By Bob Humphrey
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. Robert Frost
So much is written about successful deer hunting tactics, time-honored techniques that generally provide the hunter with better odds. Sometimes however, in order to be successful you have to “think outside the box,” which is really just a trite modern phrase for taking the path less traveled. And in some cases that advice should be taken quite literally.
For example, I deer hunt an area where a narrow travel corridor connects larger bedding and feeding areas. Conventional wisdom says that I should approach from downwind, hunt the feeding area in the afternoon and stay away from the bedding area all together. Walking in there in the morning, even when the wind is right, will only scare deer out.
However, there’s a river parallel to the travel corridor. By paddling up the river well before daylight, I can actually slip in close to the bedding area, and far enough away from the feeding area so as not to alarm deer. It takes substantially more time and effort, but it’s the only way the area can effectively be hunted in the morning.
Several years ago I hunted a place called Clendening Lake, a large impounded reservoir in Ohio. Most of the surrounding land is public, administered by the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, and open to hunting. Much of that land is easily accessed from the road, but some areas take a bit of a hike to reach - a hike that could disturb a lot of deer. We took a different tack, launching from a public ramp and approaching some of the more remote areas by powerboat. That allowed us to slip in quietly and get set up long before daylight. Hunters approaching from the road actually moved deer toward us.
This fall I hunted a private farm, also in Ohio, that was dotted with food plots. Afternoon hunts were great but morning hunts proved challenging. It seemed no matter what we tried, we couldn’t approach our stands without bumping deer. As a sort of last act of desperation, we tried something extraordinary. Instead of walking in, I had the owner drive me in his Side-by-Side vehicle. He literally drove me to the foot of my stand, stopping only long enough for me to get out, then he drove on. It worked, and though I never saw a shooter buck, morning deer sightings increased dramatically during the remainder of the hunt.
Following conventional wisdom is not a bad thing. Certain tactics become traditional methods because they work. However, even the most tried and true techniques won’t always produce. When that happens it may be a good time to take the path less traveled.