It was opening day, I’d barely set foot in the woods before the season, and in a matter of minutes, I had an 8-pointer on the ground. Only when dragging him out did I realize he was on a beeline for an active scrape behind my stand, and all I had done was show up in the right place at the best possible time.
If only it was always that easy.
Sometimes things go that way in the deer woods, but most of the time, it just doesn’t. This time of year, when the rut has slowed and deer have felt hunting pressure for weeks, can be especially frustrating. But there’s still time to get your deer.
So what do you do when the stars haven’t aligned?
Stick with it: It may go without saying for some, but first and foremost, it’s worth noting that being persistent will eventually lead to success. If it’s been a while, the snooze button can be more enticing on a chilly Saturday morning, especially if it takes some effort to reach your hunting area. But unless you have bucks cruising through your bedroom, you have to get up and get back out there. Give yourself a chance.
Take a step back: Are you barking up the right tree? If ever there’s a time to evaluate what you’re doing, it’s now. And there are many things to consider, from the calls and scents you are using to the deer’s travel, feeding and bedding patterns. It’s the late season, so a strategy that was perfect in October likely isn’t now. Question everything.
Switch it up: If your trusty spot isn’t producing the way it has in the past, change locations. Tree stands are great, but sometimes it’s easier to just head to the same spot, repeatedly, regardless of success rate, rather than going through the trouble of moving a stand. Think about what you’ve seen deer do in the past, do a quick check of the sign in the area, and if your instincts tell you another spot might work, make a move. Consider sitting on the ground in a location where deer have not encountered hunters. There’s nothing like trying out a new area and then having it pay off.
Change your tactics: If the deer aren’t moving, you can always try going to them, assuming the conditions and land access allow for that. It’s not ideal to still hunt on dry, crunchy leaves, for instance, but if you can move with limited noise and the wind is favorable, give it a try. Take a buddy along and try a drive. Mix it up.
Anticipate success: It’s amazing how being confident in what you’re doing can pay dividends. If you have a sound plan and are doing all you can, believing that success is just a snapped twig away can help you endure some long hours on stand.