When Going in Blind Goes Right

Pre season scouting and preparation is a great idea. Being prepared gives any hunter a great advantage. Knowing deer habits, travelways, primary scrape areas, food sources, funnels, and typical rubline locations ahead of time are all an important part of the success equation. However, sometimes things do not go as planned. You may find yourself in a situation where your early preparation did not work out as planned. You may not be seeing any deer or fresh sign and the rut is swiftly approaching. It’s prime time of the year and the scrapes and rubs you anticipated are not showing up, and everyone else is bragging about all the sign they are seeing. Maybe life’s responsibilities got in the way of preparation this year and there wasn’t any time to prepare. Your buddy may have called you up and invited you to come along and hunt some brand new property. No matter what the reason, sometimes going in blind is needed, and at times can even give you an advantage.
One of the main advantages of going in blind is the element of suprise. While going in blind, you are potentially hunting an area that has been left alone all season. No hunting pressure means the deer may be more relaxed and possibly more likely to show up at daylight. Many times this strategy can mean big buck sightings on the first hunt, provided that your stand is in the right location. Look for fresh sign, and signs of recent buck activity if hunting during the pre rut and rut phases. Add a good funnel to to the equation if at all possible.

To help remain undetected, put your stand or blind up during mid day, and if possible during a rain. You want to enter the area when it is least likely to spook deer. Also, try to avoid bedding areas, unless of coarse, if you want to go all in and make a big gamble by trying to catch a buck on his way to bed.

Aerial and topographical maps can help you scout a property from your own home. These maps can tell you the lay of the land, show fields, woods, thickets, funnels and bodies of water. You will most likely still have to do scouting in the field to fine tune your discoveries, but using maps can narrow things down.

If things aren’t panning out as planned during your hunting season, don’t be afraid to take action and try going in blind. It is one of many effective methods for outsmarting mature whitetail bucks. With the right approach, it has the potential to really pay off.

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Understanding Thermals and How it Affects Deer Hunting

Lets say you get in the woods for a morning hunt. You get set up on the lower end of a hill side. The sun has risen and the dark woods start to lighten up. The first thing you do is check the wind with a puff bottle. The air is relatively calm on this morning, but the powder drifts down the hill and to your right. You already know that the deer are likely behind you at this time, in a field and slowly coming your way to feed on the acorns that lie below the hill. At this point you give out a rattling sequence to them. Knowing that any approaching deer will probably try to wind you, you patiently look down the hill for any movement. Suddenly, you hear two loud stomps behind you. It’s the sound no hunter forgets, the sound of an alert deer stomping the ground. You want to turn around to look but you know he’s looking right at you. Seconds later the deer blows and runs off into cover. You immediately grab your puffer bottle and squeeze it to find that your scent shifted in the opposite direction. Understanding thermals and how it affects deer hunting can help prevent mishaps such as these.
In the morning, cool air is warmed as the sun rises. This warm air becomes less dense and begins to rise. In fairly calm wind conditions, this can cause your scent to shift in another direction, especially when on a hill side or down in a bottom or ravine. Evening hunts can have the opposite affect. As air cools from the sun lowering in the sky, air becomes more dense and sinks lower. One way to counteract this is to get set up high during morning hunts, and low during evening hunts.

Periodically check the wind throughout your hunts under different wind directions, speeds, and conditions to learn how this may affect your stands that are in hilly areas. Understanding thermals and how it affects deer hunting is a great tool to add to your scent control methods.

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Hunting over Big Woods Acorns 

Deer love acorns. There is no disputing that fact. When the time comes for these tiny morsels to drop from the tree tops, deer will hone in on their location and engorge on them as they cover the forest floor. However, in big woods areas, hunting over these acorns can present many challenges. Though challenging, all challenges can be overcome with the proper knowledge and willpower. Follow these tips to help you find big woods hunting success.
1) Evaluate the crop

Acorn crops vary every year. Some years are over-abundant, while others are sparse. Certain trees can produce one year while others produce better the next year. In big woods situations, finding out what trees have an abundance of acorns takes some leg work. Before the acorns drop, take a walk in the woods with some binoculars. Glance into the treetops with the binoculars and see how many acorns are in each tree. Mark these trees on a map and plan to hunt around them when the acorns drop.

Once the acorns drop, look for fresh sign to determine which trees the deer are feeding under, as well the acorns themselves lying on the ground. Look for lots of turned over leaves as well as fresh droppings. This is a sure sign of a fresh feeding area.

2) Look for areas of daytime movement.

Groups of large oak trees often have a lack of cover underneath the canopy. If there is better cover available, deer may not use these open hardwoods until dark. A trail camera will help to confirm this. Getting back closer to the bedding area and into cover will increase the chance of seeing deer during daylight hours.

3) Look for funnels

Many big woods areas lack the ability to funnel deer movement. Due to large numbers of oaks, deer have many options and may not travel the same direction every day, making it a challenge to be at the right place at the right time. Seek out funnels to increase your odds of success. Look for saddles, benches, fence crossings, draw crossings, or places where the big woods get narrow between fields. Sometimes an excellent funnel is only a small strip of undergrowth and cover that runs through the middle of the woods. Large fallen trees are enough to funnel deer movement. Try to think like a deer and imagine which path would be the best to choose and safest. Deer want an easy path but also desire cover and protection.

4) Give calls and scents a try

Sometimes the best option is to break out the calls and scents and try to make the deer come to you. Keep in mind that any deer coming in to investigate a call or scent will most likely come from downwind. Try to plan your location accordingly. This tactic works best during the pre rut and rut stages.

5) Be able to adapt

The trees that draw in deer can change quickly. If it appears that the current area you are hunting has been abandoned, you may have to cover some ground and walk around to look for fresh sign. Try to get your stand set up during mid day or during inclement weather. If possible, put up several stands the previous spring, so you have several oak stands to choose from and the deer have time to adjust.

Big woods can be evaluated for areas of high success percentage just like any other area. By evaluating the terrain and given circumstances, sweet spots can be discovered. Add a good game plan to the mixture and may your hunting season be successful!

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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.

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.

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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 dead 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 dead brush to a blind to blend it in.

 

The reason is because of the outline of the blind contrasting with the background. Most blinds come with straps to tie dead 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!

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