Opening day of deer season may be one of the most exciting days to spend whitetail deer hunting. If you are like me, you are in your perch well before daylight. You have scouted every nook and cranny, hoping that you have determined when and where the buck-of-a-lifetime will step in front of your cross hairs.
Daylight arrives slowly, and you're eagerly waiting for the first sound of gunshots. The first sequence of muzzle blasts reveals that the chase is on, man vs. deer. You know any second a moving hunter may push Old Mossy Horns into your location. Hour after hour passes and you haven't seen a glimpse of a deer; should you move or should you stay?
Fortunately, I feel that I have witnessed enough opening days to give me an idea of when, where, or if I need to move to another location. I hardly ever remain on stand past 11 a.m.; the first day is too special to me and if half of my day has seen little amount of deer activity, I am considering other plans.
SCOUTING and BACK-UP SITES
To be successful, you must be aware of every obstacle that may face you when it comes to hunting pressured deer. Scouting will enable you to determine where to move when your first stand-site proves to be nonproductive.
Choosing back-up stand-sites can be easy once you know the types of areas deer seek when under pressure. One of my first lessons was in the year of 2002. I harvested a nice six-pointer during the pre-rut of Pennsylvania's archery season. This left me tag-less when gun season arrived. I had not bagged a buck yet in New York so I hunted the New York/Pennsylvania border on the opening day of Pennsylvania's gun season. I set up on the borderline because hunting pressure has always been a favorite hunting tactic. Knowing that deer hunters are out and about tells me that deer movement will be twice as likely as usual.
THE BORDER COUNTRY
Not a single deer crossed my vicinity on stand that morning. Going through the first stages of hypothermia convinced me to get down to ground level and finish the day still-hunting. That day it didn't take me long to comprehend another valuable lesson in the deer woods. I encountered many deer tracks coming from Pennsylvania and heading deeper into the New York wilderness. A half-hour later I harvested a nice eight-point that took advantage of a blown-down evergreen hoping he could survive another day under hunting pressure. I strongly believe this buck was booted from Pennsylvania and crossed the New York/Pennsylvania border knowing that hunting pressure would be to a minimum on the New York side.
If this is unclear, let me explain. Pennsylvania and the New York deer seasons coincide, but New York usually opens their deer season one or two weeks prior to the Pennsylvania opener. Most hunters that live near the state border hunt both states. Due to frustration, or for those who have harvested their New York deer, take advantage of the situation and spend a day of hunting in Pennsylvania where deer have not been stressed or so abundantly harvested. This leaves New York with little hunting pressure and creates a perfect sanctuary for any deer that enters the Empire State. (This tactic can work in other states as well as New York and Pennsylvania).
Using this strategy in the past three years has produced a total of 16-buck sightings in four days of hunting. Those are good numbers where I come from.
There are several other areas where deer seek safety. I have found that the best way to locate these areas is by using a simple concept. I think of myself as a deer, and basically look for areas that receive a low amount of hunting pressure. Deer hunters may not ever visit some areas I have discovered. These areas may be swamps, patches of cattails, extremely thick cover; small pockets of woods near homes, high grassy fields and excluded wilderness refuges. I prefer still-hunting these areas because most of the time deer will become nocturnal and you have to find them rather than letting them come to you.
Always be cautious when hunting pressured deer. Keep your movements slow and stealthy, always be aware of wind direction and use a good set of optics for glassing. If tracking snow is available, this will make this tactic twice as effective. Snow also creates a much better background so you can see whitetails before they see you.
Hunting pressured deer may be difficult at times, but gathering knowledge and experience can make the challenge more fun and a smaller obstacle to overcome when trying to become a successful whitetail hunter. Rather than walking in the woods and hoping you stumble onto a deer (especially a large buck) start looking for areas that receive low hunting pressure and I guarantee you will achieve success more often than you ever have.