Rut Reporter Eric Bruce has been writing about hunting and fishing for newspapers and magazines for 25 years and hunts deer all over the South, including near his Georgia home. States covered: AR, LA, MS, AL, GA, SC, FL.
Dec. 9: For as long as I can remember, my standard tactic for hunting whitetails has been to sit in tree stands. I arise long before dawn and set up in a tree stand in a likely-looking location. Nestled in my stand, I wait there for several hours for a deer to walk by.
Departing from the stand late in the morning, I go eat lunch and return to the stand, perhaps a different one, and wait till dark on a deer to show up. This strategy is very popular and has proved successful for me and millions of other deer hunters across the fruited plain and forests. But sometimes that tactic doesn’t work and a sportsman may need to think outside the box stand.
When the deer aren’t moving, or they aren’t moving where you are, its time to change methods or locations. Last week a landowner called me and told me that he had seen two bucks on his property and he wanted me to come get them because he wanted some wild meat. That was all the coaxing it took. the following Saturday, I was there in my treestand with my son and another friend.
We sat there all morning and saw nothing. Fed up, I decided to get down and walk around and try to move something. After going a little over 100 yards, two bucks jumped up and trotted off. One went by my son but got by too quickly for a shot. Then I walked through a swampy area with standing water trying to move some deer. When I got to my friend at his stand, he excitedly told me that a doe and a big buck came galloping from the direction I had come.
Ironically, I realized that we were sitting there in our tree stands waiting on deer to walk by who were a few hundred yards away just sitting there themselves. My tactic of walking into their area got them up and moving. Though we didn’t score, we saw some deer that we probably would not have if I hadn’t moved them.
The point is, while sitting in tree stands is a great tactic, there are times when you may need to change or alter your methods to produce results. Hunting hardwoods can be productive in October or November, but sitting in open hardwoods when all the leaves and acorns are gone will be a boring, uneventful sit. The woods and the deer are going through a transition now from autumn to winter and you may need to change your locations or strategies to find them.
One such hunter who knows how to use unconventional methods to bag big bucks in Arietty Reynolds. Bowhunting in Rockdale County, Georgia, he has taken two trophy bucks by hunting out-of-the-way places that other hunters walk by. He looks for small thick pockets, usually choked with privet hedges, that mature bucks feel comfortable in. For late season, he advises seeking out patches of thick cover especially if they have an acorn-producing water oak nearby.
As the woods transition to a winter wonderland, you may need to be adaptable and use a different tactic or area to find and see deer in December.