November 29, 2023
The deer hunting arsenal has changed much throughout the years. Certain tactics have been lost, and others learned. Despite the changes, some tactics haven’t been adopted by many deer hunters, but should be. Keep the following ideas in mind this season.
1. Mike Mayfield: Stay Away from Other Hunters
While this isn’t a novel idea, the methods in which hunters accomplish it are obscure, difficult to learn and ever-changing. Realtree pro staffer Mike Mayfield has spent a lot of time on public land, and he’s learned ways to avoid the crowd. If hunters are staying close to the road, then dive deeper into the property. If hunters are diving deeper, hunt closer to the road. Furthermore, consider using clever access points and methods, such as further from parking lots and by boat.
2. Daniel McVay: Belly Crawling for Bucks
While low crawling is a somewhat common tactic for turkeys, it’s deployable for deer, too. That’s what Buckventures Daniel McVay did one time. He was in Kansas hunting along a cut cornfield with 6-inch stalks. He didn’t want to put up a ground blind right before the hunt. So, he crawled out with a few cedar branches for extra cover and laid on his belly. That afternoon, the deer left a CRP field and entered the cornfield. He got that big, 155-inch buck.
3. Lee Ellis: Hunt Backyard Bucks
The new rage in deer hunting is pursuing suburban whitetails. Hunters are beginning to realize just how many big deer live in populated areas, so long as pockets of deer habitat and minimal hunting pressure exist. Seek One’s Lee Ellis has stacked up a trophy room full of whitetails thanks to using this tactic, and it can work for other hunters, too. The most difficult part is getting access to these lands.
4. Kyle Barefield: Don’t Hunt Bedding Areas or Food Sources
Just about every article you read says to hunt either bedding areas or food sources. All Things Hunting’s Kyle Barefield suggests doing neither, and it makes a lot of sense. Oftentimes, he hunts transition routes between the two, which leads to him spooking fewer deer before and after his hunts. Because deer merely pass through, and don’t congregate along transition routes, it’s much easier for him to get in and out of his hunting areas cleanly.
5. Bernie Barringer: Find Staging Areas
Like transition routes, staging areas are safer spots to hunt than bedding areas or directly over major food sources. Outdoor writer Bernie Barringer loves to hunt staging areas. He finds these close to bedding areas and food sources, and camps out on these where deer spend a little extra time around first and last light, but don’t congregate there like they do in bedding areas and food sources.
6. Chad Schearer: Focus on Micro-Patterns
Whitetail patterns change throughout the year and change even more frequently during the heart of deer season. Because of this, Shoot Straight TV’s Chad Schearer says it’s important to focus on micro patterns. Never quit scouting. Continue to adapt as deer shift to new core areas, bedding areas, and food sources.
7. Mike Mineer: Hunt the History
Those who hunt specific, unique bucks for multiple seasons might notice that they repeat certain patterns. They might even show up at the same time and in the same place each season. Whatever the situation, guide and outfitter Mike Mineer suggests paying attention to historical trail camera data and encounters to find potential patterns.
8. Keith Beasley: Toss a Tater
Ever had a big buck hang up just outside bow range? Maybe they heard your grunt call or rattling, but won’t commit all the way? Canada in the Rough’s Keith Beasley suggests keeping a potato in your pack that isn’t for eating. Rather, when a deer hangs up, toss that tater, and let it roll through the leaves. It might make that deer think others are running nearby. Of course, elevation changes are needed to make this work (for several reasons).
9. Josh Sparks: Forget About the Rut
Midwest Whitetail’s Josh Sparks loves the rut. But he also likes hunting the early and late season phases. During the rut, most other hunters are afield. So, these other times of year receive less hunting pressure. Furthermore, bucks are easier to find and pattern when they aren’t chasing the ladies into parts unknown.
10. Mike Dukart: Call to Late-Season Bucks
Mike Dukart, CEO of Illusion Systems, is a proponent of calling to deer during the late season. Historically, this tactic was shunned by most deer hunters. But done correctly and wisely, he believes it can be a good tool for the arsenal. Don’t be super aggressive but consider this option for special situations where it has a decent odds of working.
Bonus: Other Great Tactics
There are many other promising and effective tactics deer hunters can use that are largely overlooked by modern deer hunters.
Chase the Southern Rut: If you can’t stomach the above idea of forgoing the rut, consider the opposite. Chase it instead. In the South, rut dates range wildly.
- July and August: Parts of Florida
- September: Parts of Florida and Louisiana
- October: Parts of Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas
- November: Parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia
- December: Parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas
- January: Parts of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi February: Parts of Alabama and Louisiana
Hunt a High-Risk, High-Reward Morning Sit: Most hunters won’t hunt bedding areas but doing so of a morning can work. That’s true for any time of the season, including the early days following the archery opener. However, outside of the rut, bucks get back to bed pretty early, which means you getting there even earlier. And your wind will need to be perfect because whitetails tend to circle downwind before entering their bedroom.
Hunt on Windy Days: Most hunters believe deer don’t move with higher wind speeds. But they’re wrong. According to Penn State University, two peer-reviewed research efforts (https://www.deer.psu.edu/blown-away/) showed that bucks tend to move further during daylight when wind speeds are higher.
Pose a Buck for the Shot: Oftentimes, deer make it within bow range, but don’t present a shot opportunity. Hunters can help pose deer for the shot opportunity, though. Where legal, bait, minerals, decoys, mock scrapes, real scrapes, scrape trees, existing rub lines, rubbing posts, strategic micro plots, pinch points, and other things, can help place deer in shooting lanes.
Learn to Track a Buck: In the old days, deer hunters tracked deer. They’d follow hoof prints and ground disturbances to follow deer movements. That’s a good tactic today, too.
As expected, there are many great deer hunting tactics to use today. But don’t forget about the above hunting tips from big buck experts. Those work just fine, too.