Speed Ain’t All You Need

A hunter who notices wind direction, food sources, deer concentrations, buck signs and tries not to leave human scent has a leg up in filling a tag.

Knowing how to use the tips nature supplies is the best way for a hunter to fill a deer tag.

Jerry Simmons of Jasper, Ala., considered one of the nation’s best bowhunters, spends thousands of hours in the woods scouting and hunting for whitetails each year. Because he lives in a state with a deer season approximately the same length as North Carolina’s, Simmons has logged untold hours scouting and hunting. He has bagged more than 500 deer.

“Speed ain’t all you need,” said Simmons, who shoots a longbow and developed the Land Shark broadhead.

“Although many bowhunters believe if they shoot the fastest bows on the market, they’ll drastically increase their odds for bagging bucks, the bow, the arrow and the broadhead will be totally useless if you don’t have a whitetail in front of you at 30 yards or less.

“I consider finding the best place to hunt as the most-critical element in taking a deer with my bow.

“If I arrow a buck at first light, I’ll get that buck field-dressed so I can start looking for a morning place and an afternoon place to hunt the following day.”

Here’s a look at some of the tactics Simmons has learned that should help anyone who bow hunts for deer in North Carolina.

Use the Wind

“Every morning of hunting season I first turn on my weather radio to find out the wind’s direction,” he said. “Even though I may have 20 places in the woods to hunt, the wind’s direction often will eliminate all but a few spots.

“I won’t go to a stand site if I know the wind will carry my scent into my hunting area or if the wind will carry my scent in the direction from where I think the deer will come. Although the weather radio provides basic information about the wind’s direction, I don’t rely on it for all my information.

“When I reach the woods, I check the wind’s direction with a compass to determine where I’ll hunt. The terrain of the area in which I hope to take a stand also strongly influences where I hunt. Often hills, valleys and cross currents actually can change the wind direction in a region.

“To hunt effectively, you must understand how the terrain affects the wind’s direction in the place you want to hunt. Consistent bowhunters will allow the wind to tell them where they can hunt.

“No matter how many deer I think I may see at a specific spot, I don’t hunt that region if it has unfavorable wind conditions.”

When to Stay Out of an Area

“Once I’ve determined the wind conditions, I consider how much time has passed since I’ve hunted a particular place.

“If I’ve seen deer somewhere the day before, I have a difficult time not returning to that same area the next day. However, I believe hunters need to allow a region to rest from hunting pressure.

“I usually won’t hunt from the same stand two consecutive days, and sometimes the wind won’t permit me to do that,” Simmons said. “If I have another spot to hunt the second day, I won’t hunt from the same stand where I have the first day.

“But I may return to that particular stand after two or three days under favorable wind conditions because deer generally won’t remain in a specific spot for long. If you allow a place to rest too long, you may find the deer have abandoned it when you return.

“When determining how often you can bow-hunt from the same tree and how much pressure you can put on one area, consider whether you spend your hunting time near a food tree or a food plot.

“If you intensively hunt for several days and take or spook deer near or at their food supply, they simply will locate another place to eat. But most of the time you can hunt several consecutive days where deer use a travel trail or a travel region.

“For instance, I once bagged three deer three consecutive mornings at a bottleneck area where the terrain was restricted to 50 yards on both sides of a clear-cut in a field. Since the deer in both wood lots passed through this bottleneck frequently to avoid the field’s clearcut, I could hunt there more often and with much-greater success than I could around a food tree.”

Setting a Stand

To consistently take bucks with your bow, you must place your tree stand where you can see a large number of deer within the range of your bow and your shooting effectiveness, usually less than 18 yards for me, Simmons said.

He also said the best areas to set up a tree stand in any state include:


These spots usually will provide good hunting all season and for many years — as long as the habitat doesn’t change drastically.

The ideal bottleneck contains food on one end and a bedding area on the other end.

“If I can hunt only one kind of place for deer, I’ll choose a bottleneck,” Stafford said.

Once you locate this area, you don’t have to continually scout it.

