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Best Days To Deer Hunt

Best Days to Deer Hunt

By: Heath Wood

With today’s technology, hunters have access to many platforms that can help determine the best time to hunt deer. While many rely on these technologies, others base superstitions on the best time to hunt. Some even reflect on past hunting experiences and base their predictions on past success. With many opinions and resources to help hunters, the question still gets debated year after year, when are the best days to deer hunt?

For the past fifteen years, my co-workers and I have each gotten one day off through the week of the Missouri firearms portion of deer season. After having two years of success while taking off on Thursday, I developed somewhat of a superstition of my own, and for the better part of ten years, I have hunted on Thursday each year. Ninety percent of the time, I have harvested a deer on my day. Is it good luck or just great timing?

On November 18th, 2021, I began the morning sitting inside my Hawk Down and Out Blind, watching a small open field that sat perfectly between two large sections of hardwood timber. It was Thursday of the opening week of Missouri’s firearms season, and I had high hopes that my successful streak would continue. I watched two smaller bucks come to a scrape during the mid-morning, along with multiple does. Then, out of the timber came a mature ten-pointer that had appeared on my Stealth Cam Fusion X camera the week before. After the buck pushed a doe around the small field for a minute or two, I acquired an opportunity and made a successful shot on a great southern Missouri buck.

I have been blessed to take a deer on my day off for several years. I’ll keep counting it as a blessing, yet is luck on my side, or is Thursday good timing for deer movement? There are historically good days when it comes to shooting a mature buck. Many apps and hunt predictions also forecast specific days as a great time to hunt. Below are the dates and why they are ideal times for deer hunters to be successful.

October 31st, Halloween Day

Halloween day is historically one of the best days for deer hunting for many hunters. Many hunters have experienced mature bucks beginning the anticipated rut during the last of October. Typically, somewhere around October 15th, scrapes begin showing up, and bucks start leaving their scent for does and other bucks as a sign that they are in the area. Around Halloween day, many bucks begin leaving the scrapes and start chasing does to find which ones are ready to breed. Since bucks are up on their feet, hunters have recorded deer movement as excellent during this time.

Because Halloween is the beginning of the actual rut, younger bucks are also eager to find a hot doe. With eager young bucks nearby, Halloween is a great time to break out the grunt calls and rattling antlers to signify a young buck getting to the does before the mature buck, making elder bucks eager to respond.

Enjoy The Hunt More With A Box Blind
Rut Action

November 12th-20th

Although it is not narrowed down to one specific day, the week surrounding November 12th– 20th is historically when the rut is in full swing in most parts of the country. In this time frame, bucks are locked down with does, chasing is full-blown, and the bigger mature bucks seem to come out of hiding to breed as many does as possible.

During the peak of the rut, hunters should take every opportunity available to hunt. My scheduled day off through the Missouri firearms season often hits close to the peak of the rut for most deer, thus being the reason my day off seems to produce successful hunts year after year. As with last year’s hunt, I try to take the opportunity to sit in a comfortable blind, such as the Down and Out blinds, and sit all day if necessary. By having a comfortable seat, plenty of room to stretch and move, and an area to bring along a few snacks and drinks, I can sit for an extended period.

If I had only one day of the year to hunt, it would be any day from the 12th to the 20th of November.

Best Days To Deer Hunt

December 10th

One of the most exciting and prosperous times for many hunters occurs during the peak of the rut. Bucks are noted as becoming less focused on their survival instincts and only thinking about breeding, allowing hunters to see and harvest bucks when they usually wouldn’t be visible.

The good thing for hunters that missed the window of opportunity to harvest a buck during the peak of the rut is that there is a second chance. Often referred to as the second rut.

Many does who did not get successfully bred come back into estrus twenty-eight days after their first estrus cycle. What that means for hunters is if most does come into the first estrus, around the 12th of November, twenty-eight days later would be December 10th. Bucks begin seeking does again during that time, giving the hunter an excellent opportunity to harvest a mature buck.

Each year, the specific days when hunters have the best chance of harvesting a buck change. Many different factors, such as weather, can play a role. However, historically the days listed above have been noted for producing the best opportunities to harvest mature bucks.

