Find a buck’s safe-zone 

Picture a large field full of lush green clover. No other crop is in the area for miles. You walk into the field for some pre season scouting and you find fresh sign everywhere! All the fresh tracks have turned the field edges into mud. Fresh earth is scattered under every low hanging branch making a picture perfect scrape line. You find large trees stripped of their bark and deep grooves dug into the trunks from a mature buck marking his territory. You immediately grab a treestand from your truck and set up on the scrape line. As opening day comes, you hurry to your stand anticipating tons of action for an evening hunt. As darkness arrives, you find yourself wondering what happened. No deer showed up at the clover field. How can this be? How did all this fresh sign get here?

During a typical scouting trip, one may consider many factors. Tracks, droppings, rub lines, scrape lines, and mineral licks all give away spots that deer encounter. However, this is only one part of the equation. From this information one needs to find out what time these deer are in this area to leave sign. Most importantly, we need to know what sign is being left during legal shooting hours. An impressive scrape line is no good to a hunter if the deer don’t show up until the late hours of the night. One of the main factors that determines this is the location of the deers safe zone.

Safe zones involve danger, location, and timing. Danger involves how dangerous the location is. Whitetail deer have an incredible ability to adapt to their surroundings and this is why no two deer herds are exactly the same. There are public parks out there where the deer walk among people with no fear. The danger here is almost zero because no hunting is permitted. On the other end of the spectrum, think of public land full of hunting pressure so intense that most deer movements happen only at night. Most situations fall in the middle.

Location involves where deer herds feel safe and where they do not. In the thickness of cover, deer feel much safer. The cover provides camoflage, and if any predators approach, they can hear them coming through the thick brush and move into safety. In the open and at food sources, they are in sight and much more vulnerable to predators.

Timing involves day and night, as well as timing of dangerous situations. Deer feel much safer out in the open during late evening and night time hours. During the day, thick cover provides safety when the sunlight makes them more visible. If an atv drives through at 6:15pm every day of the week, deer can alter their routine to avoid this percieved danger. They may not come out of cover until 7:00pm. Perhaps a pack of coyotes show up at a certain time. Deer will adjust accordingly. It can even be due to a hunter walking to a stand, causing deer to wait until dark to come out.

Trail cameras are an excellent tool for determining what time deer show up in a certain area. They will create images of what deer are in the area, and they will make a time stamp on each image.

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Putting it all together, every situation has to be evaluated accordingly, as not every situation is the same. The key is to get in between the bedding area full of thick cover and the feeding area, where they feel safe enough to appear before full darkness. In areas of low hunting pressure, open areas can be utilized for hunting and be able to see deer. In areas of high hunting pressure, you may have to walk back into the woods farther.

Trail Cam Success

I can remember when I first saw trail cameras at a local outdoor store. I knew this was something I wanted to try and saved my money until I had enough to buy one. Back then most models used the old 35mm film. Hard to imagine with the technology the new cameras have today. With a pack of film and some batteries I headed to my treestand. Determined for success, I picked out a random trail and followed the directions for setting it up exactly as described. I drove home, but as I tried to sleep that night the anticipation was eating me up inside, wondering what might have walked by in front of the camera. After a week I could not wait any longer, and I immediately headed into the woods to gather my film that hopefully was loaded with pictures of monster giant whitetails that were completely nocturnal. To my suprise, the counter had seven pictures on it! Curiousity ran high that day and I headed directly to the one hour photo shop. That was one of the longest hours of my lifetime, but finally I had my first trail cam pictures. I instantly looked through them and was very pleased. No monster bucks showed up that week, but I was thrilled to see five pictures of does, a young seven point, and even a bonus coyote added to the mix. From that day on I was hooked!

Trail cameras have come a long ways since then, but the basic fundamentals for success remain the same. They have become a very important scouting tool, allowing hunters to see what is in the woods when they are not hunting. With some luck, you may even get to see some of those giant noctural bucks that make for tales that are almost mythical. Follow these tips for better trail cam success.