Areas with food or food trees

When a hunter knows where deer feed and determine that region has plenty of food available for deer to eat, he can assume deer will return there to feed again.

“A bowhunter constantly must search for new sources of food,” Simmons said. “As deer deplete the food at one place or at one tree, they’ll move to another section of land or another tree.

“The hunter must look for deer food and must realize once he finds a hot spot where deer feed frequently that the region only will produce deer as long as the food remains. Whitetails like patch browse.”

In my part of the country during different times of the year, deer will feed on poke salad, smilax (greenbrier) and Japanese honeysuckle. Deer usually favor poke salad during the early part of the season.

Later in the season when much of the green foliage has disappeared, deer prefer greenbrier and Japanese honeysuckle.

“If you determine the patches of browse where deer concentrate that you hunt, you may harvest deer for several days or several weeks — as long as whitetails feed on this particular food supply,” Simmons said.

“Deer also eat at food trees close to agricultural fields at night. The animals may munch a few acorns before they move into the field at dark, which means you’ll find this a good spot to consistently take deer.”

Fruit trees also will concentrate deer.

“In my state, fruit trees provide productive hunting in the early part of the season,” Simmons said. “Deer most often prefer crab apple and persimmon trees where I live. So I look for these fruit trees and orchards when I scout.”

Saddles in mountains

I define a saddle as a low place in mountainous country where deer easily can walk through mountains without having to climb those mountains.

“You’ll pinpoint these places easily with a topographical map,” Simmons said. “Many times the outline of a saddle will jump out at the hunter on a topo map when it otherwise will have remained undiscovered. As long as the habitat doesn’t change dramatically, saddles generally will pay deer dividends year after year.”


Every bowhunter knows hunting over scrapes produces deer.

“I usually set up within 18 yards and downwind of a scrape to be close enough to take a buck with a bow if he comes in to work the scrape,” Simmons said. “Remain downwind of the scrape and broadside of the deer when it moves in to the scrape.”

Escape routes

Once hunters have pressured deer, the deer will flee from that hunting pressure by using escape routes.

“Later in the season, I hunt escape routes leading into or out of thick cover,” Simmons said.

To hunt effectively, the bowman has to know what time the hunting pressure begins at a section of land, how far the deer will have to travel on these trails, and what time a hunter must get into his stand to bag deer during daylight hours.


Deer not only hide and bed in thickets but also feed in them.

Most thickets contain plenty of food for deer in them and may hold the deer’s preferred food. Deer also travel through thickets to move from one place to another rather than walking through open woods. Deer prefer staying in thickets rather than hiding and bedding down.

“I’ll first begin scouting for deer in heavy cover,” Simmons said. “I try to put my tree stand inside a thicket instead of hunting on the outside. Often, you’ll see more deer inside heavy cover.”

Although I realized a surefire place where I always could find deer probably didn’t exist, I thought I’d found just such a spot when I hunted a saddle in the mountains of northern Alabama.

For four consecutive years, that location produced deer every season. But once the area was cleared of trees, I could no longer hunt there because of the thick undergrowth. I believe this place would have remained a productive bow-hunting spot forever if the land hadn’t changed.

Of course, good hunting areas don’t last indefinitely. However, the places I’ve described will produce spots to bag deer during certain times of the year and under particular conditions. But none of these regions will yield deer during an entire season. The bowman constantly must scout for places to hunt.

Importance of ‘Balanced’ Hunting

North Carolina bowhunters who experience regular success have learned how to balance their hunting.

Bow hunting consists of two phases — scouting and hunting.

Some sportsmen spend all their time scouting and have little time left to sit in a tree. Other archers continuously sit in a tree and never locate the best places in the woods to take deer.

“To become a good bowhunter, you must learn to balance scouting and hunting to have ample time for both activities,” Simmons said.

At the least amount of deer sign, the novice bowman may scurry up a tree with his tree stand. That hunter rarely may find a good place to hunt because too little deer sign satisfies him.

