Whitetail Deer Movement Studies Over 18 Years Of Recordkeeping
By Darrin Bradley, IMB Outfitters
As a whitetail deer outfitter in the Midwest for 13 years and a whitetail deer enthusiast for much longer, I have always found that the key to taking down trophy whitetail bucks is through educating oneself on how whitetail deer move during certain times and conditions. More importantly under what environmental conditions, time of day, weather, winds, moon, food sources, etc. You simply have to study the whitetail deer for many years to truly understand this very complex animal, and know how to predict the movement of the whitetail deer, with an emphasis on trophy whitetail bucks. Baseball pitchers study batters. Offensive coordinators study defenses. Heck fire, even the Bible says, “Know your enemy.” The fact is that as I have tried to wake up the whitetail industry over and over with suggestion for furthering education however a vast number of whitetail hunters still try and rely on the latest products to get the job done. I will not stop preaching furthering education of whitetail deer until the whitetail industry awakens. Knowledge of whitetail deer is the key to your success. Today’s trophy whitetail hunter needs hands on knowledge by keeping a journal or record to determine whitetail deer movement. Study the facts of deer movement in your area. Know you prey!
Want to hear some more preaching? The truth is most of my hunters are much better at whitetail deer hunting than the fancy outdoor television celebrities ever dreamt of being. It takes the real deer hunter a vast amount of time to determine the mentality and movement of whitetail deer.
For this purpose I have recorded 18 years of deer studies over the course of 840 deer hunts. On each hunt I recorded all environmental conditions surrounding each individual hunt, as well as product used, etc. I will present studies over the course of this article to show the amazing TRUTH about whitetail deer movement, as well as studies on trophy buck movement. This data will assist you in regard to knowing the truth about whitetail deer movement and should give you some hint in regard to how to adjust your hunting techniques. WARNING: DO NOT READ THIS ARTICLE WITHOUT PUTTING ASIDE ALL PRECONCEIVED IDEAS about whitetail deer movement. The TRUTH is astounding.
I was recently talking to a friend of mine about this article and seemingly joked with him that if I were to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth about hunt products, I would probably get sued by many hunt companies, as I literally possess information to prove many products from hunt companies don’t really work, and am able to back it with scientific data. Our generation of hunters raised on Outdoor Television hasn’t quite realized yet that a vast majority of the whitetail industry is centered around “money” and not “truth”. Many a television buck has been shot in a high fence, to promote many a hunt celebrity. Then the footage is projected to the public as a free chase hunt. Sit back and get ready to learn the truth about whitetail deer movement as presented by 18 years of intense record keeping along with studies. For your success is dependent upon your knowledge of the prey you pursue, rather than the products you purchase. Don’t get me wrong, you need good equipment, but if you don’t understand whitetail deer movement the greatest products in the world won’t empower you to fill your deer tag.
Prior to moving into the narrative, it is important to define the terms of these studies. If you follow closely you will unlock the true riches of hunting trophy whitetail deer. Each time I went out on a deer hunt I record a number of environmental conditions and data. If you don’t understand the conditions I am recording then just skip through them and review the studies, however remember you will see studies on whitetail deer movement surrounding both whitetail deer movement as a herd, and trophy buck movement only. The conditions I record on all my whitetail deer hunts in my game diary include the following surrounding whitetail deer movement:
Date represents the actual date of the whitetail deer hunt.
Morning or Evening Hunt depicts whether I’m deer hunting in the morning or the evening.
I give the hunt a name so I can remember it along with a sequential number.
I write a brief story about what occurred during the hunt to reflect on whitetail behavior.
Wind Speeds are recorded during the hunt I am participating in on that day.
Active or Lack of Active Precipitation that occurs the day I am hunting.
Moon Phase that occurs the day I am hunting.
Scent Used to lure or cover human scent during a hunt.
Scent cover clothing or lack thereof when hunting from a tree stand.
Tree stand Name (I name all my tree stands for identification purposes.)
Closest Food Source to the tree stand setup I am hunting.
If a bed a area is within 100 yards of my hunt site I record this as I find it vital.
What type of topographical advantage I am hunting in, if any. (For example a funnel.)
How many deer seen on that hunt. (Hunt defined as either a morning or evening outing.)
