Effects of hunting pressure over the course of a season

Headhunter

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Most of the mature bucks I have ever killed, I killed after hunting the same stand, approaching in the same manner, after not only several days in a row, but sometimes many days in a row, whenever possible, I hunted morning and evening, 2 hunts per day. I do have more confidence the first time I hunt any stand, especially in a good area or where I know a buck I want is nearby, but I believe in never give up. It depends on location, time of the season, and what I am or I am not seeing, but sometimes I hunt a different spot every time I go, and sometimes I hunt one stand and nothing else. It has paid off more times than not hunting the same spot til the deer I want shows up. I still to many overthink deer hunting or think they know better than the deer what the deer is or isn't going to do.

IMO, if you kill deer, any deer, they get educated quickly. To me does get educated just a quickly as bucks, and if you shoot only does (the places I have helped cull does, we did our best to shoot ONLY mature does, which meant waiting for a family group to walk out and shoot the largest doe) the first couple hunts we stacked up the mature does. After a couple weeks, mommas were hard to find and bucks, even mature ones, would stand and look at you as if to say hey, what's up? They wouldn't run or spook much at all. Does were almost impossible to see much less kill, and I have seen this on several different places. I can tell you the buck sightings and killings increased dramatically after reducing the doe population. It did seem to be a short rut, but what rut there was, was off the chart. I never attempted to or killed a buck on any of these places, I was the momma doe killer. It sure was fun watching the bucks act completely stupid. The biggest bucks still though could be so hard to see. One particular buck on one farm, easy 170 class 9 pointer, on camera and video, was only seen alive once, the hunter passed him up, first day and watched him chase does for over an hour. Only time he was seen alive.

If we believe does need to be killed, we kill them, mature does, preferably mommas and we kill them anytime we can. I have never seen any difference in shooting or not shooting does when it comes to seeing mature bucks. Well, if there are to many does, then killing mature does, especially early in the season, seems to help way more than it hurts when it comes to seeing mature bucks. All of my opinions, thoughts, etc. come from hunting. If I had been a really good hunter and killer, I would have bunch more deer on the wall or in the skull pile, I hate to think about how many good opportunities, meaning chances to kill not just see a buck I wanted to kill, I have blown that I got those chances through pure determination and staying in the woods, for whatever reason, moving at the wrong time, not making a good shot, passing up the buck because I wasn't sure it was the buck I wanted when it was, etc.
 

Deer Assassin

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Heck i have killed 3 mature bucks out of the same tree in a week approaching the same way each time

sat eve ml
sunday morn
and the next sunday morn

just have to spend some time in the woods
 

megalomaniac

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Mississippi
I work for a club that, a few years ago, began designating certain food plots as "buck only," meaning you can only kill bucks from those plots. After a couple of years of this policy, the difference in sighting rates on those buck only plots is dramatic. In fact, so dramatic I now recommend this technique to other clients. Honestly, if the property can withstand it, I highly recommend no doe shooting in plots until after the rut.
In my opinion, does should never be killed in any area you are hunting for bucks, but especially food plots. Once you start shooting does in plots, the remaining does avoid them in daylight. Therefore, the bucks never bother checking plots in daylight during the rut. Very late season, bucks will use food plots in daylight to feed if there hasn't been pressure on that location.

Last year I dozed a new small 1/2 acre plot in on the new farm I bought. It took the deer 6 weeks to find it (multiple other food sources and plots on that property), and we left it completely unhunted. I had groups of deer bedded in it on camera multiple times from noon until 2pm, and had multiple bucks using it in daylight throughout the season.

Compare that to my lease in MS where the plots are almost the only place members hunt.... and if a deer steps into the plot in daylight is shot immediately. I've gone an entire season without a single deer picture in daylight on several of those plots (but numerous pictures nightly of multiple deer).
 

wobblegobble

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I've written many posts about this topic over the years, but was just going through some data and noticed the obvious - how much older buck sightings decline from a stand as it is hunted repeatedly through a single hunting season.

