Every year it’s the same scenario, weeks of scouting, hanging stands, and endless hours of tuning our bows, all steps necessary to make us better hunters. Year after year, we reapply these tactics to ease the anticipation of the fast approaching season. All of which are mandatory to become proficient at what we love.
A select few are able to capitalize on the pre-season scouting and take a mature buck early in the fall. The reality of every season is that days pass and weeks seem to blend together making our hearts sink due to the lack of sightings. Hunting pressure ultimately improves the bucks will to survive and they inevitably become nocturnal.
The question is “Do you have the patience to wait them out?” Do you spend countless hours in the stand to get the one opportunity to prove yourself a hunter? Can we predict the thoughts and actions of these amazing animals? Over time, history has proved that whitetails follow patterns, which if monitored closely, can put you in the right situation to harvest the animal you’re after.
There are endless articles, DVDs, and TV shows on how, when and where, but nothing prepares us more than time spent in the stand, watching wild animals in their own environment and learning more each time we revisit their habitat.
Throughout my 25 plus years of experience, I’ve found that the key is not to be detected while invading their territory. What many hunters need to recognize is that whitetails know their range like you know your own home. They sense when things are out of place. They pick up on change and their sixth sense is always on high alert. Like humans, age gives them the knowledge required to survive in their hostile world. Learning more about their environment will ultimately make you the hunter you need to be.
One of the most common mistakes hunters make is to overhunt stand locations. In doing so, the animals recognize the threat and simply reroute their activities, leaving most in wonder, not even knowing the buck they are after is simply circling around them or waiting until dark to do their daily activity. The key is to set up several stand locations in the same area, using the wind and cover to stay concealed from their incredible senses.
Most times, the trip to your stand location can be more critical than the days spent in the stand. Bumping a mature buck on the way in can be devastating to your efforts. Raking trails from two different directions to your stand can do three very important things, the most important being wind. The whitetail’s nose can detect your scent from incredible distances.
Planning a downwind approach can make the difference between a good hunt and wasted effort. Secondly, using raked trails eliminates unneeded noise during your approach to your favorite haunt. I can’t tell you how many times this tactic has allowed me to enter my stand undetected with animals within bow distance from my stands. Lastly, the fresh earth in the trail can give you some insight through tracks that have crossed your path.
Through trial and error, I’ve learned that stand concealment is as important as location. Taking this extra step has proved to be invaluable. Using oak and cedar bows affixed to the tree will give many advantages.
The first is cover. The branches help break up your silhouette and, more importantly, the animals become comfortable with the mass of foliage. The cedar not only provides all season cover, but also emits one of the best cover scents available to the whitetail hunter. You will be amazed at how pungent the conifer can be if you roll a small sprig between your hands before each hunt. This proven tactic has eliminated countless threats of being detected.
There is no doubt that cover scents will improve your odds as well. Coon urine is by far one of the most effective scents on the market. Raccoons are territorial animals which routinely mark their territory in the canopy above the forest floor. Placing the urine directly downwind from your stand will greatly decrease your odds of being detected from below. I can’t count the number of times bucks have been on the wrong end of the wind and, after getting a nose full of coon urine, turn their head with disgust and go on with their business. As simple as it is, this tactic has saved countless hunts for me.
In order to harvest a mature buck you have to hunt big bucks. Timing is the most critical aspect of hunting mature whitetails. As hard as it may seem, you have to pick the right time to hunt certain areas. Sometimes staying out of a buck’s core area will keep his comfort level in check, allowing you to wait out his arrival in a funnel area connected to his favorite lair. Obviously, the rut is the time to move into the pinch points, and time in the stand will up your odds of success.
History has proved that mature whitetails travel during the day at the peak of the rut. In the real world, time is hard to come by, but if you want to take full opportunity of this special event you need to suck it up and sit all day. Stay at high alert and anticipate the opportunity. Following through with mental preparation will greatly increase your odds.
Perpetration and nerves becomes the root of all evil in the whitetail woods. Countless hours of practice can lead to overcompensation in your thoughts. Hitting the 12 ring really doesn’t matter when you’re taking a shot at a basketball sized target. Nerves are calmed by the confidence you hold within. With confidence, the shot of a lifetime will certainly end in triumph.
Bass Pro Shops Hunting Staff