How many bucks seen on that hunt. (Hunt defined as either a morning or evening outing.)
How many Pope and Young Bucks see on that hunt. (Hunt defined as either a morning or evening outing.)
How many deer I allow to pass within weapon range I refuse to shoot, which I called passed shots.
Miscellaneous conditions to be announced later in this narrative.
Win/Loss Record represents my success as a hunter. If I sit in a stand and see deer it’s considered a win, however if I sit in a tree stand and do not see deer it is considered a loss. This is a way to measure my abilities or a certain areas success of whitetail deer movement.
I began studying whitetail deer with record keeping skills in 1993. If I look back to my earlier recordings in those days I find it literally amazing just how much I have learned by keeping a game diary. I have discovered definite patterns and trends that I would have literally missed if I had not been keeping a game diary. I recommend Deer Diary located as www.mydeerdiary.com as the format to use, however I am not writing this article to promote this product. It is merely a suggested format to determine whitetail deer movement.
After 18 years of studies I determined my hunt abilities yielded the following results while hunting from a tree stand during deer season, in an effort to study whitetail deer movement:
a. I have harvested 14 record book whitetail bucks in my life.
b. I have placed myself within weapon range of 65 record book bucks since 1993.
c. I have passed shots on 2,147 different deer in since 1993.
d. I have seen 206 record book deer since 1993.
e. I have seen 8,595 deer since 1993.
f. My win loss record is 655-185 since 1993.
g. I have deer hunted 27 years.
h. It takes me an average of 12 hunts to get a shot at a trophy buck.
i. I average getting 4 shots a year at record book bucks since 1993.
j. I have killed a trophy buck 23% of the time when given a shot since 1993.
k. I never hunted a tree stand more than 2 times in a row since 1993.
l. I have seen up to 86 deer in a single outing.
m. I have seen a maximum of 9 bucks in a single hunt.
n. I have passed up a maximum of 29 shots in a single hunt.
o. I have passed a maximum of 256 shots in a single season since 1993.
p. I have seen a maximum of 337 bucks in a single season since 1993.
q. My best win/loss record in a season is 34-2 since 1993.
r. I have seen a maximum of 46 record book bucks in a season since 1993.
s. I have seen deer a maximum of 25 consecutive hunts in a row since 1993.
t. I have not seen deer a maximum of 4 consecutive times in a row since 1993.
With all boasting aside after observing over 8,000 deer from a tree stand with 206 of those deer being trophy bucks I would humbly state, “I have some valuable information to share.” About whitetail deer movement.
After a thorough examination over 840 hunts in 16 years startling results were discovered surrounding both whitetail deer movement, or in other words does and bucks, as well as studies devoted soley to trophy buck movement. Miscellaneous studies stemmed from record keeping of whitetail deer hunts.
STUDIES SURROUNDING WHITETAIL DEER MOVEMENT OF BOTH BUCKS AND DOES:
The following studies presented are studies surrounding all whitetail deer movement including both bucks and does.
FOOD SOURCE PREFERENCE OF WHITETAIL DEER
Clover 89% success
Bed Area Foliage 86% success
Corn 85% success
Beans 79% success
Acorns 73% success
Wheat 72% success
Alfalfa 71% success
Oats 50% success
Turnips 50% success
WIND SPEEDS AND HOW THEY EFFECT DEER MOVMEMENT
0-5 mph 84% success
0-10 mph 80% success
0-15 mph 75% success
0-20 mph 55% success
0-25 mph 54% success
Note: Whitetail deer movement severely decreases as the wind increases in speed.
COMMERCIAL SCENT USAGE STUDY
Human Scent Eliminator Sprays 80% success
Doe in Heat Urine 74% success
Cover Scents 63% success
Dominant Buck Urine 100% success (only used on 7 hunts.)
Overhead Lick Stick 100% success (only used on 2 hunts.)
Note: It would appear that one may attempt to eliminate human odor but not cover up human odor in accordance to my findings.
MORNING VERSUS EVENING MOVEMENT OF WHITETAIL DEER
Morning Hunts 71% success
Evening Hunts 82% success
Note: It would appear evening hunts have an increased success rate of 11%.
Sleet 100% success
Fronts 87% success
Rain 83% success
No Precip 78% success
Snow 55% success
Note: My studies show precipitation can increase success rate or deer movement.
