With this season being unexpectedly slow for us I was a little surprised when I came to a rather interesting realization the other day. Looking back through my journal for the season reveals a lot of slow hunts and multiple sits where no deer at all were seen. While it’s hard for me to explain why things have been slow this year I can easily explain what my two most exciting hunts of the year had in common: I stepped outside the box and took advantage of what the day had to offer.
The first hunt I’ll talk about took place in the UP during our annual bow camp a few weeks back. We were “blessed” with a week full of rain and out of the 9 days we were there I think there were two days where it didn’t rain at all. Every other day had rain of some sort, ranging from scattered light showers to periods of heavy rain and storms.
The second or third day we were up there I noticed that while driving to my stand in a light rain there were a lot of deer on their feet. I spotted several while driving and also put a short stalk on a deer that I spotted on the walk into my stand. I got into the stand with high hopes for the night but ended up not seeing a single deer from my stand. In total that night, between the hunt and the drive to and from the stand, I saw 17 deer which is an extremely high number for the area we hunt in. I definitely took note of that and when the following day had the same light, off and on rain, I made up a game plan.
I am traditionally a stand sitter, I pick out a good spot and let the deer come to me, but after all the deer spotted the night before I realized a few things. First thing I realized was that despite how good the area around my stand looked it apparently wasn’t as good as I thought. Deer were definitely on their feet the night before but none came past my stand. Second thing I realized was that the off and on rain that we had all day must have been the catalyst driving their movement. In all the years we’ve been going up there I have never seen that many deer in one evening.
Taking those things into consideration I decided to think outside my normal hunting box and try something different. The rain, which was getting the deer moving, would silence the woods and allow me to move silently across the pine needles that covered much of the forest floor. The wind direction would allow me to park in my normal parking spot and slowly stalk back towards the area where I had seen the majority of the deer the night before.
As I left the truck that night I was convinced my plan would work and it turned out I was right. While I wasn’t able to get any shots off that night I did manage to still hunt my way through the woods and spotted 10 deer while never getting busted. By the time I returned to the truck I had a large smile on my face and a very memorable hunt under my belt. By thinking outside of my normal box and doing something outside of my normal comfort zone I was able to take advantage of what mother nature offered and turn it into a great night and a great hunt.
Another such example came just last weekend while hunting at one of my favorite stands on our farm. The stand is one we call “The River” and it is in a great natural funnel that sits along the river that cuts through our property. This time of year the area tends to be a great travel area for cruising bucks and with the north winds we had that day there was virtually no chance of a deer getting downwind of the stand.
The morning was cool and crisp. It was one of those mornings that you just know something will be moving and you can hear a mouse scuffle across the forest floor from 100yds away. As the day’s light began to illuminate the woods around me I decided to break out the calls and do some calling. I’m not opposed to blind calling but I tend to use it sparingly and tend to keep the calling pretty passive.
I started out with a few passive grunts just to see if anything was in the immediate area since it was still too dark to see very far. When I didn’t get any response or results from the initial light grunts I sent a few more out about 10 minutes after first light, again there was no response.
Often times I would have stopped there and just sat back to enjoy the morning but today I decided to take it another step. I waited till about 30 mins after first light and put together a series of grunts and a bleat meant to sound like a buck working a doe. After a short break I put a few deeper grunts together and followed that with the rattling antlers. I rattled very aggressively, as aggressively as I ever have, hoping that the crisp morning air would carry the sound across the woods for me and hopefully peak a bucks interest.
As soon as I stopped rattling I thought I heard footsteps but figured it was just wishful thinking. As I turned to hang the antlers up I heard the footsteps again and my heart rate increased instantly. I grabbed my bow and began looking for the source of the sound. I spotted the deer heading my way and could quickly tell that, unfortunately, it wasn’t a buck I was going to harvest. It was a buck that would have been a 6pt had he not already broken half of his rack off.
Judging by his missing antler this wasn’t his first time reacting to the sound of bucks fighting. He came straight to my tree and was looking back and forth trying to spot the other bucks he had heard. If he had been a shooter buck he would have been dead to rights several times during his approach before finally passing under me at about 10yds or so. An awesome encounter and definitely one of my best of the year so far.
I’m pretty certain that this buck wasn’t on his way until I tried something different and went beyond my normal calling routine. Stepping beyond my normal routine was the key to drawing this buck in and having a great encounter.
These two hunts were prime examples of taking what the day had to offer and stepping outside of your normal routine to take advantage. Sometimes when things are going slowly you have to try something different to get things going. Stepping outside the box can be risky but when things go right you can find yourself smack in the middle of a great hunt.
If you’re having a slow season, or even just as slow weekend, take a step back and look at what you have before you. Don’t be afraid to try something different, you may be surprised at what you’ve been missing.
Take care, and thanks for reading!!