Monthly Archives: August 2015

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Creek Access

Water Access

Creeks and ditches provide great access to stands for morning hunts when deer are feeding in the crop fields above.  If there are steep banks along the creek this can help to shield your sound and movement as you enter your stand.  Walking slowly through a creek isn’t silent, but it is often a better option than dried leaves in late fall.  Creeks allow you to enter a stand while leaving a minimal amount of ground scent.  Utilizing creeks for access and hunting the right wind for the area you are accessing can lead to less evidence of human presence and perhaps provide you with a “free” hunt or two.  The problem is that depending on the creek, it can be a harder walk or may require you to wear hip or chest waders.  Secondly, the creek is almost always going to be a longer route depending on its course.  If you are willing to put in the extra work for clean access that can avoid educating the local deer of your presence you may be able to close the distance on a mature buck this fall.

Here is a situation where a creek provides a great morning access route.

Creek Access

This picture shows a birds eye view of the steep terrain along the left side of the creek. This helps to shield a hunter visually from deer feeding in the crop fields above.

Creek Aerial

An aerial view of the same location showing the deer paths and hunter access routes.

Begin looking for creative access points to your stand locations that will avoid alarming nearby deer to your presence.  Morning access which conflicts with nocturnal feeding patterns can negatively impact your chances at success.  Often hunter’s don’t even realize the pressure that they are putting on the deer they are trying to hunt.

Have you used creeks and ditches for stand access?  Let me know your experiences with this tactic in the comments below or email me at commongroundbowhunter@gmail.com

-Reuben Dourte


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Clean Air Hill Country

Clean Air: Bullet Proof Set-Ups

Just what is “clean air”?  You might have heard people referencing the term in regard to whitetail hunting but it may be unclear as to just what they are talking about.  Such was the case for me for quite some time.  I could never seem to find a set up where “clean air” existed.  It seemed that in order to sit this or that stand there was no way around contaminating a portion of the woods which the Whitetails could appear from.  Now, part of my problem was that I wasn’t hunting beds and so the further away from bedding areas I positioned myself, the more opportunity the deer had to branch out on more unpredictable travel routes.  The other problem I was running into is that certain types of terrain prove easier to find locations where you can hunt with clean air.

Simply put, a stand with clean air is one that allows the wind to carry your scent into an area that the deer do not utilize, or, even better, can’t utilize.  A stand can also have clean air if the wind can carry your scent out over an area which may be utilized by deer, but this area is so far down wind that the scent is so diluted by the time it reaches the deer that it is a non-issue.

Finding Stands With Clean Air

Mature pine plantations with little under-story can provide an area that is undesirable for deer to travel.  Because the deer may not want to travel through the open pines, the change in landscape within a larger woods can create a subtle edge or even a pinch point when it converges with other terrain features.  Setting up on the edge of the pines, with your scent blowing into them can keep your air clean and increase your chances of avoid detection by the deer using the area.  Inside corners of crop fields can often work in similar ways, providing an open area for scent to flow into and dissipate and creating a natural funnel effect as deer will move around the inside corner of the timber to avoid exposing themselves in the open food source during daylight hours.

One of the most extreme and dynamic terrain features that can provide a hunter with clean air is a bluff or point in hill country.  A hunter positioning himself off the side of a point next to a deep cut can enjoy the benefit of falling evening thermals into the cut, a place where deer are unlikely to travel.  Creeks and steep ravines off the end of those points also provide the opportunity for a stand with clean air because the prevailing wind can carry scent a long way before it drops to the valley floor. Cuts provide natural funnels and points often hold bedding, so finding a way to capitalize on these features by positioning a stand that has clean air can be deadly.

A Real Life Example

For example, consider this property which a friend of mine will be hunting for the first time this year.

Clean Air Hill Country

Bucks utilize points for bedding purposes in hill country because of the security these features provide. Setting up off these points while considering the prevailing wind and thermal activity can provide near bulletproof set-ups that can be hunted multiple times because of the hunter’s ability to remain undetected by the deer using the area.

