Should I Hunt All Day Long in a Deer Stand?
As an Iowa outfitter a few years ago within 2 hours, our whitetail hunters harvested 3 Boone and Crockett Bucks, and 2 Eight pointers that scored over 160 inches. This was just the first morning of the Iowa deer hunt. One of the whitetail hunters that harvested a Boone and Crockett Buck (170 inches or better) had been texting his hunt buddy from his tree stand and had texted him a report of the monster whitetail he had just killed in Iowa. His buddy was so excited he wanted to come out of the woods to see his partnerís whitetail buck. When his buddy got back to the lodge he saw we had five monster bucks hanging in the skinning shed and was very impressed. This fellow turned to me and said, ďI want to kill a Boone and Crockett buck. Where can I sit to kill one?Ē I explained to him that nobody can promise you will kill a buck that big but that I had a few ideas to enhance the odds of doing so. I told him for his evening hunt I would put him in a good stand and perhaps he would harvest, but that if he did not harvest, I wanted to place him down in what I call, ďThe JungleĒ on day two of his iowa deer hunt. I told him the problem with hunting in this area on day 2 of his Iowa deer hunt that he would need to sit all day long to hunt deer. I told him the stand was way down deep in the guts of a big bed area full of big whitetail bucks, and that it would require for him to sit all day long. I told him if he were to come out of his tree stand mid morning he would spook upwards of 60 deer and foil any chances of harvesting a Booner in that area. This was not an area you could walk in and out of. That this was an area he would need to hunt all day. I told him he would get a sack lunch and drinks and be placed in a heated box blind that would be comfortable. Further I told him it would be better for him to sleep a couple hours during midday than disturb the area by walking in and out for morning and evening hunts. I told him I didnít expect for him to hunt all day for whitetail deer, as many hunters canít handle the mental fatigue, but that if he really wanted to kill a 170 inch or better buck that this was the best idea. He responded by saying, ďNo problem. Iíll sit all day. I wonít come out of the box blind. Iíll hunt all day long for deer , and not disturb the area by walking out in the middle of the day for a break.Ē I then asked him again, ďAre you sure you can sit all day to hunt deer?Ē He stated, ďAbsolutely, you donít have to worry about me. I will hunt all day for deer.Ē The next morning we put the hunter an hour before light into the box blind. At 9 A.M. the hunter was out standing at the road calling us and telling us he just couldnít handle sitting all day, and he wanted to come back to the lodge. I was frustrated without doubt as an Iowa deer outfitter.
The hunter did end up getting a trophy buck during his hunt but it was not a 170 inch or better buck.
In 2006 every Boone and Crockett Buck we killed as an Iowa deer outfitter was harvested in the middle of the day by hunters that were hunting deer all day long. There are many reasons to hunt all day for deer. There are many reasons why not to hunt all day for deer. There are also techniques to enable a hunter to sit all day long to hunt whitetail deer. Thus in the following narrative we will answer the question, ďShould I hunt all day long for whitetail deer?Ē
First of all there are times when the whitetail deer hunter should NOT hunt all day for whitetail deer. I would never recommend a deer hunter hunt all day long during the dates lying between September 15, and October 25th in the Midwest. The non rut phase of whitetail deer activity, or early season is a time when deer in the Midwest simply rarely move during midday. Thus a hunter that sits all during early season is not only pushing his mental state of deer hunting to the point of fatigue for no reason, he or she is also leaving tons of scent in the area he or she is hunting. Early season temperatures force the human body to expel more odor into the area with sweat, body odor, etc. Therefore you can ruin a tree stand area quickly during the early season by hunting all day for deer, no matter how heroic it may sound in doing so. The one exception to this golden rule of hunting all day for deer is if youíre on an early season muzzleloader hunt like the State of Kansas offers.
The truth is that very few whitetail hunters can sit all day in a tree stand, and hunt for whitetail deer without becoming lethargic, sleepy, bored, and just downright miserable. While I know there are periods of time when one should hunt all day for deer, it has always been hard for me to hunt all day for whitetail deer from one location. Its no secret that deer move during mid-day. Numerous studies have shown that deer are naturally crepuscular with another peak in movement between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. In areas where there is even moderate hunting pressure I believe deer adjust to the normal hunter timeframe by becoming more nocturnal, and by moving more during midday. Considering that deer generally pattern hunters far better than the other way around, encounters with bowhunters on a normal hunting schedule simply reinforces a natural behavior pattern. Also, a large portion of mature buck rut activity takes place during this same time frame. This mid-day deer movement goes mostly unnoticed because it almost always takes place in thick cover, or even within bedding areas. A second shift approach can put you in position to intercept this mid-day deer movement pattern, a pattern that particularly mature bucks tend to utilize. Deer love to move in wet conditions, ranging from fog to a light steady rain. When wet conditions are in the forecast it is good to plan a second shift hunt, no matter what time of season. On the opposite end of the weather spectrum, during the early season, or during unseasonably warm or dry spells I never hunt all day for deer. During a full moon, when there is a clear sky, I have notice there is a little more mid-day deer activity than normal, and less morning and evening movement. Much of deer's daytime activity goes unnoticed by hunters. For a second shift hunt to potentially be successful you have to be in the right location. You should select stands that are well within cover, as close to bedding as you can get without spooking deer by your approach. During the early season, along with the water as I mentioned above, some good second shift spots are hidden soft or hard mast trees, and travel routes surrounded by thick cover. A white oak or apple tree close to bedding are potential hotspots. There will be competition for these food sources, and mature bucks may make mid-day visits. Hidden travel routes, like a creek bottom though a woods, are used regularly during the day.
