All summer long, deer carelessly present themselves in ideal hunting spots. Then, as hunting season approaches, they seem to disappear into thin air. There are a lot of reasons why this happens. First and hopefully most obvious is YOU.
Deer have very keen senses. Sensibly enough, they sense man’s presence as a threat. All of a sudden, after a long summer spent roaming freely, they’re sensing increased human activity in their home. Checking game cams more frequently, feeding them in designated areas, clearing firing lanes, etc. All this bipedal commotion alerts them to their impending doom.
The second reason for deer disappearance: food. Just as humans pack on the pounds during the fall and winter months, deer put on weight in preparation for colder weather. They crave less of the grasses and plants of spring and summer, and more of the fatty foods they love.
Unfortunately, these foods are often found deep in the woods; the deer have no need to venture out into your crosshairs to get it. When there’s an abundance of acorns on the ground, for example, deer are far less likely to seek out open food sources.
Hunting is a sport of both skill and luck. Although there’s no ultimate solution to the disappearing deer problem, there are a few things you can do to up your odds of taking a deer.
Visiting feeders and deer hunting property on a regular basis will, at least in theory, decrease deer anxiety. On ranches, deer become accustomed to the sounds of trucks and people, often associating the noise with a dinner bell.
If, however, you’ve left your property untouched for months at a time, then suddenly appear, the deer will get spooked. They may not venture out during daylight, becoming nocturnal during hunting season.
You also need intel. Get to know the game trails, bedding areas, water sources and food on your hunting property. Game cams can help you get a feel for the deer’s ever-changing patterns. Where to hunt…as Professor Harold Hill learned, you gotta know the territory.
Generally speaking, deer have to feel safe enough to venture out of their hiding spots. By placing your stand near some heavy brush you can better disguise your movements, giving yourself a greater opportunity to take deer as they exit the woods. Sometimes the animals tend to linger on the edge of an open field, behind cover, for long periods, waiting for the right moment.
If deer sense anything amiss, they’re gone. That’s why I’m a true believer in STFU stealth and scent-free products. I walk extremely quietly at all times, don’t engage in small talk with my hunting partner, and use scent hiders even when I’m checking cams and feeders, or walking near my hunting spots.
Yes, I’ve heard a million stories of hunters who’ve managed to shoot a deer even after a coughing fit, a misfire, and where their scent wasn’t disguised. The first buck I ever harvested I shot without ever having set foot on the property, after my partner tripped in the woods, making all kinds of noise.
My conclusion: a deer isn’t afraid of what he knows. If you’ve educated deer to your presence all year, then almost nothing you can do will spook him — at least for a moment, while he’s trying to understand loud noises and weird smells, and what they mean. And a moment is all you need.
If deer aren’t desensitized to your presence, you have to do your best to become invisible. Just like the deer.