When walking the property we located what appears to be a buck bed off the point of one of the ridges.  The terrain here is very dramatic and the drop is almost a sheer 40′ cliff.  The deer are unwilling or unable to easily move across the side of this hill and so the movement is concentrated at the top and bottom.  Like the face of the ridge, the deep cuts in the side hill are sheer and in addition they are very thick with vegetation and fallen trees.  This serves to funnel the deer movement around the top edge of these cuts while the field line creates a pinch point, making the available travel corridor along this top section no more than 15 yards wide at any one place.  The trail below follows the base of the hill until it reaches a place where the bottom narrows as the hill drops off directly into a deep creek.  At this point the deer have to either cross the creek or head up the side hill at a slightly less steep angle.  The trail going up the side hill was very worn and on top of this hill was the large buck bed.  From this position, the buck can see the creek bottom below, he can here anything coming up the side-hill trail, and he can smell anything coming through the field behind him.  In two steps he can be down over the hill and out of sight, or if something is coming from below he can exit the bed via the trail along the field edge, heading in either direction.

Making a Move 

Typically in early season, you aren’t going to beat a buck to his bed, and if you do get in early enough he is likely going to bust you when he J-hooks downwind to scent check the area.  In pressured situations all this typically happens before daylight and you may never even know you blew the opportunity.  While keeping that in mind, I believe that the stand location on top of the hill, which actually overlooks the buck bed, is an exception to this rule.  Facing the treestand away from the approaching trail will give the hunter cover, and in this situation, the buck has a very limited approach to the bed.  He will be unable to get downwind from the hunter because the hunter is positioned on the extreme edge of steep drop off.  In the early morning the hunters scent will be carried by the prevailing wind out over the creek and will fall to the valley several hundred yards downwind in an open crop field.

Accessing the Stand

The hunter can access the stand via the creek and climb the deep cut on the left side of the aerial photo.  This access will leave no ground scent anywhere were an approaching deer with encounter it.  Hunting this stand in the morning would require the hunter to get to his stand and settled at least 2 hours before daylight or else he will risk bumping the buck as it comes back to bed.  I would hunt this stand once or twice at the very beginning of season when the bucks may be still in a predictable feed-bed-feed pattern before local hunting pressure mounts.  It is also possible that earlier in the season a buck will be returning to bed a little later than you would see come mid October.  After giving the stand a sit in early season, I would back off the spot and wait until the pre-rut kicked off in late October and hunt the top trail (further to the right of the aerial photo) in the later morning after the thermals kicked in.  There is a good chance a buck will be cruising from one piece of timber to the next, and this area is the only cover connecting the two pieces.  A cruising buck wishing to stay concealed will be funneled along this top edge because of the deep cuts in the terrain which should serve to provide a 10-15 yard shot.  It is possible to get several sits in at this location if access is carefully planned because of the clean air it provides and the opportunity to stay undetected by deer traveling by, even if a shot opportunity does not present itself the first time.

Do you look for stands that provide “clean air”?  Let me know your thoughts below or email me at commongroundbowhunter@gmail.com

-Reuben Dourte


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Oxbow

Hunting Terrain Features: The Oxbow

After doing a lot of reading and listening to the opinions of hardcore hunters on some website forums I began to start looking for specific terrain features when e-Scouting properties.  Recently, I had the opportunity to look at a property and then confirm my hypotheses about the way deer were utilizing the area by walking it with a friend.  When looking at the property one of the areas that stuck out to me was an oxbow in the creek which was coordinated with several other desirable features.  In this particular instance, there was a strip of timber about 50 yards wide going horizontally from one creek bank to the other.  In the middle of the wooded strip was a point with an elevation change of approximately 30 feet in 20 yards.  Secluded crop fields on top of the hill to the north of this point provided viable food sources and I believed that a buck would be utilizing this point to bed.  I suspected the point would be used during any West wind (SW, WSW, WNW, NW) and believed that approaching bucks would drop down to lower elevation along the creek and J-Hook around the point to approach the bedding from the downwind side.  I suspected that their route out of the bed would be slightly higher on the side hill and work upward to the crop fields above.  On a West wind, they could approach the crop fields with the wind to their favor.

While bedded on the point, any danger approaching from above would be detected by scent and the bedded deer could slip down off the point and across the creek to the safety of the woods on the other side.  Likewise, any danger approaching from either side of the point can be adverted by using the trails out of the bedded cover along the side hill.  With a couple steps in either direction, the buck could be around the point and out of danger.  Any danger approaching from below would be immediately detected visually and the buck could again utilize the escape routes to avoid it.

I was happy to find that my theory was accurate and there showed evidence of heavy deer travel off the point.  Tucked against the heavy cover on top of hill was an area that was definitively beaten down and showed signs of consistent use.  Because the area is small in size, hunting it must be done with careful consideration.  Access, both entry and exit, must be deliberately planned and stand locations must be selected to play just-off winds and consider thermals.