From 14 hunting seasons encompassing 1,409 individual hunts (a "hunt" being any time a person climbs into a stand), the decline in sighting rate (deer seen per hunting hour) for only bucks 3 1/2 years old and older is 66% from the first time a particular stand is hunted in a season to the 5th time a stand is hunted that season. In fact, the decline is gradual and continuous, with each hunt, on average, producing a lower sighting rate than the previous hunt. In essence, over those 14 years, the 2nd time a stand is hunted produces a lower 3 1/2+ year-old buck sighting rate than the 1st time the stand was hunted. The 3rd time produces a lower sighting rate than the 2nd time, and so.

If I could figure out this Open Architecture presentation software I'm using instead of the original PowerPoint, I would post a slide of the graph. Surprisingly, 2 1/2 year-old buck sightings decline with each progressive hunt even more dramatically than 3 1/2+ year-old buck sightings. Yearling buck sightings also decline, but nowhere as dramatically as older buck sightings, and in fact, for yearling bucks the sighting rate the 2nd hunt is slightly higher than the 1st.

The lesson is, your best chance to kill a 3 1/2+ year-old buck from a particular stand is the first time you hunt it. Odds decline with each subsequent hunt from that stand.
Not in my Area, it doesn't seem to matter what I do in a particular area in Mid to December...I'll see every buck in the woods when I hunt everyday...from the same spot.
 

Ski

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Coffee County
How much difference does it make being a bow stand 20yds from expected shot, to gun stand 100yds+? Obviously more distance gives you more margin for error on both stands and access trails.
 

BSK

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How much difference does it make being a bow stand 20yds from expected shot, to gun stand 100yds+? Obviously more distance gives you more margin for error on both stands and access trails.
I would strongly agree with that. Even though I now despise bow hunting, after years and years of doing far more bow hunting than gun hunting, I still set up my gun stands like they were bow stands (close to expected travel pattern). I think that makes a big difference in how quickly deer pick up on the hunting pressure.
 

Popcorn

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Cookeville, TN Cadiz, KY and random other places
I've written many posts about this topic over the years, but was just going through some data and noticed the obvious - how much older buck sightings decline from a stand as it is hunted repeatedly through a single hunting season.

From 14 hunting seasons encompassing 1,409 individual hunts (a "hunt" being any time a person climbs into a stand), the decline in sighting rate (deer seen per hunting hour) for only bucks 3 1/2 years old and older is 66% from the first time a particular stand is hunted in a season to the 5th time a stand is hunted that season. In fact, the decline is gradual and continuous, with each hunt, on average, producing a lower sighting rate than the previous hunt. In essence, over those 14 years, the 2nd time a stand is hunted produces a lower 3 1/2+ year-old buck sighting rate than the 1st time the stand was hunted. The 3rd time produces a lower sighting rate than the 2nd time, and so.

If I could figure out this Open Architecture presentation software I'm using instead of the original PowerPoint, I would post a slide of the graph. Surprisingly, 2 1/2 year-old buck sightings decline with each progressive hunt even more dramatically than 3 1/2+ year-old buck sightings. Yearling buck sightings also decline, but nowhere as dramatically as older buck sightings, and in fact, for yearling bucks the sighting rate the 2nd hunt is slightly higher than the 1st.

