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Let's Talk Tactics

HuntNorthEast

Well-Known Member
SH Member
Joined
Jul 24, 2020
Messages
773
Location
Southern Maine
Lately, things seems to go in some strange directions in threads during the off season. For those of you that are simply here to talk products and hunting, let's get back to that! That is the ultimate reason why myself and I am sure most of you, joined SaddleHunter in the first place. I enjoy reading people's opinions on equipment, their innovations, their mistakes, successes, tactics and most of all seeing successful hunt pictures!

So everyone, lets hear it! Share your favorite tactics for closing in on a mature whitetail. Why it works for you, and what area you are from! I say area only because some things won't apply to everyone of course. Let's keep it clean reading please, what works for you may not work for someone else, no need to argue.

I'll kick it off. I like funnels/pinch points. Preferably on the edges of big swamps containing swale or maple whips. Where I can see a long ways as well as into surrounding timber. For my deep woods sits, I like big rolling hardwood ridges with cedars and young white pine mixed in. I find the cedar beds, map the wind, and close in. Keep in mind, both tactics revolve around what the mast looks like for the season and where the groups of deer tend to move. One area may be hot for years, or change year to year.

Let's have a good 2021 season!
HuntNorthEast1.png
 

Nutterbuster

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Oct 12, 2017
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Where the skys are so blue!
A'ight, for realzies.

You can't kill deer where deer don't live. First things first...are there deer on the property? If you can walk the property and not jump deer, it's a no for me, dog.

If there are deer there, and if you want to find bucks, you want to hunt that area during the rut. Numbers don't lie. Your odds of killing a buck during rut vs the rest of the season are positively peachy. If you can't hunt rut, hunt opening archery. Then...still hunt rut.

Deer eat and hide. Half of them want to breed for 1 month out of the year, but the other half are still just eatin' and hidin' during that timeframe. Eatin' and hidin', hidin' and eatin'. More hidin' than eatin', generally. They're ruminants which means they've figured out how to basically inhale browse, and chew it later at a nice, safe, hiding spot.

Where are they hiding? Where you just jumped them, statistically. Deer generally hide in the day and eat at night, at least down here. So if you're walking through the woods and jump a deer during daylight hours, you probably jumped it out of its bed or at least general bedding area. Walk over to where you first saw it and poke around for a bed. If everybody just walked til they bumped deer, and then just hunted right there, I think at least half of them would kill more deer than doing whatever it is they're doing now. Deer are social, and if one deer is bedded in an area, it's quite likely more are in the area. Or that another one will swing by for a chat later. And, deer bed where it is safe. Even if they're bumped, they'll come back home more often than not. Don't be scared to hunt a bumped deer.

If you like to make it hard, then you can figure out where they're a-eatin'. How do you do that? Absolute easiest way is to walk the woods at night with a light, at least down here. I have decades of trail camera pics that clearly demonstrate that private or public, prime or pits, deer feed more at night in Alabama. If you can't shine, look for big fields, mast trees with heavy sign, or heavy browse.

So now you know where the herd be doin' the eatin' and hidin'. Deer will absolutely do both in one area if they can. If they are, GREAT! Just post up in that area with a good wind and be patient. If they're travelling, then you need to know this. Deer are lazy, and they move like cockroaches and water. Path of least resistance and most cover. Ask yourself, "Self, if I had a busted leg and knew that somebody was combing the woods looking to shoot me, how would I get from this hidey spot to this eatin' spot?" 99 times out of 100, that's the way the deer are moving if they move during the day.

So now you know that there are huntable numbers on the property. You know where they're doing the hiding. You know where they're doing the eating. You know what they have to do to transition between the two. You know generally at what time they will be doing these things. You know that it is the rut, and that does will be trying to do their thing while bucks busily try to convince them to do something else.

All you need to do at this point is ask yourself what time of the day you want to get in and get out, and ask yourself where the deer will be before, during, and after. If you're hunting in the morning, deer will generally be feeding, then going to the hiding spot, and then hiding. If you're hunting in the evening, deer will generally be hiding, then getting up and moving back to feeding. Outliers will be feeding or beating about the bush throughout the day, but they're to deer what people who eat at Waffle House at 1am are to most adults who don't do drugs. Weirdos.

Your job is to not run into a deer when you're walking to your stand, but to have one run into you while you're fiddling with your ropeman up in a tree. And to trust that numbers are honest, flukes are flukes, and that on the whole they guy who invests in the index funds will match or beat the guys who insist they know the One Weird Trick but who aren't insider trading.

