Fool Me Once
I believe deer abide by the old saying “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”, or at least some instinctual version of it. The reason? Well, after bow hunting for almost two decades I can tell you that experience has taught me a lot and failure has forced me to look at many of my past mistakes; one of which has been becoming emotionally attached to certain stand locations from year to year. More often than not in the whitetail woods you don’t get a second opportunity, from the same stand, to fool a buck. While there are times to continue to hunt the same location for multiple hunts in a given season, it is impossible for me to ignore the reality that the best bucks on my wall have all come from “first-sits” in a new stand. Likewise, a high percentage of our doe kills each year are achieved from these virgin sits.
Plenty of folks have stand locations where they go to kill a deer each year; that old trusty spot that never fails them. Whether it be a box blind over CRP, or a tree stump in a deep woods saddle, these tried and true stands do exist. While I wouldn’t deny their existence, I would argue that they are the exception rather than the rule, and personally I haven’t be fortunate enough to capitalize on that kind of year-in and year-out consistency from any one stand location. In fact, after a season or two, and a few kills, even discreetly hung stands need adjustment in our hunting area.
After seasons of hunting an area, deer trails can alter and travel can easily move outside of bow range. The old trusty stand soon becomes a dried up spot and hunters failing to adjust are left scratching their head, or worse yet, wrongly assuming that the deer population is suffering. Tweaking your stand locations from year to year, and finding new areas to hunt is one of the best ways to stay in the game. Here are a few reasons why first time sits can yield such positive results.
1. Lack of human scent- If you do a hang and hunt setup you are able to minimize the amount of human scent around your stand location prior to the hunt. Too many hunters hang stands, or scout, immediately before the season. Their scent stays in the area for several days and any deer coming through is now alerted to human intrusion in their core area. When you walk in with a stand on your back and hunt immediately, by the time the deer crosses your scent stream or ground scent you should have already had the opportunity to harvest that animal, (if you minded your approach appropriately). The alternative to hang and hunt sets is to get a pre set stand hung early in the Summer. Early, as in July; and then leave the area untouched for 60-90 days before returning to hunt. By the time you return to hunt, the deer have had enough time to resume utilizing the area, and many of the bucks you may be targeting now were likely utilizing different Summer ranges during the time you were in the timber setting up your ambush locations.
2. The element of Surprise- Deer look up. This is true more in some areas than others, but the fact is, over time, deer become familiar with stand locations and quickly pick out a hunter sitting 20 feet up in a tree. When you hunt new spots, especially during the first sit, you have the element of surprise to your advantage. I have experienced deer picking me off 25 ft up in a tree which I hunted for too many seasons in a row, while I have also shot a buck at 7 yards, out of a treestand that was less than 12 feet off the ground, the very first time I hunted it. On another occasion I was hunting with my wife and she was sitting in a ladder stand which I had had some success out of in years past. I was sitting 50 yards from her and called in a 2 year old buck from the bedding area to our North. He circled downwind of my stand when he came in which put him in almost perfect position for her, but he eventually passed slightly outside of her comfortable effective bow range. The buck looked at her in the tree but did not spook and continued on his way. Two weeks later I was hunting a different stand which was still in view of the ladder stand. I watched the same buck come out of the marsh and walk toward the ladder stand. When he was fifty yards away from it he stopped and stared at the tree and empty ladderstand for a solid 4-5 minutes. Anecdotal evidence, sure, but I would offer it to anyone who says deer don’t remember and know to look for hunters in treestands which receive consistent use.
3. You don’t get lazy- By looking for new stand locations and sitting new stands, you avoid allowing yourself to become complacent and hunt that easy to access box blind or the same open oak flat that hasn’t had an acorn on it for three years. Hanging new stands, accessing remote areas of a property and prepping new trees is a lot more work than hunting established stand sites. But, if you get too comfortable with the same stands sites which have begun to yield less and less opportunities, you will never know the full potential of other locations on the property. If you aren’t achieving the results you wish for from a given stand, simply putting more and more hours into this location with the hope of waiting out a buck is probably not going to change your circumstances. In fact, in most cases there are probably more arguments to be made that your odds are significantly diminished each time you hunt the spot. They do say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Finding new locations is a way to increase your odds but also provide a change of scenery and keep your mental game strong throughout the grind of a long bow season. Its also one of the best ways to find out what you’ve been missing all along.
Its hard to deny the ratio of bucks killed on virgin sits vs. repetitive hunts from the same location. There are exceptions to every rule, but upon further evaluation it isn’t so hard to see a trend and a pattern quickly form. No matter how careful we are in approaching a stand, we can never eliminate 100% of the evidence of human activity in the area. Some stands are more conducive to multiple hunts than others, and these factors should always be carefully weighed out when deciding where to hunt. But, consider saving some of your best stand locations for a day with perfect conditions and look to capitalize on the element of surprise a fresh stand can provide you. You may be amazed at what you see!
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