The lesson is, your best chance to kill a 3 1/2+ year-old buck from a particular stand is the first time you hunt it. Odds decline with each subsequent hunt from that stand.
Excellent post as the similar ones in the past. You are far more analytical than I can be and your data has changed my habits and practices as a hunter and as a manager.
 

tellico4x4

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Killen, AL
I work for a club that, a few years ago, began designating certain food plots as "buck only," meaning you can only kill bucks from those plots. After a couple of years of this policy, the difference in sighting rates on those buck only plots is dramatic. In fact, so dramatic I now recommend this technique to other clients. Honestly, if the property can withstand it, I highly recommend no doe shooting in plots until after the rut.
This will be our second year of doe restrictions on food plots. Only allow does to be killed on plots during bow/ml then the week of private antlerless after regular season closes. If youth didn't kill during juvi hunt, then they can kill 1 whenever but encouraged to get it done early. Our rut is during early Dec. Last year was an eye opener for amount of relaxed does on plots & mature bucks that followed them onto.
We have 41 plots and require members to kill as many does as they do bucks. In addition and based on surveys & observation data each member may also have to take an additional doe. Our doe to buck ratio has been 1.5:1 for last decade.
What I noticed last year that folks were getting into the woods and going "hunting". Shooting does in the woods, instead of just blasting them on plots. Does that really hadn't been messed with for 20 years. Also actually killing some good bucks in the woods while looking for does! Excited to see what this year holds.
 
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Andy S.

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Last year was an eye opener for amount of relaxed does on plots & mature bucks that followed them onto.
This is just the contrary to the second order effect experienced when a club launches an all out assault on the does year round, for a decade, as I was a part of. The all out assault severely diminishes the "visible daylight" rut activity because the does will hide better than the mature bucks, especially when you factor in hunting pressure. In turn, you have most of your does holed up deep in a thicket, all of your mature holed up deep in the thicket, and you have to rely on a dumb 1.5/2.5 y/o buck to push them out to SEE them during daylight hours while you are on stand. Extreme doe kill applied throughout the hunting season, and constant hunting pressure (a given on most properties) has second and third order residual effects that most cannot fathom until they live it. I am not a fan of it when looking for a quality hunting experience.
 

Andy S.

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What I noticed last year that folks were getting into the woods and going "hunting". Shooting does in the woods, instead of just blasting them on plots. Does that really hadn't been messed with for 20 years. Also actually killing some good bucks in the woods while looking for does!
Good for you on forcing their hands to "get in the woods" and "hunt", rather than camp on an opening with gun pointed at it. Kudos!!
 

tellico4x4

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This is just the contrary to the second order effect experienced when a club launches an all out assault on the does year round, for a decade, as I was a part of. The all out assault severely diminishes the "visible daylight" rut activity because the does will hide better than the mature bucks, especially when you factor in hunting pressure. In turn, you have most of your does holed up deep in a thicket, all of your mature holed up deep in the thicket, and you have to rely on a dumb 1.5/2.5 y/o buck to push them out to SEE them during daylight hours while you are on stand. Extreme doe kill applied throughout the hunting season, and constant hunting pressure (a given on most properties) has second and third order residual effects that most cannot fathom until they live it. I am not a fan of it when looking for a quality hunting experience.
We actually killed our best buck ever this past season and I feel that the change did have at least a little something to do with it.
Nine yr old grandson & got in a shooting house around 1:00 one afternoon. About 3:00 I see a buck about 100 yards off the plot working his way towards us staying parallel to plot. He'd pause now & to then to scent check and look into plot. I kept thinking that he had a huge rack but couldn't get over how small his body was. Convinced myself that because of his small frame that his antlers looked overly large. He stopped about 100 yards from us with head behind tree but body perfectly broadside to us. I whispered to Kaden that I could easily kill him where he stood and he loudly replied, " but Papa I don't want YOU to kill him"! As the buck trotted straight away from us I could tell that he was much better than I thought....
Next morning another guy ( new member of course) gets into a tripod stand in select cut pines about 150 yards from the other side of plot. About 8:30 the same buck comes by him doing the same thing between him & plot. He made a better decision than I did and killed him. Scored 167 with right G4 broke off! Deer only weighed 156 lbs and looked like a midget. Obvious that the buck was comfortable moving around in daylight. Up until then there hadn't been a shot fired on that plot all season.
 

