It’s no wonder that the great majority of bucks are taken during the first week of hunting season in almost every good deer state across the country — and a big part of the reason is because adult deer seemingly vaporize into thin air once they are pressured by hunters. If you think you’re a good whitetail hunter, try taking a mature buck on public land a week or two after opening day. It ain’t easy — and the reason, plain and simple, is hunting pressure.
How To Keep Deer From Freaking Out
Don’t hunt a place too much. Strive to tap areas that get little hunting pressure, and don’t hunt the best whitetail locations every day of the season.
“Rarely do I hunt from the same tree more than once, twice at the very most,” says Wayne Prejean, veteran Arkansas. “It’s a chore to move stands constantly, but I’m totally convinced that each time you hunt a stand, you dramatically reduce the odds of killing a big buck in that spot.
“I might hunt the same area twice in succession, but I won’t hunt the same tree more than once. Even if I only move a stand 50 yards along a trail, or over to the opposite side of a draw, somewhere different is what’s important.”
This is one reason Prejean is careful about not rushing into a core hotspot for big bucks without first hunting around the “periphery” of an area. He also picks a stand where he has a wide field of view if possible, especially if he hasn’t hunted an area previously. Being able to see a long way and using a quality binocular the first time he hunts a spot allows Wayne to make subsequent adjustments in stand placement.
Time The Pressure Properly
Terry and his two adult sons, T.J. and Chris, hunt in prime Midwestern states, including Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Illinois. They go the extra yard in scouting and hunting from long ranges to avoid over-pressuring good bucks.
“You can’t spend too much time on hunting land to learn it well,” states Terry. “But it’s very important not to disrupt deer before the season, or you risk alerting mature animals that you’re in their area. They’ll leave or become nocturnal.”
Once the weather gets cold and bucks kick into rut, Terry and his sons hunt their most choice locations, yet they still rely on quality optics to reduce pressure on prime areas. Terry and his sons do a great deal of long-range scouting with spotting scopes, preferring to stay out of core buck rutting areas until the peak of the whitetail breeding season.
“We shoot many bucks we have never seen previously,” Terry says. “That’s a good thing, because I’m sure many of those bucks had no idea we were hunting the area, so they made a fatal mistake.
Terry and his sons are also expert long-range riflemen. They use flat-shooting .270-caliber rifles with special hand-loaded ammunition that’s pinpoint accurate at 200 yards. Terry has taken many whitetails at 300 yards, and some well beyond that long range.
“Rifles that allow us to reach way out and wallop a whitetail are important, because we can stay well away from choice hunting areas, so human scent and intrusion are at a minimum,” he explains.
Mark Drury of television and M.A.D. Game Call fame only hunts his best buck spots during the most optimum conditions. He demands that no human intrusion is made into prime buck sanctuaries until it’s time to hunt and collect a trophy.
“I hunt plenty of great private property for whitetails, and some of it I’ve spent a lot of time on over a number of years,” explains the Missouri hunter. “I place stands in great locations months before opening day. Then I stay completely out of the property until the time I intend to hunt it. I don’t want other people in or near that hunting site either. Before I try to make a move on a record-book buck, I want the weather right and the wind perfect. The time of year is very important, too.”
Ernie Calandrelli of Quaker Boy Game Calls hunts whitetails about everywhere it’s good. He’s taken huge bucks in many areas, and knows from long experience on public land that hunting pressure is a killer for most sportsmen after a better-than-average buck.
“One of the best things to help sportsmen take pressure off bucks and hunting spots is a trail camera,” he says. “Trail cameras are very reliable, and some digital models don’t have to be checked but every few weeks or so because they can take so many photos. Some units even take video, and they record night- and daytime activity. If you have several cameras in different locations, you have the luxury of ‘watching’ a number of spots for buck activity without actually being on the sites.”
Calandrelli is a big believer in using cover scents, staying super clean, and using carbon-lined garments and rubber boots to keep human odor at bay. He wears such clothing while hunting, of course, but also when scouting and when monitoring and setting up trail cameras.
“You can’t be too cautious if you’re after the biggest, oldest, heaviest-racked buck in the county,” he explains.