7 Deer Hunting Tactics That Don't Work Like They Did

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Deer are pretty smart animals. They adapt quickly. Subtle changes in their environment don’t go unnoticed. Their senses are unparalleled. So it seems fitting and theoretically accurate to believe that certain hunting tactics might start losing their effectiveness over time. Maybe these are backed by fact. Maybe they’re just my gut talking. Will said tactics be rendered completely useless? I highly doubt it. But the idea remains that deer certainly have the mental capacity to catch on.

I’m not writing this piece to discourage you from implementing these tactics. Far from it, in fact. Instead, I encourage us all (myself included) to be smart about using them and planning efforts in advance for maximum effectiveness. Because while each of these tactics can be effective, they can  become much less so if abused or used improperly.

Deer Drives

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1 | Deer Drives

Historically speaking, this has been an effective tactic for legions of hunters across the country. Many a deer have fallen due to well-constructed deer drives. Nonetheless, you hear of far fewer deer — especially big bucks — being killed via drives these days. I believe part of this is due to less drives being conducted. But I also believe deer are becoming wiser and reacting differently to this tactic. It’s only a theory, but I think the odds of pushing a deer into the open are much lower than they once were. Instead, they're hunkering down and/or staying in heavy cover as they move.

Read: How to Do a Deer Drive

Photo credit: John Hafner

Big Field Hunting

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2 | Big Field Hunting

I remember the days when hunting over fields seemed to be much more effective than it is now. Sure, you can still kill deer in the open, but whitetails are catching on. And more and more it seems deer are spending daylight hours in staging areas rather than open feed fields. Deer react quickly to hunting pressure. Once they’re pressured in the open, all bets are off.

Photo credit: Josh Honeycutt

Obvious Funnels

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3 | Obvious Funnels

Likewise, I remember 10 to 20 years ago when, regardless of where I was hunting, I frequently encountered bucks utilizing classic funnels. That’s not entirely the case anymore. Instead, I see more mature bucks using less-obvious routes and areas does and young bucks do not. The older they get the wiser they become.

Photo credit: Realtree

Trail Cameras

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4 | Trail Cameras

I’m just spit-balling here, but I believe deer are catching on to the trail-camera tactic. I almost always choose low-impact trail camera approaches. I don’t invade bedding areas. I refrain from diving deep into cover. Instead, I post cameras on the fringes of properties and follow a stern scent regimen to keep from pressuring deer during camera checks. And I only check them about once per month. Despite my efforts, it seems deer become more privy to trail cameras with each passing year. Will I still use them? Sure. I’ll never give up the edge trail cameras provide. I’m just going to continue to adapt and conceal cameras as much as possible.

Read: 7 Ways to Conceal Trail Cameras

Photo credit: Josh Honeycutt

Scent Lures

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5 | Scent Lures

I don’t really have anything against scents. I’ve just never had much luck with them, especially in recent years. And what little luck I have had with them came years ago. That said, I'm not saying that others haven't, can't or won't find this as a useful tactic, though.

That said, science and research have proven that estrus is more of a pheromone, and not a liquid -- which is hard to bottle, right? And urine is urine. Using buck and/or doe urine in scrapes and mock scrapes can be effective, but just like any other tactic, it can become inneffective if misused.

Urine is also a hot topic today due to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Several states have already banned urines because of the ability to spread CWD through them. That's why it's very important to purchase only urine-based products from companies who are part of the ATA Deer Protection Program, which helps to ensure urine sold to hunters is CWD-free.

Photo credit: Brad Herndon

Hunting Over Scrapes

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6 | Hunting Over Scrapes

Everyone used to think scrape hunting was the ticket to filling the back of the truck with big-racked bucks. The research is continually showing that’s not the case. This tactic loses more credibility with each passing day. And while it is possible to kill a deer working a scrape, the odds are lower than they once seemed to be.

Read: What to Know About Scrapes

Photo credit: Josh Honeycutt

Following Loggers

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7 | Following Loggers

Logging used to be common practice throughout the country. That made it a pretty effective tactic to hit up the spots that were logged in recent months and years. That said, it’s come to a screeching halt, especially on public lands. Forests are maturing. Early successional habitat is disappearing. And there is minimal management being conducted to reset the forestry clock. Thus, this tactic is much less productive than it once was.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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