Here is what the set up looks like:

Oxbow

Oxbows are desirable terrain features for Whitetails. This map shows how the deer utilize this oxbow, accessing the bedding from the lower trails in the morning with higher exit/escape trails.

The next time you are scouting property, pay a bit more attention to oxbows and spend some time understanding how the deer are utilizing these features.  Undetected morning access via the creek can be achieved as the deer will be in the destination crop fields on top of the hill, and evening access through the fields can be planned so that deer bedded on the point can neither see, smell or hear the hunter.  Evening exit routes can again utilize the creek so as to leave deer feeding in the fields undisturbed.

Have you found success hunting oxbows?  Leave your comments below or email your thoughts to commongroundbowhunter@gmail.com

-Reuben Dourte


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Trail Camera Buck

Getting Busted- When and Why Stands Don’t Work

Failure usually serves to teach us more than success and so it goes with treestand set ups.  Its more fun to talk about the times our stand selections worked in our favor, but understanding why a particular set up is important so that the same mistake isn’t repeated.  Such an occurence happened to me during the 2012 archery season.  I had witnessed a buck traveling into the property from the West during a morning hunt.  The buck traveled South of me that morning, at 80 yards, and entered a bedding area.

After I left my stand, I checked a camera further to the East of the bedding area.  The camera was positioned on the edge of a corn and clover food plot.  On the memory card were several series of pictures showing the buck using a trail to the food plot that another one of my stands overlooked.  Although the pictures were at night, the camera showed multiple pictures of other bucks using the trail during daylight hours and I believed there was a chance that the buck I was after would show before dark because the pre-rut was starting to kick off.

Trail Camera Buck

Trail camera image of the buck I was hunting heading to the food plot under the cover of darkness. Trail camera photos, coupled with stand observations led me to believe the buck was bedding in the timber to the West of this food plot.

At about 5:00 PM that evening I heard one of the loudest and lowest grunts I have ever heard in the woods.  The noise came from the Northwest direction and I felt good about the wind situation, which was coming from the Southwest that evening.  I soon caught a glimpse of a doe sneaking along the edge of the woods and the brushy clearing.  At that moment a 2.5 year buck bumped the doe out into the brushy clearing where she stopped and stood.  The buck was followed by two yearling bucks.  I heard yet another grunt and saw a larger body coming along the edge of the timber.  The buck I saw that morning was in tow, behind the rest of the group.  He moved from West to East and dropped into the clearing, at which point the other bucks left the doe.  When he got to a Multiflora Rose bush that blocked his body from my view at 45 yards, he proceeded to check the air.  I was confident that he could not smell me and he was angling down toward the trail that would take him right past my stand.  The longer he remained standing the more I became worried that he would not commit to coming along the trail and I thought a bit of coaxing would convince him, so I let out a soft grunt.  The buck looked in my direction and proceeded to go back into the woods and skirt my location to the North.  The trail above me to the north was at about 35 or 40 yards and completely obstructed by thick branches and thorn trees.  At this point, all I could see was the outline of a body moving through the brush and the white of a tail as he snorted and fled when he entered my scent stream.

Food Plot Stand

Stand set up with the buck’s movement pattern mapped in red. (Deer trails in white)

So many things were wrong with my set up in this scenario.  First and foremost, when the buck was surveying his surroundings by the briar bush at 40 yards I should have remained silent.  Grunting at the time when the buck was already on alert was ill-advised.  This not only gave away my position, but it encouraged the buck to circle downwind of my stand to scent check the “deer” that he could see.  Because I had not cleared a lane to the north of my stand, when the buck skirted my location, I had no shot opportunity before he entered my scent stream.  Had I decided to refrain from calling, there is a chance that the buck would have continued to move naturally in my direction.

My stand location in this situation was less than optimal.  I was hunting too close to the food source because of a lack of tree options.  For a mature deer to pass within shooting distance it would take a commitment of exposing themselves through approximately 70 yards of open golden rod.  The mature deer in this area would likely not reach this location until after dark or immediately before (as in this case), and if I did not get a shot I would likely bump them off the food source when I exited my stand.  I would have been better served to locate my stand further to the west, into the timber which would have positioned me closer to the bedding area I witnessed the buck entering that morning.  Had I hunted the timber, the buck would have had less directional options to take by the time he reached my hunting location and if I did not get a shot the deer would be well past me when I needed to exit my stand, allowing me to possibly get another hunt in that location without being detected.

