Deer stands are up… bring on the rut!

October 22, 2012

Faith Outdoors

I almost got a deer yesterday evening the way no one wants to – with my car. Coming back from a fruitful day of stand preparation, the buck jumped out of the ditch as my brother Paul and son Andy and I were headed home from the Red Wing area.

There was no time to react, so I braced myself for impact. I got a good look at the deer as I zipped by it, then heard a thump as it made impact with the back end of my van. Fortunately, both deer and van made out OK. In fact, there was not a scratch on the vehicle.

I thanked God for that, and for the enjoyable day in the woods. We visited two farms where we had permission to hunt, then put up a stand for each of them. I think they all are in good spots, and I think we should have some action on opening day. The other member of our party, Bernie Schwab, got his stands ready the day before. So, we’re set for the firearms deer opener Nov. 3.

Tips for hunting success

For those still in the process of putting up their stands – especially those who haven’t picked a spot yet – I offer four tips for where to put your stands, how to access them and how to hunt them on the opener and throughout the season. When I follow these rules, my success goes up.

1. Hunt funnels. If you don’t know what a funnel is, now’s the time to learn. Deer movement picks up dramatically during the breeding season (known as the rut), and the best place to be is where they travel. Specifically, you want to be in areas where bucks are cruising as they look for does, or are chasing does that aren’t quite ready to be bred.

The good news is, funnels are not hard to find. You can look on satellite images (think Google Earth) and see areas where wooded areas get narrow. That’s a great place to start. Another is where deer cross steep ravines. We found a dandy funnel yesterday that we couldn’t see on a map. It’s only about 25 yards wide and the deer trails already were there, not to mention a buck antler rub and a ground scrape. Andy will be positioned there waiting for deer to come through.

By the way, last year I shot a beautiful 8-point buck while positioned in a classic funnel. He chased a doe right in front of my stand, and I shot him at only about 20 yards.

2. Play the wind. This is far more important than many hunters realize. Observe a deer catching your scent even once, and you’ll know exactly what I mean. If deer see or hear you, they will pause and try to check you out. They may even get fidgety and nervous. But, if they smell you, they’re gone. Right now. No questions asked. That happened to me two years ago. I saw a doe’s head pop up in a cornfield, then she moved from left to right. After only a few steps, she was straight downwind of me, about 25-30 yards away. I looked down at my gun and slowly lifted it up for the shot. But, when I put my scope up where the doe had been, she was gone. Then, I saw her running nearly full speed to my left in an adjacent field. That was the end of that.

So, try to place your stand upwind of where you think the deer will travel. Better yet, have some obstacle like a cliff or pond behind you so that they have to go upwind of you. Also, don’t forget about scent as you go to your stand. If your scent drifts into the woods where the deer are, they may never come your way. In other words, you could end up spooking deer that you never knew were nearby. I think that happens a lot more often than hunters think, and could be a reason some hunters don’t see a deer all day.

3 Stay put. I know it’s tempting to climb down out of your stand to take a break for lunch. But, if you’re serious about shooting a deer, don’t do it. Deer move around a surprising amount throughout the day, and climbing down out of your stand takes away the chance to capitalize on this activity. Remember, it’s the rut and bucks can’t stand to sit still for more than about four or five hours at a time. They get antsy, then get up to keep on chasing does. The nice buck I shot last fall crossed in front of me at 2:55 p.m. Things had been quiet for a while, but I knew I was on a funnel, so I waited. The reward was worth it. Besides, the weather was so nice that it was not hard at all to stay in the stand.

4. Sight in your gun. Lots of hunters fail to do this. Some of them believe that it will shoot the same as last year. Maybe so, but not always. It takes so little time to go to a range and fire a few shots to make sure. Then, not only will your gun be accurate in the woods, but your confidence will go up as well. We were able to get our shotguns sighted in yesterday, and that was the last part of our trip down yesterday.

I’m getting excited. Next week, I will try to get out in my bow hunting stand once or twice, then it’s on to the firearms season.

I can’t wait!


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About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

View all posts by Dave Hrbacek