Start with a Whitetail Blank Slate this Season

Start with a Whitetail Blank Slate this Season

In 2019, I intend to go big in the adventure department. I’ve got plans for taking my first trip to Alaska, and I’m going to carve out 10 days during September to bowhunt elk. That also means that my usual strategy of trying to arrow a decent buck in my home state of Minnesota during opening week is not going to happen.

I’ll hopefully be elbow deep in a bull elk’s chest cavity about the time my home-state whitetail season opens up. When I do return from those trips, which are almost back-to-back, I’m highly confident my wife is going to frown on me taking off to hunt whitetails for a week or so.

This reality has me thinking that this month when I pull the remaining stands from last fall and spend some time scouting, I’ve got to go with a new strategy. The field-edge stands I usually hang for the early season won’t be as big of producers by October when I get to hunt. I’m confident the hunting pressure on my favorite farm will shut down the easy bucks in the beans and alfalfa.

While there is a sense that this isn’t going to be an easy year for me at home, I’m excited. The prospect of having to shake up a familiar routine and re-think deer strategies in the one place I’ve bowhunted deer more than anywhere else, has my wheels turning. It’s an exercise all of us should at least consider.


Here’s why.


Same Old, Same Old

We all know that deer pattern us way easier than we pattern them. This is no-brainer stuff and is largely true. If a grizzly bear wandered through your house once a week, you’d catch on pretty quickly to when he was going to show up, which rooms he was likely to visit, and when it would be safe to come out from hiding. At that point, with as much dignity as you could muster, you’d wipe the urine off of the floor, change your underwear, and get back to your routine.

bowhunter pulling treestands
As you pull all of last year’s stands and start thinking about the upcoming season, consider starting fresh and not relying on the same old spots.

I think, generally speaking, that a buck’s ability to figure us out is why we are so quick to assume that deer are ready to go nocturnal at the slightest hint of danger. There are probably very few deer that are truly nocturnal throughout the season, but instead just stop walking by us. In many cases, I think they stop walking by our cameras too. That leads us to believe the once-killable deer has become immortal, and that’s pretty good incentive for not hunting as often or as hard.

Instead of falling into that type of hunting behavior, consider this - maybe it’s time to shake up your routine. Maybe it’s time to come up with a new plan to hunt different spots at different times and see how the whitetail gods favor you.

A Lesson From Public

What I’ve learned the most from a decade of hang-and-hunt dedication on land open to all is that if you keep looking for deer and trying new things, you’ll eventually find them. This mentality is prevalent in the public-land, DIY crowd because logistically it makes sense. That doesn’t make it easy, especially if you’re used to a different style of hunting.


The current deer strategy in a lot of circles is to contrive a scenario around a treestand or ground blind and use every trick in the book to get a buck to come to that spot. In tightly controlled woods, that works really well. In permission-based hunting, public-land hunting, or for the time-strapped deer hunter, it’s not as effective.

A more realistic approach is to decide to not hang the same old stands that may or may not ever produce a decent buck and instead to dig into the places you’re less confident in.

bowhunter hanging treestand
If your typical stand sites produce typical results mature buck wise, rethink what you’re doing. Force yourself out of the old habits to hand stands in new areas to see what you’re missing.

Now, I’m not saying you should abandon a killer pinch-point just because – that would be foolish. But instead, be honest. I hang stands every year on my main farm that rarely produce sightings of anything other than young bucks and does. For some reason, I’m comfortable hanging them and sitting them, and so I just go through the motions every year.


Well, until this year.

Loose Plans, Freelance Strategies

This year, I am going to hang some stands before the season, but they’ll be in potential staging areas. They’ll be along travel routes in the cover, and they’ll be in a few of those question-mark areas that I’ve always wondered about. One spot in particular is always covered in big rubs every time I shed hunt or winter scout it, but I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to approach it and get a stand up.

