Unconventional Whitetail Techniques for Harvesting Trophy Whitetails
Whitetail deer are being educated more and more each deer as more and more hunters take to the field in pursuit of whitetail deer. Whitetail deer have always had the ability to adjust to terrain and thrive no matter whether its the bitter cold of Canada or the dead heat of Southern Texas. Along with the whitetail deerís ability to adjust to climates these creatures also adjusts patterns to avoid whitetail deer hunters. Whitetails are evolving more and more each season, thus you may want to consider some different tactics that are a tad unconventional in order to harvest the buck of a lifetime.
Pushing your Whitetail Lease or Farm
I have noticed over the years that many world class animals are taken by novice hunters. There is a reason behind this. Novice hunters often have no tactic to employ and end up sitting in the stupidest places where the veteran whitetail deer hunter would never sit. As a result the novice hunter often times puts down a world class animal. A prime example of this would be the Todd Hurley buck of Illinois years ago. It was his first deer hunt. He just sat down and the buck came by. Why is this? Bucks associate danger with areas that veteran hunters utilize. These areas maybe funnels, bottlenecks, and other topographical advantages on the farms they hunt deep in the timber. Often times the veteran hunter will walk right past an area on the way in to hunt, where the world class animal is bedded up, due to pressure pushing the deer into a weird spot that a veteran hunter would never use as an ambush site. Utilize aerials and experiment with areas of the farm you have assumed are inferior as you may have been pushing your larger deer into areas you are not hunting. The fact is if a hunter believes the East side of the farm is the best and never hunts the West side, is very possible the hunter may have pushed his deer to the inferior side of the farm. Donít anchor yourself to one particular portion of the hunt farm thereby handcuffing your self.
I recall a hunter we had in camp weeks ago that continued to see shooter bucks appear in the food plot out of nowhere. We began studying the aerial very closely and discovered in the fencerow just off the food plot was a ľ of an acre brush pile that nobody would have wanted to hunt that held only a half a dozen trees at most. We took the risk of hanging a stand in that brush pile no larger than ľ of an acre and the very first time into the location arrowed a monster buck. The fact is pressured bucks will resort to the weirdest travel routes and bed areas you can possibly think of. Locations you wouldnít want to hunt and are missing out on.
Big Hay Bail Hunting
In some areas you will find a buck or group of bucks that seem to be making their way into the middle of an agricultural field without any pattern to their entrance whatsoever. Oh yeah, the group or the deer may make their way into the middle of the field every night but they always seems to enter from a different direction no matter how many times you hang your stand at all the entry points. This is one of the most frustrating events to be a part of. Seeing them but not being able to ever get them close enough. This may cause hunters to try and utilize ground blinds but lets face it, whitetail deer know what ground blinds are. I donít know how many times I have put up a ground blind and as soon as the deer enter the field or area they immediately see it and turn and run. In reality its like sitting a tent up in the middle of the woods. Deer spot them immediately most times foiling your outing.
In the Midwestern States hunters have long advanced from bailing hay from 4 foot long square bails and now produce bails of hay that are 5 feet tall by 5 feet wide which can be easily moved with agricultural equipment. They almost look like a big giant ball of yarn. Whitetail deer often feed mindlessly around them as they are ever present in the field and are not foreign as a ground blind presents itself to be. By talking to your landowner you will find they more often times than not be willing to move the bails together side by side forming you a fort to sit in the middle of in an effort to take down the very deer that are eating up their hayfields. These big hay bails work perfect for ambushing bucks that are staying in the middle of the field and have no entrance pattern that you can count on. Try it and youíll like it. These also make great turkey blinds as well.
Coming in Backwards
Several years ago in Pike County, Illinois we continued to watch a huge Boone and Crockett animal come out into a soybean field every night to feed. He did the same thing every night. Once hunt season arrived we began to hunt him and very confident that we would harvest this predictable animal. Each time we scouted from a distance we would see the big bruiser whitetail buck. Each time we took a client into hunt the whitetail we would NOT see the buck. We repeated this insane scenario time after time. If we went to scout the deer from a far he would appear but if we hunted him he would not show up. What was going on was the buck was watching us walk in to the treestand.
