You run into few whitetail hunters that aren't tracking their bucks like police monitor a convict on bail adorned with a GPS ankle bracelet. Most avid hunters manage four or more trail cameras across hunting properties. Zealots may have a dozen or more cameras posted across several counties. It only takes one camera to disclose an appealing buck's location. Once that occurs you may have a difficult time at best leaving that location alone.
Even if a trail camera doesn't sway you toward a stand you still likely have a favorite. Consider this: Repeat visits to that location can work against you. Guaranteed deer sightings, ease of access and prior success stories bring you back time, and time again. One stand always "stands out," making the decision not to hunt it as difficult as passing by a Dairy Queen on a hot summer evening.
Like the extra calories in that Oreo Blizzard, hunting enthusiasm can work against you if you're not careful. Overhunting a stand can lead to a buck pattering you as easily as you can pattern it. To guarantee you don't overhunt a stand, employ a few new strategies into your stand etiquette.
GO OFF TANGENT TO YOUR STAND
Even if you don't have a whopper buck on your radar, it pays to be as stealthy as a Russian hacker and not leave any clues. Begin by varying your travel. Animals in general have predictable patterns. You're the same. You go back and forth to work the same way. You go to your stand in a similar, repetitious pattern. It's called following the path of least resistance. To avoid having deer pattern you, break the pattern and vary your route in and out.
One route in and out likely has a hassle-free pathway. Use it when wind conditions warrant, but have backups. You can base those backups on wind direction variables and whether you hunt the stand at dawn, or dusk. Aaron Volkmar, a 15-year veteran whitetail outfitter, operates Tails of the Hunt Outfitters and believes your activities are detrimental to your success.
"I always take into consideration what the deer doing when I walk in and walk out," stresses Volkmar. "There are lot of deer stands I'd like to hunt in the mornings, but deer might be in the food plot and you will probably bump them. You see similar patterns at night. This frustrates a lot of guys, but if you scout diligently you should be able to find different ways to get to your stands depending on the situation."
A change in the wind direction should warrant a change in entrance or exit. Even slight angle changes of wind could jeopardize you as your scent strays into adjacent bedding cover or to the corner of a field while sneaking to a stand. That's just one situation where scouting several access routes beforehand proves beneficial. The same is true of dusk or dawn sits. Deer rarely exit and enter a field the same at these time periods. This means you need to have a different exit or entrance strategies researched for each, especially with shifting deer patterns.
Like any solid military operation, it's invaluable to have a backup plan. Back up your access route and diminish the odds of deer avoiding your favorite stand.
WEAVE A WEB OF STANDS
If you want to have a wicked-good season then weave a web of stands. In brief, have a variety of stands in place to hopscotch between to avoid overhunting one location. It's that simple. Keep 'em guessing.
Despite that one trail camera spitting all of those big-buck images, that x-marks-the-spot location isn't the only place a particular buck travels. In fact, there's probably several hundred yards of that particular trail that sees repeat hoof action. Start with a stand on either end of the suspected route as long as it doesn't invade bedding or sanctuary.
Next, decipher where the buck is feeding, watering and particularly bedding. You can cover several wind angles by having two or more stands watching each location. As an outfitter who guides hunters weekly, Volkmar is well aware of having plenty of options to move hunters around. It also aids in never overhunting an area.
"Sometimes you have to push the limits and hunt the boundaries of bedding or sanctuary," admits Volkmar. "If you're going in every week to hunt an area, like we do as an outfitter, then you have to have options, just like the deer have options to travel. Options for you include having a variety of stands in place and have them ready to move around the season if patterns change due to seasonal changes."
Having stands in place before the season begins allows an area to settle down after an intrusion. You also have the benefit of seeing an area in full bloom to trim shooting lanes judiciously and with care not to take out too much.
But as Volkmar noted, you may have to put up stands during the season. Having lightweight, quiet stand setups in your inventory gives you freedom to add a stand with minimal invasiveness. Climbing stands like Summit's OpenShot SD, give you instantaneous mobility to set up in a new location. Harvest, neighboring hunting pressure and even livestock management on a property you're hunting could cause a whitetail pattern to shift overnight requiring a new stand site. It equals more work for you, but in the long run alleviates overhunting a stand.
VISIT ANOTHER ADDRESS
Finally, just leave. It's hard to go to another property when you have evidence of a Drury-style giant living on a property you hunt, but you can ruin your chances on a particular buck with a relentless pursuit. You can also alert other deer on your hit list by a relentless pursuit and a fixation on one hotspot. Volkmar suggests that you evaluate a particular hunting location and buck pattern. If even one factor appears wrong you may be better to abort the mission, try another location or simply skip a day of hunting.
"You have to figure out when the time is right," stresses Volkmar. "If you overhunt the area he'll move to another core area. That's something you want to avoid at all costs."
Some of you may not have multiple properties to hunt. In that case you have to be innovative and hunt extreme corners of a property. You could even try a public property. Every season it amazes me the quality of public-land whitetail bucks that come from states like Kansas, Missouri and South Dakota. Pay special attention to state walk-in programs since they continually sign up new enrollees. A buck bonanza off limits for years may suddenly have an open-gate policy from a walk-in enrollment.
Your trail cameras advance your hunting strategies. Don't let your own movements in the whitetail woods advance the strategies of your quarry. There's no reason to overhunt a stand with a good plan in hand.