Category: Hunting Tactics

Shifting Deer Hunting Strategies With The Rut

By GrowingDeer,

Over the past few weeks scrapes have played an important role in the GrowingDeer.tv Team‘s hunting arsenal. In a recent episode, GDTV #257, we discussed what scrapes are and how to use them for hunting the pre-rut. Even though bucks will continue to use scrapes throughout the season it will be less frequent and with no distinguishable pattern. As the first does enter estrus, bucks begin to focus on does. Scrapes are no longer the primary focus of our hunting.

A mature buck checks out a mock scrape.

This mock scrape is at the end of a travel corridor. Bucks still check it out but it's not as active as it was before a high percentage of the mature does in the area became receptive.

Maybe you have already observed does being chased by several small bucks followed by a larger buck. When this occurs, does get tired of constantly being pushed around and will seek out shelter. Time to shift focus and hunt stands that are near or overlooking areas of dense cover, like a thicket or a clear cut overgrown with saplings. The goal is to catch a buck searching for a doe that has or will take refuge in the cover. You can see how Grant put this strategy to use in episode #157.

In addition to hunting cover, our other preference this time of the year is travel corridors. Travel corridors are areas that deer prefer to use as they travel to their destination. These corridors tend to be paths of least resistance for deer and usually allow deer to move in relation to the wind. We know that does will be using these areas and that bucks will follow.

We also know that now is the prime time. As every day passes more does will become receptive. This means bucks will not have to look as hard for a date, and buck movement will decrease. When that happens, it will be time to shift hunting strategies once again!

I hope you get the opportunity to experience this exciting time of the season.

Managing whitetails with you,

Daniel Mallette

Rut Hunting Strategies – Episode #258

By GrowingDeer,

Grant shares rut hunting strategies in GrowingDeer.tv episode #258.

The peak rut is here! Grant shares real world strategies for hunting the peak rut. Plus, he’ll share post rut strategies. This episode begins with a surprise guest under our Muddy tree stands. He has no idea we’re right above him!

A buck in coverTip of the Week: 

Hunting Bucks During The Peak Rut

Receptive does are the biggest attraction, not food, cover, water.

For best odds of seeing a big buck, hunt cover.

The Biggest Buck We Have Never Hunted

By GrowingDeer,

Understanding a buck’s characteristics will be the deciding factor in your success or failure this fall. When the calendar changes from September to October and bucks start to shift into pre-rut phase you never know who will step in front of your camera. When that buck does make his appearance, it’s important for you to know how to plan your strategy.

Royal George is a big, ten-point hit list buck.

Royal George making his usual stop just after midnight. If his pattern doesn't change it will be tough to harvest this buck.

Bucks that would gross score over 160” are extremely rare for us here in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri. So when a buck we call “Royal George” walked in front of our Reconyx camera last summer, we quickly put him at the top of our minds, but since he was only three we wanted to give him another year. George is an incredible buck, and once we got to know him, we found out one of his characteristics that helped him get so big. Looking through all the images we have of him, it’s safe to say that 95% of them are at night. The remaining 5% of pictures were taken during June when bucks are seen more regularly during daylight. Now that George has reached 4.5 years old he’s on the hit list, but there is a difference between being on the hit list and being hunted. Here is where a lot of hunters will make mistakes. Listen up! Just because a hit list buck is showing up at one of your cameras, that doesn’t mean you should be hunting him with regularity. Why should you waste time and put pressure on a buck that probably won’t step out while you’re hunting anyway? You shouldn’t. This brings us back to George who is very nocturnal. When I say very, I’m saying that every picture taken this year of George has been before or after legal shooting hours. Yes, George is living on The Proving Grounds, but he has shown no signs of moving during daylight. What does this mean? We’re not focusing our time hunting a buck that we have a very small chance of even seeing, let alone harvesting. The best approach we can have with bucks like George is to stay out. Let him experience life with little to no pressure, and hope that when the time comes for him to be searching for a receptive doe he’ll choose her over darkness. When that day comes we’ll be ready to capitalize on his decision to choose does over darkness.

