Well folks, deer season is just around the corner. The weather has been hot and many of those bucks that were seen earlier are now little more than buzzard bait but still bow hunters will enter the woodlots with high hopes.
After all, there will still be deer that escape the ongoing battle with EHD. Many more years have been spent watching deer than I care to admit and I have a lot of opinions on deer habits and behaviors.
While I have had little schooling on such matters, I was once told there is more than one way to learn. We can learn through text books, history or experience. I guess my learning has come mainly from the latter. It is surprising how much one can learn by just sitting and watching.
I asked a friend the other day what he thought triggers deer activity? His reply was the moon and its phases. He might be right but in my thinking, this is an opinion. There is very little that is etched in stone or for that matter becomes fact in regards to the moon phases effecting deer.
I believe there does exist a pecking order among deer. I have watched more than once a smaller buck lick the side of a larger bucks’ muzzle. That, I believe, is a sign of subservience. That big buck knows he is king of the hill and the little buck is showing respect.
There is little serious fighting among bucks that are brothers or have spent at least a summer together in a bachelor group. Any pushing and shoving amongst them is just messing around and perhaps practice for when an outsider shows up and tries to breed the local does. That is when the serous fights occur.
I also have learned the presence of rub trees tells the hunter there is a buck in the area but little else. A buck will rub a group of trees and never return to that spot again. The scrapes however are a different story.
I am not referring to those dinky pre-rut scrapes made during the pre-rut period but the larger ones where not only is the ground tore up but an overhanging tree branch also has broken limbs.
Find a hot one with a large footprint in the bare earth and it is a great place to hunt. The scrapes might follow a ridge line for some distance, creating a scrape line. Watch out for a small print in the scrape, this might not be the signature of the buck but instead the print of an interested doe.
When on the stand, don’t depend on scent killers but instead be careful of the wind direction. Perhaps the scent killers will help but I believe they are not a cure-all. Perhaps watching the wind and thermal currents coupled with a masking scent is the answer. Another thing I don’t believe is the adage that deer don’t look up. Move a lot while up a tree and they will spot you. If old momma deer sees you climb either into or out of your tree stand a couple of times, I guarantee you she will check the tree before venturing too close. The same can be said about the use of scents that are attractants. After a while, they can and will connect the scent to humans.
Many hunters carry a bottle with them to use while up a tree. The bottle is so they can urinate without fouling up the area. My experience on this subject is deer pay little attention to urine on the ground. I have watched as a doe stopped to smell the spot where I went and kept on feeding without so much as a single sign she had smelled something she didn’t like.
Don’t let excitement get the best of you after a shot. After releasing an arrow, it is time to keep the eyes on the deer and the ears receptive to the sounds it might make as it runs away. There is seldom snow during archery season so that means it is time to track your buck.
Twice in my life, I have had a buck run away only to circle back around and die near where it was first hit. The first time I almost lost it until I remembered hearing a sound from just uphill from my tree stand. It had run 50 yards away and circled back.
George Block writes a weekly Outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.