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How To/Pro-Tips

Early-Season Hunting

In most archery seasons and some early gun seasons, the deer's preferred food sources are changing as summer moves into fall, and many plants start to dry out. If there's one sure bet about deer, it is that they prefer the most succulent foods available. It doesn't matter how many deer you saw feeding in the edge of a pasture back in June. If that grass is starting to dry out, the deer are looking elsewhere.
Many soft mast crops such as persimmons, dogwood berries and other berries and fruits are becoming available at this period. In some areas, maturing agricultural crops such as soybeans and corn are attractive to deer. Many forest plants remain succulent into the early fall.
The bottom line is that, until rutting activity kicks in, food sources are your best link to deer activity. During this rapidly changing period, deer food preferences change and you need to know what's preferred next and where to find it to stay ahead of the game.

Making the Right Call

Successfully calling deer is based on the deer's natural curiosity about other deer in its immediate area. However, deer are more curious at some times than at others.
Does with fawns, particularly in groups, are in their mothering mode and will often respond quickly to a fawn's distress bleat. Often it will be the dominant doe of the group that will rush right over to investigate.
During the pre-rut, bucks are becoming hostile and territorial. During this period, they are prone to investigate the grunt of a strange buck in their area. During the rut itself, a buck tending a doe is hard to pull off the scent, but a strong challenging grunt may make him want to protect both his territory and the doe. Bucks that aren't with does are very vulnerable to doe bleats during the rut.
During the post-rut, the bucks are once again highly competitive over any still-receptive does. Buck grunts and doe bleats continue to be very effective.

Pre-Season Scouting

You should start your pre-season scouting early. Get the basics over with and then make a quick and quiet check on things just before opening day.

If you are a bowhunter, check food sources because the same or similar foods will still be on the deer menu in early autumn. Gun hunters should look for foods that will be favored later on, such as the hard mast of oaks and other nut-bearing trees.
Learning the main trail system is another basic. The more covered buck trails will be hard to find in summer foliage. You can make a few educated guesses about your hunting site, though that might change as the season progresses.

Select several stand locations to account for different wind directions and remember to keep the sun out of your eyes for morning and afternoon stands. Find several ways to get to your stand. Many hunters make the common mistake of always going in on the same trail and deer figure this out.

Decoy Spreads

Many decoy spread patterns are written about, but I'm not sure ducks can read. The particular decoy pattern doesn't matter nearly so much as understanding the overall dynamics of a decoy spread.
First, the decoy spread should contain an opening for incoming birds to land in and that opening should be well within your shooting range. Next, the decoys and the opening should be properly placed in relationship to your blind. Ducks circle with the wind and land into it.
Since the opening is your killing zone, it should be placed on the downwind side of the blind. A useful variation is to place the opening in the decoy spread so that the wind is blowing across the front of the blind. This can help keep the birds from circling directly overhead.
I like to pull all or most of my decoys and rearrange them frequently. If possible I hunt alternate blinds. When ducks get shot at regularly from the same location, they get really wary.

Get Your Hunting Site In Shape

Hunting site maintenance can be noisy work and introduces a lot of your scent into the area. So be sure to take care of this chore well before the season.

If you hunt from a permanent, stationary stand, check it for rotted steps and boards and for any loosening caused by swaying in the wind. Check it for new inhabitants. Finding a wasp nest now is a lot better than finding it, in the dark, on opening morning.
If you are installing a new stand, either a built-from-scratch permanent stand or one of the larger "semi-permanent" stands such as some ladder stands and tripods, do it early enough for the new smells to dissipate and for the deer to get used to it.
Whether cutting new shooting lanes or trimming out existing ones, get that work done early too. Drag the cut brush a reasonable distance away. When you make a change in a deer's habitat, it will be noticed and the deer may avoid that area for awhile.

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