Preparing for the Orange Army
It's mid-November, and that means the invasion of the Orange Army is on the horizon in most U.S. states. In some places, the invasion has already begun.
For those who are unaware, we're referring to the hoards of blaze-orange clad gun hunters that hammer the fields and woods every season when we're talking about the "Orange Army". All in good fun, of course. We love all hunters here at Affiliated Outdoors, and we're gun hunters ourselves.
However, there's no denying the fact that the deer season gets downright crazy once your state's firearm deer hunting season kicks off. It's a period in the season when more hunters hit the woods than any other. Putting immense pressure on the local deer herd and drawing up harvest numbers. Gun season is a great American tradition, but it definitely has some downfalls for those of us who love to manage for quality whitetails and hunt them with a bow.
When you invest all kinds of time in the off-season and proceed to hunt hard with stick and string for over two months, it's only right to feel a bit odd about the onslaught that is firearms season. It can feel like you're truly being invaded by a foreign force. You probably have no choice but to join that Orange Army and let the pieces fall where they may, but there are some things you can do to prepare.
Let's hit on a few.
Pull Out All Stops
This point will be aimed specifically at those of you who are chasing a target buck right now. Take it from someone who lost a deer of a lifetime during gun season a year ago, now is the time to hunt your hardest. Pull out all the stops to get an arrow in that buck before your state's firearms season kicks off. That can be much easier said than done during the craze of the rut as that buck is roaming all over, but do what you can. Take that vacation time, hang and hunt where you believe he's hanging out, and use every call or scent in your bag. Once you allow that buck to venture into gun season, he's fair game for the Orange Army.
Give Deer a Reason to Stay
Everyone wants to keep the majority of the local deer herd on their property. It's a no-brainer. As we know, it's not an easy thing to do. Unless you have a massive tract of land with all of the amenities, you can't hope to hold all of the deer. Heck, you still can't hold all of the deer even if you have thousands of premium acres. Deer are nomads that roam between property lines. We have to deal with that. With that being said, it's always best to give deer every reason to stay instead of venturing elsewhere. This goes back to putting in your summertime food plot work, promoting healthy habitat, and hunting properly year-round. You can also make sure that you are providing supplemental feed if it's legal in your area. Just focus on giving deer a reason to hang around your property versus venturing off to other places.
Pull Back on the Pressure
It may seem like we're about to contradict the first point, but hear me out. Once the best days of the rut appear to be in the rear-view mirror, I like to let a property settle down until gun season arrives. Here in Ohio that's pretty easy, as gun season comes about 2 weeks after the best days of the rut are finished. I'm obviously all for hunting hard in the closing days of the rut to try and close the deal before gun season, but you should attempt to draw a cutoff line in the sand. When gun season is a week away, it may not be a bad idea to back off and let the property settle. If I know that the surrounding properties will be getting pressured hard, I want my property to feel like a safe-haven. That brings us to a final point.
Let me start this point by saying that there is a definite time and place for hunting aggressively. Sometimes a roll of the dice on a spot-and-stalk or an old-fashioned deer drive can pay off. Personally, I'm not a fan of super-aggressive gun season tactics. That's just me. I go back to the pressure issue and giving the deer every reason to hang around. If everyone else is hunting aggressively, I just like to wait back and let their pressure work in my favor. I'll stick to hunting out of treestands and blinds. Being patient and letting the deer come to me. Watching my entrance and exit strategies as closely as I have all season long. Pressure is the name of the game as gun season rolls in. I want to make sure I'm in the field a lot during gun season, but I want to do it with as little intrusion as possible.