03/23/10 12:10 PM
Loc: Hatchie Bottoms
Success in LIFE is often determined by timing. Waiting to make a phone call or missing an appointment by merely a few minutes can result in missed opprtunities. Success can also be measured in terms of inches. One tipped pass in an entire football game can be the difference in a win or loss. One swing of the bat, one shot at the buzzer and even one misthreaded lugnut can be the difference in a win or a loss. We all look at the BIG PICTURE in terms of wins and losses, but we rarely look closer at the individual seconds and inches that determine the outcome. Also, a brief mention of the subtle things that many hunters overlook may be applicable as well. |
We all know that a misplaced shot (an inch or two high) can have bad results, so I won't go too much in to that. I think we all know why those things happen and what the results can be.
Instead, I'd like to discuss more about the things around us that determines our success.
When I began deer hunting, in my mind, the most important thing(strategy wise)was volume.......Where can I put a stand where I can see the most ground and hopefully see the most deer? This strategy worked, somewhat, but just seeing lots of deer wasn't "doing it for me".
It was many years down the road before I began to think in smaller amounts......less ground/more quality ground and fewer deer/more quality deer. When I did begin thinking in these terms, my success rate improved (better deer)and later I began to question WHY these areas were "better" than others.
Hunting huge open fields leads little to the imagination. Swirling winds and hunter movement cause little concern to deer 200 or more yards away. With rifle technology as it is, these 200 yard PLUS shots are pretty easy for the average hunter. Not much attention to detail is required in this scenario.
However, if you fall off into dense woods littered with swamps, cutovers and cane thickets, more attentionn IS required.
Being "OFF" as little as ten yards in the woods can make a huge difference , especially while bow hunting. Even during MZ or GUN seasons, setting up on the wrong side of a half acre cane thicket in a woods can easily mean the difference in success and failure. Even deer within range can sometimes be "unshootable" based on angles and vegetation.
After many, and I mean MANY, missed opportunities I began to try to figured out, if I could, why a deer would go around a certain way and not MY WAY.....Was it just bad luck that the deer went THAT WAY or was it, maybe, a decision that the deer made based on terrain or just instinct. Was the path taken based on "least resistance" or did the deer "FEEL" as if I was there....
To the average HUMAN EYE, there are no determinable differences in this type terrain. No hills, valleys, saddles, funnels, etc. Deer can't be found bedding on the SOUTH SIDE of a hill or feeding down in the valley or walking around a mountain and so forth. The only noticeable difference in some areas is a ridgeline that may be 5-10 feet above the surrounding areas. Most of these ridges are littered with mast trees and huntable, for sure.
When you move out into the Bottoms and flat ground you look for REASONS and less for possibilites.
Is it possible that deer will come feed in the acorn flat, sure it is. The tracks and feces prove that. But, with thousands of mast trees in that same area, what odds are you willing to bet on that they will come by you to feed on the handful of those particular trees ....?
Just as water finds the best path, deer do as well. For whatever reason, deer prefer to travel these paths and in areas where lttle terrain changes dictate their travel patterns and especially when food is abundant ( food everywhere they walk), something makes the deer take certain avenues.
One example I have found is in swamps. The swamp I hunt near and sometimes IN has taught me alot. Many times cypress knees and other root systems near or above ground level can make travel through these areas very difficult, even for deer. I tend to stay away from heavy KNEED areas for this reason. Plus, unless you've gotten a wheeler stuck on a KNEE, you haven't had fun..haha.
Many swamps didn't start out as swamps. They BECAME swamps, maybe, because beavers took over or some other "water" issues. Whatever the case may be, not all swamps are totally flat. Many times if you are able to follow deer trails through swamps, you may indeed find that these trails follow specific "higher ground areas". Higher ground in a swamp may be the ground that is not under water all the time, but more so when the water level is higher than normal in the swamp. If you are lucky enough to get in these areas when conditions are right, you can easily see these high spots and 'mini-ridges' and follow them. Most of these pathways link up at several points along the way and these areas can be very productive. Even when the water is up in the swamps, the deer will follow these same higher ground paths simply because they prefer to travel in somewhat shallower water, even if the difference in depth can be less than a foot. These high paths spend some of the time out of water and since few swamps have a canopy these areas are exposed to alot of sunshine and can dry out at times. Thusly, it can be more solid ground than the the ground that stays under water all the time. Better footing means ease of travel to deer, IMO. Hunting swamps can be relatively easy in terms of stand location, if you determine where these places are and where they go.
I have hunted both open woods and dense cutover. I have talked to hunters that prefer open woods because they like to SEE FURTHER. I have talked to hunters that prefer to hunt cutover because they prefer to see deer in closer quarters and they indeed believe that the BETTER deer stay in the cutover more. I have been known to love mature open woods for the beauty that lies within. However, when it comes to deer hunting, I run from these places like I run from the general forum. Both seem to be a waste of my time...haha.
In a perfect world, I would rather hunt a combination of both. Here's why.
We've always been told that deer are EDGE creatures.......But, what determines an EDGE..? Is it only the edge created when woodlines meet open fields and so forth? IMO, a very emphatic...NO!