TOPOGRAPHICAL TERRAIN STUDIES OF WHITETAIL DEER STAND PLACEMENT
Inside L’s 96% success
Lowspots 92% success
Logroads 91% success
Max Overdrive 90% success (3 or more advantages at same site)
Corners 88% success
Webs 84% success (3 or more draws coming together at one site.)
Funnels 83% success
Ridge Ramps 82% success
Draws 81% success
Ridges Shelves 75% success
Tractor Gaps 74% success
Waterways 74% success
Transition Zones 100% success (only 10 hunts in this topo location thus stat is skewed)
CLOTHING MARKETED TO THE PUBLIC AS COVERING OR HIDING HUMAN SCENT
Silver Ion Based Clothing 94% success
No cover scent clothing used 88% success
Carbon Lined Clothing 75% success
MOON PHASE STUDIES: THERE ARE 8 MOON PHASES THAT EMIT DIFFERENT AMOUNTS OF LIGHT DURING NIGHTIME HOURS. (The new moon is totally without light, crescent moons are 1/8 light produced by moon, 1st and 2nd Quarter moons emit 1/2 light at night, Gibbous Moons emit ¾ light at night, Full Moon emits 100% light by moon at night. Thus one would surmise via tradition that the more light the moon emits the less deer movement would occur. I have found this to be simply wrong as no correlation between deer movement and the amount of light the moon emits exists.
Waning Crescent 85% success
Full 79% success
First Quarter 78% success
Waxing Crescent 78% success
Waning Gibbous 78% success
Last Quarter 77% success
New 75% success
Waxing Gibbous 64% success
OVER THE COURSE OF 840 I VIEWED 206 TROPHY BUCKS FROM A TREE STAND WHILE HUNTING SINCE 1993. EXTENSIVE STUDY AND DATA WAS COLLECTED ON EACH SIGHTING OF A RECORD BOOK BUCK TO FORMULATE THE FOLLOWING STUDIES. IT IS VITAL TO PAY ATTENTION IN THIS SECTION TO SEE HOW MANY HUNTS WERE DEVOTED TO A CERTAIN CONDITION OR LOCATION.
MOON PHASES AND TROPHY BUCK MOVEMENT
Full 52 trophy bucks seen 159 hunts
Last Quarter 48 trophy bucks seen 116 hunts
Waning Gibbous 28 trophy bucks seen 100 hunts
1st Quarter 22 trophy bucks seen 116 hunts
Waxing Crescent 22 trophy bucks seen 105 hunts
Waning Crescent 20 trophy bucks seen 94 hunts
New Moon 14 trophy bucks seen 87 hunts
Waxing Gibbous 0 trophy bucks seen 63 hunts
Note: Moon phases and how they effect trophy whitetail bucks share not correlation’s with the overall deer herd except for the fact Full Moon continues to “hover” near the top of the Moon success rates while Waxing Gibbous continues to produces the least movement. Go figure?
MONTH TROPHY BUCKS SEEN (HOWEVER KEEP IN MIND THAT I HUNT MORE DURING SOME MONTHS THAN OTHER MONTHS.)
October 50 trophy bucks seen
November 82 trophy bucks seen
December 15 trophy bucks seen
January 17 trophy bucks seen
PRECIPITATION AND HOW IT EFFECTS TROPHY BUCK MOVEMENT (NOTE THAT MOST HUNTS DO NOT HAVE PRECIPITATION PRESENT OR ONCOMING)
Fronts 31 trophy bucks seen 123 hunts
Rain 11 trophy bucks seen 47 hunts
Snow 5 trophy bucks seen 20 hunts
Sleet 2 trophy bucks seen 6 hunts
No precip. 157 trophy bucks seen 644 hunts
Note: In regard to precipitation and its effects on trophy buck movement, one must consider that 49 of the 206 trophy bucks were seen during precipitation. Further only 196 of the 840 hunts were in active precipitation. Meanwhile 644 hunts without precipitation produced 157 trophy buck sighting. Thus, in regard to success percentages according to my studies, trophy bucks are 13% more likely to move when no precipitation occurs. Further trophy whitetail buck movement is far different during precipitation than the overall deer herd , as the overall deer herd movement seems to increase during precipitation. I’m telling you this trophy whitetail buck movement is a whole new mindset of animal.
