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How To/Pro-Tips

Hunting the Rut

The peak of the rut offers both great opportunity and great challenge for deer hunters focusing on a trophy buck. The deer herd is in upheaval. Bucks are actively pursuing does and all deer movement is increased. Daytime movement increases and this is a great time to stay on stand all day.
Big bucks don't lose all their caution, but they are distracted by does and that's a big help for the hunter. Also, they often pursue does outside their home territories and don't enjoy their usual home-field advantage.

At the same time they are considerably off their normal pattern. If you have really patterned a particular buck, your hunting plan may suffer. I try to hunt near doe-use areas, picking areas of thick cover attractive to bucks. Buck trails, where they intersect or come close to main deer trails, are another good bet during the rut.

The main thing is to be in the woods and stay sharp. When you see a doe, watch for what's behind her.

A Realistic Setup

Everything about your blind site should be as realistic as possible. Today this is much easier than ever before. Remember the hours of building and camouflaging a blind from scratch?

Today, many companies make "pre-fab" blinds out of camouflage material that are easy to transport and quick to set up. They vary in their features and degree of complexity, but all get you into a basic blind quickly and easily. These are easily spruced up by adding a bit of native vegetation to merely break up their outline. This is far easier than having to cut enough grass or brush to completely camouflage your blind site.

Another realistic touch is to periodically stir up the mud among your decoys. Feeding ducks stir up mud and this reassures incoming birds. It also helps camouflage your decoy lines.

Keeping a clean blind helps too. Every so often pick up spent shells, candy wrappers and other unnatural debris that may accumulate around your blind and warn wary birds.

The Ranch Hunt

Elk hunting on private lands can be considered a "first-cabin" experience but may also come in great variety and at many different price levels.
The simplest private-hunt situation is the "trespass fee" hunt where all that is granted is the right to hunt on (or cross) private lands. Sometimes, a bunkhouse bed or summer tourist cabin is offered. Sometimes the rancher provides cooked meals, horses and/or guides. Each step up in comfort or convenience costs more.
The hunting may be on the ranch itself or on adjoining public lands. If a component of public land is part of the package, it is not necessarily a bad deal. In many cases, private land cuts off public parcels, making them nearly as exclusive as the private land itself. However, if you bump into every Tom, Dick and Harry as soon as you cross the rancher's fence, and there's no great amount of private hunting territory on the ranch, you've not bought yourself much of a deal.

Fuel for the Furnace

All my hunting companions know of my fondness for snacks. Some have suggested that I publish the "Buck Gardner Pretzel Diet Plan." The only problem is that you don't lose weight on it. But you do stay warm because food is the body's fuel.

Foods rich in carbohydrates are efficiently digested by the body and keep the internal furnace well stoked in cold weather. Proteins and fats demand immediate digestion but it is a slow process and they don't deliver immediate fuel for warmth and energy. Sugars give a quick energy boost, but it is quickly gone.

My "duck day diet" starts with a high-carbo breakfast of pancakes, cereal, fruit, etc. I take a generous supply high-carbohydrate and a few high-sugar snacks to the blind with me. For dinner, meat and potatoes - hopefully a good steak - provides the fat and protein at a time when the slow digestion of these more complex nutrients do not hamper my internal heating system.

Besides, I like pretzels!

When Deer Scout You

We all scout for deer and sometimes are able to pattern a particular buck. It shouldn't surprise you to know that deer learn our normal hunting patterns and adapt to them.
For instance, it doesn't take the deer long to figure out that most hunters are on stand early in the morning and late in the afternoon. They realize that most hunters head for camp to eat lunch, loaf and nap at midday. Their reaction is to move less early and late and more during the middle of the day.
If most deer hunting on an area is from permanent stands, the deer soon learn where all these stands are and develop movement patterns to avoid them. The deer also seem to have an uncanny ability to know when a stand is occupied.
The deer know you are hunting them but they don't have to know when and where. Hunt during the midday hours, particularly during the rut, and use portable stands to change locations frequently.

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