Sometimes the gap between seeing a buck and actually getting a shot with a bow can seem like the distance between opposing sides of the moon. Whitetails have an uncanny knack of picking a travel route that carries them just close enough to elevate our heart rate, yet just far enough away that we never draw the bow.
Bucks skirt our setups for one of two main reasons: Either they have too many options (leaving it up to the element of chance whether they walk in bow range), or we’re forced to place a stand in a spot that may be advantageous for us (due to wind direction or cover) but may not necessarily be the best place for a deer. But it’s usually possible to make a buck close the distance and walk within bow range. Here are four ways to make that happen.
1. Make a Trail Block
The best stand sites are the ones near the most trails. But multiple paths create a new problem: It’s rarely possible to place a stand within bow range of them all. The solution is to hang in a spot where you can shoot most of the trails, and then block the rest, forcing deer to travel in range. The quickest way to shut down a trail is to fell a tree across it. Make sure the trunk sits about 3 feet off the ground (so deer don’t simply step or jump over it). When this isn’t possible, drag a blowdown or clumps of brush onto the trail(s) you want to block.
2. Drop a Wire
Whitetails usually have multiple entry points into ag fields, and their entries usually require jumping a barbwire fence. Since whitetails are inherently lazy critters, you can encourage them to jump the wire right where you have a stand. Use a length of rope or wire to tie down the top strand of the barbwire to the next strand (if it’s not your property, get landowner permission to do this first, because the fence is there for a reason). Deer will quickly adopt the slightly lower spot in the fence as their favorite entry into the field.
3. Eliminate the Licks
Licking branches are often located on the edge of a field or food plot, making a nearby stand a killer spot. Trouble is, bucks usually have multiple licking branches on any given field, and when your target buck shows up at dusk, he can dillydally over one so long that he’ll never reach your setup before dark. Eliminate the competition by cutting off every potential licking branch (those hanging on the field edge 5 to 8 feet high) except one. With only a single show in town, bucks can enter the field from any point but will usually beeline it to your branch.
4. Plant a Fake Tree
Sometimes the vegetation (or lack of it) surrounding a field or food plot makes it unsuitable for licking branches and scrapes. This is the perfect opportunity to create a licking branch and mock scrape site located near your stand. Cut a sapling or large limb from the surrounding timber and use a posthole digger to dig a hole 2 to 3 feet deep in the food plot, 15 yards from your stand. Drop the stump of the tree in the hole, then backfill with dirt. Bucks will soon favor the tree you “planted” as a scraping and licking spot.