Easy. :)
 

Bwhana

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SH Member
Joined
Dec 8, 2017
Messages
1,929
Location
Hickory, NC
What Nick, I mean Sheppard said! I do most of what Dr. Sheppard has written, except for the shooting house concept. I do occasionally hunt one, but it is not as fun to me.
 

HuntNorthEast

Well-Known Member
SH Member
Joined
Jul 24, 2020
Messages
773
Location
Southern Maine
A'ight, for realzies.

You can't kill deer where deer don't live. First things first...are there deer on the property? If you can walk the property and not jump deer, it's a no for me, dog.

If there are deer there, and if you want to find bucks, you want to hunt that area during the rut. Numbers don't lie. Your odds of killing a buck during rut vs the rest of the season are positively peachy. If you can't hunt rut, hunt opening archery. Then...still hunt rut.

Deer eat and hide. Half of them want to breed for 1 month out of the year, but the other half are still just eatin' and hidin' during that timeframe. Eatin' and hidin', hidin' and eatin'. More hidin' than eatin', generally. They're ruminants which means they've figured out how to basically inhale browse, and chew it later at a nice, safe, hiding spot.

Where are they hiding? Where you just jumped them, statistically. Deer generally hide in the day and eat at night, at least down here. So if you're walking through the woods and jump a deer during daylight hours, you probably jumped it out of its bed or at least general bedding area. Walk over to where you first saw it and poke around for a bed. If everybody just walked til they bumped deer, and then just hunted right there, I think at least half of them would kill more deer than doing whatever it is they're doing now. Deer are social, and if one deer is bedded in an area, it's quite likely more are in the area. Or that another one will swing by for a chat later. And, deer bed where it is safe. Even if they're bumped, they'll come back home more often than not. Don't be scared to hunt a bumped deer.

If you like to make it hard, then you can figure out where they're a-eatin'. How do you do that? Absolute easiest way is to walk the woods at night with a light, at least down here. I have decades of trail camera pics that clearly demonstrate that private or public, prime or pits, deer feed more at night in Alabama. If you can't shine, look for big fields, mast trees with heavy sign, or heavy browse.

So now you know where the herd be doin' the eatin' and hidin'. Deer will absolutely do both in one area if they can. If they are, GREAT! Just post up in that area with a good wind and be patient. If they're travelling, then you need to know this. Deer are lazy, and they move like cockroaches and water. Path of least resistance and most cover. Ask yourself, "Self, if I had a busted leg and knew that somebody was combing the woods looking to shoot me, how would I get from this hidey spot to this eatin' spot?" 99 times out of 100, that's the way the deer are moving if they move during the day.

So now you know that there are huntable numbers on the property. You know where they're doing the hiding. You know where they're doing the eating. You know what they have to do to transition between the two. You know generally at what time they will be doing these things. You know that it is the rut, and that does will be trying to do their thing while bucks busily try to convince them to do something else.

All you need to do at this point is ask yourself what time of the day you want to get in and get out, and ask yourself where the deer will be before, during, and after. If you're hunting in the morning, deer will generally be feeding, then going to the hiding spot, and then hiding. If you're hunting in the evening, deer will generally be hiding, then getting up and moving back to feeding. Outliers will be feeding or beating about the bush throughout the day, but they're to deer what people who eat at Waffle House at 1am are to most adults who don't do drugs. Weirdos.

Your job is to not run into a deer when you're walking to your stand, but to have one run into you while you're fiddling with your ropeman up in a tree. And to trust that numbers are honest, flukes are flukes, and that on the whole they guy who invests in the index funds will match or beat the guys who insist they know the One Weird Trick but who aren't insider trading.

Easy. :)
Great write up and well put. Thanks for the time! I am honestly surprised more people haven't jumped in here to share their success tactics. It's fun to see everyone's quirks.
 

boyne bowhunter

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Aug 17, 2016
Messages
4,739
Location
Michigan
I hunt almost completely public land on the western side of Michigan's lower peninsula. Mostly upland "Hill Country" although I realize that term is relative depending on what part of the country you're from. Here it means rolling hills up to 500 feet high and mostly mixed hardwoods with a significant amount of logging occurring.

I tend to hunt along transition edges and funnels, both with respect to the forest and terrain. However, that doesn't mean I sit along field edges. Actually nothing could be further from the truth. I'm primarily a bowhunter and I tend to sit in fairly thick cover areas where there is a distinct transition either along a terrain feature (hill military crest, saddle, water edge, etc) or along a change in vegetation type (thick areas in open hardwoods i.e. patches of young beech, edges of 5-15 year old clear cuts or select cuts, wooded fingers into more clear areas, etc.). For most of my setups my potential shot distances rarely exceed 30 yds. Over the years I've found that deer use the security of these edges to move between bedding and food and for bucks to search for does during rut.