CLOTHING MARKETED TO THE PUBLIC AS COVERING OR HIDING HUMAN SCENT FROM TROPHY WHITETAIL DEER:
No cover scent clothing used 135 trophy bucks seen 603 hunts
Carbon Lined Clothing 48 trophy bucks seen 201 hunts
Silver Ion Based Clothing 23 trophy bucks seen 36 hunts
Note: No Comment.
TOPOGRAPHICAL TERRAIN STUDIES OF TROPHY BUCK DEER STAND PLACEMENT
Corners 33 trophy bucks seen 74 hunts
Max Overdrive 32 trophy bucks seen 73 hunts
Funnels 30 trophy bucks seen 102 hunts
None 24 trophy bucks seen 322 hunts (Astounding when compared to the number of hunts one has to employ to see a trophy buck when no topographical advantage is present.)
Lowspots 23 trophy bucks seen 64 hunts
Inside L’s 14 trophy bucks seen 24 hunts
Transition Zones 13 trophy bucks seen 10 hunts (I’m seeing a lot more bucks utilize transition zones over the past few years as more and more hunters push deer into thick areas across the United States.)
Waterways 11 trophy bucks seen 4 hunts
Ridge Ramps 10 trophy bucks seen 79 hunts
Draws 8 trophy bucks seen 16 hunts
Webs 5 trophy bucks seen 32 hunts
Logroads 3 trophy bucks seen 32 hunts
Ridges Shelves 0 trophy bucks seen 8 hunts
MORNING VERSUS EVENING MOVEMENT OF TROPH Y WHITETAIL DEER
Morning 36 trophy bucks seen 260 hunts
Evening 170 trophy bucks seen 580 hunts
Note: As you can see evening movement of record book bucks is far superior to that of morning hunting.
BED AREA WITHIN 100 YARDS OF POPE AND YOUNG SIGHTING
Yes within 100 yards 189 trophy bucks seen
No not within 100 yards 17 trophy bucks seen
Note: Get close to bed areas to see the giant bucks but don’t get too close and spook them.
FOOD SOURCE PREFERENCE OF TROPHY BUCKS
Corn 66 trophy bucks 143 hunts
Beans 65 trophy bucks 143 hunts
Clover 20 trophy bucks 55 hunts
Bed Area Foliage 19 trophy bucks 215 hunts
Acorns 29 trophy bucks in 245 hunts
Wheat 3 trophy bucks in 29 hunts
Alfalfa 3 trophy bucks in 7 hunts
Turnips 1 trophy buck in 2 hunts
Oats 0 trophy bucks in 2 hunts
WIND SPEEDS AND HOW THEY EFFECT TROPHY BUCK MOVMEMENT
0-5 mph 117 trophy bucks in 392 hunts
0-10 mph 60 trophy bucks in 250 hunts
0-15 mph 21 trophy bucks in 99 hunts
0-20 mph 3 trophy bucks in 51 hunts
0-25 mph 5 trophy bucks in 48 hunts
COMMERCIAL SCENT USAGE STUDY (THIS STATISTICAL FINDING IS SKEWED AS I AM UNAWARE HOW MANY HUNTS I DID NOT USE SCENTS, AS WELL AS THE FACT MORE THAN ONE SCENT WAS USED ON A SINGLE OUTING MANY TIMES.)
Human Scent Eliminator Sprays 123 trophy bucks in 555 hunts
Doe in Heat Urine 16 trophy bucks in 74 hunts
Cover Scents 0 trophy bucks in 63 scents
Dominant Buck Urine 6 trophy bucks in 100 hunts
Overhead Lick Stick 3 trophy bucks in 100 hunts
No Scent Used at All 58 trophy bucks
WHAT ARE THE BEST TREE STAND LOCATIONS FOR TROPHY DEER:
As odd as it may sound I have privately kept what I refer to as a Hall of Fall Tree stand Record Book where over the past 18 years I have only entered a mere 15 tree stand locations out of the hundreds I have hunted from to be selected as elite. In an effort to determine what Tree stands are the very best in my career I measure and compare them by their production of whitetail deer, production of trophy bucks, and several other factors. By comparing the best tree stands to see what they have in common it sets a tone for just what type of tree stand setup I seek when hunting monster whitetail bucks. Oh yes this comparison along with the studies have assisted hunted across the nation to continuously harvest monster bucks with IMB Outfitters, and enable me to take a few good ones myself on land that I own. You must see what your best tree stands have in common as their wonderful production is not a fluke. Certain criteria exists among the greatest of tree stands. Let’s compare to see just what these tree stands that yielded the highest results for success all have in common, so that you can begin to set you tree stands up for success. This indeed is one of my favorite studies. And remember as we compare I have literally hunted from hundreds of different locations based upon educated data in an effort to determine just what works and what doesn’t work for the modern day whitetail deer hunt.
