As more and more young deer hunting experts appear on the outdoor news scene, some of our beloved old rules and old and beloved rules keepers regarding deer hunting with bows or rifles are questioned. Sometimes perseverance is a more valuable trait in deer hunters than “following the old rules.”
OLD RULE NUMBER ONE: “Males move most often at dawn and dusk.” While there is much truth to this revered maxim, those who follow it to the letter limit their time in the woods. If you’ve always stand hunted for the first two hours and the last two hours of daylight, you’re not spending enough time on your deer stand. Ask all your hunting friends if they’ve ever killed a big buck between mid-morning and mid-afternoon, and you might be surprised. and you’ll certainly have better luck in the woods if you spend time hunting midday, rather than snoozing at camp, especially if other conditions – wind direction, cool temperatures, food sources and escape routes – are ideal.
OLD RULE NUMBER TWO: “The more acres you hunt, the better your chances.” When hunting a large swath of public land over 1000 acres, you may have to share the land with an army of other hunters. People will wander and drive everywhere and hang on many tree supports. For a mature male, pressure changes everything. It may only take a day or two of these disturbances for deer to dive deep for shelter or become nocturnal.
OLD RULE NUMBER THREE: “Hang your deer at least 25 to 30 feet high.” Hanging the rack between 17 and 25 feet is the correct height. High enough that if you play the wind well, stay seated, and make all the right moves, a dollar won’t break you. Low enough for the support to be safe, sturdy and comfortable under your boots. When a buck comes in from the side within 30-40 yards, you’ll get a killer sight picture and angle of fire to his vital signs.
OLD RULE NUMBER FOUR: “If a male stomps and head-butts, he’s ready to get out of there – shoot now!” A doe or deer stomps and nods when it sees a strange object it cannot make out, such as you huddled on the ground or in a tree. It’s nervous body language, yes, but it doesn’t necessarily predict fast flight. No need to shoot a buck quickly and badly on alert, especially if you’re using a bow. He will dodge the arrow and run away for sure. Instead, freeze and don’t move a muscle. Do not make direct eye contact with a stomping, dancing deer, especially if it is close. More often than not, if a deer doesn’t smell you, it will calm down, become disinterested, and begin to walk away. Then you might have a better and easier shot at a calm deer.
OLD RULE NUMBER FIVE: “The full moon is the worst time to hunt.” These deer see so well with the big moon that they stay awake to eat and don’t move all day. I’m surprised so many deer hunters still think that way. Numerous studies of white-tailed deer have established historical rut curves that document an indisputable fact: every year, from Virginia to Kansas to Canada, 90% of adult females will come into estrus and be mated from the 5th to the 20th. November, regardless of the phase of the moon. In a study a few years ago in the state of North Carolina, researchers tracked GPS-equipped deer through all four phases of the moon and analyzed text messages sent by the collars to determine when and how deer moved. Summarizing their findings, one scientist said: “A common misconception is that deer see better at night because they are brighter when the moon is full. But according to our data, they actually move less on average at night during a full moon and more in the middle of the day, and also earlier in the evening.
The November full moon is on the 19th. Experts predict that you could catch a good buck prowling or hunting deer any day from the 15th to the 21st, if you time your hunts correctly. The first mornings will be difficult; spend as much time as possible in a stall from mid-morning until dark.
OLD RULE NUMBER SIX: “Miss a dollar and it’s all over. Not always. Navigate an arrow across a deer’s back and it will flinch, jump, and run away a short distance. But if the animal didn’t see you or smell you, it didn’t know what happened. Maybe a stick cracked or a limb fell off. Deer hear these sounds all the time.
But what about a booming rifle? One day I fired my .270 and threw a 150 grain bullet into the back of a 125 pound whitetail deer standing in an open power line 150 yards away. The buck got confused, looked around, and took off like a gunshot – right at me. I dropped it at 70 yards. I was happy with the kill, even though I missed the first standing shot. So don’t get upset and give up after failure. Keep your cool, watch the buck carefully, and be prepared to land a better shot the second time around.
Note: Some of the information in this column is derived from Mike Hanback’s internet deer hunting notes.
DON FEIGERT is the outdoor writer for The Herald and the Allied News. His latest book, The F-Troop Camp Chronicles, and previous books are available by contacting Don at 724-931-1699 or [email protected] Browse her website at www.donfeigert.com Or visit Leanna’s books at the mall.