I do try to pay some attention to scent control and do utilize scentlok but I can't say I'm a dedicated scent control follower, I just will take any possible advantage I can in regards to a deer's sense of smell. I pay way more attention to wind direction and available cover when I select a location to sit. I typically evaluate the forecasted wind direction and speed when deciding where I'm going to head for a hunt. The direction for obvious reason, the speed to decide how much I need to worry about thermals.

I also rarely repeat trees during the course of a season. I'm a firm believer that deer can pattern you if you let them. I rarely am sure which of two or three options I'm actually going to hunt before I leave camp myself so I figure there's little chance of getting patterned. :tearsofjoy: I do repeat general areas, say 10-15 acre chucks, but I try to not even repeat those areas within two or three days.

I always try to plan my approach to these areas upwind even if I have to walk a mile to hunt a spot 1/4 mile out of camp. I try to keep most of my travel paths as common as I can though. I find the deer get used to people moving in certain common pathways and have actually witnessed deer watching me walk by on these paths if they think I'm not paying attention to them. Think about deer in suburbia or on farms. They watch but are pretty much carefree to people's normal movements. It's when you change your routine or stop and pay attention to them that the deer will spook.
 

phatkaw

Active Member
SH Member
Joined
Feb 23, 2021
Messages
145
Location
Western Pa
I still hunt in the mornings. The leaves are damp and quiet allowing me to slip through the woods slow and easy.
I always play the wind the best that I can.
While sneaking along, I am looking for the tree dropping acorns NOW or the creek crossing they are using NOW or the scrape line that was JUST made...
That is where ill come back to for the evening hunts.

Also, about 7 - 8 years ago I really started to capitalize on trail cameras. I've had cameras since they took 35mm film, but I've learned how to use them waayyy more to my advantage - not just 'to get deer pictures'.

Another thing about me is that for the last 20 or so years I've been progressivlely holding out for bigger and older bucks. When I was a kid if you saw a buck, you shot him. I was probably 19 when I shot my first 'nice' buck with a bow. Now I just watch 'nice' bucks go bye...
My buddies hate me when I show them cell phone videos of bucks bigger than anything they ever shot just walk right under me. :mad:
I love to hunt, but I really love to find a BIG buck and go after him. Killing a mature buck on his terms is freakin' fun!
 

Schemeecho

Active Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2020
Messages
105
Location
Gaston, SC.
I hunt only public land. During the off season, I try my hardest to get into thick spots with lost of cover and search for bedding. I try to find previous sign like rubs and scrapes. Im thinking this year as Im scouting that I will post up in the saddle once a jump a deer just to see if it comes back. Im new to hunting so I tend to follow some advice I was given on here. Check transition lines, points, funnels, ridges and saddles. Find food and water. Look for sign. Locate travel trails, Find pinch points. Been hunting for about five years now and the first 2 - 3 years I wasn't even seeing deer. The past 2 years I always seen to jump deer going in the the mornings That was all ground hunting, either still hunt or try and stalk. Seems like I'm learning more every time I go out. Must be doing something right, since I'm seeing deer now. Hopefully, I can drop something this year. This will be my first season in a saddle so I hope that with being more mobile and not having to fumble with setting up a hang on stand and not having so much movement on my part. That I'll be able to set up quieter and faster. Being in South Carolina and having so much forest and wma land to hunt. I always start with e-scouting and then block off sections I want to scout with boots on the ground.
 

Topdog

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Joined
Jun 5, 2020
Messages
874
I hunt only public land. During the off season, I try my hardest to get into thick spots with lost of cover and search for bedding. I try to find previous sign like rubs and scrapes. Im thinking this year as Im scouting that I will post up in the saddle once a jump a deer just to see if it comes back. Im new to hunting so I tend to follow some advice I was given on here. Check transition lines, points, funnels, ridges and saddles. Find food and water. Look for sign. Locate travel trails, Find pinch points. Been hunting for about five years now and the first 2 - 3 years I wasn't even seeing deer. The past 2 years I always seen to jump deer going in the the mornings That was all ground hunting, either still hunt or try and stalk. Seems like I'm learning more every time I go out. Must be doing something right, since I'm seeing deer now. Hopefully, I can drop something this year. This will be my first season in a saddle so I hope that with being more mobile and not having to fumble with setting up a hang on stand and not having so much movement on my part. That I'll be able to set up quieter and faster. Being in South Carolina and having so much forest and wma land to hunt. I always start with e-scouting and then block off sections I want to scout with boots on the ground.
In my opinion success is headed your way and keep up with the scouting it will pay off!!!
 