The experienced bowhunter doesn’t let only deer sign satisfy him. He always looks for something better. Often when plenty of food covers an area, the outdoorsman may not find a region with as much concentrated sign in it as he normally likes to see before he climbs up a tree. During those times of the year, if you go to bag a deer, you must settle for less deer sign and hope you’ve chosen the right place.

The amount of time you give either side of the sport continues to change throughout the year. For instance, at the first of the season, when acorns begin falling, you may find a hot spot relatively easily. Then you can spend most of your time sitting in a tree stand waiting on a deer to show up in that particular area.

But two or three weeks later when more trees drop their acorns, you’ll have slim chances of locating a red-hot region where deer concentrate.

“Although you need to stay in your tree longer and scout for a shorter time at the first of the season, you may harvest more deer a week or two later by spending more time scouting,” Simmons said.

A hunter can’t set up a hunt plan and specify he’ll spend four hours scouting and four hours hunting each day of the season.

Deer hunting is much like bass fishing. A good bass angler must realize when to leave a spot where he’s caught fish before and find a new place and/or when to stay where he believes he has found the best fishing spot at a lake.

“Learning to balance hunting and scouting will help you consistently bag bucks with your bow,” Simmons said.

Common Scents

“I believe if you spend much time scouting, you’ll eventually leave enough scent in the woods to spook a number of deer,” Simmons said.

“However, if you spook a deer with your scent or if the animal sees or hears you, you may see it return to the area.

“I’ve spooked a deer before, taken a stand and then seen the same deer come back within 30 minutes. Unfortunately, a hunter may spook a buck after scouting an area, locating a hot hunting spot, finding a favorable wind and quietly slipping into his stand.

“Many times you’ll assume your hunt has ended after you spook a deer. Usually I’ll move to another area to hunt if I can.

“But if you spook a buck late in the afternoon and can’t travel to another good spot before dark, or if you believe the area will provide more than one deer in that particular location, go ahead, and climb into the tree.”

Often the deer I’ve spooked will return to me, and I’ll have an opportunity to take him. Or, perhaps another deer I haven’t spooked will come into that area to feed.

Even though I leave a large amount of scent in the woods when I scout and may spook some deer, I don’t always assume I’ve blown the hunt, or that the deer never will return.

You must walk, scout and leave scent to locate the best places to hunt. When you do that, you’ll spook some deer.

But spooking a deer doesn’t mean you’ll never see it in the area.

Hunting Whitetails

A novice hunter may make the mistake of retreating from a place when he’s spooked a deer.

Many hunters will let whitetails bound away without investigating them. Although a hunter can’t always observe a deer’s actions, he may find a good location to harvest deer after investigating the area in which he’s seen deer.

The deer may have fed there, bedded down or moved along a trail. You may have found a scrape near where you’ve spooked the animals.

“I’ll pinpoint numerous productive hunting spots when I try to learn about whitetails,” Simmons said.

Hunters also will find success if they devote time to studying whitetails and their behavior.

“I’ve hunted deer for over 30 years, and I still learn something new every time I hunt,” Simmons said. “I’ve devoted thousands of hours to understanding as much as I can about deer, deer habitat and what influences deer.

“Even if you know from studying a deer track that a deer has walked in a particular place, you don’t have enough information to climb into a tree stand. A hunter must determine why the animal has walked there, from which direction the deer has come and which way the deer will travel.”

He also must know how frequently the deer walks near that spot. Also, a hunter needs to learn if the deer feeds where he has seen its track, if the animal breeds in that location, if the deer travels that patch daily, if a buck runs to this area when afraid, or if a whitetail has passed by this spot only once, never to return.

The successful bowhunter in North Carolina must understand deer behavior and the feeding patterns of deer as well as the effects of hunting pressure. To have consistent success, the bowman must:

• work hard when scouting,

• scout from dawn until dusk,

• practice patience in a tree stand,

• learn to shoot accurately from all kinds of positions and through all types of cover,

• spend thousands of hours bow-hunting and

• have a burning love for the sport.

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