  • Read all instructions carefully. They are there to help make your trail cam experience successful. Cameras need to be at the right height and angle to work properly.
  • Location means everything! Set your camera up at a pinch point where several trails meet, or better yet, on a bait pile or feeder. Community scrapes, scrape lines, mineral licks, and rub lines are also great locations.
  • If you have a camera that has to be checked, try to leave the area alone for at least a week, longer if possible. Some modern trail cameras have the ability to send pictures to a mobile device through an internet connection, allowing the user to see their pictures without physically walking back to the camera.
  • Make sure there are no weeds or branches in front of the motion sensor. A little wind and the moving branches can trigger the camera, leaving you with a bunch of pictures with no animals in them. 

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    Ground Blinds for Whitetails

    Ground blinds can be very effective when utilized properly. They are a very useful tool in locations that lack trees suitable for a treestand. Follow these tips and you’ll have another great tool in your arsenal.

    One of the biggest mistakes made by most hunters is putting a blind in too late. Deer have excellent memories and they know when something new is in their area. They can tend to be wary of a ground blind that wasn’t there the day before. Set your blind up weeks ahead of your hunt if at all possible. At least three weeks preferably, six is even better, and nine is even better still. Once your blind is set up, leave it and the surrounding area alone until you plan to hunt. The deer will get used to this new object and think of it as a normal part of their surroundings, eventually. If you are absolutely unable to leave a blind, the next best thing is to build a natural blind using surrounding dead tree limbs and brush. Then, when it’s time to hunt you can set the blind up inside the natural blind so that it will be camoflaged.

    Another common mistake is not adding brush to a blind to blend it in. Anyone who has used a blind before knows that although a blind is camoflaged, they can stick out like a sore thumb.

     

    The reason is because of the outline of the blind contrasting with the background. Most blinds come with straps to tie brush to the sides. A little dead grass doesn’t hurt either.

    Make sure there are no leaves or treelimbs inside your blind that could make noise. One crunchy leaf has the potential to ruin a hunt. A comfortable and quiet seat is also necessary. Set your windows up for hunting now, so you’re not making unnecessary noises during your hunt. Leave the windows behind you shut. An open window will leave you silouetted to the background. Open all windows as little as possible. You want to be able to see and be able to shoot without the deer seeing you. If you use shoot through windows then the windows can be opened fully. Whether to use shoot through windows is a matter of preference. Lastly, scent control is of upmost importance when hunting on the ground. Watch the wind direction as well and know where the deer are in relation to the wind direction.

    Ground blinds can make it possible to hunt areas that can’t be hunted with a treestand and are very useful. I hope you choose to use ground blinds in your future hunts! Don’t forget to like us on facebook for future posts filled with useful outdoor education! http://www.facebook.com/onthewaterinthewoods

    Squirrel Hunting Pre-season Scouting

    14722701108961068913026September means the opening of squirrel season for most areas. For some, the anticipation runs high as fall slowly approaches. The heat can be extreme this time of year in some areas, making a hunt far less then comfortable. Biting insects are still out in full force. However, the opening of squirrel season is a ritual that goes back many years. It also offers some of the best hunting in areas that are frequently hunted.

    Pre-season scouting is a good idea if the hunt will take place in a new area. Actually, it’s a good idea to do some scouting regardless of how many times you have hunted an area. Things do change, and that old hickory that is loaded with nuts every year could be bare. If this happens, it’s best to know before your hunt. Decide what the main forage is in your area. Usually it’s hickory nuts the squirrels seek in the early season. Beech nuts are another favorite. Don’t rule out acorns and walnuts. The best way to find out this information is to walk around the woods. Look on the ground and you will see the cuttings lying around where squirrels spend most of their time. Take note of what type of nut they are eating and which treetops that are above where the cuttings lie. These are the locations that you want to hunt. If you happen to be able to scout during the morning or evening hours, you may even see some squirrels, or hear them chewing away to chase away their hunger. Listen for the cuttings as they drop through the tree tops. Return to these locations when the season starts, as they should still be there.

    Scouting always plays a role in hunting. It gives hunters an edge on the game they pursue. Try these tips out this year before the season opener, and may your game bags be full! Don’t forget to like us on facebook for future posts filled with useful outdoor education! http://www.facebook.com/onthewaterinthewoods