Making Quick Strikes During Prep-Season | Deer Hunting
It is officially the final day of July 2018. That may be hard to believe, but here we are. Literally just weeks away from many whitetail deer hunting seasons. Meaning that we are entering the final stretch of what I call "prep-season". The time to get your hunting spot primed and ready for the fall.
Looking at the summer season on a calendar can be daunting. The off-season feels like an eternity. An eternity in which you have all the time in the world to get your pre-season tasks accomplished. Then you look up and it's officially August. You're staring down those last few weeks to hang stands, prep blind locations, and maintain your previous hunting locations.
You could also look at this period as the "eggshell period" for many whitetail hunting fanatics. As bucks begin to put on those final inches of antler, hunters get extremely superstitious and careful. Fearing so much as setting foot onto their hunting ground in anticipation of spooking deer ahead of the season.
Human presence is a very real deterrent to deer movement. There is no doubt about that. As Realtree's Josh Honeycutt and I discussed on a recent AO Podcast, deer have no idea when we become predators and when we are not. Meaning that they see no difference between the disturbance you make when hanging a stand and actually sitting on that stand with your bow in hand.
To whitetail deer, everything is a predator. That is just their natural instinct, and it's why they are such a tough animal to kill.
As hunters we should give whitetails the credit that they deserve. They are incredibly intelligent and instinctive creatures that know how to survive and advance. At the same time, I think we can get a little bit carried away.
Again, human intrusion and pressure is a very real factor in deer hunting. The more you enter a given area, the less your chances will be at harvesting a deer. I truly believe that. With that being said, you can't get too spooky. You can't be so scared to disturb deer that you put yourself behind the 8-ball on opening day.
My personal hunting situation provides me with a lot of first-hand experience entering and exiting the exact same property. Believe it or not, I have hunted the same 100-acre family farm for my entire hunting career. I've never had the urge to get permission or acquire another property. I take pride in making that family farm the best that it can be.
In my ongoing efforts to make it the best it can be, I am constantly on the farm. Riding an ATV around to accomplish tasks, hanging and replacing stands, and doing everything in between. I also shoot my guns on a homemade shooting range at the same property. Needless to say, the property sees a good deal of human presence.
We don't have a world-class hunting ranch, but we have some solid deer hunting. Solid enough to keep the freezer full each year and my mind eager for that next big buck to appear. Deer still utilize the farm quite often.
I don't walk on eggshells and avoid the property for five months ahead of the season. I just can't do it, and I honestly don't want to do it. When you have access to private property and you enjoy doing things on it, you better take advantage of it. There is more to life than deer hunting, but you can have your cake and eat it too- if you're smart about it.
Save a few days of the year where I might ride the ATVs for several hours to cut loose a bit, my appearances at the farm are quick and precise. I get in and I get out. It's that simple.
Know what you need to do and get it done. That goes for most any time of the year, but especially in this final stretch of the prep-season.
Need to hang a stand? Get in quick and quiet, hang the stand, trim your shooting lanes and get the heck out of there. Want to check that trail camera? Swap the SD card and get going. You can also strategize to hang those cameras in less intimate areas, and we discussed that right here. You probably get the gist of this. Make quick strikes and disturb the property for as short a period as you can.
Contrary to what a lot of people think, deer will put up with a little bit of crap and stick around. Now, a little bit of crap is the key in that sentence. Big deer don't put up with prolonged or regular disturbances. So avoid being redundant and doing the exact same thing the exact same way.
Some people may disagree with me, but I believe that there is a margin for error in all of this. You don't have to quarantine a hunting property off from now until October or November. It certainly won't hurt, but I don't believe it's necessary.
If you're smart about how you handle your business, you can get things done right up to and even inside of the hunting season.
I'll provide a couple of suggestions or pillars that I stick to below.
- Do your business when deer are not active (middle of the day is best).
- Be smart with your scent. Wear your hunting boots and try to control scent as best you can.
- Utilize a vehicle as much as possible. Deer will put up with trucks, tractors, and ATVs a lot more than they will tolerate people on foot leaving a noise and scent profile.
- Be predictable when doing work. Utilize the same entrance roads or trails when you access the property. Deer can become accustomed to seeing human activity in certain areas. Busy roads are a good example. Just keep your summer entry points different from your hunting entry points.
- Realize that there are no-go areas. Don't expect to make regular trips into a bedding area and get away with it. You have to know the property. Some areas will allow you to access at will, while others have a razor-thin margin of error before you start messing things up.
Please keep in mind that these are observations and theories that I have made and developed over years on one specific property. Every region and property is very different.
Suburban deer may tolerate a lot more than very rural deer that see absolutely zero human activity. The opposite may be true in your neck of the woods. You simply have to build your own familiarity through experience.
There's no denying the fact that less is more when it comes to human intrusion. The less you access a property and pressure deer, the better your chances are of harvesting one. If you're dead set on pursuing trophy class deer, then you need to watch your step even more.
I'm just saying that you don't need to be so uptight and worried that you neglect the things that need to get done. I'd rather roll the dice on disturbing a deer in August than scare myself out of hanging a stand in the first place.
You can't kill a deer unless you're in position to do it. Just be smart and strike quickly.