One of the biggest mistakes a hunter can make is getting anxious and spending hours hunting a buck that isn’t moving during daylight. This mistake can push a buck even farther into cover and darkness. By limiting the amount of pressure on your deer herd during early season, you can reap the rewards of daylight activity when the temperatures are cool and the hit list bucks are on their feet.

Daydreaming of Whitetails,

Adam

Hunting Strategies: Adjusting Your Game Plan

By GrowingDeer,
Venison in cooler

A cooler of venison is a great example of knowing your deer herd’s primary food source.

It’s been a great bow season so far! The GrowingDeer Team has been blessed enough to have harvested several deer already. The weather so far has been fair to poor to say the least. Now is the time to study the available food sources and our game plan. We need to decide if we will continue with our current strategy or adjust for changing food sources.

Most of our hunting so far has been on the edge of green food plots. Over the last week we’ve seen and heard many acorns falling on the ground. After a successful hunt last night, Grant studied the inside of a large does' stomach to find it packed with acorns. Lesson learned – it’s time to start hunting acorns! If we continue with the approach of hunting food plots, we will soon be frustrated with little deer activity. If we start adjusting our hunting strategies and find the right oak tree we could be in for a very fun hunt!

Recently we were out on the property scouting and we found what looks like a very active oak tree. This specific tree, a Chinkapin oak, is in the white oak family and produces an acorn a little smaller than your typical white oak, but this nut is still a favorite to the deer. Once we took a few more minutes to look under the tree we knew deer were feeding on the fallen acorns. After studying the area we decided our best option was to use a Redneck Bale blind tucked away in the brush about 25 yards from the tree. We are excited to get back in the area and climb into the bale blind for the first hunt!

Get outside and scout those food sources! You may need to change your strategy to make sure you’re not missing out on any dynamite hunting locations.

Daydreaming of whitetails,

Adam

Prescribed Fire Scouting

By GrowingDeer,
Deer bed

A look at one of the beds Adam found while on the fire.

Late August can mean a couple different things for the GrowingDeer Team. If we’re receiving occasional rainfall and cooler temperatures we’re usually planting food plots. If the weather is hot and dry we’re headed out with drip torches in hand to practice some prescribed fire! I enjoy this management tool, but something I enjoy more than prescribed fire is scouting the terrain and trying to understand deer. This is where these two practices go hand in hand.

Prescribed fires here at The Proving Grounds usually consist of lots and lots of walking. We’re hiking up and down ridges, through valleys, over mountains, and back again. This is a great time for us to not only find bottlenecks and saddles on the ridges, but even more important, to find specific bedding areas that we might not have know existed. That’s exactly what I did earlier this week on one of our fires. While walking parallel down a north slope of a ridge I came upon a small ravine, or pocket. This “pocket” was a slight bowl-shaped spot in the middle of the slope where several trees had fallen over the years.

It was a mess to walk through, but then I noticed something. Located near the center of all the trees were several deer beds. These were not your typical smashed leaves where a deer had bedded one day and left. These beds were all dirt with no leaf material in them. This told me that these beds were being used on a more regular basis than most deer beds we find. Why this spot? Why would a deer be bedding here so much? I started to wonder more and more about this spot when I looked up and noticed the smoke from a fire just down the ridge. Most of the smoke from the fire was going up into the air and being carried away, but in the pocket the air was calm, still, and most importantly, swirling. Bingo, with the surrounding treetops serving as cover from intruders the small drop in the ridge also meant that the wind swirled and was unstable for most of the day. This was an ideal location for deer to bed down, feel safe, and survive!

I’m excited to know the location of this bedding area for the upcoming fall for a couple reasons. Butterbean, a hit list buck, has been very active on our Reconyx camera just down the ridge. Even better, we have a Muddy stand setup on both sides of this pocket in the ridge! Stay tuned to GrowingDeer.tv to see if we can capitalize on this new find!

