Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Deer Hunting Can be a Gamble

Photo by Bob Humphrey

Photo by Bob Humphrey

By Bob Humphrey

There is no question that pre-season scouting is one of the key elements to being a consistently successful hunter.  Put your time in before the season and you can maximize your time during the season.  But even the best laid plans can sometimes go astray.  You may have done everything right yet your hottest stand fails to produce.  How you respond can make the difference between a long and frustrating season, or a short, successful one.


First you need to decide if the stand really is an underachiever, or if it’s just not ripe.  Some stands may produce all season while others have a very narrow window of productivity. 

Think about why you picked the stand in the first place.  Was there a lot of sign, and if so, was it fresh?  Is it a feeding area?  A travel route?  Travel corridors away from food may not get used a lot early in the season.  But once the rut kicks in, bucks may use them at any time of day as they cruise for does.


On the other hand, sometimes hot stands suddenly go cold.  Try to figure out why.  Maybe it was a hot feeding area early, when the persimmons or the white oak acorns were falling, but the food has dried up and so have the hunting opportunities.  Maybe bird season just opened and the upland gunners have moved deer out of the area.  Or, maybe some other hunter who is less meticulous with his scent control moved into the area, having the same effect. 


It can be a tough move to make, but boldness sometimes yields greater rewards.  If you’re a conscientious hunter, you’ve front-loaded your efforts, scouting before season so you can save valuable in-season time for hunting.  But if your stand goes cold, you’re wasting time.  And if you stick it out on a cold stand, you’re throwing good time after bad.  Sometimes you’ve got to roll the dice and burn a hunting day with some in-season scouting. 

There are some distinct advantages.  Your original stand location may have been hot when you found it two weeks before the season, but things change fast.  Now, the season is already open; so you can hunt fresh sign immediately.  Food sources change during the season and you should change with them.  Move from the persimmons to the white oaks, then later from white oaks to red oaks.  Deer may be in the corn, until it’s cut.  Then they’ll move up on the oak ridges.  They’ll hit the apple trees hard when the first frosts kill and drop apples en-masse.  But once that crop is gone, so are the deer.

Don’t be afraid to burn a day by getting out and covering some ground.  Scout new areas.  Check out areas you haven’t hunted in a while.  Things do change from year to year, sometimes for the better.  When the action slows, you have two choices.  Stick it out and there’s a good chance you’ll end up frustrated.  Or you can hop on your ATV, head for the hills and scout some new ground.  You may find it well worth the risk.