Lastly, I failed to consider that the trail above me to the North would provide a much more secure route to the food source than the more open, but heavier traveled trail I set up over.  The trial I set up over was being heavily utilized, but much of the daytime activity were does, fawns and young bucks.  Because the trail to the North followed the edge of the timber and continued along the north edge of the food plot, a South wind allowed deer traveling on this trail to scent check the food plot before entering it.  This would make a buck feel much more secure and had I been set up on this trail I would have been in the game without the presumptive need to call to the deer when he hung up at 40 yards.  If my stand was positioned in the timber, I would have already had a chance to arrow the deer before he scent checked the brush opening.  I was left with a prime example of the ineffectiveness of hunting field edges on pressured ground, and because I didn’t hunt close enough to the bedding area I was just out of position enough to still see the deer I wanted to shoot, but only served to educate him with my incorrect stand placement.

Coincidentally, the following year I was able to arrow the buck after I moved my stand further to west into the timber.  Although there was certainly a coefficient of luck involved, the feeling of redemption a year later made the mistakes I made the previous season easier to accept.

-Reuben Dourte


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Terrain Funnel and Buck Bedding

Scouting New Areas With Topos and Aerials

A new piece of property can be intimidating.  In a previous article, I mentioned how even average sized parcels can feel expansive the first time you set foot on them.  That first time you step on new ground, it can be difficult to even decide where to start.  Still, other situations arise where you just didn’t have time to get to the piece before season and you need to scout and hunt all in the same visit.  Both of these scenarios are where topo maps and aerial photos are priceless.  If you understand how deer utilize the terrain, you can immediately begin narrowing down the locations that have potential and the places that you can ignore on a new piece of property.

First, if you haven’t done so already, head over to www.thehuntingbeast.com and read up on what many of the experienced pressured land hunters have to say.  Then go to the Store page and order the “Hunting Hill Country Bucks” DVD.  This DVD holds an amazing amount of valuable information about how mature bucks use terrain to bed and travel.  Mature deer prefer to bed in specific locations because of the advantageous conditions at that spot.  A buck will utilize specific beds for specific wind directions and bedding on points allows the buck to make slight midday adjustments to keep the wind in his favor.  Mature bucks in hill country will typically bed with some kind of structure at their back to provide cover.  This could be in the form of a fallen tree, a briar bush, honeysuckly etc.  In hill country, a good place to find beds is 1/3 of the way down from the top elevation of the hill, on the leeward side of the hill.  Meaning, if the wind is predominantly out of the North in your area, look on points off the South facing slopes for more worn-in beds.  Bedding on points can also give a buck a visual advantage to see what is approaching from below.  How far the buck can see must be taken into account when planning stand access.

While I was doing some e-Scouting recently, I found a new piece of property that had the kind of terrain features to make it huntable and also at the same time somewhat undesirable for other hunters to access.  The front of the property features a nice, attractive crop field while should serve to keep many of the other hunters along the field edge.  Because I did not get a chance to put boots on the ground prior to spring green-up, I will have to go into this property using the information from aerials and topo maps to make an educated prediction of where I need to be.  One of my first perspective stand locations is as follows:

Terrain Funnel Buck Bedding

e-Scouting led to zeroing in on this location to check for bedding on the point and a funnel created by a deep ravine in the side hill.

In this location the destination crop field/ food source is at the highest elevation.  There is a wooded point to the Northeast of the narrow finger of secluded crop field which I believe has a good chance of having bedding on it.  A buck bedded on this point during a North wind could see and hear anything below him, and smell anything coming from behind him via the open field.  He can easily escape in either direction around the end of the point.  Furthermore, a buck leaving this bed in the evening can travel along the edge of the field with a West, West-Northwest, or Northwest wind in his advantage.  He is able to scent check the entire field from the downwind side on any of these wind conditions.  Although trails are often found entering fields at the corners, in this case I believe there is a better chance of a mature animal skirting the lower edge of the field while remaining concealed in the timber.  The topography along this edge provides a perfect low-point which allows the buck to take full advantage of falling evening thermals coming off the crop field.  Leaving the field in the morning via the Northeast corner, the buck can drop down to lower elevation and J-Hook up into the bed with the wind in his face.

