If you get your hands on any deer hunting article from about ten years ago, you’ll see the uptick in hunting public land. But also, you’ll find all sorts of secrets on how to kill a big buck.
Most of it is geared toward a specific technique or outworking the competition. But here is the reality check. Did you notice the keywords above? Ten years ago. Specific tactics and outsmarting secrets are great, and in the right setting, they still work! However, sometimes our little black book of secrets shrinks and will need revamping. A secret ten years ago has now grown and is rooted in new ways of thinking. Deer have grown accustomed to our tactics and are far more wary of things that have worked in the past.
These secrets are big and still work when applied to the right case. I always compare it to bass fishing. Every year a new lure comes out on the market that dominates fish. It might seem like you can’t keep them off of your hook. But the following year, you use that lure and find it’s a dud. That subtle change in presentation worked for a while, but the fish caught on quickly.
What does that have to do with deer hunting and secret tactics? Let’s dig into the popular ones!
Hunt A Mile Back
I’ve been to my fair share of hunter’s safety courses. I’ve gone to my own, taken friends, and my wife. I was eleven when I sat at a table for my first course. I remember starting the day excited that I would finally hunt in the coming fall.
At an impressionable age, I recall one of the instructors going over survival safety and how not to get lost in the woods. He talked about how easy it is to get lost in a mountain when cold or when tracking a deer. Flagging tape was popular then, but he mentioned how toilet paper was a better option as it is biodegradable and still easily visible. His last sentence was pleading. “Please, young people, please, use toilet paper!”
That safety course was twenty-four years ago, and hunting a mile from the access was a rare tactic back then. In fact, most hunters who said they hiked a mile never made it past 500 yards.
Here’s the secret, ten years ago, one to one and a half miles bought you solitude. Maps and apps then began gaining traction in the bowhunting community. If you ran out of toilet paper in the first half mile, there was a way back to the truck. Ten years ago, finding hunters that far from comfort was still uncommon.
Today, the one-mile rule is no secret. It’s not even considered deep by most mobile hunters. I’m not trying to sell the idea that getting deep won’t help you. It would help if you had more pieces of the pie to understand the worth of that deep solitude.
Find The Bed, Kill The Buck
Bed hunting, some hunters live and die by that tactic. Because more and more hunters are using bed style hunting to wrap a tag on a big animal, more hunters are dying by this method. The Hunting Beast has perfected this style of hunting, and what Dan Infalt does, he does well. The catch is that you and I are not Dan.
Again with mapping apps, almost any bowhunter with a bit of scouting experience can point to a spot on a map and say, “there is probably a buck bed right there.” 80% of the time, that is accurate. But what Dan Infalt understands ten times better than we do is which bed is worth hunting.
More studies have been done on the way bucks bed because of the increased popularity of bed hunting. Most have found that the same buck only sometimes uses the same bed. A buck will bed in any given location because he feels that spot meets his needs at that moment. That might be to have a better chance at doe breeding or food. Even more important, bucks bed to survive.
Same can be true for buck beds. The more hunters in you’re area that target beds, the more likely a buck will be to bed in a different one every night. Today, you might not be the only hunter in the woods targeting beds. Big bucks pattern humans far quicker than we can pattern them.
Bed hunting comes down to finding the right place and time to apply the tactic. It can be like throwing dynamite into a barrel full of fish. But otherwise, it could be a dud.
For some odd reason, deer hunters are shy about getting wet feet. At least, they used to be, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Ten years ago, you might have gotten away from the crowd by crossing water too wide to jump, too deep for knee high boots, or if you had to take a boat. Water access almost always meant you’d have the woods to yourself.
Social media has a huge role in this one. Pictures of a hunter wading in chest-deep water with a bow overhead or paddling a trophy down a creek are dope. Hunters want a distinct experience, and water access tends to give them just that.
The thing that water still has going for it is that deer need it, and deer use it. Instead of only thinking about water access, think about how the water meets a deer’s needs. Does it provide a fast escape? Is the water in a dry location where it meets the hydration needs? Some states have laws that protect deer that are using water as “refuge.” That means if you see a deer swimming, it is illegal to shoot it. Even for gun hunters, getting a crack a deer on the other side would be no small feet.
Overlooked or Over-Rated
Overlooked spots are great, but the misconception is you can find them by looking for them. A big majority of hunters are looking for the same thing you are! The skipped spots by the parking or the cover that seems to be nothing of importance.
You could maybe find an overlooked spot during a scouting mission. A better way to find them is by randomly experiencing a deer using that spot. I spent a lot fishing a certain honey hole. One summer, as I was leaving, a buck chasing does crossed a roadway in front of me two different times. I didn’t spend time deer hunting in that area, but I did learn something from that deer. That buck spent much of his time on a bed to feed pattern just out of sight of the hunting pressure.
It isn’t easy to imagine that area as overlooked. There is a defined crossing deer trail that is clear as day, and you can see a rub line running the edges of the deer trail. There is also plenty of recreational traffic, which makes it difficult to understand the human sign that’s present.
If you’re stressing about finding an overlooked spot, a gentle reminder that you usually won’t find one by looking will go a long way.
Fix the Problem
Most experts in the whitetail space share the facts because they want to help other hunters. Every hunter once had another hunter teach them how to hunt. But the goal of most gurus isn’t for you to adopt every little thing they can do. It’s to help you get more creative and take bits and pieces from many avenues. When you’ve learned to do that, you’ll learn to have the type of hunt that fits your own goals.