Have you ever been so excited and overly prepared for opening day of deer season only to be disappointed later by the lack of deer you see in a sit?
I know I have – so the question then becomes where did they all go? What happened to all the bucks I had on trail cameras before the season? Or what happened to the quantity of deer that I scouted?
There are several possible reasons for these disappearances and it would take a while to list them all here, however I want to highlight some of the main reasons for deer disappearing from your stand location.
1.) With Season Change Comes Change in Patterns
If you think about it, this idea makes perfect sense. As leaves begin to fall and vegetation begins to die off in the winter months, deer seek out the best cover possible which, unfortunately, means that the buck you’ve been watching is no longer showing up on your trail cam.
This type of cover can vary from swamp habitat to young pines 5-6 feet tall to tall grass to dips in a hillside. Finding these environments where deer like to bed and setting up within range, yet not bumping them with your scent is sure to increase your chance of killing that big buck.
This is tough because not always are you the one supplying the pressure. It could come from other hunters, farmers, gun clubs (I know this from experience), weather conditions or other predators.
While you may not be able to control some of these, you want to control yours variables as much as possible.
a.) Eliminating your scent as best you can, and trying to stay upwind of bedding areas will be a huge step in decreasing hunting pressure. I can’t tell you how many times I took the easier route to my stand because of lack of time or just plain laziness and ended up bumping deer – and not just any deer- big bucks!
b.) Getting in your stand early enough and staying long enough. One of the last things you want to do is try to get 5 or ten extra minutes of sleep which may be all it takes for you to bump a deer while you’re walking to your stand. Then, especially in the late season, you might as well hunt a different location. The same is true for when you get out. If deer are around you after shooting light – wait them out. It’s better that you not bump them and ruin your next hunt in that location. Because it will educate those deer and they will associate that pressure with your stand or that area.
3.) Food Sources
Even though you may have food on your property, guess what? The hunter next door to you probably does as well. So the key here is, provide the better option for deer. I mean think about it, would you rather have a filet mignon or an overcooked sirloin? Yes, I’m being facetious, but you would obviously want the juiciest, best-tasting option out there, and it’s the same for deer. If you live in a state where baiting isn’t allowed take steps to plant food plots before the season. Foods such as sugar beets or brassica are great late season options because after the first frost these taste like candy to deer.