Terrain Funnel and Buck Bedding

A Google Earth view showing the lay of the terrain and the funnel that is created by the deep draw in the hillside.

The stand location that I plan to use will also benefit from a terrain feature that will create a pinch point for any deer using this travel route.  The deep draw on the hillside appears (from the topo maps and Google Earth view) to be extreme enough so as to be uninviting for travel.  Certainly the deer could travel through here, but the path of least resistance will likely keep them higher on the hillside.  In staying higher, they will also achieve maximum scent benefit as they will be able to smell anything in the field and rising morning thermals will allow them to detect danger below.  If I were to hunt this location in the morning, I would position my stand above the trail and hunt higher in the tree so the North wind would carry my scent over the deer and down to the untraveled draw.  The wind conditions I have described will allow me to sit this stand undetected by a deer bedded on the point.  It also allows the deer to feel like they have the wind in their advantage while traveling the edge and my stand placement is such that the wind is just off of their bedding area and travel corridor enough to avoid getting busted.

Will this setup be productive?  Only time will tell, and, ideally I would have had a chance to confirm my suspicions prior to season.  However, this location has several very good things going for it, and unless another hunter already has a stand placed in this location, it has the potential to yield dividends come Fall.  E-Scouting is the first step in piecing the puzzle together and it can saved you countless hours and plenty of energy.

Let me know you thoughts below or email me at commongroundbowhunter@gmail.com

-Reuben Dourte


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Transition Stand

Hunting Subtle Edges

Category : Miscellaneous

In a lot of the hunting DVDs produced today, hunters are shown sitting over a food source on the edge of a woods.  All deer use edges, but in pressured situations the likelihood of a mature buck using the edge of an open field before dark is somewhere between slim and none.  Still, deer in pressured areas will use transition lines, they just may be subtle lines that are not as visible as a field edge.

Before you set foot on a new property, look at aerial photos and topographical maps to find edges.  Terrain features such as creeks, ditches, draws, swamps are all typically visible on both topo maps and aerial photos.  Aerial photos can provide additional information about subtle edges.  It is often obvious where the woods changes from mature timber to young regrowth in a 2 year old clear cut for example, or where a stand of conifers creates an edge with the deciduous forest.  Other subtle edges that are easily picked out on aerials are where natural brushy clearings occur within a larger piece of timber which lack the mature trees found in the rest of the woods.  These secluded clearings can often serve as a staging area for bucks in pressured ground in the evenings and provide a source of browse at ground level before the deer moves to a larger food source.  The edge of a cattail marsh creates a transition line that the deer will use for both bedding and travel.  Once you have identified these edges via your maps, its time to put boots on the ground to confirm your findings.

A promising stand location we discovered during post season scouting takes advantage of a transition edge that the deer in the area use to travel on their way to a secluded food source.

Transition Stand

The deer bedding on the side hill above my stand location will utilize this bedding area on any kind of south wind.  Because the area is very limited in available trees which can support a treestand, a Southwest wind is the most promising wind for multiple shot opportunities.  The heavily used trail is situated behind the stand, along the edge of the more mature timber.  The deer move through the area along the transition line of the mature timber and the thicker brushy area.  This allows them to quickly vanish into the cover should any danger present itself, making them feel more secure about moving along this edge during daylight hours.    At the bottom of the aerial photo is a food source that the deer utilize and because of property access and boundary lines, this stand location will need to be reserved for evening hunts.

Because I will be hunting this location in the evening, I can confidently sit this stand on any South wind and not worry about being detected by approaching deer.  While most of the activity will be just inside the mature timber line (as previously mentioned) if a mature deer would choose to walk through the thicker brush, perpendicular to a Southwest wind, I will have two open shot opportunities in this direction before the deer will be far enough down the trail to catch any scent, although this is not my ideal situation.  To further help stay undetected in this possible scenario, the treestand is set above my normal hunting height of 20 feet in order to allow the scent to be blown out over the top of the deer.

If the deer pass by out of range, or, if the deer that come by are not what I am looking to shoot, I can exit the stand and make a wide circle out and around the food source, with the wind carrying my scent away from it.  This leaves any feeding deer undisturbed and allows the stand to remain huntable for another sit.  However, as the season progresses I expect the clover plots to have less draw and so I will only sit this stand one, possibly two times, in early season while they are still regularly utilizing the food plots.  I will only return to this particular location in the late season when the brassica and turnip food plots become more desirable- after the cold weather and heavy frosts have caused them to sweeten up.

