Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The Factors That Make A Perfect Deer Hunting Stand

© By Othmar Vohringer

It’s already June again, and with that said it is time to think of the upcoming hunting season. This time around I start to think about treestand locations. The bow hunting season begins here on the first day of September and I always try to have all my stands up by late July.

I did all my preliminary scouting after the hunting season closed last year and fine tune it in the spring into early summer. With that said, I already know where to hang my treestands or build natural ground blinds. I am often asked. What are the factors of a perfect stand location?

Hunting deer with a firearm I can set up stands almost anywhere within the radius of active deer movement, provided I have clear shooting lanes. Where attention to detail in stand location and placement can break or make your hunting is during bowhunting season. In order to get close to deer and stay undetected we have to be very aware of every little detail in choosing stand locations and setting up stands. As often is the case the devil is in the details.

These are the factors that I consider imperative for a successful stand setup.

Scouting:
I am continually surprised how many hunters head to the woods a few weeks before deer season opens and hang a stand at the first tree next to a trail with fresh tracks. Doing this you jeopardize any hunting success and have to rely entirely on luck to fill your tag. A wise hunter once said; hunting success is the result of 80 percent scouting and 20 percent luck. If you do not scout, or scout incorrectly, your success is dependent entirely on luck. Over the years I wrote several magazine articles dedicated to scouting. I encourage you to read the linked articles below and apply the advice.

Scouting For Hunting Success
Mapping Out Deer Hunting Success

Enter and Exit Routes:
The best stand location is rendered useless if you can’t access or depart the location without alerting deer in the vicinity. And before you say “I don’t have to worry about deer detecting because I wear scent eliminating hunting garments and boots”. Let me tell you that deer WILL detect you coming or going if your bath to or from the stand crosses deer holding areas. Deer are perfectly attuned to everything that goes on around them. The best way to avoid letting deer on to your presence is choose entry and exit routes carefully. Depending on the stand location you may have to choose a different exit route from the one you enter the stand. Proper scouting will reveal what exit and access routes you have to choose.

Treestand Height and Cover:
A lot has been written and said about how high a treestand should be placed on a tree. There is still a considerable number of hunters believing that the higher you can go the better. This simply is not true. I told that story bevor but it is worth repeating. A few years ago on my walk to one of my stands I spotted a large black spot about 50 feet off the ground on a pine tree trunk from a distance of about 400 yards. Using by binoculars the large black spot turned out to be a hunter in a treestand. If I could see that dark spot high up on a tree trunk then so could the deer. It is a myth that hunting from a stand placed high up on a tree will prevent deer from smelling you. I covered that myth and other treestand placement mistakes in, “The most common mistakes when setting up treestands".

The height of the treestand is determined by the cover around you. As a bowhunter it is important to stay in cover as much as possible, to achieve that we have to make use of the natural cover around us. When I have chosen a tree for my stand I will check from the distance where I expect deer to approach my stand location at what height off the ground the best cover is available. By looking up the tree I can see where the background cover is to my satisfaction and that is the height were my stand will be placed, be that 8 feet or 20 feet off the ground. Neglect cover in placing your stand and you will be detected by deer. Treestands have given hunters, especially bowhunters, a huge advantage. The downside of treestands is that this popular hunting method has educated deer to look up to the treetops for danger.

Wind:
Wind is a constant consideration of mine in placing a treestand. I place stands in such a way that the prevailing wind carries my scent into an open space not frequented by deer or backed up against steep ravine, river, lake or other obstruction that deer avoid or can’t cross without passing by my stand first before they get a whiff of me.

Shooting Lanes:
As important as all the above is, you need shooting lanes. This can be a bit tricky at times. The trick is to cut enough shooting lanes that get at least two or three clear lanes to shoot at deer from every direction you expect deer to travel past your stand. You want to be very mindful of not overcutting shooting lanes to the point that you lose cover. Here it pays to know the trajectory of your arrows as they make their way to the target. Diligent target practice at different distances will make you familiar with your arrows fight path. Typically I trim shooting lanes at the very least a month or even two before hunting season opens.

