Whether it’s called rifle season or gun season or they use shotguns or rifles, that time of year strikes fear into most bowhunters. If you don’t tag out before this time of year, you probably feel like your chances of killing a mature buck have greatly diminished. If you hunt private land you have a little better control over the pressure gun season can have on your hunting, but on public land the gun season can change how the deer use the property. To help you understand hunting after gun season, here is our approach to hunting public land after gun season.
The Initial Approach
This is the obvious answer, but you need to “find” the deer back. Get a feel for what the deer are doing and get a few sits under your belt. The first thing we do when we return to hunting public land after gun season is to hang trail cameras or do a few observation sits. The patterns of deer may have changed with the increased hunting pressure and hanging a trail camera and checking it fairly soon will give a quick idea about whether the deer are still using the area you are hunting. If you feel like the spot you are hunting before the gun season isn’t working anymore and observation sit is a way to gain some more information on where and how the deer are using the property. This will not only help you after gun season, but it may also help you gain information that can help you throughout the whole season. One thing to keep in mind is that if you have found the “right” spot to begin with things may not have changed much if at all. If you have found a spot on public land where people aren’t hunting and where big bucks like to bed, things may not have change and you may even be seeing more deer because you are hunting in a location the deer feel is secure.
Hunting after gun season, especially if you are in a “secure” location, means that you have to be careful. The deer are already on edge and you don’t want to do a total rescouting mission to find the deer again. Mature bucks won’t give you much leeway during the early part of the season and they may not give you anything after the gun season. Because of this you need to make sure that your stands are fool proof, that margin for error is much smaller.
Where Are The Deer?
If you are going to stick to hunting the same spot, it may take a while for the deer to return to that area. The deer may be shifting patterns due to the hunting pressure or even changing food sources during that time of year and this might create a few sits where you don’t see any deer. If you are looking for a new spot, look for thick cover and areas where people haven’t been. Stay away from fields and field edges because those are areas that people have most definitely over hunted. Do to the increased hunting pressure, there is going to be less daylight movement. This means that you are going to have to get closer to bedding areas. As we have mentioned a little bit before, you need to get away from other hunters. If you know where they are, get away from them because that is where the deer felt unsafe during gun season.
The approach to hunting after the gun season is similar to hitting the reset button. In some sense you are starting over with the season. If you found the right spot you may not have to change your approach at all. But if you need a new approach try hanging trail cameras or using observation sits. If you are hanging trail cameras, you want to approach it like you would in the beginning of the season. Put them in locations you can get to easily. As far as stand location go, make sure your stands are fool proof and you hunt them with the proper wind. Hunting after the gun season can be complicated, but if you put in a bit of hard work early on you can have success on public land even after the gun season closes.