1. Name of Tree stand is “Logroad 80 Illinois”. This location had a win/loss record of 19-3 until I lost the rights to the property. Throughout the 22 hunts from this location I took 4 record book whitetails all exceeding 150 inches, passed up 37 shots at deer, and saw 6 trophy bucks. This locations was what I call a Maximum Overdrive Position. A M.O.P. is a location wherein more than 3 topographical advantages occur within bow range of the tree stand setup. This location had a lowspot, 3 funnels, 2 logroads, 2 corners, and a transition zone. From these types of location where multiple topographical advantages exist the stats begin to drastically increase in your favor. It is without doubt the best location I had ever sat and to this day is the only location I have taken a record book deer after gun season in Illinois by means of archery. Access to and from the stand was easy, and it was located within 100 yards of a bed area.
2. Name of Treestand is “Pin Oak Spooks”. This is a tree stand location I found in 2009 that was solely based upon a transition zone. It was located on the outskirts of a very dense pin oak thicket that within just a few feet turned into open big white oak timber. A faint logroad was present, as well as a ramp, and a lowspot technically making it a Maximum Overdrive Position. From this location I hunted 6 times in the timber. I saw 53 deer, passed 44 shots at deer, and saw 6 Pope and Young Bucks.
3. Name of Treestand was “Telephone Pole Setup”. While the tree stand was not literally on a telephone pole one was nearby in the very back pocket of an agricultural field. The Telephone Pole Setup was in a funnel, on a ramp, in a corner making it a maximum overdrive setup. Again note the trend the the top 3 stands over 18 years are all in Maximum Overdrive Positions. From this location I hunted 6 times. I saw 53 deer, passed up 44 shots, and saw 6 Pope and Young Bucks. Access to and from the stand was easy, and it was located within 100 yards of a bed area. Win/loss record was 5-0.
4. Name of Tree Stand was Stones Lowspot. The setup was totally dependent upon a lowspot. From this location I hunted 5 times and held a win/loss record of 5-0. I saw 96 deer from this location, passed up 33 shots, and saw 4 Pope and Young deer. Sometimes if the hunter can find a true secluded lowspot area that is all you will need to produce the best of locations. Access to and from the stand was easy, and it was located within 100 yards of a bed area.
5. Name of Tree Stand is Strike Force. This setup once again was a maximum overdrive setup located over a funnel, in a corner, in a lowspot. One of my favorite of all time. Get this in 6 hunts I held a win/loss record of 6-0, saw 170 deer, passed up 57 shots at whitetail deer, and saw 3 Pope and Young bucks. Note the first 4 out of 5 tree stand locations in my Hall of Fame are all in Maximum Overdrive locations. You better figure out what Maximum Overdrive locations are and be able to spot them if you want to put down the big deer. Access to and from the stand was easy, and it was located within 100 yards of a bed area.
6. Launch Pad was the name of the tree stand. This setup was located in a corner, in a lowspot, in a draw, making it a maximum overdrive location. My win/loss record from this location was 7-0. From this location I saw 101 deer, passed up 34 shots, and saw 4 trophy bucks. Access to and from the stand was easy, and it was located within 100 yards of a bed area.
7. The name of Tree Stand #7 is Hadley Waterway. It was simply a waterway giving whitetails the ability to move from one side of the field to the other undetected and in cover. A true waterway can produce big. From this location my win/loss record was 9-1. I saw 84 deer from this location, passed up 18 shots, and saw 4 trophy bucks. Access to and from the stand was easy, and it was located within 100 yards of a bed area.
