest a buck, as deer become more active during the daylight hours, making them easier to spot and kill. During some phases of this season, some deer might even wander off into open areas in broad daylight.What are the best hours for hunting? ›
Deer are most active in the morning and evening, which is why many hunters consider these hours the best time to hunt deer. With some exceptions, deer mostly sleep during the day and move more at night.What is the best late season buck attractant? ›
Vast swaths of standing corn and soybeans are very inviting for deer and almost everyone can agree they are some of the best late season deer food sources where available. Whitetails can bed and feed in the corn, or hop over to the next field to munch on some soybeans.Should you buck grunt late season? ›
A couple more effective calls during the late season are grunts and bleats. These calls are less aggressive than antler rattling, so they're smart to use post-rut. Again, because the deer herd will be depleted of energy, you don't need to call as often. Throw out a handful of bleats and grunts every so often.How long should you sit for a morning deer hunt? ›
By mid-season, or before the rut is in full swing, the best hunting time is the first 45 minutes of light in the morning, catching bucks moving back to bedding after night feeding or as some get up from their nighttime bedding.What months do deer move the most? ›
What Season Are Deer Most Active? It should come as no surprise that deer take advantage of feeding times when vegetation is most abundant, which is between April and September in most regions. During these months, deer can feast on fields of soybean, alfalfa and other greens.What do big bucks do late season? ›
High Up on the Ridges. Bucks seem to frequently bed on ridges and points during the late season. Up there, they can take advantage of their eyes, ears and nose, too. Before morning hunts, climb the hill long before daylight and get to the buck's bedroom for it does.Should you hunt scrapes in the morning or evening? ›
Primary scrapes are food destination locations, which means you should only hunt them in the evening. You would spook any attending deer with morning entries.Is it better to deer hunt before or after rain? ›
It is a little easier to tell when the rain will stop or let up than it is to tell when it will start, so your best bet is to hunt after the rain. Deer move a little more after the rain than before simply because of their empty bellies.