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How To/Pro-Tips

Reading the Rut

As with the pre-rut, watch the progression of the rut itself to make the right moves. Conventional wisdom says that bucks are all chasing does and all bets are off. Well, a buck that has just successfully bred a doe or lost her to a more dominant buck will often return to his old haunts and freshen up his scrapes.

This is more often the case in areas where the rut is a long, drawn-out affair. When previously neglected scrapes suddenly look fresh again, you are in the neighborhood with a lonely buck.

All during the rut, watch where does travel and concentrate. Bucks are looking for does and tend to hang out, usually in heavy cover, near areas of high doe use.

When a buck is actually on a hot doe's trail, he will follow her and very well may be caught on main trails, away from heavy cover and in unfamiliar territories. Keep your eyes open during the rut because a buck may turn up anywhere.

Happy Hour Bucks

Bucks love cover. The bigger they are the more cover they like and the more careful they are about how they use it. After a bit of hunting pressure, bucks cling to their cover and seldom venture out into the open during daylight, regardless of the temptations.

At this time of year, the temptations are both does and food. Fields and even the open stands of mature acorn-producing oaks are too exposed for a mature buck's liking until after dark.

While waiting for nightfall, the bucks tend to hang back in the woods. If you find a spot of good cover near a field or open oak stand with rubs and perhaps some scrapes, (and particularly if several trails converge there) you may have found a buck's "staging area."

Watching the fields until sunset usually brings lots of sightings of does and perhaps a small buck. If you want Mr. Big, move off the field and back into the woods to find his happy hour hangout.

Prevailing Winds

The oft-used term "prevailing wind" refers not to the way the wind always blows in a given area but the directions from which it blows under a variety of weather conditions. If you set up all your stands based on the wind direction when you established them, you are going to waste a lot of hunting days as the weather changes during the season.

In my home area, a dry high-pressure system usually comes from the north and west and produces westerly, northwesterly or northerly winds, depending on the angle of approach of the front. Low-pressure systems are usually damp and come from the south-southwest but their counter-clockwise rotation "sucks" winds from the east.

We don't get many true "nor'easters" where the weather actually originates in that direction, but the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states know them well.

Wind patterns vary across the country. Wise hunters should watch the local weather to learn the most common weather and wind patterns in their hunting area and set their stands accordingly.

Go Slow To Your Stand

Everyone knows that you should be quiet and still while on your deer stand, but that also goes for going to it.

Always approach your stand site carefully and cautiously. By crashing through the brush, you will alert any deer in the immediate area to your presence. Not only will these deer not come in the direction of the noise, their nervous attitude may alert any other deer that might be moving your way.

If you spook a deer in the immediate vicinity of your stand, that deer will remember it as a bad experience and associate it with that area. Bucks are very easy to spook out of an area once they realize hunting pressure is on.

Hunting a single site for several days in a row is a bad idea. No matter how careful you are, the deer will get wise to your constant presence. If you have a big buck figured out, hunt him sparingly unless you want him to figure you out.

Paying Your Dues

Ducks Unlimited has been a vital part of one of the greatest wildlife management success stories in modern history. DU was organized in 1937 when a series of drought years (the same ones that brought us the Dust Bowl) had decimated prairie breeding grounds and our national waterfowl population had plummeted.

Since then, DU has been a large and constant force for waterfowl conservation in both words and action. They have demanded good wildlife management on the part of public agencies that control wildlife on both public and private land. At the same time, DU has raised much money that they have directly plowed into both research and on-the-ground management to conserve wetlands that are home to many species of wildlife, including waterfowl.
I am proud to donate a part of the revenues from the sale of camouflage products to such a worthy conservation organization. I urge anyone who is serious about waterfowling and/or wetlands conservation to join Ducks Unlimited. Learn more at

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