Where do you like to stand hunt? Anywhere in the woods? Where you have a great field of view? Next to a deer trail? In the middle of a large patch of brush? At the edge of a cornfield? Where you got a picture of a big buck with your trail cam? Next to a corn feeder or food/bait plot? At sites where you and your hunting partners have been stand hunting for years? Sure, every now and then someone takes a deer at one of these sites. What about mature bucks? Hardly see any of those? That’s typical. Do you know about 40% of the 15–30 deer per square-mile in your hunting area are antlered?
“No way,” you say? This answer alone reveals you have much to learn.
Do you know there are deer signs than practically guarantee hunting success? If you knew what they look like, where to find them and how to take advantage of them, you can actually take a mature whitetail (not a mere fawn or yearling) or even a mature buck every hunting season.
One of the most productive of such deer signs are “fresh tracks of a walking deer in or next to a whitetail feeding area.” A walking deer is an unalarmed deer. If it remained unalarmed during the last period it fed there, it is almost certain to return to the same feeding area during the next period whitetails normally feed. If such tracks are discovered without nearby deer realizing it before 9–10 AM in the morning or after 3–4 PM in the afternoon, the deer that made them and probably others are in or very near that feeding area right now. If found after 9–10 AM or before 3–4 PM, that deer is currently bedded somewhere near or far from that feeding area. If not alarmed by a hunter meanwhile or if it has not yet discovered you waiting in ambush there, it is practically guaranteed that deer will return to that same feeding area during the next 1–3 successive periods whitetails normally feed, (the number depending on how skilled you are at stand hunting)—practically guaranteeing you will have an opportunity to take that deer (if you properly stand hunt there). If you key on such deer signs in or near one or more current favorite whitetail feeding areas every hunting season, you can actually be a regularly successful whitetail hunter, or if you prefer, a regularly successful buck hunter (accomplished by keying on fresh mature-buck-sized tracks and droppings).
Keep in mind, no matter how skilled you believe you are at approaching a stand site and stand hunting, following 1–3 successive visits to one or more stand sites adjacent to any whitetail feeding area (or any other site), few if any mature whitetails will thereafter be seen there, meaning the deer that fed there now know you are there and it’s time to move to another feeding area. Never begin a hunting season without being prepared to hunt two or more feeding areas.
This means, of course, you must be able to identify whitetail feeding areas while scouting preseason. Certain farm fields and forest clearcuts likely to be feeding areas are easy to identify. If other hunters plan to hunt them too, however, their periods of productiveness will likely be short-lived, lasting only an hour or two. To be produtive, a feeding area must contain lots of fresh and old deer tracks and droppings. Typically, there are 4–5 other whitetail feeding areas in a square mile of forested whitetail habitat that are not as easy to identify, some of which may not be visited by deer until after a hunting season begins. Learning how to identify and properly hunt feeding areas is crucial to becoming regularly successful at taking mature whitetails.