By Josh Boyd
Every summer, a countless number of eager outdoorsmen and women sift through a myriad of trail camera photos in preparation for the season to come. With every passing week, and successive check of the cameras, anticipation builds in rapid fashion.
This anticipation can be a double edged sword of sorts. A hunter’s instinctual urge to be afield is what drives every successful hunt. On the other end of the spectrum, this anticipation, if not metered in a strategic manner, can be a hunter’s undoing.
As the eve of season draws ever near, a hunter’s knee jerk reaction is to delve into the thick of the action in a knee-deep fashion. As enticing as this approach might sound, a hasty response to season’s opening bell can often unravel a summer’s worth of scouting.
Every year, an untold number of hunters observe an abundance of summertime deer activity, only to see this same activity dwindle within days of heading to the woods for the first outing of the fall. The same deer that have been regulars on summer trail camera checks, vanish as if part of a magician’s act.
A great number of whitetail behavioral changes come as a direct result of the sudden pressure imparted on deer populations as hunters descend on the woods in great numbers. This pressure often leads to a reduction in daytime deer movement, or even a total abandonment of heavily pressured areas altogether.
However, when mindful of your approach, and diligent in the execution of a low pressure hunting strategy, your odds of a successful season are significantly increased. When remaining undetected, you gain the ability to capitalize upon opportunities that would otherwise be missed by most.
One of the most vital factors of a low pressure hunting strategy is a constant awareness of the prevailing wind direction at any given time. While a stringent odor control regimen can minimize human odor, the small amount of odor that remains is often enough to alarm any deer that are on the receiving end of a wayward wind current.
For this reason, many who exercise a low pressure hunting strategy choose not to risk a gamble against a marginal wind. By choosing a stand location based upon a knowledge of the day’s prevailing wind, a hunter is better able to reduce any negative impact on the area that they might otherwise impart.
Another cornerstone of a low impact hunting strategy is practicing sound judgment when entering and exiting stand sites. The best stand location in the woods is of little use if it cannot be reached without alerting every deer in the area of your presence.
It is advisable to locate stands in a manner that does not require deep intrusion into security cover or force a hunter to traverse bedding areas in order to reach their destination. Deer choose bedding areas due to the relative level of safety that they afford. Because of this, it is typical for very little in the way of intrusion to be tolerated before adverse reactions to this pressure take place.
Additionally, when striving to enter and exit a stand location undetected, a hunter must be able to time hunts in an efficient manner to avoid inadvertently alerting deer in the process. Certain stand locations, such as those over food sources, can be extremely difficult to access in the predawn darkness, without imparting pressure on resident deer. In a situation of this nature, these stand locations might be best reserved for afternoon hunts.
A hunter is best to assess the accessibility of all available stand locations during various times of the day. Once such an assessment is made, it is best to choose a stand location for a given hunt based upon its ease of accessibility in relation to remaining undetected by deer.
When implementing a low pressure hunting strategy, it is also vital to avoid overhunting any one particular location. No matter how well you conceal your scent, how mindful you are of the wind, or how much thought is given regarding entry and exit routes, it is virtually impossible to eliminate one-hundred percent of pressure as you hunt.
With time, repetitive trips to any one particular stand will begin to alert deer in the area of your presence. In turn, deer begin to avoid these locations in favor of less pressured areas.
The effects of this remaining pressure can be minimalized when spread between several stand locations, as opposed to hunting one given stand on a repetitive basis. When stand locations are rotated in a way as to avoid the overhunting of any one particular stand, the minimal pressure that is imparted, seldom builds to a critical level.
Perhaps the most difficult to implement concept pertaining to a low pressure hunting strategy is having the restraint to not hunt when conditions are not ideal.
Although the desire to be in a stand can be overwhelming whenever time permits, this desire cannot be allowed to cloud better judgment. When less than ideal circumstances such as improper wind direction or limited opportunities for undetected entrance or exit exists, it is essential to know when you are fighting a losing battle.
This concept is undoubtedly difficult to act upon, when a recent trail camera check has revealed the presence of high deer numbers in close proximity to a particular stand location. However, in less than ideal conditions, the negative impact of one ill-timed hunt can substantially outweigh the benefits of a single particular trip to the stand.
When these circumstances present themselves, it is best to choose a different vantage point for the day’s hunt by selecting an alternate stand location. You will be able to enjoy your time in the woods, while still preserving the positive attributes of your low pressure approach.
Whether hunting for a buck of a lifetime that you have spent the summer watching from afar, or simply trying to fill the freezer, a low pressure hunting strategy puts an individual in better contention to capitalize on the opportunities at hand.
This fall, consider a different approach to your whitetail hunting strategy. By changing your attitude toward deer hunting from a 50-yard dash mentality, to that more closely related to a chess match, you will be well on your way to a season for the ages.