If we just scouted we didnít cross the field and the buck wouldnít see us so he would graze in the bean field during those evenings. However on nights we hunted the big deer we would penetrate the field and timber. The buck was bedded at a vantage point wherein he would see us and refuse to graze in the bean field and retreat.
So what is the solution to this question? Rather than walk in the route we were taking to access the bucks territory we elected to walk hundreds of yards out of the way and come into the property from the reverse side and climb into a tree stand. As soon as we did this we arrowed the monster whitetail deer. Remember if you have successfully scouted big whitetail deer on an agricultural field but every time you hunt it you donít see them they are undoubtedly watching you walk into the area and retreating, which foils your hunt before it begins. Donít walk in the same way each time you enter a property or you risk educating whitetail deer when and when not you are hunting.
Ever been baffled on where to hunt on a given tract of ground. Maybe the aerial photo you are looking at all looks the same. Maybe you trying to select a tree stand location in a funnel or bottleneck but donít know just where to put up your whitetail deer stand. Back before the modern days of whitetail hunting and the sudden flow of new products into the hunt industry things were much different and getting on a big deer was much harder. We didnít have portable tree stands or climbers. We as whitetail hunters were forced to carry lumber, hammer, nails, plywood, and chairs into trees and spend a day or two building a wooden tree house type of deer stand. Remember this was a time when we also didnít have four wheelers or any means of carrying the supplies in other than by hand. In those days hanging a tree stand took so much work, and money that anytime we erected one we made damn sure it was done in a awesome place to intercept deer. You just didnít have the convenience of making a wrong tree stand location choice and then moving it.
With this concept in mind most often times when you are scouting the timber and find one of these old rotted out stands hanging by nails or even a couple two by four boards hanging from an old tree you are in the correct spot for you own location. The old wooden deerstands tell a story and are a dead give away that you have located the correct area to set up in.
As a whitetail outfitter I have learned to spot tree stand locations using aerial maps and can often tell the employees just where to look for sign to set up a tree stand. Many times when we walk into these areas to setup a lock on tree stand and a set of tree sticks we find an old wooden deer stand just a few yards away.
Old wooden deerstands are a dead give away you have chosen a good location. We didnít hang them their for no reason. Gauranteed!
Small draws versus big timber
This issue was covered a tad in this article prior but needs more coverage to educate you to the harvest of larger and larger whitetail deer. One afternoon I was on my Husqvarna All Terrain Bench Vehicle in Iowa looking at the ground we had leased just checking a few tree stand location for whitetail deer sign. I was cruising at about 3 miles per hour down a small draw no wider than 10 foot and no longer than 75 yards. I looked into the draw as I was passing and saw a Boone and Crockett Whitetail Buck bedded 5 yards into the draw, which was only 15 yards from the all terrain vehicle. The buck perked his ears up and watched to see if I would slow down which would be a dead give away I had seen him causing him to retreat. I kept on driving while looking at him without slowing down on the vehicle. He never got up and remain bedded in the small draw. It was an area I would never hunt and if I put a paying client in the draw to hunt they would undoubtedly complain that I had not put them on a world class whitetail deer ambush site. That night after dark I hung a tree stand in the draw. The next morning my hunter hammered the 180 monster whitetail and was happier than a pig in you know what.
Big whitetails will utilize the weirdest places to bed because these are the locations that receive no pressure, thereby hold no human scent or activity. Donít overlook these small draws as it only takes a small area to hide a monster buck for an entire season. They dinít get big by being dumb, that is for sure.
Near Highways or Surburban Bucks
One of our hunt camps and lodges is located in Pike County, Illinois. If youíve ever hunted Pike County, Illinois for whitetail deer then you have been spoiled rotten if you have hunted with the right outfitter. If you havenít hunted Pike County, Illinois with a good Whitetail Deer Outfitter you must do so. This County does receive a lot of pressure but holds tons of big deer. As a result of the pressure the whitetail deer have simply changed patterns of bedding and movement. The smart outfitter adjusts to keep his clients on deer. The dumb outfitter just leaves his tree stands in the same old location and hopes for the best. Needless to say IMB Outfitters moves tree stands in an effort to maximize our success rates.