This year, I’m not going to over-think it and I’m going to hang a stand there, somewhere. Then, if I need to, I’ll go in on Halloween or somewhere in the neighborhood of the last day of October, and see I can run into one of the rub-makers.

I also plan to treat my time on that farm more like most of my public land hunts, where I’m looking at the daily conditions, thinking about recent sightings, and hunting off instinct. It’ll be more work than I’m used to down there, but it’ll also probably be more rewarding.

If it’s not, I can always go back to my old approach next year.

Conclusion

There are a lot of factors that play into being inconsistent when it comes to filling deer tags. One that many of us don’t think about, but is certain to play into our lives each season, is doing the same thing over and over. This season, consider a new kind of strategy to see if that’s what has been holding you back. You’ll put in more season-long sweat-equity, but you just might find that the bucks no longer have you dialed - and that’s bad news for them.


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

September Black Hills Whitetail Hunt

September Black Hills Whitetail Hunt

Gordon Whittington is hunting Eastern Wyoming with his crossbow where he encounters a fast moving situation.

North American Whitetail - Canadian Conundrum

North American Whitetail - Canadian Conundrum

Pat Hogan heads to Saskatchewan, Stan talks Browning Hells Canyon clothing, and Dr. Kroll tells how vital it is to manage your hog population.

On Target: Tips for Handgun Hunting Accuracy

On Target: Tips for Handgun Hunting Accuracy

Dr. James Kroll provides tips for hunting whitetails with a handgun.

Creating Warm-Season Food Plots

Creating Warm-Season Food Plots

On this edition of "Deer Factory," Dr. James Kroll and Pat Hogan discuss tactics for establishing warm-season food plots.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Here's a look at some of the new deer rifles from SHOT Show 2020! Guns

Best New Deer Hunting Rifles for 2020

Lynn Burkhead - January 29, 2020

Here's a look at some of the new deer rifles from SHOT Show 2020!

We'll explain which supplements whitetails can obtain in the field, and the best ways to provide them with the ones they can't. Off-Season

Which Minerals Do Deer Need?

Dr. James C. Kroll

We'll explain which supplements whitetails can obtain in the field, and the best ways to...

Understanding what deer eat and how they adjust their diets to meet changing nutritional requirements will not only increase your chances of harvesting a good buck, but also your enjoyment of whitetail hunting. Land Management

What Do Deer Eat?

Dr. James C. Kroll

Understanding what deer eat and how they adjust their diets to meet changing nutritional...

Just like humans, whitetail deer need a well-rounded diet throughout the year. During different seasons, the nutritional requirements of bucks, does and fawns will vary slightly, but all three need water, protein, energy (fats and carbohydrates), calcium, phosphorus, sodium and fiber. Land Management

Whitetail Nutrition Calendar: What Deer Eat and When

Matt Haun

Just like humans, whitetail deer need a well-rounded diet throughout the year. During...

See More Trending Articles

More Hunting Strategies

Whether you're hunting or simply scouting with trail cameras, mock scrapes can give you a helpful advantage. Hunting Strategies

How to Make Mock Scrapes

Clint McCoy, DVM

Whether you're hunting or simply scouting with trail cameras, mock scrapes can give you a...

Muzzleloader season might be your last chance to fill the freezer.


Depending on what state you Hunting Strategies

Deer Strategies for Muzzleloader Season

Tony J Peterson - December 11, 2017

Muzzleloader season might be your last chance to fill the freezer. Depending on what state...

If your treestand time has you staring at empty fields, follow these tips to up your odds of tagging a trophy. Hunting Strategies

Rethink Your Whitetail Setups

Tony J. Peterson

If your treestand time has you staring at empty fields, follow these tips to up your odds of...

October lull: Fact or fiction? I'm still not convinced, though I have on occasion experienced a Hunting Strategies

Tracking October Deer Transitions

Bob Humphrey - October 16, 2017

October lull: Fact or fiction? I'm still not convinced, though I have on occasion experienced a

See More Hunting Strategies

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All North American Whitetail subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now