Kenneth Kieser: A few tips for rifle deer season
Rifle season for deer has arrived. Here are some facts I have collected from biologists and through my personal experience over the years that may make your hunt more successful:
When is the best time to shoot a buck?
Research shows, be in your stand before daybreak and stay there until around 1 p.m. Most deer are taken between 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. with a few larger kills stretching into the period around noon.
That said, some stay on their stand from dusk until dawn, or whatever the legal shooting time is. Keep in mind that during rifle season the deer are pushed more from hunting errors, smells or sounds and become extremely nervous. So, big deer may wander into your area.
This happened to me several years ago when a big buck was chased off an adjoining property. He had been running and walked into my shooting lane while occasionally glancing over his shoulder. His path took him about 20 yards from me for an easy harvest.
Moving to your stand
Walking to your deer stand is always risky for spooking nearby deer. Take the quietest path possible – creeks are great – and walk slow. The only thing that sounds like a human in the woods is a human. Watch a deer and they will take a couple of steps, then stop, pause and then take a couple more steps.
Shining a flashlight around is a sure way to spook every deer out of the area. Place red cellophane over the lens and only point it straight down where you are walking. This allows you to not step on noisy items like sticks or dead leaves. Remember to step from heel to toe for a quieter step. Finally, zippers or metal snaps are tell-tale signs of humans, so fasten or unfasten them gently.
Do big bucks become nocturnal?
Some older bucks do become nocturnal. Even younger bucks may turn to night activities after experiencing hunting pressure. The best time to shoot these night dwellers, probably between their bed and feeding area, is either at dusk or dawn.
Do some big bucks really become cobweb brained during the rut?
More big bucks are killed during the rut than any other time. The best place to find trophy bucks is where the does are. They will chase the girls all day and night when possible, sometimes throwing survival skills to the wind. Note that more younger bucks in the one- to two-year range are killed during rifle season.
Deer seem to know when the rifle season opens
Deer don’t have a built-in calendar, but become alert when they start smelling human scent in places where it normally is not. Keep in mind that some hunters crunch their way to the deer stand while stepping on dead leaves and sticks. Deer become aware of additional smells or sounds and go on the alert.
Food in the blind or stand
Food comes in wrappers that make noise and spook deer. So, place each food item in a plastic sandwich bag that is easier to open quietly.
You can hide human scent with the right preparation
Many of you shower with human scent removing soap, use scent free deodorant, store your clothes in a bag of damp leaves, even use scent removing mouthwash. I know a few hunters that splash doe urine on their pants. This preparation is good to a point and may give you a better chance. But deer can still identify your human scent.
Truth is, it is critically important for hunters to do everything they can to minimize their scent, but biologists claim that deer have up to 297 million scent receptors in their nose. Deer, too, can smell human odor from a quarter- to half-mile away, a long distance in thick woods where most of us hunt.
So, trying to be scent free helps, but hunting with the wind blowing in your face is important. Remember that a buck will occasionally make a wide circle before moving into a spot and you will be winded. They are looking, listening and smelling for any danger – a big challenge of hunting big bucks.
By the way, experienced hunters splash doe urine on a rag at their blind or stand instead of on their pants. My brother did this years ago and a big buck stepped out of the thicket with its nose in the air, smelling what he thought was a hot female. That buck became an easy harvest.
Deer never return to a spot where they smelled you
Bring your lunch and dinner if you want to hunt spooked deer. They may return eventually, especially if you are by their bedding area. But it could be a long wait.
Deer have much better eyesight than a human
Biologists have proven that deer see five times better than most humans. They have trouble seeing certain colors like reds or greens, but actually can identify shades of yellow or blue.
Movement is the biggest problem for most hunters. When a deer approaches, sit perfectly still and only quietly pull up your firearm or bow then the deer’s head is out of sight or looking the other way.
Will a deer return after you shoot?
Deer may return after being shot at, but not soon. Everything depends on if they believe that is where their hot doe is staying or if it’s close to their main feeding area.
Should you stay in the same area, change locations from where you shot. The buck will likely come in from a different angle, if it comes back at all. That is the chance you take.
How can you tell if a deer is diseased?
Look closely at a deer. You may notice the animal is exceptionally skinny, it may urinate or drool a lot and there may be facial swelling, including lips or around its eyes. That is a deer to avoid.
Have a safe hunt!
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.