On October 1 of 2005 on afternoon I sat at the lodge and ask a hunter if he was willing to sit in a weird location and just trust me. He said yes. I knew of a group of bachelor bucks that was coming out in a field near a 4 lane highway. I told the hunter he would be able to read license plates from his tree stand location and that the hunt was not going to be scenic in any aspect. He trusted my judgment and allowed me to place him near the busy interstate. At 5 PM like clockwork the group of bucks came out of the small woodlot right down the deer trail. He passed 7 Pope and Young Bucks at ten yards and shot the eighth whitetail buck from his tree stand which scored a whopping 172 inches. He was very happy. The bucks had learned that no hunter would hunt near the highway and that they had gone unmolested all year so they continued to use the same area night after night. High pressured areas often force deer to bed near interstates, or close to towns or cities because nobody hunts in these locations. In fact I predict the next world record whitetail buck will come from either Iowa or near a suburban or populated location.
Many record book whitetail bucks have grown to amazing sizes on land tracts near or in close proximity to populated cities and towns because they remain unpressured. If you live near a city scout deer just on the outskirts of town on land tracts nobody has leased or wants to lease. This can often be the key to success.
Whitetail Deer Decoys
Whitetail deer decoys always produce one of two results. The first result is whitetails come in to a decoy and look it over closely. The stomp their feet at the decoy, and try to get it to move. When the decoy doesnít move I have seen many a whitetail deer tuck tail, blow alert warnings, and run off into the distance. This is the reason I donít use decoys.
The second result one can receive from using a decoy is stunning. In Northern Missouri in 2007 just prior to the rut really heating up young deer were cruising looking for does and were very agitated to find any other buck in their area. We had a buck coming into a foodplot that would stand in the food plot guarding his whitetail does like a bull elk. When any other buck would enter the field he would run to the buck and run them off the food plot. Knowing this deer was aggressive we used a decoy to put the hammer on him. I believe decoys are to be used very sparingly, however if youíve watched you herd and are in a location wherein you know you have buck that will simply not tolerate any other buck to enter you hunt area then go get a buck decoy and place it in the area within bow range. Again you have to know your deer and know the personality of an aggressive buck that will react to present the whitetail deer hunter with a shot.
Despite what you may be watching in on Outdoor Television or reading in magazines I would never use a decoy in any other situation, as 80% of the time they spook deer instead of attract them. Remember we are whitetail deer hunting and not turkey hunting. While it is neat to watch a video of a mature buck hammering a decoy it seldom happens. I canít stress enough that a lot of the material we are reading and watching is not real and is happening within the confines of a high fence or small holding pen in order for the companies to get footage to sell you product.
Hunting in the Snow
White sheets in snow are priceless just the Mastercard commercials claim. I know a hunter that has over a dozen shooter bucks on the wall with bow. He waits for a snowfall and then gets a white bed sheet and literally dresses like a ghost. He then heads for the timber and watches different feeding locations throughout the day. Once he sees a deer enter into a food source he will walk or crawl slowly toward the whitetail deer he wants to harvest. Of course the deer cannot see him, nor can they smell him as long as he keeps the wind in his face. Under the sheet he carries his weapon and when the magic shot time appears he puts the ďhurtinĒ on a big whitetail every year. This may also be a great way to get shot by another hunter but this unconventional tactic has proven effective for this local whitetail hero in my community.
In conclusion, the key to consistently harvesting mature whitetail deer is to continue to scout, and adjust tactics to take them down. The aforementioned tactics are a bit ďout in left fieldĒ, however they may be just what you are needing to employ in the area you hunt. If nothing else know that while mankind is evolving, so are whitetail deer and new strategies, products, and tools will always be the key to staying a step ahead of your next trophy whitetail buck.