The Eight Keys to Whitetail Success

Did you know that there are eight critical areas which can largely determine your success or failure in hunting? The greater clarity you have in each of these areas, the better decisions you will make and better results you will achieve.
Key Purpose
What is the purpose of hunting? Many people think that the purpose of hunting is to kill a deer, but they are wrong. The true purpose of hunting is to enjoy the outdoors and more importantly to rediscover our place in nature. Hunting is the basis for all things human. It is what separates us from the other primates. All social structure and civilization can trace its roots back to primitive hunting societies. To hunt is to satisfy a primeval calling, to discover who we really are, to return to our source. There is nothing moral or immoral about hunting.
Key Proficiency
The key measure of hunting success is the hunters proficiency. Your ability to locate game, remain undetected, and shoot straight are the measures of a woodsman. These skills have to become second nature to you.
Key Reverence
The taking of a life is always a solemn and sacred moment, not the place for high-fives. The “winning is everything” philosophy is, I think, one of the most harmful ideas ever to infiltrate our sport. Victory comes not in the harvesting of an animal, but in the enjoyment of doing our best. One of the reasons I like hunting is because it is noncompetitive. I only have to compete against myself.
Key Focus
The most important player in hunting is the deer. You must focus on the deer at all times. Deer are fickle, changeable, impatient, and elusive. Too many hunters want the deer to adapt to their strategies. Nonetheless, it’s the deer who sets the pace and rhythm of the hunt and we must adapt to their movements.
Key Patience
In a society that demands instant gratification, patience is a skill lost to most hunters. Few hunters can win a stare down with a buck. Fewer yet can wait patiently enough to harvest a good buck. Learning to be patient is a far more valuable skill than learning the right moves. Patience is the central requirement for you to become an ever more accomplished hunter.
Key Strategy
In a world of rapid change and increased competition from other hunters, you must practice continuous improvement in every area of your huntig. As Pat Riley, the basketball coach, said, “If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.”
Key Persistence
The heartbeat of hunting is persistence. We must be patient, but relentless in our pursuit of big deer. We must have confidence in our location, the patience, and the persistence to allow it to all come together.
Key Question
The most important question you ask, to solve any problem, overcome any obstacle, or achieve any hunting goal is “Why?” Top hunters always ask the question “Why?” and then act on the answers that come to them. If you know “why” you hunt the “how-to’s” will reveal themselfs. It’s the “Whys” that tell us the “Hows”.
Good Luck and Good Hunting,
Jim

http://jimcollyer.com/

Mock Ground Scrapes

Bucks start scraping in earnest a week or two before the first does come into season. This is the best time to hunt over a scrape line or a primary scrape. A scrape line is just that; a line of scrapes showing the buck’s travel route. You can find a flurry of scrapes where the buck’s trail intersects the does trail.
If you decide to hunt over a scrape line it’s important to look in the scrape to see which way the deer is moving. He will pull dirt from the direction he is moving and often leaves a tell tale hoof print indicating the direction of travel. Ask yourself, “Is the buck using this trail in the evening on his way to feed or is he using it in the morning on his way to bed?”
Primary scrapes, on the other hand, are used by several deer and are generally reopened season after season. They are often found on high ground, in funnels, and where one buck’s territory intersects that of another. Primary scrapes always have a licking branch above them and several rubbed trees in the vicinity. I’ve seen primary scrapes as small as 3 feet in diameter and as large as a sheet of plywood.
While I like to set up as close as possible to a scraped line, I prefer my set to be 75 to 200 yards downwind of a primary scrape. A big buck will more commonly travel downwind of a primary scrape and merely scent check it.
Just remember that its location that determines a primary scrape, not the buck that made it. We are looking for a scrape that is all torn up with a licking branch above it, a scrape that appears to have been visited by several bucks. It goes without saying that this is an excellent spot for a tree stand.
If you really want to put your buck into a tizzy, try making a mock scrape. Dig up the dirt from a scrape in a different location and place it in the scrape you’re hunting over. Be sure to use scent-free gear and a shovel. Dig down about six inches and transport the dirt in a clean plastic bag. Empty this dirt into your hunting scrape and your buck will perceive this as an intrusion by another buck. He’ll begin refreshing this scrape in earnest. This is most effective in the pre-rut, before the bucks are on the does.
Realizing why scrapes are made, and how deer use them to communicate with each other will help boost your hunting to a higher level.
Learn more about scrape hunting
Good Luck and Good Hunting,
Jim

http://jimcollyer.com/

Knowledge vs. Whitetail

No discussion of Whitetail hunting could be complete without considering timing and application as a crucial elements.

