By Dan Infalt
The number of hunters who set up a tree stand in a location or two and then keep hunting that location repeatedly throughout the deer season is very surprising to me. One of the main reasons I harvest my fair share of adult whitetails is my ability to do just the opposite of all these others – by being a mobile hunter.
A whitetail deer can smell human scent a week or more after a hunter passes through an area, and they avoid areas that smell like hunters. Still, hunters continue to hunt the same areas over and over again. One of the reasons hunters do not adapt is because young deer such as that 1.5 year old buck that the majority of hunters are shooting, sometimes still lack the fear of such scent. These hunters shoot that small buck and convince themselves that is a good buck for the area, or that you have to be lucky to get a big buck.
Mature bucks stay on patterns pretty well until a change in food source or someone/something bumps them off of there pattern. So if you sit a spot one day, what would make you think the buck will come by on the second or third day if he didn’t on the first?
The advantages of being mobile go far beyond just ground scent control. At most of my predetermined ambush sites I have several trees picked out and I decide which one to setup in based on several factors:
* I always set up on the downwind side of trails
* I can move my stand over to a new tree if the fresh deer sign has shifted
* I can try to keep the sun at my back so its in the deer’s eyes not mine
* I can quickly move to a new location if my spot is ruined by someone taking a walk, or if I see deer movement in the distance.
One of my most productive techniques is to scout in the winter and spring months and find big buck bedding areas. I will closely examine the beds in these areas and study how the bucks enter and exit these areas. A lot of hunters assume that large mature bucks are all nocturnal and only move at night. This is not true. They move during daylight, but that daylight movement especially outside the rut, is usually limited to the bedding and staging areas. A staging area will be located very close to the bedding area, usually within 200 yards, sometimes much closer. I like to look for several trees within these staging areas where I can hunt from. I look for trees that could be hunted based on wind direction, and other factors mentioned earlier. I also keep in mind my approach to these spots.
You never want your scent blowing into the bedding area, and you want to try to find a way to access your stand without crossing the deer trails and leaving deer educating scent. I might walk a 1/4 mile to get to a spot to hunt that is only 100 yards away if it keeps my scent out of the bedding area, and off of the deer trails. All this work, and I will only hunt this spot once or twice a season. However, I will find many similar spots and plot them on a map or in a notebook with notes.
Occasionally I will just grab my stand and go. I will walk along the transition line (The area where two types of cover meet, usually close to the bedding area) and find hot sign and setup. That works especially well when hunting food sources such as looking for that one hot white oak that all the deer are going to for the best acorns, and trying to get there first before all the nuts that fell during the day are all gone.
When I look back at my hunting notes, I see that about 50% of the time I am hunting, I am in an area I hunted before, or in a permanent stand on a private farm. However, when I look at my success on mature bucks, more than 90% are shot out of stands I was sitting for the first time
Most of the trees in transition zones do not accept climbing stands. Climbers seem more suited for open hardwoods. Instead of a climber, my stand of choice is a Lone Wolf Alpha Hang-On with five climbing sticks. And no… They don’t sponsor me.
The sticks attach right to the back of the stand with a couple bungee cords. I also bungee on my hunting essentials and my jacket if the weather is colder. This set-up is a critical part of my success in quietly sneaking in and setting up on these bedding/staging areas and allowing me to be a mobile hunter. You can use a different stand type, just make sure its quiet and can go in what ever tree you need to get into.
Mature bucks won’t tolerate repeated visits to the same hunting locations, and will soon pattern hunters and avoid these areas like the plague. Get mobile and hunt new areas if you want to catch one of these adult whitetails unaware.
The Big Buck Serial Killer
(Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in becoming a more mobile hunter, I’d also recommend you check out a post and video from W2H contributor Mark Huelsing – in which he explains how he uses a mobile set-up, and demonstrates how he packs his Lone Wolf, sticks and gear. Click this link –> Hang & Hunt )