Ken with 5th opening morning buck taken at another stand site.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, identifying a stand site where you are very likely to take a mature buck is one thing, but identifying one where you are likely to take a buck during following years is quite another. Being “very difficult, if not impossible, for a buck to identify and subsequently avoid” was one of the three most important contributing factors explained in my previous blog.
Reason #2 is “very limited use.” This is rarely if ever even thought of by stand hunters. Get a decent buck at one stand site and they’ll use it daily for years. The stand site described in my previous blog, is still only used 5–6 hours (1-2 hours when a buck is taken) once or sometimes twice (used five or more days later if used a second time) per hunting season. Nothing destroys the hunting value of a stand site more quickly and more assuredly today than day after day use, especially if the hunter is likely to be easily identified by nearby deer via sight, hearing or smell while approaching or using the stand site. Yes, I know, all you one-stand-per-hunting season hunters are now shaking your heads. If you are interested in proving the above is true, start using one different, well-located stand site 100 yards or more away from any of the other well-placed stand sites you plan to use one day each this fall.
Reason #1 is really different: “Dead bucks tell no tales.” My son. Ken, and I used to kid about this, but I am now inclined to believe there more to this than I originally imagined. If you are a veteran whitetail hunter, think of all the times you goofed up when a big buck was near, making it snort and/or raise its tail and bound away with all possible speed. Did you ever see the same buck near any of those sites again? Of course not. For that matter, did you see any other deer near any of those sites again? Considering there are 15-30 deer living in every square-mile where you hunt, doesn’t it seem strange that all those other deer could be avoiding the same spot as well? It happens because whitetails readily imitate actions displayed by other deer that are alarmed deer, even if they do not understand why the other deer are alarmed. Whether learned first hand or second hand, all deer within a square-mile can eventually learn to avoid a spot where only one was originally alarmed.
Almost every buck taken by my son, Ken, at his two most productive buck stand sites were very near and unsuspecting when he fired. Two were bounding past at top speed but he dropped them as neatly as canvasbacks winging downwind over his decoys. You’d think the single report of his 7 mm Magnum would have had a lasting affect on the hunting value of these stand sites, but nearby deer must have concluded, which isn’t uncommon, they had merely heard a clap of thunder.
The first of Ken’s two favorite stand sites was on the far side of a flooded alder swamp atop a steep-sided granite knob about fifty feet tall with a single jack pine growing in a bed of moss on top. Though many deer trails surrounded this knob in the dense forest below, it overlooked a feeding area on its west side snd a doe bedding area was located 150 yards southwest of the site, no deer signs of any kind, tracks, droppings or urine in snow, were ever discovered on its rounded ten-foot-diameter summit. Apparently deer were not inclined to scale its steep sides, likely slippery when snow covered, making it very difficult for whitetails to discover as a stand site to avoid. All bucks were taken at this site on opening day, usually shortly after lunch while Ken was the downwind hunter and another hunter sat upwind of the doe bedding area (using a small-group hunting method I created called “The Gentle Nudge,” generally set up after discovering nearby “railroad tracks” in snow made by a buck under the influence of doe-n-heat pheromone). This stand site was used only about six hours during one day per hunting season. It’s hunting value finally ended when the mature doe of the surrounding doe home range changed its bedding area, lying where it could keep an eye on Ken’s approach trail coursing across the flooded alder swamp.
His second, five-buck stand site was different. There Ken used a portable tree stand strapped to the trunk of a huge quaking aspen at the edge of a five-acre stand of red oaks. To get there in the dark he had to cross a wide expanse of spruce trees called “Boot Suck Bog.” On the far side he climbed the steep side of a rocky hill, beyond which he could step softly along a mossy deer path through dense evergreens that didn’t open up until he was standing at the base of his stand tree. Whereas whitetails accustomed to eating acorns from white oaks might consider red oak acorns to be disgusting fare, bucks that visited this five acre stand each year relished them to the degree that they neglected to notice the seated silhouette of a motionless, camo-blaze-orange-clad hunter masked by surrounding pine boughs in a nearby aspen tree. This stand site was only approached from downwind and only used 1–2 hours per opening morning, All five bucks were moving slowly or standing still well within 50 yards when Ken’s single echoing shot announced to the rest of us in our gang he had done it again. Following the taking of that 5th buck at that same site, no deer have ever been seen at the same site .
Today it is our constant goal to preserve the hunting value of previously productive stand sites. We do this by 1) finding stand sites that will be difficult for bucks (and other deer) to personally discover and can be approached without being positively identifying by nearby feeding deer, 2) greatly limiting the use of productive stand sites (like having money in the bank for following hunting seasons), 3) doing our best to avoid alarming any deer near a stand site, 4) not allowing a desirable quarry to escape, remembering, dead bucks tell no tales and mature whitetails have excellent memories, and 5) thereafter keeping as silent as possible while hauling a buck (dragged lashed to a plastic toboggan) from the vicinity of a productive stand site.