Are unproductive and counterproductive hunting strategies and tactics sending you down countless rabbit holes that waste your time and money? This problem is real and it’s here to stay.

Whether you succeed or fail in whitetail hunting is not about sophisticated strategies and tactics… It’s about application of the correct tactic and being in the right place at the right time.

There’s really nothing more to the story than that!
Trophy Whitetail Hunting is not rocket science.

How did we ever hunt before the Hunting Channel?

I mean, there’s lot confusing and contradictory information these days… You need some sort of crap-o-meter to navigate through it all, but in the end, trophy deer hunting is a pretty simple process.

See the big circle?

It represents the amount of knowledge, camouflage, gadgets, and gizmo’s we are told we need to consistently harvest trophy class deer.

That little circle– it represents how a little timing and proper application of tactics can equal all of knowledge about deer hunting available today.

The cold hard fact is:

Most of that specialized knowledge as only a minuscule impact on your deer hunting success… And some of it is even detrimental. At best it’s overwhelming.

It may sound good and look good, but that’s marketing behind it – the sales job… I wrote the book BUCK NAKED to put it all into perspective for you right now.

Get the Straight Dope Now

Good Luck and Good Hunting,
Jim

Still Hunting

Photo courtesy of Apple Creek Whitetails

Still hunting is one of the purest forms of all hunting. It requires more discipline, both physically and mentally, than any other method. The goal of still hunting is to move through known deer habitat, to see the buck before he sees you, and to harvest that buck.

Sounds easy enough, but it’s extremely difficult. Still hunting is not wandering around aimlessly hoping to get a snapshot at a white flag. It requires an acute sense of awareness. If your mind is elsewhere, you won’t be able to see what’s going on. Awareness is to experience moments of just being without letting our minds get in the way. We must maintain a razors edge of alertness the entire time if we are to have any hope of being successful. I have found the most difficult part of still hunting is to clear my mind and get into the rhythm of the forest.

On top of that, we must move slow enough to prevent the deer from easily picking up our movement. The best way to think of still hunting is to think of it as a moving stand. The slower you move the better your odds of success will be. I like to take one step and then scour the entire area with my eyes. Take one or two more steps and continue the scouring process. And so on and so on. Extreme caution must be taken not to disturb the deer. It’s very difficult to maintain this snail’s pace for an extended period of time. A good still hunter can only cover a couple hundred yards in an hour. This is why it is so physically and mentally exhausting. Of course, all of this must be done facing the wind or we are just wasting time.

Being familiar with the terrain you are hunting is a great advantage while still hunting. If we are continually searching the ground for sign, we will break the concentration necessary to succeed.

Still hunting is a solo sport and few hunters can become proficient at it. Still hunting can only be learned after many hours and seasons of practice. Still hunting can be a rewarding experience for those who are willing to put in the time, patience, and persistence necessary.

Good Luck and Good Hunting,
Jim

Ground Scrapes

I’ve always been amazed at how some experts can take something as simple as a ground scrape and imagine the choreography of a complicated breeding ritual. The old story went like this: a buck scrapes the ground, then puts his hind legs together and urinates over his tarsal glands so that the urine drips into the scrape. Legend has it that this is his calling card to receptive does. The doe, upon seeing the scrape, will rush up and spread her own urine in the scrape. This is supposedly her way of saying, “Come on big boy, I want you so bad.” Later, when the buck returns, he can tell by the smell of the doe’s urine whether she is receptive or not. If so, it’s time to let the romance begin. It’s a good story, but just not true.

Actually, whitetail bucks are very territorial. Scraping activity has more to do with letting other bucks know he is in the area than it does with attracting does, think of it as very similar to how male dogs mark areas belonging to them. I’m sure that you have seen how the pooch lifts his leg on the corners of buildings, bushes, car tires, and fire hydrants, and then how the next dog to pass by will leave his own little remembrance in the same locations. It’s as if whoever pees last wins. It truly isn’t any more complicated than that.
Good Luck and Good Hnuting,
Jim

The Perfect Set-up

Quite often I get asked for advice on stand placement. There are a lot of things to consider; time of year, weather, wind direction, terrain, and deer travel patterns.