BTaylor

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Joined
Oct 23, 2019
Messages
695
Location
Central Arkansas
I will take a stab at this one in relation to hunting mature deer on the public ground I hunt the most. Between the WMA and adjoining private, the area has close to 6k acres that is almost entirely some level of cutover. The terrain is pretty much skillet flat riverbottoms with features that would be sloughs, shallow ditches or what we call a ridge which in most cases are narrow strips of ground no more than 2-4 feet of elevation difference from everything else. What this creates is an absurd amount of edges, travel corridors, pinch points, etc. Finding the right spot can be like finding a needle in a stack of needles if you are just trying to hunt a mature deer. Good mast years can make it even more difficult because there are so many types of early mast and with the sheer amount of bedding cover, deer could/can literally spend every day in a 5 acre core area. The ace for me early season is a honey locust dropping good beans. They are deer magnets and more importantly, bucks love them. Another benefit to the honey locust is that unlike persimmon and acorns, the bears and hogs virtually never seem to target them as a primary food source. Once the early season is winding down and the rut is building, tend to focus more on primary scrape areas and especially those adjacent to a water feature so there is at least one favorable wind.
 

Deerkins

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Aug 17, 2018
Messages
25
I rely heavily on scouting and trail cameras, to locate mature bucks. Being from southeast NY older class deer, don’t exist everywhere and I’ve learned throughout the years, that sitting in a great looking spot, does nothing if he doesn’t live there.

once I find a deer that I want to hunt, I try to figure out his “Achilles heal” in his routine, then make moves when the conditions are right.

if I can’t locate a buck with cameras, or the deer that I’ve targeted move off, I resort to in season scouting and hunt off best guesses.

I’d say roughly 75% of the 3.5 y/o + bucks I’ve taken were found off season with cameras. The remainder were taken by setting up in areas discovered while in season scouting.
 

HuntNorthEast

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SH Member
Joined
Jul 24, 2020
Messages
773
Location
Southern Maine
I rely heavily on scouting and trail cameras, to locate mature bucks. Being from southeast NY older class deer, don’t exist everywhere and I’ve learned throughout the years, that sitting in a great looking spot, does nothing if he doesn’t live there.

once I find a deer that I want to hunt, I try to figure out his “Achilles heal” in his routine, then make moves when the conditions are right.

if I can’t locate a buck with cameras, or the deer that I’ve targeted move off, I resort to in season scouting and hunt off best guesses.

I’d say roughly 75% of the 3.5 y/o + bucks I’ve taken were found off season with cameras. The remainder were taken by setting up in areas discovered while in season scouting.
Same applies to Maine!
 

kyler1945

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Dec 4, 2016
Messages
3,896
Location
Baton Rouge, La.
If everybody just walked til they bumped deer, and then just hunted right there, I think at least half of them would kill more deer than doing whatever it is they're doing now.
But then how would I give the impression that I worked harder, and invested more time and money than the average guy at hunting? How would I give the impression I outsmarted an animal with a fraction of my brainpower?

What’s that, you say? That tactic wouldn’t improve your odds of killing “mature” deer! Setting aside my personal disregard and dislike for the “only kill mature deer” mantra... If all the “mature deer killers” just walked until they jumped mature deer, and set up there, half of them would kill more mature deer than they do now.
 

TreeCreep

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Joined
Sep 13, 2020
Messages
258
Great posts here.
Ive figured out how to consistently get close to legal deer but never have dialed in targeting mature bucks.
Sure I get hog bucks on camera. Hunter pressure, pheasant season, my own access- changes any pattern I find and I'm not good at finding/ hunting bedding areas.
Also after a certain point in the season I often am content with taking younger bucks that present a good shot.
Are you guys with trail cameras targeting a area after catching target bucks on camera? Or using mobile cams to find where to set up?
I use cameras to scout" flow areas" or primary feed trees/ areas that are consistently torn up. I Hunt the areas that show fresh and consistent sign.
I also most often hunt areas where 3 points on one side is pretty mature.
Most of my experience with larger deer has been on private in various states.
Hunts right where I have watched/ bumped deer after leaving the area be for a while are 50/50 with seing deer on public.
Mostly I watch the wind, play the terrain , rotate spots with sign and try to get in out quietly.
I ve tried to get away from getting too hung up or focused on camera pics as I fear I develop bad habits and need to move based on pressure.
Last, years of baiting public in NJ taught me bait is the #1 way to not see mature bucks consistently. Unless you have private.
 