Finding edges that link bedding to food is a great way to close the distance on mature deer on pressured land.  Getting as close to bedding areas as possible, without being detected by the deer you are hunting, is imperative if you are to catch a wary buck in daylight hours.

-Reuben Dourte


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public land access

Playing the Pressure: Dealing with High Hunter Density

High hunter density states create an additional challenge when in pursuit of Whitetail Deer.  The smartest animal in the woods seems to be a little bit smarter in states like Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.  Other Eastern states hold their fair share of pressure and it becomes necessary to pattern other hunters as much as the deer.  Considering where other hunters are set up on adjacent properties, or, in the case of public land- the same property, can keep you in the game when it comes to mature whitetails.  Sign along field edges on public parcels often attracts other hunters while private land stand locations often remain the same year in and year out.  Even on public lands, treestands are often illegally left up for the entire year and this can tip you off as to what locations will receive the most pressure come hunting season.  After a short amount of time, hunter movements soon become more predictable than deer patterns.

Understanding where other hunters are sitting and how they are accessing those locations is an important part of the whitetail puzzle on the properties you hunt.  Pressuring the deer you are after can work against you, but using the pressure applied by other hunters can put you in the right position at the right time.  Sometimes the presence of other hunters means you must abandon an otherwise promising stand location.  It can be hard to emotionally disconnect yourself from a spot that you have had success at in past seasons or spent blood, sweat and tears to establish for the current year.

A few seasons ago I had to abandon a promising stand site due to pressure from a neighboring hunter.  The hunter began to utilize the property line for access to his stand.  Furthermore, he accessed the stand at the precise time deer had historically moved through the area in the mornings.  The stand quickly went cold and hunting the area became a waste of time.

In other situations it is possible to use the other hunters’ habitual patterns to your advantage.  During the rut, being in your stand a few hours before dark can allow you to be in position and quiet before other hunters move to their stands.  Hunters entering bedding areas within a half hour of dark will likely bump bucks already bedded, out of those areas.  Hunting other bedding areas on the same property gives you a good chance of intercepting the bumped deer if it comes into the bedding area you are hunting for refuge from the pressure.  Along the same lines, other hunters will typically leave their stands around 9-10 a.m.  During the rut, it is imperative to remain in your stand throughout the entire day. Doing so allows you to intercept a buck as he cruises during the late morning or midday hours for does.  It also allows you to be present for a buck escaping the other hunter’s pressure.

Hunting thick escape/security cover can provide you with additional opportunities at pressured bucks when other hunters begin to traverse the woods.  Accessing a stand location that is situated along an escape corridor or on the edge of security cover before other hunters hit the woods can put you in an advantageous position once additional hunting pressure begins to push deer around the property.

Leave your comments below or email me your thoughts at commongroundbowhunter@gmail.com

-Reuben Dourte


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Field Edge

Feeling Low

I don’t know how many times I have watched deer come out into a field in the evening at the same location every night, only to have them mysteriously change their course the night I moved in to hunt them.  There is a couple things wrong with the approach I was taking.  First and foremost, I would often wait too long to move in on the deer I observed using the food source.  Patterns can change quickly once hunting season arrives and gathering the most recent information and then acting upon it immediately is a must.  Secondly, I failed to consider why the deer entered the field in the location that they did and I didn’t note how subtle changes in wind direction could alter this approach.  Whether the wind was out of the Northest or the Northwest, the deer still wanted to use the destination crop field, but they would shift their entrance to the field by a couple hundred yards depending on how the wind was blowing that day.

One thing that seemed to almost always remain consistent was that the mature deer entering the field would hang up at the edge of the cover and survey their surroundings.  Without fail, the spot they chose to enter the field was where the topography dipped lower, allowing them to take advantage of the falling thermals that were dropping into this low area at the edge of the field.  By choosing low spots, the scent advantage is greater and a larger portion of the field (sometimes the whole food source) can be checked from this location.  If the wind had a subtle shift, they would move accordingly and enter the food source at the next low spot further down the edge.  Hunters need to keep low spots in mind when they are considering a deer’s travel from bedding to food in the evening.

