Feature Photo: Struttinbuck
Bow Hunting Tactics for Hunters Without Hit-List Bucks
As deer seasons break open across the country, hunters now gain the ability to review their offseason preparations. It is at this moment that hunters begin to dive into weeks or perhaps months’ worth of trail camera data. Hunters are now checking, analyzing, and strategically adjusting their trail cameras in search of hit-list bucks. While the exercise of developing a hit-list is a page right out of the deer management handbook, it is automatically assumed that a hunter will have multiple bucks to select from. While that is certainly the case for many deer hunters, it is not a guarantee for every deer hunter. Rather, some hunters will face the unfortunate reality of having very little deer activity on their property during late summer. This common problem can and will intensify into just another fruitless year unless initiative is taken. If you do find yourself in this category of hunters, all hope is not lost. There are a few tricks that can still give you the chance at intercepting a buck while bow hunting this year.
Tactics That Can Help Locate a Hit-List Buck
There is little doubt that trail cameras have become one of the most vital tools in the hunter’s toolbox. Unfortunately, this has caused a great majority of hunters to become completely reliant on their cameras. This dependency has now resulted in a situation where a lack of a hit-list buck on camera essentially deflates any and all bow hunting enthusiasm. However, in this situation, knowledge is power. The knowledge that bucks drastically alter their patterns and behavior as fall arrives means that as bow season approaches, so can hit-list bucks! Changing daylight, habitat, food sources, hunting pressure, and hormones force bucks to establish new home ranges from their previous summer patterns.
This means that not having a hit-list has a very real chance of disappearing within the next few weeks. The tactics and tips below will help steer your efforts of finding these hit-list bucks that might soon arrive on your property.
Rethink Your Camera Setup
Bow hunting isn’t supposed to be easy, yet all too often hunters can sometimes find themselves getting in their own way. When setting trail cameras, hunters typically try to find locations where deer will be traveling through, based on the overall appearance and the sign that may be present. If you fall into this category and are still not finding your SD cards overrun with images, you might want to rethink your setup. Do not be afraid to move your cameras around and try new tactics. Just because we think it looks like the perfect spot, doesn’t mean that it is. Be sure that you are getting a reasonable coverage of the property, and do your best to run multiple trail cameras if you have that option. Running multiple cameras can help you narrow down any potential areas you may have overlooked.
One tactic that might reveal more information would be combining a regular trail camera setup over a deer run with a mock scrape. Creating a point of attraction could not only increase the traffic on the run but could stop a buck for a more detailed picture.
Read the Land
While trail cameras have changed white-tailed deer hunting as a sport, remember that they are simply a tool to help you be successful. Don’t assume just because you are not seeing the deer numbers you would like to see on camera, doesn’t mean that those deer are not there. Spend more time reading the land by looking for pinch points, scouting bedding areas, and reading tracks. Bow hunters still killed booners well before cameras existed. Those giants didn’t fall from pure luck! Bow hunters before trail cameras existed took the time to scout and observe all they could using old-school techniques. Employing these techniques will not only increase your knowledge of what deer are on the property but could also increase the effectiveness of your cameras.
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How Does Your Property Fit?
In order to really understand what the movement patterns are for deer utilizing your property, you need to understand how your property fits into the overall landscape. In other words, perhaps your farm is not an area that deer frequent during the early part of the season. Your property might be ideal for traveling to and from bedding and food but does not contain either. Take a look at the landscape and see what resources are nearby. Look at the locations of potential food sources, bedding areas, and travel areas and see how your property fits. This can really help you understand how the deer will continue to utilize your property, and give you a better idea of how you can be successful moving forward.
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Become Heavy Handed
Sometimes lack of deer activity simply boils down to lack of habitat and habitat management. White-tailed deer, like all other wildlife species, will key in on areas that have an abundance of food, water, and shelter. Toss in a low probability of disturbance and hunting pressure and you have a recipe for success. If you own or have permission to hunt private land, take a look around and begin thinking about your deer management strategies. With a little habitat management, how do you think you could positively impact the habitat on your property? What are the limiting factors? Are you missing bedding cover, food, or security? Do not be afraid to consult a private land biologist and develop a habitat management plan. Though this is a long-term approach, there is no doubt that with a little habitat management and elbow grease, you can begin holding and harvesting more deer.
Though lack of trail camera activity can be frustrating, there is a certain satisfaction in knowing that any success that comes your way will be due to your hard work from this point on. If you keep a few of these tips in mind, you can still find yourself with some hope in your bow hunting efforts this fall.
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