Silence is Golden:
If you do everything right it will be no good if your stand pops and creaks every time you move. Silence is golden. To keep a stand quiet use a quality product and maintain it regularly. After each hunting season I check my stands for worn parts and lube all moving parts like platform and seat hinges with unscented lubricant paste. In addition I cover the treestand bow-holder with moleskin to prevent metal to metal sounds.

Comfort:
And finally, never underestimate comfort. An uncomfortable treestand, no matter how well it is placed, will end in misery. More than anything else uncomfortable tresstands are the result why hunters leave to early. You can improve the level of comfort by adding an extra cushion on the seat and as a backrest onto the tree trunk. Additional measures to improve comfort are cutting off and branch knots on the tree trunk to avoid being pocked in the back and adding a foot rest to standing platform. In short take whatever steps that is necessary to accommodate your level of comfort for many hours of sitting still.

In addition the tips provided here I would like to direct your attention to two articles relating to the topic covered here.

Choosing the right treestand for the perfect ambush
Treestand hunting essentials

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Making A Mineral Lick For Deer

© By Othmar Vohringer

The best time to establish a mineral lick for deer is from late winter, after the bucks dropped their antlers, to early spring.
While deer only need small amounts of minerals for full antler development having no minerals, or not enough, will result in in less antler growth than what genetically might be possible. Minerals are not just important for antler growth but also for the overall health and development of deer, lactating does and growing fawns in particular.

How to establish a deer mineral lick?

Practically you can put minerals anywhere and deer will eventually find it. However, to maximise the benefits for you and the deer it is best to place minerals where deer frequent. Look for topographical structures such as deer crossings, field and woodland corners, creek bottoms, ridges and saddles that are away from view of people or vehicle traffic. Find the secluded places that provide deer with a measure of security.

Although it is legal here in British Columbia to bait deer I do not use mineral licks for baiting deer. Just as I never place a stand directly over a food source or food plot.

Why not?

Because I want deer to feel safe on the lick or food source and keep returning to it regularly. Putting up a stand direct at the lick or food source will eventually make deer suspicious, resulting in deer abandoning it altogether. Also, it can be quite difficult to kill a deer at the lick or food source, especially for bowhunters, as deer constantly move around. I hunt the traveling deer. With that said, I place licks in such a way that it funnels the traveling deer past my stand location.

A lick can also be used to redirect deer traffic. Let me explain what I mean with a situation I faced last year. I hunted an area consisting of a large wide open field bordered on one side by thick brush and the road on the other side. Several trails went from the field into the brush but there was no predicting what particular trail the deer would use at any given time. Set up over one trail and deer move one of the other trails. Change stand locations to the trail the deer used and they would use the trail you sat over the day before. The brush is so thick you can’t see more than a few feet inside it. My solution to the problem? Redirect deer traffic by making a deer lick. I placed two mineral salt blocks inside the woodland on the thicket edge where the brush thins out. Checking the mineral lick in late winter I noticed that the deer established a large well used trail leading from the thicket to the mineral lick.

I recharged the lick with new mineral salt blocks early this year and the deer still hitting it strong. Come summer, around July, I will hang a stand on the new trail between the thicket and the mineral lick, refresh the lick again and leave the area alone until September, the beginning of the fall archery season.

Preparing a deer lick station.

When you found a good spot to establish a deer mineral lick don’t just dump the minerals in a pile on the ground. If there’s a rotten tree stump on the spot hollow it out and then pour mineral granulates into it. If there’s no tree stump clear a spot of about 5 to 8 feet in diameter down to bare soil. Spread lightly and evenly with mineral granulates. Check back in intervals of about one month and replenish minerals as needed.

