We've all heard the popular saying, "You can't kill them from the couch." It sounds enticing and is an easy way to motivate yourself to go hunting. However, for the average whitetail hunter like myself, who primarily hunts smaller parcels of land ranging from 5 to 30 acres, this catchy phrase can sometimes do more harm than good.
Various factors come into play when you're not seeing mature bucks in the areas you hunt, but one of the most common culprits is hunting pressure. Every time you step into the field, whether you realize it or not, you exert a level of hunting pressure on the deer in that area. The more pressure you apply, the fewer deer you'll encounter. Conversely, less pressure means more deer. This is even more pronounced when hunting small parcels and pursuing old, mature bucks, which is why I've adopted a hunt less for more success strategy.
To enhance your chances of success, you must gain a deep understanding of deer movement and behavior in your hunting area. The primary tool for achieving this with minimal disturbance is the use of cellular trail cameras. It's important to note that I said "celluar" trail cameras, not regular ones. The reason I favor cellular trail cameras for highly effective scouting with minimal impact is that they allow me to stay informed without the need to physically enter the woods. Using this valuable information to your advantage is key to understanding the deer in your area and identifying the ideal times for a successful hunt. Pay close attention to daylight photos and the appearance of bucks on camera. From these daylight photos, look for correlations such as weather, time, wind, moon phase, and direction of travel. This will provide you with a clear picture of the perfect hunting day with the best chances of success.
Another highly effective scouting tactic with minimal impact is using observation stands. An observation stand is located away from the main deer traffic areas, allowing you to observe what's happening while maintaining an extremely low impact, without spooking any deer. These stand locations are excellent for gathering valuable information about deer movements, determining where you can and cannot go, and planning your entrances and exits to avoid disturbing deer.
Just as we can pattern deer, deer can pattern us if we frequent the same area too often. I've made the mistake of overhunting a small parcel in my younger days, ultimately ruining my best hunting spot before I ever even had a chance at a big buck. If the conditions aren't favorable, don't go hunting, its as simple as that. Sitting in a tree when your chances of bagging a buck are low is a poor use of your time. Instead, consider staying at home and creating a deer sanctuary, patiently awaiting the perfect moment to strike when the wind, weather, deer activity, and the risk of spooking deer are all in your favor. I tend to hunt my best stands sparingly, and have killed most of my deer in the first or second sit. This is where persistence and patience will pay off.
Too many times, people will ruin a hunting spot before they even have a chance, and it's no secret your best chance a getting a big buck is during the rut. I have stands where, no matter what, I won't even think about hunting until at least October 31st. I believe if there is ever a time to get aggressive and push the envelope, whether that means getting close to their bedding areas, a hang and hunt, or hunting with an okay wind, it's during the rut because your chances of success for that sit a much greater. Just remember, there's a difference between being aggressive and being reckless. You should still put a lot of thought and strategy into everything you do, and there should be a high level of confidence that you'll be successful in that spot. If there's a high level of confidence, then be aggressive, but if not, I would hold off and reevaluate your approach
For the average hunter pursuing mature bucks on smaller parcels of land, understanding and managing hunting pressure is paramount. Keep in mind that hunting pressure significantly influences deer movement throughout the fall. Deer will always move, but how and where they move between feeding and bedding areas is influenced by the hunting pressure they perceive. Your approach can either help or hinder your success, so prioritize strategies that minimize pressure for a more successful hunting experience.
Tactics are extremely important when hunting whitetails! If you need to pick up some whitetail hunting gear for this season, be sure to check out the selection at the GOHUNT Gear Shop.