Hunting is often thought of as a relatively macho activity, but in reality, it’s a strategic battle between predator and prey that needs intense patience and skill. Heading out into the woods armed with a bow or gun is going to be fruitless unless you know what you’re doing, where to hunt and what to look for.
The strategy is, in many cases, up to 90% of whether you succeed or not. Taking the shot and killing the animal is relatively easy, especially if you are hunting from a blind or stand, but knowing where to set up that station, when to hunt and how to go there are the difference makers.
Use Satellite Images
If you’ve never hunted an area or you aren’t having as much success as you’d like, it’s time to start looking at satellite images or a topographical map of the area. These images and maps give you information into the land that you want to hunt, including the brush locations, corn fields, and water sources, all of which are important to finding deer movement paths.
All animals, not just deer, need food, water, and shelter. By figuring out where they are likely to get these vital elements you can identify their paths of movement and create hunting blinds where they are likely to walk through at certain times of the day.
Pay Attention to the Wind
Understanding where the wind is blowing is critical not only to set up a successful blind but also to get in and out of that hunting station. If you go to the effort of ensuring that you’re upwind when you hunt, but then walk into it when you are downwind of their morning food source, you’re ruining your entire hunt.
Being upwind every moment that they might sense you are vital, which is why you need to be meticulous about when you enter and leave the stand, rather than just coming and going as you please.
Hunt Food Sources in the Evening
Most animals tend to eat at least twice per day, usually when they first wake up and again in the evening before they settle down to sleep after a day of searching for a mate. If you’re going to hunt into the evening, which you should if you want to have more success, figuring out their evening food sources and staying to spy them is critical to getting more kills each season.
Typically you can identify this by tracking the deer’s daily path from their bedding to a water source, to their first food source and then to a final food source. Hunting this final food source can be fruitful, particularly because many hunters will have given up by this point and you may be the only one left in the area.
Find Small Water Sources
Animals have to drink each day, often multiple times, and therefore setting up within a hundred or two hundred feet of a popular water source can give you more opportunities to spot the prey. For deer, larger and older bucks tend to drink in more secluded locations, often small sections of a stream in the dense forest, while younger deer might drink out in the open.
If you’re interested in hunting larger bucks with more developed antlers, you’ll want to set up a blind that’s within a reasonable distance of a water source and thicker brush. Ideally, you can locate yourself between this water source and a feeding location so that you get more animals passing through.
Adjust Depending on the Rut
Depending on whether you are hunting before, during or after the rut has finished, you’ll need to adjust the tactics and strategies that you are using to hunt. During the rut the bucks will spend more of their time searching for does than anything else and therefore you want to base your location around the women.
In the morning, bucks will head to bedding areas to find does. In the afternoon and evening, the does will tend to be feeding in more open areas, and that brings bucks with them, meaning that you should hunt these wider, open areas later in the day.
Post-rut things change, bucks are less worried about breeding and more interested in getting as much food in them as possible. After the main rutting season is finished, you want to move towards corn fields and other known feeding sources because the majority of the animals will head there daily.