If you use mineral blocks, as I do, clear a spot down to the soil and place the mineral block in the middle of it. To give the lick a quick start, or as an additional attractant, you can spread a few handful of grain or chopped apples around the mineral block. Unlike mineral granulates there’s no need to check mineral blocks frequently. The mineral blocks I put out in late winter last year still were in good shape this spring, unlike the mineral granulates I used for another lick station that were completely gone. Refreshing mineral licks for several seasons will saturate the soil to the point where deer will begin to eat the soil too, making it a traditional lick that deer and other wildlife will return to every day for many years. Hanging a trail camera near the mineral lick will have the benefit that you can check what deer and other wildlife visit and on what time of day. Cameras also let you keep taps on the antler growth of the bucks.

Give mineral licks a try this season, it’s an affordable way to help the deer getting important minerals and if placed correctly can improve your hunting success rate too.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

What Are Your Deer Hunting Goals This Year?

© By Othmar Vohringer

Set a goal for this hunting season and then work toward it.
I asked a hunting buddy of mine that question and he replied with; “Jeez, buddy turkey hunting season just started and you already think about deer hunting.”

Well, besides being guilty of having constantly whitetail deer on my mind, even during turkey hunting season, I also happen to think that it is important to have goals in life and in hunting.

Just like having a goal in life provides you with a working guideline so does having a seasonal goal for hunting. Without a goal you won’t know what to do or how to get there. It’s a bit like driving a car without knowing where you want to go or how to get there, you end up driving in circles.

This might be okay for the hunter who’s just looking to get away from the daily grind for a bit, enjoying the great outdoors. Killing a deer is a priority but rather an added bonus. However, my guess is, since you’re reading here, you’re the type of hunter that has a passion for hunting and whitetail deer. You're  the type of hunter looking to maximize the rate of success in the deer woods. To achieve that increased success rate you have to have a goal in mind and then work toward achieving that goal.

With that established you need to set a clear goal of what it is you want out of the upcoming hunting season. I don’t know what your goal is. Maybe you want to kill your first big buck, or the first deer period, or maybe hunt a place that is not overcrowded with others hunters. Whatever your goal is for this season, no matter how big or small, you have to plan for it and you have to start rather sooner than later.

My goal for this season is to find an area with a good whitetail deer population. That might sound strange to you, but where I live is not known for abundant whitetail deer populations, it’s an area with a large mule deer population and also known for big mule deer bucks. Through research I found an area with a good whitetail deer population and a better than average trophy buck population. Now my next task is to find private landowners willing to let hunters on their property, which means spending a few days, maybe even weeks, knocking on doors. The chosen area also has vast amounts of public land. My goal is to find the public land areas that other hunters avoid. To achieve this goal I have to study maps to see what the access to these areas are. My task is to find areas where vehicle access is restricted. With restricted vehicle access chances of  encountering undisturbed hunting enjoyment and opportunity rise drastically. When all this is done I have to start scouting and chose possible stand locations.

Of course, I just could drive into the area when deer hunting season opens and see what transpires. But that is not me. I like to set myself goals and then work toward it. It increases my chances of success, and besides that, as a passionate whitetail deer hunter it is just another excuse - a worthwhile excuse – to occupy my time and my mind with whitetail deer.

What are your deer hunting goals for the 2015 season? Let’s discuss it!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The North American Deer Summit

© By Othmar Vohringer

Over the last decade, the ones believed to be an indestructible world of whitetail deer has taken a beating. What are the reasons for the overall decline of the deer populations? Scientist from the QDMA (Quality Deer Management Association) found out that the decline of the deer herds can be attributed to:
  • Growing predator populations, seriously impacting fawn survival rates.
  • Urban sprawl is the cause for rapid wildlife habitat loss.
  • Disease, such as the quick and devastating spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) and more recently the spread of the Bluetongue Virus and “Deer Warts” (Cutaneous fibromas), has taken a huge toll on the deer herds in some areas of North America.
  • Government “Deer Management” should be renamed as “Political Management” or “Hunter Management”. It is my contention for years now that government wildlife services in the past have been more concerned with keeping hunter happy than with sound science based deer management/conservation programs. I am glad, that finally, scientists have come to that conclusion too.
Personally I also find that over the years all the hoopla about killing large numbers does has contributed to the decline of deer herds too. While killing does can be a good management tool to reduce deer herds quickly it also can quickly backfire. Especially then when predator populations are not kept in check or some deadly disease or harsh winter conditions adversely affects deer herds.