Recently, while scouting a new piece of property, I discovered an example of this type of movement pattern.  The bedding area to the North would have deer bedded there on a Southwest/West Southwest wind.  It was evident that the deer using this area were moving south along the ridge at about the 2/3 elevation line.  Several very steep, deep cuts in side hill coupled with points that jut out serve to funnel the deer activity so they moved across the points and along the top of the cuts so that their travel is less resisted by the terrain.  Any deer approaching the Southern food source from the North during a Southwest wind could scent check the whole field before entering it.  Along the East edge of the field one of the draws continued from the wooded hillside out into the field, where it created a natural low point in the field.  A heavily used path entered the field at this exact point.

field edge aerial

The deer in this area are using falling thermals in the low point of this crop field to scent-check the food source before they enter it in the evening.

The trail along the ridge line continued to the Southwest where it wrapped around the Southeast facing point (bottom left in attached photo) and entered land I do not have access to.  I suspect beds would be present on this south facing slope and would expect them to be used on a Northwest wind.  The deer bedding on this South facing slope can utilize the entrance to the food source in the same way, scent checking the whole field as they move from West to East and enter the field at the lowest point with the wind and thermals both to their advantage.

The stand selection for this location allows me to access the spot using the creek system so as to minimize noise and ground scent as well as avoid visual detection from deer in either bedding area.  Placing the stand on the downhill side of the trail for a later evening hunt allows the falling thermals to take scent away from the travel corridor and down into the steep draw where the deer do not typically travel.  Likewise, any West wind (Southwest, West, Northwest) allows this stand to be used without the hunter being detected by deer coming from either direction.  A NW or SW wind presents a near perfect situation where the deer will feel that they are traveling with the wind to their advantage, but the hunter’s scent zone is just off of the deer’s path.  It is important to note that it may become necessary to move the stand location further north in order to be positioned closer to the deer’s bed.  In this scenario, moving Southwest of the current location is not an option because of property boundaries, however, in another situation, adjustments to move the stand closer to bedding may become necessary if the deer you are pursuing is not reaching your initial location before shooting hours end.

Begin to pay close attention to how the deer in your hunting area relate to the food sources they use.  While hunting field edges may not be the most productive approach in heavily pressured areas,  hunting travel routes that relate to those edges can still be successful.

Shares your thoughts below or email me at commongroundbowhunter@gmail.com

-Reuben Dourte


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Hanging Treestands

Mid Morning Move: Capitalize On Thermals

When you find a promising location for a treestand the first thing you probably are going to do is look for a suitable tree. Its tempting to hang a set on a nice straight oak that is easily accessible and may provide some cover into late season. However, many more aspects need to be considered, including access routes, the prevailing wind direction during the Fall and Winter, and especially thermal drafts.

It is common to read about hunters hanging double sets in the same location for varying wind directions. While this can be beneficial in many situations, when hunting pressured, hill country whitetails, you may need to move to the other side of the mountain when the wind shifts, not just the other side of the trail.  Still, there is a time and a place for hanging multiple stands in the same vicinity.

It takes careful consideration as to how deer utilize wind currents and thermal drafts in order to appropriately place a stand in any given location. Admittedly, the way wind flows and eddies over terrain can be difficult to pinpoint and it can take a season or two to get a handle on it. Wind moves across the land in similar fashion to water moving across a stream bed.  Objects and changes in elevation effect the wind currents just as they do water currents. The wind, however, can also be manipulated by thermal drafts, and because we can’t see these currents, they can confuse us and more often than not work in the deer’s favor as they “see” with their nose. Setting milkweed seed adrift into the wind while on stand is a good way to map you properties wind currents at any given location.

Thermals are a key reason to consider hanging two stands relatively close to each other. In the early morning hours, thermals have not yet begun to rise, and a hunter sitting on a south facing with a north wind will need to hunt lower earlier in the morning. Recently, I set a stand below a trail positioned along the edge-line of a woods and weed field. This is the lowest trail the deer can move along while still remaining within the cover of the young succession timber. I expect the deer to utilize this trail in the morning before the south facing slope is warmed by the sun, causing the thermals to rise. Because I am hunting low, and am positioned to the south of the travel corridor, the north wind during these early morning hours will take my scent out above the weed field where I don’t expect deer to be traveling.

Above this heavily used trail, higher on the hillside, is another trail that is also well traveled. As the thermal drafts begin to rise, deer will adjust their travel in order to utilize this scent advantage. For this reason, later morning travel can be expected to occur higher on the hillside and stand adjustment is needed. The second stand I have in this location is positioned so as to take advantage of that later morning travel. Although the prevailing North wind will blow the hunter’s scent to the south, the rising thermals and the higher height of this treestand will take the scent over the deer’s backs.

