Photo credit: Shutterstock
Though whitetails are not often on a western hunter's mind, they should be because they are out West in good numbers and are fun to hunt. Whitetail hunting is a different style of hunting compared to a lot of western hunting. One of the biggest reasons is that, generally, a whitetail hunter does not need to be in tip top shape to be successful. In fact, besides scouting and understanding whitetail behavior, one of the most important skills a successful whitetail hunter can learn is how to patiently wait in a good spot until there is an opportunity at a mature buck. Here are a few tips and strategies that will help you be more successful when chasing whitetails around farmland and river bottoms out West.
When it comes to whitetail hunting, scouting is key to success during your five- to ten-day hunt. Understanding which fields are holding bucks, when they are arriving to feed and heading to bed and where they are entering and exiting agriculture is the information you must obtain quickly. To gain this information, you have to research, which might involve taking a day to drive around at first or last light, hanging trail cameras during late summer or talking to some locals or landowners who are familiar with the deer patterns. After you have gained this information from afar, it is then time to hang a stand or set up a blind mid-day when the bucks are in their bedding areas. Always think about the wind direction and have multiple setups for multiple different wind directions. Whitetails are wary creatures that trust their nose more than anything so only hunting a spot when the wind is right will be crucial.
When it comes to picking spots to set up your treestand or blind, for the early season, it is important to concentrate on the travel corridor between feed and bedding. These corridors provide an excellent ambush spot without invading the deers' feeding or bedding space and affecting their patterns. As the rut starts, a buck will start to make scrape lines near their travel corridors. These are always a great place to set up as bucks will move through to freshen them up and check them at any time throughout the day. Later on, when the rut is fully underway, I always concentrate on pinch points near areas of high deer activity. Bucks will be cruising and chasing does throughout the day. Whenever I select any spot, I always have to have a plan for an undetected entrance and exit or else I will not use it.
Once you have some spots picked out and some stands hung or blinds set up, it is time to pick which days to hunt which stands. To do this, you must examine and understand your intended approach and know which spot you are going to sit for the morning or evening based upon the wind direction and your visibility. Deer are nocturnal feeders so it does not make sense to cross the agriculture field on the way to your stand before sunlight. If you do this you will alert every deer of your presence and they will all flee, leaving your travel corridor hunt with little to no activity. It also wouldn’t be a good idea to walk past a known deer bedding area with your wind blowing directly into it — even if the wind in your stand is ideal. When selecting your spots, you need to plan and understand your entrance and exit routes and know under what conditions they will work. Also, plan to have your stand high enough or well-hidden enough that it can conceal your slight movements. Deer normally do not look up for predators; however, if you are skylined or moving in your blind, they will see motion and high tail it out of there. Pay attention to these little details and the deer will feel less pressure and act in a patternable way for longer, allowing you to make adjustments as necessary. No matter how big the buck is, it is always a good idea to wait until conditions are as perfect as they can be before trying to hunt him. This is especially crucial if you feel as though you have finally identified his pattern.
Whitetails can be a blast to hunt for hunters of every skill level and physical shape. If you have done some scouting, picked good spots, paid attention to the details and have some patience, you never know what could happen. However, if you are used to hunting mule deer, it is important to note that whitetails behave a lot differently from mule deer. The biggest difference is that whitetails are very wary and skittish and do not give something off a second look. This means every movement, wind direction change and sound maybe just enough to change a whitetail’s mind and send them in a different direction. Use these tips to help you plan your next whitetail hunt and get out West this fall. You won’t regret it.