Daydreaming of whitetails,

Adam

The Countdown To Hunting Season Continues

By GrowingDeer,

Here we are in the middle of August and our deer season is less than a month away. On September 5th Grant and I will be packing our bags and rolling east to Kentucky for the opener on September 6th. We’re pumped about it! We’ve been excited about deer season since turkey season ended last spring! There has been a lot of preparation for the upcoming season: shooting our Prime bows, hanging and trimming our Muddy stands, and organizing our gear. There is still one more step that should never be overlooked – scent control.

Adam washes clothse with Dead Down Wind in preparation for hunting season.

This week we spent some time washing our hunting clothes and preparing for hunting season.

Scent control is a huge topic among hunters today. You’re opening up a can of worms when you bring up scent control techniques among a large group of hunters. As for the GrowingDeer.tv team, we believe wholeheartedly in scent control techniques, especially given the terrain we hunt in. The Ozark Mountains can be a tough place to hunt when trying to understand wind direction, thermals that rise and fall throughout the day and routine wind direction changes. That’s why it’s super important for us to give ourselves every advantage we can get when it comes to trying to harvest mature bucks. The preparation that goes into this doesn’t start the week of season. We are preparing for deer season all year round. Once season is finished we wash, dry and then store our clothing and gear in the ScentMaster Boxes. When deer season begins to come around again, we’ll drag out our clothing to be washed again. This helps control any scent that may have been absorbed while in storage. By hunting the wind correctly, using the complete system of Dead Down Wind products, and storing our gear in ScentMaster Boxes we have stepped up our game in scent control.

There are many skeptics in scent control, but there is only one question that needs to be asked to those skeptics. If scent control products (when used correctly) increase your success rate ever so slightly, why wouldn’t you want that advantage? “Ever so slightly” is in no way what Grant and I believe. After several years of using the system we believe that scent control plays a huge factor in our success rate.

Always remember that deer season preparation is year round!

Daydreaming of whitetails,

Adam

How To Hunt A New Property

By GrowingDeer,

Obtaining a new piece of hunting land can be one of the most exciting things for a hunter! There can be something said about hunting a new area with new bucks, new stands, and an entirely new look, but there is also a great deal of concern that goes with this.

Brian hangs a Muddy treestand

Adam and Brian hang Muddy tree stands on a property they haven’t hunted a lot in the past.

Starting with a clean slate can be an awesome experience for any hunter, but the first time you step on that property it can be exciting and downright overwhelming. You are probably thinking “Where do I even begin? I have no idea where or what the deer are doing.” This is one of the most important times for that property. By choosing to be aggressive you can alter the travel patterns and the very demeanor of the deer.

That’s why when I start out on a fresh piece of property I always tread lightly. I never want to begin the search for stand locations by finding the thickest, nastiest area and deciding to hang my stands there. Chances are, that big buck could be living close by and I may bump him out and ruin any chance of killing him that year. When selecting my first few stands to hunt, I usually set up in more of an observation view. I’ll hang back 75 to 200 yards, depending on the terrain and visibility, and observe the deer movements. Once I’ve gotten a good feel for their travel pattern, I’ll find a tree to hang in close to those trails and I’ll move in for the kill.

Another important part of selecting my stand locations is hanging a stand for every wind. I always do this step to ensure I will have a place to hunt no matter what the wind direction is! I made the mistake in my younger days of hanging five stands and all but one could only be hunted on a north wind. Bad move! These days I enter a new property so cautiously that I alert very few deer and ultimately see and harvest more deer.

Daydreaming of whitetails,

Adam

Deer Stand Locations: Ambush Strategies

By GrowingDeer,

I recently read a report by the University of Michigan’s Museum of Anthropological Archeology about an interesting find at the bottom of Lake Huron. A research team discovered a network of structures that they suggest are hunting blinds and funneling structures left behind by caribou hunters. Their findings indicate that the ancient hunters had built rock structures to funnel caribou past ambush points.