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fairchaser

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We actually killed our best buck ever this past season and I feel that the change did have at least a little something to do with it.
Nine yr old grandson & got in a shooting house around 1:00 one afternoon. About 3:00 I see a buck about 100 yards off the plot working his way towards us staying parallel to plot. He'd pause now & to then to scent check and look into plot. I kept thinking that he had a huge rack but couldn't get over how small his body was. Convinced myself that because of his small frame that his antlers looked overly large. He stopped about 100 yards from us with head behind tree but body perfectly broadside to us. I whispered to Kaden that I could easily kill him where he stood and he loudly replied, " but Papa I don't want YOU to kill him"! As the buck trotted straight away from us I could tell that he was much better than I thought....
Next morning another guy ( new member of course) gets into a tripod stand in select cut pines about 150 yards from the other side of plot. About 8:30 the same buck comes by him doing the same thing between him & plot. He made a better decision than I did and killed him. Scored 167 with right G4 broke off! Deer only weighed 156 lbs and looked like a midget. Obvious that the buck was comfortable moving around in daylight. Up until then there hadn't been a shot fired on that plot all season.
Great buck BSK! Like you I’m a sucker when it comes to my grandson’s wishes. This also shows that anytime a mature buck shows up in daylight, it’s magical and we are privileged just to witness it. I think he’ll remember this when he gets older.
 

tellico4x4

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156 whole live weight which is 25-30 less than average for us. Our average live weight since 2008 on 4 yr olds (44 bucks) is 174lbs, on 5+ (31 bucks) it's 183. We aged at 4 or 5 and sent teeth to deerage.com, but still awaiting results...BTW our average on 3 yr olds (51 bucks) is 158 which is just about dead nuts what he weighed but don't believe in any way that he was 3 1/2. We had one encounter with him previous season & guy let him walk for same reason I did
 

BSK

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This is just the contrary to the second order effect experienced when a club launches an all out assault on the does year round, for a decade, as I was a part of. The all out assault severely diminishes the "visible daylight" rut activity because the does will hide better than the mature bucks, especially when you factor in hunting pressure. In turn, you have most of your does holed up deep in a thicket, all of your mature holed up deep in the thicket, and you have to rely on a dumb 1.5/2.5 y/o buck to push them out to SEE them during daylight hours while you are on stand. Extreme doe kill applied throughout the hunting season, and constant hunting pressure (a given on most properties) has second and third order residual effects that most cannot fathom until they live it. I am not a fan of it when looking for a quality hunting experience.
I couldn't agree more Andy S., and that's one of the management practices I've changed my mind about dramatically over the years. We always pushed hunters to manage for a more "natural" adult sex ratio. Most unhunted deer herds have an adult sex ratio around 1.2 to 1.4 does per buck (this slight imbalance occurs because does live longer than bucks hence tend to outnumber them). However, years of experience with the high doe harvests needed to push the sex ratio to that level of balance found that instead of increasing rutting activity as was expected, the intense harvest pressure on does simply drove the entire population nocturnal.

Taking a look at different properties, their local sex ratio, and observed daylight rutting activity, I've come to believe a slightly higher number of does is perfectly acceptable. As I've said many times, successful deer management is a balancing act between what is good for the deer population and what is good for hunters. I now recommend to managers/hunters that an adult sex ratio of 1.5 to 1.7 does per buck is fine. Achieving that level of balance does not require such an intense doe harvest, and at 1.5 does per buck the competition between bucks is still high enough to generate a lot of daylight chasing.
 

Mescalero

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Franklin TN
This s such a great thread. It should be “stickies” to the top. Everything BSK should be stickies.

I was on a lease in western Hickman until last year. Life intervened. A lot of great guys on that lease. But only two points of entry. Off the county road bordering on the West or logging road from the gate through the center. That was the problem. Intermittent ATV use over 365 days. “Work weekends,” sporadic individual use. And then come November and 12 ATVs fired up for 30 days.

That’s one extreme. And with public land it’s pitter patter from September through December, but without motorized traffics there’s still pressure.
 
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