Ask anyone who brings a bow into the woods and he will tell you that success with bow and arrow takes patience. It takes skill, knowledge of the habits of a whitetail and last but not least, a lot of luck!
Now combine that with a deer that has been spooked into another county and it is surprising that we can ever harvest one of these critters at all.
Well, you can. It just takes a lot more patience and much more of that luck!
Texas deer have an uncanny ability to hide from the many hunters who are roaming the woods all year long. Where do those deer go? More importantly, why do they seem to disappear? Remember, deer season is just a short time of the year and here in Texas we can hunt something year-round. The other hunters who are after doves, hogs or whatever, are not too concerned about leaving a human scent trail in the same woods where you are trying to hunt deer. In my column last month, I wrote about how important scent control is to the whitetail hunter (check it out, “You Stink,” on page 20 of that issue, or in the online archives at www.fishgame.com.)
When discussing this article with a friend, he quickly told me he had the answer for hunting pressured deer. He suggested hunting them after hours! “They’ll come out as soon as the hunters leave the woods.” That may bring a smile to your face, but please do not listen to him. I think he was only kidding anyway. There are other ways to hunt those pressured deer and ways that are legal.
If there has been a string of hot weather with a drought like we have recently experienced, you might want to consider setting up near a water hole. If you set up a portable blind early enough and just leave it there, the deer may just get used to it and offer you a nice shot. Whitetails have to drink. They will be very cautious so you will have to be aware of every little thing around you that will either spook the deer or make him come into range. Consider using a feeding doe decoy and position her head to simulate her enjoying a nice cool sip of water. What deer could resist that temptation?
One of the best ways to score on pressured deer is to push them. I know what you are thinking. Push a whitetail like you would during gun season? How can that work? Let me explain. Push may not be the right term. It is more like a bump. If you are hunting with one or two friends, then one should position himself or herself at a known escape route. An escape route is a path the deer usually take when spooked. They bolt out of the woods using this route and always find a safe haven elsewhere. The difference here is that as you quietly walk through the woods, you are trying to annoy the deer more than spook it. The deer might be bedded and feel like it has to get up and move because a human predator is walking his way. If the walker takes his time and zigzags through the woodlot, the whitetail will eventually and slowly walk past the watcher using that safe escape route. Not so safe today though!
It is a good idea to occasionally stop during your “bump” drive. By stopping and just waiting a few minutes, you will drive any deer crazy and he will have to get up and move because he thinks he is already detected. Believe me, this works and works well especially later in the season or mid-day when the action slows down a bit.
I have also tried my luck at stalking deer with my bow. It is certainly not the easiest thing to do, but if successful, it is most rewarding.
One time I followed a fresh deer track while constantly looking ahead for any movement. As I slowly made my way through the woods, I was very aware of everything around me. It was mid-day and quite warm. The only thing moving in those woods in that heat was a hard headed bow hunter with a tag to fill! I was getting more and more frustrated with every step and getting ready to just call it a day. Suddenly I looked to the side of the path I was on and there, not 15 yards from where I was standing, was a nice 8 point buck laying down and waiting for me to pass. I never made eye contact with the whitetail, but just continued to walk right past him. Then I slowly turned and backtracked the exact same path I was just on. The buck was intently watching me the entire time and I am sure he thought that as long as he did not move, all would be safe. I stopped, drew my bow and then faced him for the first time. Immediately he had the “surprise” eyes and I was the last thing he saw.
Sometimes, simply leaving your lease alone for a while would be enough to put a whitetail at ease. I realize that hunting time is precious and not all of us have a lot of time to hunt, but by trying different spots, you will leave your human scent in other areas. After things have calmed down a bit, sneak back in your hunting area and climb up in your best stand. It might be all the surprise you will need to be successful.
Bow hunting pressured whitetails is difficult and challenging and does not guarantee success. However, if you use your head and take your time, you might just be spending the last few minutes of the day field dressing your trophy. More importantly, think about your friends who have already given up on bow hunting these animals. Make sure you email them some pics of that nice buck hanging in your garage!
Story by Lou Marullo