The Deer Drive: Not Just For Out East
If you hunt in the eastern United States, you have probably heard of a "deer drive." It's more likely that you have actually been apart of a drive, also called a push. I have never hunted east of Colorado's plains country... but I know a thing or two about a push. I don't usually hear this tactic brought up when the topic is western hunting methods. And to tell you the truth, I haven't used the method in a couple seasons. But I know that it can be used successfully out here in the west and I have seen it work. Given the right conditions, there is a niche for this classic tactic in mule deer and elk country.
I am primarily a spot and stalk hunter. But there are some terrains and circumstances that lend themselves to the push. Let's say the shooter has a ridge littered with openings within rifle range. If he has done his homework and knows that there is game in the area, then he probably stands a chance of one of those animals walking through one of the openings. But game animals don't always follow the script that we write in our heads. If that hunter has 3 to 5 other hunters in his group, he can really up his chances of having animals move in front of his rifle. While this hunter is set up and ready for whatever might come bursting out of cover, the other hunters should slowly push through the cover and hopefully create an opportunity for the shooter.
This very loosely describes a push that my group did for me in pinyon-juniper woodland country on my third hunt as a young hunter. I had another group member sitting with me. The push had commenced and within minutes I saw two does being pushed across the ridge. Then all of a sudden the other group member nudged me on the shoulder and said, "There he is. He is a big one!" Despite all of his efforts to point me in the right direction I could not find the deer. He said that the very wide 3x3 had crept out into an opening and stood there for about 30 seconds before once again disappearing into the junipers. About two minutes later I spotted another buck and got on him. I was adding pressure to the trigger when he bolted. I didn't end up getting a deer on that drive but I had two good bucks within range and therefore I consider the technique a success.
Let's go over some basic guidelines for an effective push:
1. Safety is the biggest concern with a push. This method should never be attempted without wearing blaze orange. The shooter needs to aware of all the pushers' locations and the pushers also need to be cognizant of each other's locations. Shots should only be taken when there is no chance for an accident to occur.
2. Drives should be done with the wind. The drivers should be walking with the wind, with the shooter located downwind. This will allow the game to detect the scent of the drivers and make it less likely that the game will detect the shooter.
3. As a rule of thumb, the shooter should be the only one taking the shots. This is because they have the best idea of where everyone is located. Shots should only be taken by the drivers if it is certain that there is no chance of the shot ending up near any of the other hunters.
4. The drivers should be walking slowly. The goal isn't to spook the game all over the place. The goal is to move the game within range of the hunter, creating an opportunity for a standing or slowly moving shot. Neither is created if the animals are moving at full speed because they were pushed too hard.
Although it is rarely used in the west, the drive can be a great method for harvesting game. I have heard of mule deer, elk and even bear being taken in Colorado with this method. It is not for everyone or every situation but I wouldn't overlook it as a potential tactic. Just remember, safety first!