Best Days To Deer Hunt
All Day Sits Pay Off During The Rut

All Day Sits Pay Off During The Rut

By: Heath Wood

The Power of Patience

After a mid-November morning of bucks cruising, chasing, and multiple encounters with deer the entire hunt, I was eager to see what the rest of the day had in store. At  11:30 a.m., a good friend who hunts in a tree stand nearby texted me and asked if I would like to join him for a quick bite to eat. He told me that he parked on the backside of the property where we both were hunting. The morning’s hunt was full of action; however, my stomach was empty.

After a short drive to meet up with my friend, I was welcomed with a bag full of elk snack sticks, sliced cheese, and crackers laid out on the bed of his truck, like that of a buffet. I stuffed my face with snacks and then headed back to my tree stand to settle for the afternoon and evening hunt. I was amazed at how many deer I witnessed moving through the timber during the early afternoon. At a time of day when I would typically be sitting at camp or home, the deer were already on their feet.

At 2:00 p.m. that afternoon, I was fortunate to harvest a mature buck who was cruising through trying to find any does that were in estrus. If it weren’t for sitting all day, I would not have been there when he came through, or even more concerning, I would probably have spooked the buck when walking in if I had been following my usual hunting schedule.

Plan for Comfort

When hunting mid-November or when the rut is in full swing, it is a good idea to take your playbook or your game plan and throw it away. One of the most exciting things about hunting the rut is that you never know what the deer will be doing or where they will be. The unpredictable nature of bucks during the rut is why it is crucial to find a spot that you know deer usually travel and sit all day. To sit all day, one must be ready to endure ten or more hours in a ladder stand, tree stand or blind. When sitting for long periods, you must consider these three factors—comfort, hunger, and boredom.

Remaining comfortable throughout the day means to have an excellent place to sit and to stay warm. During the rut is one of my favorite times to put in an entire day of hunting. Whether rifle hunting or bow hunting, I prefer using a ladder stand with enough room to sit to ensure I stay comfortable. The 20′ Big Denali 1.5 Man SLS Ladderstand from Hawk is one of my favorite ladder stands. The Big Denali features one of the most oversized seats ever on a ladder stand. The Mesh Comfort seat is 26″ wide and has a 23″ contour backrest. The extra room in the seat and the large area to rest my feet, I can sit comfortably for hours.

The other critical factor in sitting comfortably for an extended period is dressing in layers to adjust to the weather. By dressing in layers, you guarantee that you will be warm in the mornings when it is colder. As the day progresses and temperatures begin to climb, you can shed a layer and remain comfortable without leaving the ladder stand.

Sitting in 20' Big Denali 1.5 Man SLS Ladder stand

Hunters Get Hungry

Hunger can end a hunt faster than you can say biscuits and gravy. It is a good idea to take a few snacks in your backpack to prevent cutting your hunt short and risk being absent from the stand when a mature buck decides to venture through. On a cool fall morning, while sitting in a ladder stand or tree stand, it is common to start feeling hunger pangs after the morning action slows down. This is especially true during the rut; you never know when the moment of truth will present itself. I take a few snacks and drinks with me in my bag to help keep myself in the stand when the action happens.

In the past, I have even packed my lunch to avoid leaving the area. However, I usually keep my lunch in my vehicle, and I get out of my stand during mid-day, only to eat, then climb back into the stand as soon as possible.

Boredom Saves the Buck

The last of the three risk factors for cutting a hunt short is boredom. During the rut, there is usually a lot of action throughout the day. However, there will still be times when nothing is going on. It is easy to let your mind wander during such times. A cell phone is a lifesaver for a roaming mind. When activity slows, grab your phone, check social media, play games, check the weather, or whatever to occupy your mind to prevent boredom. If you are not much of a smartphone kind of person, I use my hunting accessories as tools to prevent boredom. When hunting during the rut, using a grunt call or rattling antlers can sometimes help lure in a buck. They can also be used when times get slow, and you become bored.

A Good Backpack Leads To Good Results

You want to speed up the action anyway, why not make a few grunts or compose a rattling sequence. Other hunting accessories are used the same way. Hunters often carry a backpack or bag such as the Tenzing/Mossy Oak Bottomland Hangtime Day Pack. A hunt backpack like the Hangtime Day Pack keeps all gear, snacks, drinks, and anything else you might need during the hunt always organized and within reach. When times get slow, I get my Vortex Viper HD binoculars out of my pack and slowly scan my entire surroundings. Occasionally when scanning with binoculars, you will spot deer movement that you may have failed to notice with the naked eye.

