Find a New Deer Hunting Area

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new-deerHunting unfamiliar territory this year? Get the info that will give you the upper hand.

All hunters will sooner or later face the same problem — hunting in an unfamiliar area. Just how successful you will be in the face of this dilemma often depends on your pre-hunt analysis and preparation; and I don’t mean taking a quick drive-by the night before opening day expecting to find a big buck. It will take homework —not the variety we all hated during our school days; this homework is rewarding and fun to boot.

Getting Familiar

You need to become as familiar with the areas you intend to hunt. While most established hunters seldom give away any state secrets regarding their favourite deer pasture, I always like to start by seeking out a kindly soul or two who will at least point me in the right direction. Besides all the good work they do, joining the local fish and game club is a great way to meet these fellow hunters. It may take time, but an established member is likely, at some point, to take you into their confidence. He may even invite you on a hunt. Don’t miss the opportunity — even if it means pushing bush all day for other hunters. Additionally, I also like to visit with the local conservation officers and talk to the knowledgeable staff at local sporting goods stores to get some general perceptions of where to start my search. I then obtain the necessary maps of these areas, such as topographic or county maps. Armed with my maps I then spend some time driving through these areas just to establish a general sense of which specific areas look the most promising (due to terrain or habitat) and mark these on my map for future reference.

Look for locations that offer feeding areas such as alfalfa fields adjacent to river bottoms or stands of timber, particularly if they are off the beaten track. Coulees that begin in a creek or river bottom and ascend into fields that offer feeding areas are another great bet. And don’t overlook community pastures or transitional zones between forest and parklands or agricultural areas. Just keep in mind during your scouting that deer need a number of primary elements to survive; two of the most important are food and cover. Find these in proximity to one another and you are sure to find deer.

Delving Deeper

Once I have established my most likely prospects, I begin by scouting these areas in earnest. If they are on private land, I get to know the landowner during the off-season, as he will usually be more amenable to a prospective hunter at that time than he might be the night before opening day. Once I have obtained permission (not applicable if the areas are on crown land) I begin by walking these areas on a nice sunny day early in the year, looking for sheds and specific areas that may show signs of deer activity. I also keep a watchful eye for what I refer to as “pinch zones.” These zones, because of the terrain or habitat, “pinch” deer down into narrow travel corridors between bedding and feeding areas. These can be a dynamite area to place a stand.

Come early fall I spend every chance I get glassing the locations that showed the most promise, particularly in the late evening or early morning. I also re-walk the areas looking for scrapes, rubs and bedding sites as well as for any identifiable game trails. If I begin to see any number of deer in a given area, even if they are just does, I rate each as to their potential. I always like to reassure myself that where there are does, bucks will surely follow.

At this stage I know fellow hunters who have taken the next step and put out a number of digital scouting cameras along selected game trails or in high use areas to establish precisely what kind of bucks are in the area. These cameras contain infrared motion/heat sensors that can detect heat sources up to 60 feet and can photograph with clarity a deer up to 40 feet away. If you are willing to spend the money, there are even digital camcorders that will video all the action while you are at home in front of the fire.

Still-hunting these areas, if you have the patience, is also a great way of providing detailed insights into your selection process. I usually end up with a half-dozen areas that I then prioritize, always keeping a few as back-up locations should any of my first two or three bomb.

Find Your Place

My next step is to select my stand or hide locations within these high priority areas. I spend a fair amount of time looking for sites that not only offer me the opportunity to observe deer but also for those areas that allow me to remain undetected while affording the opportunity to make a clear shot. In other words, you want to pick a location that will hide your presence — such as a point of bush overlooking an open field or a small patch of willow overlooking a meadow. A commercial blind, tree stand or hide is also a great approach. Camouflage clothing can be an asset here, but additionally ensure that the cover around you will break up your outline. Another great location to look for a stand, especially if you are an archer or a muzzleloader hunter, is the pinch areas I mentioned earlier. They frequently offer travel corridors that can put passing deer almost on top of you.

Finally, whatever locations you may select, make sure that you have unobstructed shooting lanes. Get out the pruning shears and clear away any offending branches or trees. I like to tell myself that while it’s always great to see deer, if I can’t make the shot I have just wasted all of my preparation time. I check and recheck my shooting lanes even if it means returning to my stand a number of times in order to check and recheck my sight picture.

Why? Because when that big buck finally steps out into your field of view, you’ll be more than ready to burn a little powder.

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