Later in the season I like to hunt funnels between bedding areas, that bucks scent checking for hot does might pass through. Other rut time second shift spots are primary scrape areas and rut staging areas. Primary scrape areas are always in spots with heavy deer traffic, and are the first places bucks go to scent check of estrous does. Cruising bucks will stop and bed, stage, at rut staging areas during mid-day and wait to catch the afternoon doe movement. If a doe comes through that is close to estrous, the buck will follow. During the rut phases it is critical to take advantage of this midday movement as much as possible.
The flip side of the coin is that there are times when the whitetail hunter should sit all day long to hunt deer. The time periods a hunter should hunt all day for deer include the rut with archery, gun hunts, and muzzleloader hunts. While its standard procedure for hunters that come to IMB Outfitters to hunt in the morning and then come in for lunch, then return for their PM hunt a few hours later I always smile when I have a gun hunter or rut hunter that asked me if he can sit all day. It tells me I can get him deep into the ďJunglesĒ of the Midwest, where the biggest deer are. For hunters that want to hunt all day for deer we provide drinks and sack lunch. Sitting all day long to hunt whitetail deer payís huge dividends during the rut, and gun hunts, however I donít have many hunters that can stand to sit all day long to hunt whitetail deer. I completely understand and donít expect them to hunt all day, however I have been able to train myself to hunt all day with a few tactics to keep me entertained.
When hunting all day long for whitetail deer prepare for discomfort. To remain comfortable and alert you have to maintain a constant energy level. If your stomach starts growling it will distract you from the hunt. I always pack a few high energy food items, drinks, and a couple sandwiches. Iím the kind of person that when hungry is miserable. Food is a priority for the all day hunter of whitetail deer. I take some much gear in the woods Iíve had many hunters make fun of me. I am always certain I am comfortable on any hunt whether itís an all day deer hunt or not.
Another item that I consider critical is a pee bottle. Its almost impossible to sit for more than four hours without having to relieve yourself. Considering deer's sense of smell and the enormous effort most deer hunters go through to remain as scent free as possible, it would be foolish to urinate from your ambush location.
Now letís make this much more enjoyable. I utilize gaming or hand held video games to play while on my deer hunting site when hunting deer all day long. I simply put the game volume on mute and I can play on the tree stand to pass the day. Sony, has produced a PSP which will allow you to play a variety of games from baseball, to action games, to about anything you desire to game with. This makes an all day outing fun even in the most boring situations. Iíll play the game for 15 seconds and then stop and hunt for a few minutes. Multi task game playing with hand held gaming systems is the answer to passing time if you like them. I donít care how old you may be, have someone teach you how to use them and you will quickly be addicted to it as much as the deer hunt itself. Also, an item you might consider is a bible or other reading material. A magazine or book, or whatever you need to keep you in a stand. As a Christian I carry a small bible I have wrapped in camo tape at all times in my backpack. The time in my deer stand is precious. I have had many times of prayer and deep bible reading from my treestand wherein when I was done hunting I might not have had an encounter with a monster buck but I had an encounter with God for sure. My deer hunts are as much about getting closer to Christ than nailing a record book buck. I just love getting out of the office. Getting away from the phones and the high pased work environment. GIVE ME A BIBLE AND HAND HELD VIDEO GAME AND I CAN STAY ALL DAY EVERY DAY IF NEED BE.
Be sure and gear up for your hunt with plenty of the ďrightĒ clothers. Remember to take lightweight rain gear. No matter what the weather is like when you head out hunting, it can change in a flash. A set of thin windproof rain gear will protect you from both water, wind, and a sudden drop in temperature. A suit won't take up much space in a pack. I learned about packing rain gear the hard way. Also remember during potentially cold temperatures that you can always take clothes off but you canít put them on if you havenít taken them with you. When hunting all day for deer make sure you have all your bases covered from entertainment, to hunting gear, to clothing, and Iíll guarantee you that youíll harvest bigger bucks and have hunts that are much funner.