Starting a chainsaw

Hinge cutting is a deer manager's tool that places the tops of trees at ground level.

Reading this struck me in a pretty cool way. Not only had I been working on a new Redneck Blind location that day, but I was also making plans to enhance the natural funnel to that particular blind. Apparently some hunting techniques never go out of style! I observed deer at this location last year and noted that there are two main routes the deer take past the location of that blind. One is at twenty and the other is at sixty yards. By strategically felling a couple of trees on the sixty-yard trail, I hope to increase the percentage of deer that pass the blind on the twenty-yard trail.

I always try to learn from observations and often move stands according to patterns I observe. However, there are some situations when it is easier to bring the deer closer to me, than it is for me to sit closer to them; this is where the chainsaw comes in. By felling or hinge cutting trees in a way that persuades deer to move around them, I have enhanced many stand locations. Deer often choose the path of least resistance and I prefer that path to be in prime range of my bow.

The next time you are in the stand, remember it is important to record deer encounters while hunting. That information can be very useful in developing your own ambush strategies for use in future hunts!

Happy trails,

Hunter

Deer Hunters Need Scent Control Throughout The Year

By GrowingDeer,

For a lot of hunters, scent control is only practiced during hunting season and a few weeks before season. True scent control for deer hunters should be a year round activity. Unfortunately for most of us, we only have one set of hunting gear that we use for all types of hunting – coyote, deer, turkeys, etc. With each style of hunting there are different areas of concern regarding scent control. There are the hot days of spring when hunters walk through the hills chasing turkeys, all while working up a sweat. There are the damp cold days in November sitting in our Muddy tree stands waiting on a rut crazed buck. Even the snow covered days in January calling in coyotes. All of these hunts bring moisture and ultimately odor to one key area of your hunting gear – boots.

Dead Down Wind  And Scent Master are the tools we use to help with our scent control!

The tools we use to help with our scent control!

The boots you wear to your tree stand are one of the most likely pieces of your gear to spook game due to their smell. You sweat in them, you walk through mud puddles in them, and you walk through creeks with them, every step you take while hunting is in your boots. That’s why it’s extremely important to take care of your boots and maintain proper scent control. I believe every pair of boots has an “odor life.” Of course when you buy your boots they have a “new” scent to them. Once that odor is removed and they’ve been properly taken care of, they now enter into the “boot life.” If boots are taken care of properly they can last several hunting seasons, but there are numerous things to avoid. Not wearing them in gas stations, walking through the mall, hiking, anything that clogs them with foreign odors is key. Keeping them clean, dry and stored before each hunt is the best way to increase their life.

We treat boots after every single hunt with Dead Down Wind foot powder. This powder absorbs the moisture and destroys the odor, making sure the next time out our boots are as odor free as we can get them. Next we’ll spray the outside of our boots with Dead Down Wind field spray. This destroys any odor on the outside of our boots that may have collected during the hunt. Then we place them in our ScentMaster Box and turn it on, making sure as much odor as possible is removed from our boots. The box will heat up to 130 degrees, removing any moisture remaining in the boot and also filtering out any other odors that might have been missed. This system not only controls a huge part of our odor but it also greatly increases the life of our boots!

Don’t postpone your scent control this summer just because deer season is months away. Fight the odor now and tag your buck this fall!

Day dreaming of whitetails,

Adam

Using Science To Pick Which Stand To Hunt

By GrowingDeer,

Last week I shared the results of some recent research from the University of Georgia. Those researchers found deer opted to spend more time inside a 105 acre area where coyotes were excluded by a fence, compared to similar areas just outside the fence.

Clearly, deer preferred feeding, etc., in areas they believed to have less danger. Do deer consider hunters predators – and avoid areas they associate with hunters? Click Here To Read More at Winchester.com