Welcome to the third week of November. Here’s what’s working right now and will help increase your chances of scoring a big buck by the end of the week.
If you’re like most hunters, things might be getting tiresome. You’ve been hunting hard all season long, and Thanksgiving is looking pretty good right about now. You may start to be getting lazy, or, if you are like me, you are still on cloud nine waiting for every chance you can get to be in the tree.
I write this to you, right from the field once again, and I’m sure this will take much longer than last week’s field report, because I’ve zeroed in on some different tactics to ensure success. I hunt in the Northeast, so, if you’re familiar with the Thirteen Phases by Drury Outdoors, they are off by just a few days for those of us living on the East Coast.
Currently, we are still in what Drury Outdoors considers the “Buck Parade”; however, it will quickly end by the middle of the week, so here are some tactics to getting things done early and ensure you’re ready by the weekend.
1. Rewash your hunting clothes.
You’ve been hunting hard. If you are as lucky as I am, you have been hunting every day since you got back from your honeymoon back in the middle of October. I have been successful with two mature bucks, in two different states, but I’m now looking to really hone in on my hit-list bucks and get things done.
I take Sunday, as hunting on Sunday is illegal in Maryland, to regroup and reorganize. First things first, I’m washing my hunting clothes. I have been in a camper, hotel rooms and a tent for the past month. Luckily, I have the Scent Crusher setup to keep my gear deodorized, but it’s time for a wash. Take the time to get it done and be sure to use a good quality, non-scented, UV killing laundry detergent. I use Dead Down Wind or Scent Blocker laundry detergent and both seem to work well.
2. Watch the weather.
I have about fifteen different weather apps on my phone and am constantly checking the weather. Okay, fifteen may be an exaggeration, but I am constantly checking the weather. This week, I am watching the weather for different reasons, though. I am pulling all-day sits, so I watch the weather to be prepared. If there is going to be a drop in temperature—rain, snow, you name it—I want to be prepared. Last year, I passed on one of the biggest bucks I’ve ever passed up on, but I never would have gotten the chance if I wasn’t prepared with my rain gear.
Folks, if you want any shot at success (and, let’s face it, bragging rights), you have to work for it. Sure, luck will sometimes trump hard work, experience and skill, but if you continue to put in the hours, you will be successful. Don’t let the weather keep you out of the stand; even a very windy day in the stand during this week can still produce, and the video below will prove that.
3. Sit all day.
As I mentioned above, even sitting during a windy day can produce. Here’s what happened in this video: I got hungry. I became hungry and had been seeing deer, but I decided food was more important than sitting all day. I was wrong.
This mature buck came in as I was fumbling around getting down from the stand. We’ve all been there before but when you are self-filming, it’s quite difficult. I had to get a camera back up a tree and knock an arrow at the same time. This wasn’t the easiest to do with a mature buck under my stand.
Often times, when I find myself caught between shooting the buck with the bow or turning the camera on, I will turn the camera on. This happened last year when I was able to get the camera on, but wasn’t quite sure if this buck was a shooter until it was nearly too late. He came in pushing a doe around this well known breeding spot and offered me only one shot. That shot however would not have been on camera so I opted to pass.
The moral of my mistake is sit all day. No matter how cold you become, unless you are on the verge of hypothermia, sit as long as you can. Daylight lasts for roughly ten hours now, and each hour you sit longer is a 10% increase in chance that you can connect and be successful. Do yourself a favor as you’ve prepared all season long, make this week count and put in the time.
4. Stay focused and ready.
Drury’s mentions this in Phase Seven, but it couldn’t be any more true. You must stay focused. I am constantly updating on my phone, checking emails and following social media, but this is not the time.
We wait the entire year for that one moment in the tree stand where we connect on a hit-list buck. It literally could be fifteen seconds or less: the time it takes for a buck to come running past your stand, offer you a quick shot, and then take off again can be extremely short during this week. You must stay alert.
This weekend, I did a rattling sequence and had no immediate response. I was left thinking we were beginning to enter the lock down phase, even though I knew better. Quickly and out of nowhere, a young buck came flying through under my stand, so quick it actually startled me. As I stood up, I dropped my grunt call. The grunt call fell to the ground and jumped a fairly decent buck. That buck, I have to believe, was less than ten yards from my tree stand. The deer jumped off and stopped quick to look back. I never heard or saw that deer come in.
The moral of this story is to stay alert. If that had been a hit-list buck I wouldn’t be writing this with such optimism. Stay focused, stay alert. My high school football coach used to say: “Keep your head on a swivel and be prepared for anything.” Use this same advice this week in the treestand.
5. Find those secret, secluded areas.
I have found a honey hole where I’ve watched several does get bred every year on one of my farms. It’s thick, in the middle of two crop fields, and always produces this time of the year. This corridor hardly ever sees deer any other time of the year, but when this time of the year rolls around, I sit nowhere else. I am mindful of the wind but things happen so quick during this week. The bucks are so focused on the does, you can sometimes be a little lenient when it comes to wind direction.
Those who hunt public land or aren’t lucky enough to hunt crop fields—you may be thinking that this post isn’t for you. That is the farthest from the truth. Keep in mind, deer move, feed, bed and breed in the deep mountains just as they do on the big farms.
Look for thick, secluded areas, often times near a water source, like a swamp or a creek. Some of the biggest bucks on public land are killed in the swamps this time of year. If you don’t have any swamps in your area, look for other water sources such as a creek or pond overflow. If you hunt in a location that has tag alders, now is a great time to crash in on these locations.
There are tactics and strategies like that the Drurys may mention and you may be familiar with that will help. No matter what you do, you won’t be successful if you are not hunting where there are deer. That may sound a little silly, but the truth is, you can’t harvest a mature buck if they don’t exist on your property.
If you have spent your time scouting and preparing during the summers and are familiar with past seasons, you can decide whether or not there are deer in your area. If there isn’t, it’s time for a change. There are several things you can do during the off season to attract deer to your property. If you are hunting public land, it can be as simple as leaving that location and finding another.
Always take the path less traveled and work harder than the next guy. Although you may watch it on television, see videos online or read about successful hunts here at Wide Open Spaces, most times it’s not as easy as it seems. You have now entered one of the best times to be in the stand. I look forward to this time of the year, all year long. Don’t waste it! Get out there and have something you can be proud to talk about during this Thanksgiving.