It is my opinion that if things don’t change quickly we will have some serious deer conservation problems in the next few years. It is a very likely scenario that we will see some drastic measures being taken to protect deer, and that might very well mean a total ban on deer hunting in some of the most adverse affected areas, or at the very least a very limited number of deer tags being made available.

It is for this reasons why concerned deer hunters have established the National Deer Alliance (NDA) last year. The aim of the NDA to be a unified voice for deer hunters and work toward science based solutions for the many challenges our North American whitetail deer populations face. Part of the NDA mission is the creation of the North American Deer Summit. This is the second Summit of this kind and is to be held on May 6 to 8, 2015, The Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky.

The first summit, held in 2014, had the goal of identifying the various challenges facing the deer populations. This years summit will establish a priority plan of what issues need to be addressed immediately and to begin developing a plan of action to be taken.

This is a very important event, involving all stakeholders in the deer hunting and deer conservation community. This is something you, me and all fellow deer hunters should make a priority to get involved with and actively participate. The summit is open to the public, meaning everybody can, and should, take part in it.

As passionate deer hunters is should be all our duty to make sure that future generations of deer hunters have the possibility to enjoy what we do today, and maybe for too long have also taken for granted.

For more information visit the link of the North American Deer Summit.

Visit the North American Deer Summit registration page.

Become a member and supporter (it’s free) of the National Deer Alliance.

Here are some articles on the subject that might interest you:

EHD and CWD: What’s the Difference?

Have We Killed Too Many Does?

10 Reasons You Don’t Want CWD in Your Woods

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tips For Finding Shed Antlers

© By Othmar Vohringer

Now that the weather gets warmer and the snow has melted head out in search for shed antlers. Provided you’re not a turkey hunter, shed hunting is a good way to overcome cabin fever. It’s also a good way to learn about the land you hunt, the deer that inhabit that land and enjoying the great outdoors.

However, wandering around willy-nilly hoping to stumble across a set of shed antlers will lead to noting much other than frustration.
Here are some tips on how to find shed antlers.

Scouting is to shed hunting success as important as it is to deer hunting. Study the land and the available food sources that are available to the deer in winter. Look for thick cover where bucks hide away during the harsh winter months.

In the winter and after the rut bucks form bachelor groups again, tired and nutritionally worn down form the rigors of the rut they retreat to wintering areas where they can find food and cover within close proximity. Find these hideouts and learn to identify what food sources are still available to the deer and you’re likely to find sheds from several bucks in that area.

In the winter bucks have two things on their mind. Eat and sleep. Bucks sleep, or rest, all day long to conserve energy, only getting up for short periods to feed. Bedding areas are usually found in dense cover where the bucks are somewhat sheltered from the cold winds and falling snow. During the day bucks soak up the warm rays of the winter sun on south facing hillsides and the south facing edge of forests.

While some bucks shed their antlers by trashing bush and low hanging branches, most lose their antlers through sudden movement like running and jumping, check places where deer trails cross fences, shallow creeks, ditches and other obstacles that deer have to jump over or crawl underneath.

She hunting is a slow and systematic process. Just walking around will not yield much success in finding sheds. Walk slowly and examine the ground near the features mentioned above closely, often only part of an antler will be exposed while the rest is buried under grass and forest debris.

If you want to learn more about antler shed hunting I recommend a well written book titled “A Guide To Finding White-Tailed Deer Antlers” by Joe Shead, an avid shed antler hunter for many years.



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