Some of the most productive areas that I have ever hunted were edges INSIDE woodslots. Edges formed when swamps meet woods, cane thickets meet open woods and especially cutover areas (select cutting) in large acreages of mature timber.
I'll take it a bit further and say that IMO very small upshoots of cane and native vegetation can be even more productive when they're scattered throughout mature timber instead of when they are much more massive such as LARGER thickets and cane breaks which can be many acres in size. My reasoning is simple. These rather small cane breaks and taller vegetation provide deer with needed cover and food in an otherwise open environment. The deer seem to gravitate in and out of these areas for a variety of reasons. Deer love sunshine and even a good breeze , in some cases. Stepping out of one of these smaller thickets into the open timber is like walking outside to a human. A difference in their surroundings (open woods to thicket) allows the EDGE feeling that they desire but does not give up as much "peace of mind" as may be the case when walking into a large open field. Similarly, most of us would feel right at ease walking outside in our own backyard, but might be hesitant to walk outside in a more open (public) area where more people can see us.
One of the things that I have observed many times while hunting woods with these smaller thickets is that when deer pass through the area they often times gravitate to these thickets. They may not actually walk through the thicket or even grab a quick bite from some of the vegetation, but instead seem to bounce off the thicket edges like a pinball. IMO, the deer seem to feel at ease standing because these thickets as they make their way through the timber. Instead of parading straight through the open areas of the woods they seem to follow the thickets, so to speak. Years ago, a fellow hunter had it in his mind that he needed to see every inch of the woods and cleaned out every stick that existed within gun range.......a big mistake to me that proved to be just that.
Not only do these smaller thickets provide just enough cover to put the deer at ease, but they also do not provide too much cover to make hunting them relatively impossible. Actually, I would rather have these "obstructions" than not, simply because to me, it's easier to hit a deer when it stops at one of these thickets than it is to try to stop and shoot a deer that is hastily moving through open timber....IMO, deer tend to be much more nervous in open timber and less likely to hesitate for that BRIEF but BENEFICIAL second that it takes to take that shot.
With that being said, placing stands in these areas is crucial and can be tricky. Just a few yards in the wrong direction can leave you watching deer after deer bounce from thicket to thicket , just outside of your comfort zone for a shot. What should you look for then?
I like to steer clear of stands where you expect deer to walk in direct sunlight. Deer are also SHADOW creatures, IMO and even though they prefer to stand and absorb sunshine, they may indeed tend to not travel INTO the sun or travel while the sun more exposes their movement. JMO and not based on scientific studies...etc.
My first few times in a new stand is essential to my success for this reason. I watch the sunshine as it gets higher and watch and see which areas are exposed to the most sunlight. Trails traveling directly through these areas, expecially large spans of open woods, may indeed be avoided by deer during clear sunny days. The less sunny areas that connect these thickets are made note of as possible stand locations.
Many a hunter has been told to hunt with the sun at their back. This is good strategy to take advantage of the deer not being able to see you while looking directly in to the sun...BUT, if the area that you are hunting (where you intend to take your shot) is flooded with direct sunlight during your hunt, you may indeed observe deer avoiding that area. Based only on my own experiences....
Deer do tend to feed in direct sunshine during extreme cold weather, especially in farmland where most food comes in the form of crops and less mast and natural vegetation. When temperatures reach dangerous levels, sunshine is just as much a necessity as food and cover, so they must decide for themselves which is most important, I guess.
Once while hunting a bean field, i watched a doe walk out into the field and just as soon as she hit direct sunlight, she paused and actually took a step backwards, mush like a vampire, haha. She and other does that followed her out stayed in the shadows of the field edge and never walked out in the sunshine.
I base 90% of my theories on MY experiences and less on those of others and I found that tad bit of information very worthy of absorption.....
To sum this all up, somewhat, I would say that when I go look at a place and even while hunting, I always look for the things that fine tune an area. Being in a certain area is sometimes enough to prove successful, but in some cases, you need to fine tune .....Seeing deer is the first objective for every hunter, but once you are in a good spot, in order to make it a GREAT spot you need to pay a bit more attention to details.
To me, subtle things make a good spot into a great spot, provided that you know what your looking for.
If I had learned these things 30 years ago, my home would have alot more of a "trophy room" resemblance.....
We all seem to gravitate to the spotlight and toward the obvious, but somethimes staying in the shadows and limiting exposure is for the best...
Thinking small can mean big success....
There are some people who always seem angry and continuously look for conflict.
Walk away; the battle they are fighting is not with you, but with themselves.
Moderator: RUGER, Tennessee Todd, Unicam, Cuttin Caller, CBU93, stretch, Bobby G, Outdoor Lady, TurkeyBurd
Max Online: 756 @ 11/20/12 09:10 AM
The TnDeer.Com Deer Talk Forum is for Tennessee Deer Hunters by Tennessee Deer Hunters. If you enjoy using our Talk Forum and would like to contribute to help in it's up-keep. Just submit your contribution by clicking on the DONATE button below and paying with PayPal or a major credit card. Any amount is much appreciated. Thanks for your support!