By Mark Kenyon
Even though I’m a whitetail guy at heart, when April appears on the calendar I can’t help but get excited about big tail feathers, long beards, and throaty gobbles. Turkey hunting season is here and since many of you are thinking thunder chickens, it only makes sense to see if we can draw something whitetail related from this pursuit. And of course, I think you can.
There are, I believe, a number of common turkey hunting tactics that can be applied to deer hunting in the fall. So with that being the case, here are three such turkey tactics you might be using right now, that will work on whitetails in just a few months. So get out there and enjoy your turkey hunting, but don’t forget to keep whitetails in mind too!
And if you want to hear more on this topic, check out Episode #5 of The Wired To Hunt Podcast, in which we discuss whitetail lessons you can learn from turkey hunting.
1. Roosting: One of the most common tactics for hunting turkeys is to roost them, meaning to identify where they flew up for the night and then head back the next morning to hunt them right when they fly back down. A similar strategy can work for whitetails, but replace “roost” with “bed.” Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly convinced of the importance of understanding and identifying buck bedding areas, especially when hunting in heavily pressured areas. That said, just as in turkey hunting, you’ll need to do some scouting to identify buck bedding areas – but once you do, they’ll often be used year after year.
Bucks bed in places, just like turkeys roost in specific areas, because there are natural advantages to being there – and if the habitat doesn’t change, these spots will be used over and over. Once you identify bedding areas you can then begin to plan the hunt. The closer you can be set up to a bed the better your chances will be of spotting him during daylight. Need help identifying buck bedding areas? Check out this video.
2. Decoying: Decoys are almost synonymous with turkey hunting, but they certainly have a place in the deer hunting world as well. Given the popularity of decoys in the turkey world, a lot of thought has gone into the placement and details of a proper set-up, and I think this same attention to detail should be employed when using a decoy for deer hunting. Just like with turkeys, test different set-ups and variations on your decoy presentation until you find what works for your area and at that time.
That said, a set-up that I’ve been using lately, based on advice from John Dudley, is to use a single buck decoy (missing an antler) angled in towards you, with the wind blowing from the decoy to you. This set-up will encourage a buck to circle around the decoy (and towards you), while angled towards the fake buck – allowing for an easy shot, without a chance of the buck winding you. For more details on Dudley’s decoy tactics and set-up, check out this article from Petersen’s Bowhunting.
3. Tail-Fanning: One of the most talked about tactics for turkeys lately has been tail-fanning. This is a practice in which a hunter crawls behind a handheld turkey fan towards a gobbler, typically one that is hung up in the middle of the field and out of shooting range. Seeing an approaching tail-fan, a gobbler will typically either let the hunter approach until within shooting range or he might even come charging in for a closer look himself. It’s a high risk high reward strategy and a lot of people have been having success with it. As crazy as it sounds, there are guys having success with a similar tactic on deer.
Take for example my friends from the Whitetail Adrenaline video team, who have created their own two dimensional buck decoys which they use to sneak behind as they approach deer out in the open. As crazy as it sounds, it’s worked and if you don’t believe me you have to check out their most DVD trailer (click here), it’s insane. You can also hear more about it on Episode #32 of our podcast. This is obviously a very aggressive high risk tactic, but it could also could be dangerous, as a buck may very well charge in – but if you’re into high adrenaline deer hunting, this tactic probably takes the cake.
If you want to take this idea even farther you could even try to “be the decoy”, which is becoming quite a thing out west as hunters are wearing pronghorn, elk and deer hats/shirts and then sneaking into range of animals that are watching them approach. Whether you use a handheld decoy or pretend to be one yourself, I think the important lesson here is that we whitetail hunters don’t always need to stay put up in a tree. If you’re willing to take a risk, getting on the ground and being mobile might just put a buck on your wall.