If you have to hunt a new property this year (or any year), here are five tips and tricks that will help ensure your new spot is as productive as it could be.
One of the most exciting challenges for any hunter is the opportunity to hunt a new piece of property. Whether it’s your first time in the woods or you’re a seasoned outdoorsman with access to a new area, the thrill that comes from stepping onto new ground can feel like a breath of fresh air.
If you don’t approach your newfound honey hole with caution, however, your season could go south fast. Being successful is oftentimes about more than just dumb luck (contrary to what some T.V. hunting shows portray), and failing to plan in the whitetail woods is equivalent to planning to fail.
Here are five tips for hunting a new property. Keeping these things in mind as you hit the woods this year will go a long way towards ensuring you have the hunt of a lifetime.
1. Don’t be in a hurry
While the excitement from hunting new ground can be almost overwhelming, don’t let your excitement push you too hard, too fast. Being in a hurry to harvest a big buck can lead to mistakes, which can lead to pressured deer, which, in turn, can lead to long periods of being cold, bored, and lonely.
Learning a new property takes time, and that’s okay. Hunt smarter, not harder; don’t push too far into areas you’re not certain of, don’t hunt a bad wind, and stick to good entry/exit routes. Although you may not succeed opening day, this will help ensure your hunting property stays productive over the long haul.
2. Scout, Scout, Scout
It takes time to learn how deer use a piece of land, and one of the best ways to learn those patterns is by scouting. There’s even a formula that shows how scouting affects deer sightings: more scouting = seeing more deer.
When scouting, don’t limit yourself to just one resource. Use every tool available to you; topographical maps, arial photography (such as Google Earth), and field observations. In addition to looking for actual deer, look for anything that will concentrate deer to a specific area; look for areas of thick, gnarly cover that deer might bed in, look for natural travel corridors or pinch points between food and bedding areas. Creek crossings, open gates, low spots in fences, and even a low spot between two ridges (called a saddle) can concentrate deer movement. Food sources are a great place to begin your quest in the early and late seasons, but types of food deer prefer changes with the seasons; this means you must stay up to speed on what deer are eating right now.
If you have the opportunity to scout before the season opens, take the chance to do so! While deer patterns change several times during the course of a season you can still get a feel for where deer bed, where they eat at different times of the year, etc. If you combine what you see on the ground with what your maps are telling you, chances are you’ll be in the game.
If you get access to property right before (or even during) the season, you may need to modify your approach slightly. Low impact is the name of the game here; spend more time pouring over your maps, and restrict your in-field scouting to what you can see from your vehicle or from your stand.
Regardless of what scouting methods you use, be sure to strive for “low impact” scouting. After all, the best spot in the world is useless if deer are afraid to use it.
3. Talk to the neighbors
Other than scouting, this is the only way to learn how deer use a piece of property. People who live or hunt near (or on) a piece of ground are an invaluable source of information when it comes to understanding deer movements. While their tidbits may seem odd (we’ve all heard our fair share of weird hunting advice from time to time), in the beginning try to apply the old “don’t guide the guide” rule. If someone is consistently seeing deer (or a specific deer) in an area, take their word for it early on.
This rule still applies if your new hunting area is public land. While there are numerous stories of less-than-courteous encounters with other hunters, most people who hunt public ground are regular folks like you and I. Don’t just assume they’re going to slash your tires when you turn around; ask questions, be courteous and considerate, and thank them for their advice.
Oh, and don’t forget to return the favor.
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4. Hunt “from the outside in”
As with scouting, the name of the game in hunting a new property is “low impact,” and a great strategy to reducing your impact on a new piece of property is to hunt from the inside in. All this means is that you should begin hunting on the perimeter of the property and only move to other areas as you learn how the deer are using the land.
Even if you know there’s a great spot in the middle of the property, you could ruin a season if you jump in too quick. Without knowing how deer travel, where they bed, what funnels their movements, etc. you could permanently alter deer patterns, and thereby ruin what could have been a great opportunity.
5. Be flexible
As anyone who has spent time in the deer woods can tell you, flexibility is an incredible asset. The only thing that’s 100 percent predictable about whitetails is their unpredictability and successfully chasing them means having to constantly alter your strategy.
This is especially true on new ground. Just because deer should move a certain way or feed in a certain field doesn’t mean they will, and sticking with a plan or strategy that isn’t working will probably continue not to work.
Hunting a new property is a very exciting experience and following these five tips can help to ensure that your experience matches your expectations. If you hunt slowly and are humble enough to take advice and change your strategy to fit your particular piece of ground, chances are you will be successful on your new hunting property.