White-tailed deer are genetically well prepared for survival. They have sharp eyesight, keen hearing, and an incredible sense of smell, making them a challenging species to hunt.
To be successful, hunters must employ tactics that outweigh a deer’s strengths while taking advantage of their weaknesses in a comprehensive examination of the five senses.
Any plan of attack should include these sensory details in order to fool a fall whitetail.
Deer have quality vision, but through the years, I’ve learned that they are more prone to pick out movement, solid patterns, and human outlines than actual colors.
Granted, deer can see certain ranges of the color spectrum, (blue in particular), so it’s not the best idea to wear a pair of Levi’s into the deer stand. But any kind of camouflage that helps break up the human form will do just fine.
Camo gloves, as well as a facemask or painted face, is better than shiny skin, and anything you can do to reduce glare from a watch face, eyeglasses or other flashy object will help reduce the likelihood of being picked off.
Try to select a treestand location with plenty of surrounding vegetation to conceal your human outline. A fat man in a skinny tree sticks out like a sore thumb against an otherwise barren skyline, so be sure to give yourself a decent backdrop with nearby branches, or consider climbing higher into the canopy to get above their line of sight.
I go about 20-feet, which is where I feel safe, and I seldom get spotted.
Keep unnecessary movements to a minimum, and only draw your bow when you have some sort of blocking structure or the deer is facing the opposite direction.
If they do catch you, freeze as still as possible, and beware of the false head bob, because deer will often fake like they are eating only to pick their heads back up and catch you in the act. If you can outlast their stand-off and they can’t quite make you out, you might just get another opportunity.
While deer don’t have supersonic hearing, they will definitely react negatively to substandard equipment. If your treestand squeaks or groans when shifting your weight, your coat sounds like a bag of chips at full draw, or your bow cracks loudly at the shot, you might as well have stayed home to watch hunting shows from the couch.
Deer are not stupid, and they will become fully alert at the first sounds of danger. Do your absolute best to minimize sounds by wearing quiet hunting garments, tightening all treestand parts and dampening bow accessories to the best of your abilities.
Be cautious in your approach to the stand so you don’t tip them off of your presence, choosing your path carefully and watching where you step.
A deer’s olfactory sense is probably its best overall defense, so hunters must be extra diligent in their efforts to reduce human odors. Become obsessive about scent control and you will see your success rate climb.
Yes, Joe Schmo, can get lucky once in a while and shoot a buck while smoking a cigarette, wearing the same outfit he slept in last night, but that’s not the norm. Deer associate foreign odors with danger, and the more careful you are about containing them, the better off you’ll be.
Shower in scent-eliminating soaps. Wash clothes in scent-free detergents. Store gear in airtight containers. Dress in the field. Hunt downwind of anticipated trails. Use a cover scent. Wiser words were never written.
In terms of this sense, you absolutely must hunt where the deer feel most comfortable. For starters, find locations with plenty of cover. If deer can walk through wide-open hardwoods or a nearby row of conifers, they will opt to hug the concealment of the evergreens more times than not.
On the other hand, if you can find subtle trail openings in super-dense cover, such as a regenerating chop-off or thick laurel, deer will often take this path of least resistance because they have security cover all around them.
It doesn’t make sense for them to battle the nasties when they have an easy path through the middle of it all. Take note of these areas and hang a stand nearby.
Early in the season, deer will likely avoid coming to fields with the sun high overhead and will primarily stick to shaded woodlots, but as daytime temps cool by evening, they will begin trickling to the feed, which brings me to my fifth and final sense.
This is a deer’s number one weakness. Find the food and you’ll find the deer.
If you can focus on the hot food source at the moment, (as long as there’s security cover and water nearby, as well as limited hunting pressure), you can almost guarantee to get into deer.
Early in the season, clover, leafy browse and white oak acorns are big-time targets. As the season progresses, chestnut oaks and other acorns, standing corn, turnips and dried soybeans pick up, as well.
Adjust with the changing flow of preferred food sources and you’ll stay on deer for the duration of the fall seasons.
By paying closer attention to the sensory details that help whitetails thrive, you’ll do a better job of fooling one this fall.
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