Morning stands are generally more productive than evening stands. With the exception of early-season hunting in mountainous terrain. In those instances an evening stand at the base of the mountain is for more productive since it utilizes the evening air thermal direction.

For the rest of the season morning stands rule. I try to keep my stand on the highest ground possible. There is more deer activity in the bottom lands during daylight hours, but the danger of the daytime air thermals lifting your scent and spreading it for several hundred yards in all directions is just too great. Always opt for a stand high on the ridge.

Pictured above is what I consider the ideal set up. I’m looking for a funnel that lies in a north-south direction, with access from the eastern side. It’s best if there is enough cover to keep your approach to the stand undetected. Once I found such a set up, I leave the area alone until I’m ready to hunt. There’s no sense mucking up the good set by over scouting. If deer detect the presence of humans they won’t necessarily quit using the funnel, just quit using it during the daylight hours.

Throughout most of the United States the prevailing wind direction comes out of the southwest. Approaching from the east keeps us from stinking the whole place up before we even start to hunt. I like to keep my stand, whether it’s a tree stand or a ground blind, on the eastern side of the funnel for the same reasons.

Bear in mind deer prefer to leave a crop field with the wind at their backs. I believe they do this naturally in order to detect any predators which might be following them. A change in wind direction will change where the deer leave the field. There’s no sense waiting for deer to leave the field unless the wind is directly in your face.

I do a lot of my hunting in the thick forests in the northern Rocky Mountains. Though funnels are not as obvious as the picture above, they still exist. We call them deer runways (a narrow strip of timber within a forest which deer frequently utilized to travel). In mountainous terrain evening and morning air thermals are a greater factor in determining our approach to the stand than prevailing winds.

It’s hard to find a perfect set up, but the basic principles of wind direction, undetected approach and concealment hold true no matter where you hunt. Having the prevailing wind in your face and an undetected approach to the stand are crucial for consistent success.

Good Luck and Good Hunting,
Jim

My Secret Buck Lure

I first started using this buck lure over 40 years ago. That was decades before I ever set foot in a tree stand. Back then we hunted whitetails one of two ways, either still hunting are tracking. Still hunting on bare ground and tracking if we had any fresh snow at all.

Late one season I shot a doe and she fell in the bottom of a steep draw. I went to get help to drag her out. When we got back, we found not one but two bucks standing over her carcass. I knew what I had and immediately removed both of the hock glands from her hind legs and slid them into my parka pocket.

As the old Coca-Cola ad said, “ There ain’t nothing like the real thing, Baby.”

I kept the hock glands in the freezer and the next season I cut slits in them and laced them on to my hunting boots. People kept asking me, “where do you find all those bucks?” I didn’t have the heart to tell them that there were as many bucks finding me as I was finding them.

Later on in my career I would hang these hock glands from tree limbs near my stands. I haven’t found anything on the market that works quite as well. To be really effective the glands need to come from either a mature buck are a hot doe. I haven’t had very good response from glands taken from does not in heat or young bucks. Personally, I think the glands from a big buck work better than anything else.

Be sure to wear rubber gloves when you remove these hock glands. It’s not that you will contaminate the glands with your human odor, it’s that the glands scent is strong and damn near impossible to wash off your hands. Climbing into bed with hands that smelled like a dead deer can raise havoc with your spouses libido. Trust me, it’s not worth the risk.

Try to keep the glands as blood free as possible. If you don’t the Camp-Robbers and Blue Jays will pack them off before you can use them.

The only commercial scents that even come close is a combination of hot doe urine and tarsal gland extractions from a buck. Years ago, Miles Keller used to manufacture a tarsal gland lure in a jell. It was an excellent scent. In fact, I killed my largest whitetail ever using that product.

The next time either you are a buddy harvests a hot doe or a big buck be sure to remove the hock glands. There ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby!

Good Luck and Good Hunting,
Jim

Whitetail Body Language Secrets


A buck with his tail extended straight out behind him means he is getting ready to bolt. Shoot now or forever hold you peace. (Photo courtesy Apple Creek Whitetails)

A buck with his tail cupped indicates he is sexually excited. (Photo courtesy Apple Creek Whitetails)

The meanings behind a whitetail deer’s body language hold true throughout the species. Hunters have interpreted these signals since deer hunting began. A hunter who possesses a basic understanding of this language will be better prepared to know what’s about to happen next.