8. The name of this tree stand was “4th and Goal”. This location was dependent upon a true transition zone and a bed area. A transition occurs when one type of terrain abrudtly changes from dense to open. Like from a thicket to big oak timber. It also gave me the ability to enter a bed area undetected. I sat this location for a win/loss record of 4-0. I saw 44 deer, passed 40 shots, and saw 3 record book deer harvesting a 161 inch trophy whitetail buck. Access to and from the stand was easy, and it was located within 100 yards of a bed area.
9. The name of this tree stand was “Hadley Point”. It was simply the shortest point on a huge field that deer could cross with the least amount of exposure, and was located on a ramp. I hunted the stand for a win/loss record of 7-0, saw 67 deer, passed 34 shots, and saw 3 Pope and Young Deer. Access to and from the stand was easy, and it was located within 100 yards of a bed area.
10. The name of this tree stand was the “Slaughterhouse.” This was a maximum overdrive stand located in a transition zone, on a logroad, in a corner. From this location I held a win/loss record of 6-0. I saw 50 deer here. Passed 38 shots, and saw 2 Pope and Young Bucks. It was the tree stand I first killed a Pope and Young Buck from. Access to and from the stand was easy, and it was located within 100 yards of a bed area.
11. The name of this tree stand was the “Lowspot Fert. Illinois.” This was a true lowspot that didn’t need any other topographical advantages to produce success. My win/loss record from this stand was 9-0. I saw 271 deer here in 9 hunts. Passed 48 shots, and saw 2 Pope and Young Bucks. Access to and from the stand was easy, and it was located within 100 yards of a bed area.
12. The name of this tree stand is called “Ratliff Swamp”. This stand was solely dependent upon its marvelous “Inside L”. One of the best I’ve seen if not the best Inside L ever located by me. Although I only hunted it 3 times I saw 58 deer, passed 39 shots, and saw 2 trophy bucks one of which was Boone and Crockett. A fabulous Inside L can produce phenomenal results. Access to and from the stand was easy, and it was located within 100 yards of a bed area.
13. The name of this tree stand ranking at #13 is called, “The Hammer”. I hunted it 4 times as it was a maximum overdrive with lowspot, funnel, web, and corner. Although I only hunted it 4 times I saw deer every time. In fact I saw 92 deer in 4 trips, passed 29 shots, and saw one trophy buck that bit the dust quickly or I would have hunted it more. Access to and from the stand was easy, and it was located within 100 yards of a bed area.
14. The name of this tree stand is called the “Arch Funnel”. It was in a lowspot, in a corner, on a logroad making it a maximum overdrive stand. I hunted the setup 7 times with a spotless 7-0 win/loss record. I saw 65 deer, passed 37 shots on deer, and saw 1 Pope and Young Buck. Access to and from the stand was easy, and it was located within 100 yards of a bed area.
15. The name of this tree stand is the “Brickhouse. Although this stand never produced any Pope and Young sightings it was due to the fact no trees presented an opportunity to get higher than 11 feet in the air which I’m sure gave my position away many times to mature animals. The stand yielded a 8-0 win/loss record. I saw 132 from the stand in 8 hunts, passed up 30 shots, but never ran into a trophy buck. The stand was in two corners at the same time, by a waterway, in a transition zone making it a maximum overdrive stand setup location. Access to and from the stand was easy, and it was located within 100 yards of a bed area.
In summarization of what constitutes a truly great tree stand setup here is what all the top 15 tree stands had in common. I mention these to alert the hunter how to setup tree stands to become more effective.
a. Nine of the top 15 tree stands were placed in a maximum overdrive location. The truth is the more topographical advantages you can cover at the same time the more your odds increase at intercepting whitetail deer movement.
b. Note that the Maximum Overdrive Tree stand locations had a combined win/loss record of 62-3. Nothing short of incredible.
c. Maximum Overdrive Tree Stands accounted for 36 Pope and Young Sightings.
d. 14 of the 15 best tree stands presented access to and from the stand easily, and it was located within 100 yards of a bed area.
e. Aside from Stand #1, I only hunted these tree stands less than 9 times per year. Don’t overpressure a great spot.
f. Two of the tree stands were located in true hidden lowspots.
g. One of the tree stands was located in a bed area and totally dependent on it but it was a bed area I could access without spooking deer.