By Mark Fike
Most years there seems to be a lull right after the rut when whitetail deer hunting seems to hit a wall. Pressure from all the hunters in the woods for the past few weeks, fewer deer remaining due to harvest, the deer regrouping, resting and changing their daily pattern due to the rut being over and a weather pattern that is getting colder with days getting shorter can result in hunters seeing fewer deer.
After a lot of pressure, deer tend to go nocturnal and are usually seen at twilight. However, they do have to eat and they do continue to go on with life’s daily processes. So what can hunters do to punch a deer tag when this happens?
There is that old saying that if you keep doing the same thing and expect different results you are insane. I don’t know about the insane part but I do agree that doing the same thing you have been doing and hoping you will somehow suddenly see and kill a deer is unlikely.
Change is the answer. Change pretty much everything you are doing to have a better chance of getting a deer. This means you should change where you are hunting.
While you might not have to change properties, at least change locations on the property. The old oak lot you have been sitting in has been empty. The party is long over and the guests are elsewhere. Go find some thermal cover.
Thermal cover is a place where deer can lay down and try to get warm. Typically this is evergreens but it can also be a southern exposed hillside that was recently cut or logged. The deer like to be warm just as much as we do.
Deer also go to food so you need to figure out the food source. Food availability changes by the season and year as well. If acorns are gone you need to start looking at nearby fields and browse.
Deer get conditioned to hunters and human intrusion so they soon learn how to avoid human encounters. Sometimes this means they just lay low and never move much. Or they go around “problem” areas. I learned this the hard way after taking a few deer in a pine thicket adjacent to an oak lot. The deer suddenly quit using the trails around the tree stand.
One morning when I was slipping out to my truck to leave, the deer were walking up the driveway to go around me to the field and they were passing my truck. The only shot I had was with my truck literally right behind the deer! This happened two times before I started parking my truck elsewhere and I got another deer by carefully sneaking out mid-morning and taking the shot.
Most of us know that the better times to hunt deer is during twilight hours, however…. Check with your favorite taxidermist and ask him or her when the nicer deer they get in are taken. Keep in mind every taxidermist is probably bored to tears hearing all the stories and details of every deer head brought in.
So, they know the facts. Many deer are taken mid to late morning. Adjust your hunting accordingly. Maybe sleep in or run a few errands before going hunting. When hunters exit the woods, they tend to push deer around. Be there when the action is starting; don’t be the catalyst for the action!
Unless… you plan it. Planning a subtle deer drive is an excellent tactic. If you and a few friends are scattered on a property, text to let the others know when you are leaving and then take a safe, but purposeful, path WEARING BLAZE orange, to your vehicle to help push deer to your friends. Be sure you let the others know exactly where you are going to be moving.
When done safely, this tactic can really be effective at putting venison in the freezer. You don’t have to be loud either. A slow walk through the woods, stopping often enough to cause deer to be unnerved and move out is all that is necessary. Just keep safety and safe zones of fire in mind.
This season when the deer seem to vanish, change up your entire approach. Hunt in different areas, at different times, using different tactics and increase your odds of putting up some meat for the winter.