Since females constitute between 60 and 80 percent of any given herd, we’ll start there. A feeding doe will generally lower her head to eat, then suddenly lift it a few seconds later to look nervously around. She cocks her ears forward and appears to be looking at some real or imagined danger. She may sta re for a minute or more. Then she gives a switch of her tail and begins to feed again. To the trained observer, this tail switch means “all clear” and the deer around her relax.

Foot stomping typically occurs when a deer has detected something out of the ordinary, but can’t quite tell what it is. This stomping is often followed by a sharp nasal snort or “blow” in an attempt to provoke this unidentified danger into giving itself away.

Now the deer’s tail begins to rise. If she raises it just a bit, she may eventually calm down and begin feeding again. This is where a deer stare-down begins. Most hunters cannot win a stare-down with a deer. The average person can’t hold a stare for more than thirty seconds, while a deer can hold its gaze steady for up to three minutes or more.

If a doe raises her tail higher, or cocks it to one side, she’s about to bolt. The tail soon points straight up and begins to flagging from side to side as she hu rries away.

Instantly, the entire herd is aware a predator is around and the jig is up. Pay attention to the deer that isn’t flagging. More than likely, it’s your buck. Big bucks don’t like to draw attention to themselves and usually run with their tails tucked between their legs.

Another tactic used by deer to get predators to reveal themselves is a head bob or head fake. A deer will be staring at some unidentified object and then slowly lower its head as if about to feed. When its jaw drops below its chest, the head will snap back up to see if the object has moved. The key to recognizing this move is that the head drops painfully slow and there is no tail switching.

When a deer is mildly alarmed, refrain from making your move until its head is clearly behind some object, such as a tree, or the tail switches to give the “all clear” sign.

A deer’s body language often gives away the presence of other deer. During the rut, if a doe trots by and looks over her shoulder with her ears moving, the hunter needs to look closely behind her and to be ready. A buck is more than likely following her.

Typically a doe in estrus will hold her tail straight out and stiff. This posture often indicates her readiness to breed. You should also start looking for a buck nearby if she appears nervous and her hock glands are dark.

The social structure within a deer herd is well defined. Body language is commonly used to establish the hierarchy or pecking order. All deer, both bucks and does, display aggressive behavior in order to establish this pecking order.

The mildest display of aggression is called the ear drop. When a deer drops its ears back along its neck, it is often enough keep other deer away. If the other deer does not respond to the ear drop, a hard stare will follow. When neither of these works the deer will begin to “sidle.”

The deer turns its head about thirty degrees from its adversary and advances with a series of sidling steps (walking sideways towards his opponent). Its head is held erect, ears back, and chin down. The hair along its neck and hips is raised to show anger. When a buck begins to sidle pay close attention to his posture. The dominant buck will hold his head highest. If the buck you are watching has his head in a lowered or submissive posture there is probably a bigger buck in the vicinity.

If all of this posturing fails to establish the pecking order, a conflict is sure to arise. The does will rise up on their hind legs and slash at their opponent with their hoofs. When the opponents are bucks, antlers will clash.

Good Luck and Good Hunting,
Jim

Watch Your Language

Calling deer becomes much more difficult with each passing season. The problem isn’t that there’s too many hunters calling deer, but rather there are too many people trying to speak a language they are not on speaking terms with.

Unfortunately, most hunters calling efforts only succeed in educating the deer to their presence. Consequently, the deer become increasingly wary and cautious in their response to calls. Rattling has been so overdone in some sections that when a buck hears the horns come together he instinctively runs in the other direction. Who could blame him? If every time he hears antlers crashing he bumps into a hunter, he’ll soon figure out what’s up.

Most hunters called too often and too loud. Remember, were not trying to seduce some sex starved bimbo. We are only trying to stimulate an instinctive response within the deer.

I called very sparingly, no more than once every 15 min. to half an hour. I’m trying to peque a deer’s curiosity, not running out of the county.

For detailed instructions on how to effectively call deer, read the book Buck Naked; The Straight Dope on Trophy Whitetails.

Good Luck and Good Hunting,
Jim