Double Stand Aerial

Using two stands for a morning hunt on this South facing slope allows the hunter to take advantage of rising and falling thermal drafts.

From past experience with this location, it is obvious that the deer prefer to move lower at dawn. By approximately 9:00, the movement has shifted further up the hill and a quick, quiet mid-morning stand adjustment can keep you in the game. In the evening, the opposite is true. Most of the evening deer movement observed from this location occurs on the lower trails. A good choice for an evening hunt in this particular spot is to wait until the final hour of daylight and enter the stand as the thermals begin to fall. Entering the lower stand too early in the afternoon risks educating deer that are bedded higher on the hillside of your presence. Once the thermals begin to fall you can approach the stand undetected.

So, the next time you consider which tree you can prepare to ambush a buck out of, look for a second tree while you are there. Hanging two stands in close proximity can be the ticket you need for a morning sit in hill country.

Have you considered using multiple stands to capitalize on thermal activity in the morning or evening hours? Leave your comments below or email me your thoughts at commongroundbowhunter@gmail.com

-Reuben Dourte


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Buck Harvest

Respect The Game

As hunters, responsibility to our quarry begins at the moment the trigger is pulled, if not before.  Taking ethical, high percentage shots in order to ensure an efficient and clean kill is imperative.  However, respecting the wildlife we pursue certainly does not end there.  We have an added duty to present our way of life in a positive light to hunters and non-hunters alike.  Social media platforms can be an excellent tool to further a cause, but, they can also create an opportunity for damaging content to spread like wildfire.  So, what can be done to put forth a positive image?

1. Avoid unnecessary photos of excess carnage.

Posting close ups of large wound channels, whether from bullet or broadhead, is not necessary and does little to perpetuate our sport or cause.  While a large exit hole can lead to a short blood trail and a clean kill, a photo of it isn’t something that enhances your harvest or makes the feat of taking that animal any more or less impressive.  Avoiding photos which show mass tissue displacement is in good taste.  At the same time, this is a blood sport, and we should embrace that.  Bloodshed is a necessary part of hunting and management practices, and there is no shame in that.  Making excuses for this reality is as unnecessary as posting gory wound photos.  You shouldn’t be concerned with cleaning off every last drop of blood from the deer before you photo, however, tasteful and respectful photos create better memories to be shared with friends and family as well as the non-hunting public.

2. If you are taking a harvest photo you have already won.

If you are preparing to take a harvest photo it means you have already outsmarted and outwitted your quarry on some level.  You have essentially won this round and there isn’t any reason to sit over or on your deer in your photo.  Sitting on your buck while holding its antlers for the picture doesn’t show the deer the respect it deserves.  Additionally, it rarely provides the best angle to show the true size of the deer.  Positioning yourself beside the deer will create a more tasteful photo that properly displays your harvest.

3.  Remember the tongue.

This one is pretty simple, harvest photos of deer with their tongue hanging out of their mouth are a distraction from the true subject of the photo.  Its a quick, easy fix; just take a few seconds to place the deer’s tongue back in its mouth before the photo and you will be rewarded with a much more attractive image to preserve your memory.

4. Take your time.

Usually, a harvest is an exciting event, and in the moment it is easy to forget to slow down and soak it all in.  Take your time to figure out photo angles that most accurately depict the true size of your trophy.  Try different angles that capture the emotion of the moment so that you can preserve those feelings for years to come.  You may also consider the time of day when you are taking the photos.  It may be advantageous to wait to photograph a mid-day harvest until later in the afternoon.  A photo which is backlit by a setting sun can be inspiring, breathtaking and convey the emotion that better helps tell your story to those whom you share it with.  Photos of a harvest that is recovered after dark can achieve similar results by using artificial light to back-light the image.  Take your time to capture all the aspects of your harvest and become creative with your photography.  You will end up with a collection of photos that will preserve your memory for decades and you will never regret taking a few extra moments to snap those once in a lifetime images.

We owe respect to the game we pursue; it begins when we make the decision to take an animal but it continues through all aspects of the harvest.  Honoring your quarry can bring a new appreciation to the hunt and make us more in-tune sportsmen and conservationists.

What are your thoughts?  Share them below or email me at commongroundbowhunter@gmail.com

-Reuben Dourte