With our second public land site finally figured out for this fall we decided to do a little extra reconnaissance. So after hanging a couple stands in the center of the southern unit we returned a couple days later to scout a large soybean field that bordered this public land site. On the previous scouting trip we noticed that deer were browsing on the beans very heavily, but all the stands we saw hung along the field edge made us think that most of the feeding was probably happening at night. But that wasn’t the case. When we reached the field we saw a doe already feeding along the eastern edge of the field and most importantly we saw two bucks feeding along the northern edge of the field. They were no more than 5 yards off the edge of the cover and were working their way west along the field edge. One of the bucks was a fairly good 3 by 3 and the other was a 3 ½ year old 4 by 4. We decide that the 4 by 4 was a good enough buck that we wanted to go after him.
Having a buck to chase was one thing, but devising a plan to get him is another thing. We knew the public land property bordered this field on two sides (south and east), but those sides were off limits because of the amount of hunting pressure that was on those two sides. We knew that once hunting season opened and hunters climbed in those stands the deer would avoid these areas. This left us with only one side, the northern edge of the field, which coincidentally was a side that was being over looked by all the other hunters. It is being overlooked because the large blocks of timber are on the south and east sides. So most hunters are going to set up along those sides for obvious reasons. Also the public land map for this property doesn’t include this area on the map, although it is part of the public land site. So after a couple emails with Game and Parks we learned that this location was a “go”.
So, with evidence of good deer movement and a general area to hang a stand we headed back a couple days later to put the stands up. But what happened on the way in surprised both of us. It was about noon when we arrived to hang stands. We did it at this time because this would be the best time to minimize our disturbance of the area, but we didn’t get 50 yards away from the parking lot when we saw two deer jump out of the timber and onto the abandoned service road we were walking in on. You guessed it, it was the two bucks we saw two days earlier eating on the beans. Thankfully we saw them first and they browsed on the road for a little bit and then walked off into the woods. We now knew we definitely had to hang stands on that field edge.
The one particular side of the field where we hung these stands is just a small strip of cottonwoods that lies next to an abandoned service road. It is all of about 60 yards wide, but runs the length of the north side of this property. We decided to hang the stands near the location we saw the two bucks the night we scouted the soybeans. We had five reasons for why we were hanging our stands here….
One question you might be asking is why we set up so close to the surrounding hunting pressure. This is obviously not an ideal location to be so close to other hunting pressure, but because we found an area that had no hunting pressure we decided that making a move to hunt that area was warranted. We saw how the deer were walking on the northern edge to avoid the pressure and figured we could hunt it before the hunting pressure of the other hunters made the deer change their movement patterns. Situations like these are a judgement call, there is not protocol to follow. Gather information about the deer movement patterns, where the other hunters are, and think critically about the situation. If you feel like you can make the move, go for it. If not, back out and hang your stands in different location.
We Were Aggressive
In a situation like this you need to be aggressive for two reasons. One, is all the other hunters. It’s public land. If you don’t go after them another hunter will. The second reason is the time of year. The soybeans we are hunting over are only going to be an attractive food source for a couple weeks of the season. In all reality we probably have only three weeks to hunt over this bean field before the deer change food sources.
We Went Where Others Weren’t
One of the biggest factors that affect deer movement on public land is hunting pressure. They are going to avoid the areas they don’t feel safe in. The deer using this property are still going to eat in that bean field. They are just going to do it at night or alter how they enter and exit the field. The deer know that that one side is not being hunted, so that is where they are going to be during daylight hours if they are using the bean field. Find where the hunting pressure is and move away from it. This could mean moving a half mile away or just 200 yards in the right direction.
We Took The Extra Step
One reason we have the stand setup that we do is because we took the extra steps to make it happen. The first step we took was taking time to scout the soybeans. This allowed us to see how the deer were using the soybean field and how they were avoiding the hunting pressure. The other step we took was determining what the boundaries were for this public land site. This may not seem like much but it allowed us to find an area that was not being hunted by others and had no hunting pressure. Sometimes the “extra steps” are just small details or adjustments, but making sure you take that extra step can be very helpful for filling your tag on public land.
We Listened To The Deer
The final thing we did is very simple, we listened to the deer. Sometimes we get caught up in what we see on TV or read in a magazine and miss the obvious details that would help us tag a deer. One thing we often overlook is what the deer, we see with our own eyes, are doing. When we see them with our own eyes we don’t have to speculate or assume anything. They are right in front of us telling us what they are doing. Don’t overlook that. Make your observations, figure out a pattern, and then make a move.