Nutterbuster

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Oct 12, 2017
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Where the skys are so blue!
But then how would I give the impression that I worked harder, and invested more time and money than the average guy at hunting? How would I give the impression I outsmarted an animal with a fraction of my brainpower?

What’s that, you say? That tactic wouldn’t improve your odds of killing “mature” deer! Setting aside my personal disregard and dislike for the “only kill mature deer” mantra... If all the “mature deer killers” just walked until they jumped mature deer, and set up there, half of them would kill more mature deer than they do now.
You are in peak form today sir. Whatever you're on, don't stop taking it! lol
 

HuntNorthEast

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SH Member
Joined
Jul 24, 2020
Messages
773
Location
Southern Maine
But then how would I give the impression that I worked harder, and invested more time and money than the average guy at hunting? How would I give the impression I outsmarted an animal with a fraction of my brainpower?

What’s that, you say? That tactic wouldn’t improve your odds of killing “mature” deer! Setting aside my personal disregard and dislike for the “only kill mature deer” mantra... If all the “mature deer killers” just walked until they jumped mature deer, and set up there, half of them would kill more mature deer than they do now.
There is so much more to killing mature bucks, we all know that! Looking good while doing it is obviously why we're here, haha.
 

Deerkins

New Member
Joined
Aug 17, 2018
Messages
25
Great posts here.
Ive figured out how to consistently get close to legal deer but never have dialed in targeting mature bucks.
Sure I get hog bucks on camera. Hunter pressure, pheasant season, my own access- changes any pattern I find and I'm not good at finding/ hunting bedding areas.
Also after a certain point in the season I often am content with taking younger bucks that present a good shot.
Are you guys with trail cameras targeting a area after catching target bucks on camera? Or using mobile cams to find where to set up?
I use cameras to scout" flow areas" or primary feed trees/ areas that are consistently torn up. I Hunt the areas that show fresh and consistent sign.
I also most often hunt areas where 3 points on one side is pretty mature.
Most of my experience with larger deer has been on private in various states.
Hunts right where I have watched/ bumped deer after leaving the area be for a while are 50/50 with seing deer on public.
Mostly I watch the wind, play the terrain , rotate spots with sign and try to get in out quietly.
I ve tried to get away from getting too hung up or focused on camera pics as I fear I develop bad habits and need to move based on pressure.
Last, years of baiting public in NJ taught me bait is the #1 way to not see mature bucks consistently. Unless you have private.
This is what’s been working for me. Basically, I run about a dozen cameras, mostly cell cams. I start in mid summer, but earlier is probably better, or even year around. My goal is to simply get pictures of good bucks.

every couple weeks I’ll move the cameras around. As the season comes closer, hopefully I’ll know the whereabouts of 3-5 “shooters”. From there, I’ll start developing a plan on which deer are more favorable to hunt and bounce cameras around them, to see where they’re moving.

setting cameras is a thinking game and it’s a part that’s very easy to get wrong. If a deer smells where you’ve been you should be okay, if in an area that’s not security related, but if he smells you then spots your camera, he will not return, making patterning him impossible It’s important to hide cameras usually high up, if low they need to have very good breakup. also, low glow flash. I believe they can pick up IR at times.

Once I know where a deer lives, taking all things into consideration. I’ll set cameras in areas I expect him to show during the season, while avoiding the area I know he is living at the time. Here’s where you’d use your local knowledge of area and best guess of where he’ll show.

As an example. the buck i shot this past season was summering on public, in an area that I knew would receive some pressure. Expecting that, I put a couple cameras in areas, I thought he’d shift to. After awhile, he eventually showed up routinely on one of them. He was using the same bedding area as earlier, but hunters coming from public access, had him exiting and entering from the unpressured side of his living area, about a half mile deeper than anyone was venturing. It’s important to add, that the area he shifted to had no buck sign, but the area that became pressured, had rubs and scrapes that he had previously left. Leading to the point that sign is only reliable if smoking fresh and that others are not also keying in on it.

Effects of pressure is the wild card, because you can take all the precautions, but if someone else crashes through their living area, mature bucks will adapt, by moving off and becoming ten times harder to kill. Which will obviously squash your plans, if you had them. Hence, Its good to have backup plans and expect the competition.

This is a basic rundown of what I’ve been doing, but I believe it’s important to have the subject to change attitude in hunting.
 
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