The rut is a favorite time of the year for all deer hunters. The action is like no other time of the year, and the chance of taking mature buck increases.  Do not miss out on this magical time by being absent when it occurs.

Dead Buck Shot from Hawk Tree Stand
stand Placement During The Summer, For Fall Hunting Season Success

Stand Placement During The Summer, For Fall Hunting Season Success

By: Heath Wood

The excitement of being in the treestand for the first time of the season is a feeling like no other. The anticipation built up throughout the summer months from scouting, checking game cameras, shooting a bow, and hanging stands are enough for any hunter to get a bit jittery come opening day.

As exciting as a new season beginning can be, nothing can dampen the enjoyment faster than realizing, after spending time throughout the summer scouting and hanging stands, that the stand placement is wrong on the first hunt.

Finding oneself in the wrong location begins with what the hunter has done during summer scouting. To confirm that stand locations will be in the right place at the right time, a hunter should have at least three different stand scenarios set and ready before the season begins.

Early Season Stand

One must keep in mind that scenarios change from summer to fall. One of the biggest mistakes I have made over the years has come from patterning deer based on their feeding pattern. During July and August, deer may spend most of their time feeding on green grasses and the abundance of browse found everywhere during the summer.

There are three things to look for when setting an early-season stand location to narrow down a suitable stand location. These three things are high on the priority list in mid-September; food, water, and bedding. Remember that it is still typically warm temperatures during the early season, deer need food and water to survive, and then they lay down to stay cool. To narrow down the right stand location, one needs to find where the least travel is required to get from one priority to another. Again, late summer feeding patterns usually revolve around green grasses; the edge of a timberline that connects with a field, food plot, or crops is an area in which deer can feed then get back in the shade quickly to stay cool. If one can find an area such as this with a pond, creek, or another type of water source nearby, it parallels the perfect early season stand location.

October Stand

During the summer months, deer are in the early season feeding pattern.  In September, these areas may seem ideal for encountering deer movement. However, when mid-September and October roll around, the feeding patterns begin to change. For example, in the Midwest, where I hunt most of the time, it is common to see deer change their travel routes about mid-October when acorns begin falling. When travel routes change, the stand at the edge of a food plot or near a field suddenly becomes less likely to encounter deer. How does one find where deer are located most of the time in September, October, and November when hanging stands in July and August?

The first time I saw a good friend of mine walking through the woods in August with a pair of binoculars, looking up in the trees, I thought he had lost his mind. After quizzing him about what he was looking for, I realized he was very knowledgeable about predicting where the best stand locations would be when the season came around. He explained that he searched the umbrellas of the white oak trees to see which had the most acorns developing. In finding these areas a couple of months before acorns were ready to fall to the forest floor and hanging stands nearby these spots months prior, he could be in the prime when the season is in full swing.

The Rut Stand

The most challenging stand location to predict when hanging treestands during the summer is a stand that will be right for when bucks could be anywhere due to having breeding does and nothing else on their mind.

During the rut, a buck doesn’t have a travel route; it is wherever his nose leads him at any given time, which is why it is hard to narrow down one specific stand location. Since it’s impossible to narrow a location down, it is good to have a stand where there is a lot of visible ground. Areas where the hunter knows deer will be feeding, such as food plots, open areas in the timber, or down a power line, are all excellent areas to see farther distances.

When I find a well-open area, I like to use my Hawk Big Horn ladder stand or my Down & Out Warrior Blind on a raised platform. Using either of these stands allows for a comfortable hunt for a more extended period while watching a larger area. By seeing longer distances, one will have more opportunities to catch buck movement because of the amount of traveling a buck does during the rut. When hanging stands during the summer, the hard part is to make sure to have the imagination of what the area will look like when fall arrives. When hanging stands in the summer, the leaves are still in full bloom; grasses, weeds, brush, etc., are all in full foliage as well. When leaves begin falling during November, an area can change in looks quickly if one will remember what an area looked like the season before or visualize an area without the foliage.

To sum it up, the main reason for hanging stands before the season is to have them ready and in place without disturbing deer. By having multiple stands in different time of the year scenarios, the hunter will be in the right place at the right time without detouring the natural movement of deer. When the big buck arrives, you will be ready and waiting.