The Struggles Of A Real-Life Deer Hunter

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

THE STRUGGLE IS REAL...VERY REAL

Hunting in the real world is harder, but more rewarding. (Realtree photo)

Some days, you can walk into the deer woods, sit on a random stump on a new property you know nothing about, and watch deer after deer parade by. Other days, you can go to a stand on a good piece of ground you know to be excellent deer country and not even see a slickhead. That’s deer hunting. And it’s no easy task.

I hunt in the real world. I’ve never hunted with an outfitter. I’m not shunning those who do, and I’m not saying I never would. But it’s just not something I’ve ever done. I’ve never even killed a deer off a friend’s place.

For me, it’s not so much about the kill, but it's the entire process that leads up to it. Scouting land, hanging stands, checking cameras, it’s all part of the fun. I love watching deer, analyzing how they behave, and trying to determine why they do what they do. Then, I enjoy matching wits with one of the most intelligent animals ever to walk the earth. That’s what it’s all about for me.

So, as a real-life hunter who hunts heavily-pressured private and public land, there are certain challenges I face on a regular basis. And as do all of those out there that share my situation, we have to find ways to overcome these challenges.

UNENDING PRESSURE

Hunters pressure the places many of us hunt. That makes efforts to find and kill mature bucks that much more difficult. But there are ways around it. In fact, there are ways to take advantage of it.

Solution: It takes a little extra work, but to overcome this, you have to scout both the deer and other hunters on the property. Find where hunters are focusing their efforts. If they’re pounding it, the deer will know it. Look for areas that hunters are avoiding. That’s where the deer will be. Get in the stand early so other hunters run deer to you as they go to their stands. 

LACK OF ACCESS

Many states have abundant public land opportunities. Some don’t. Access is a problem for many people. That said, most people have several pieces of public land within driving distance.

Another problem is accessing stand locations once there. A lot of public lands only have a few good access points.

Solution: I don’t mean to sound like a selfish person, but get access to as much private land and scout as much public land as possible. Find the best two or three spots you can, and focus on those.

As for entry and exit routes, study the laws within that state. Some have laws that allow access via waterways, county roads, etc. Study the laws and learn what you legally can and cannot do.

CONSTANT COMPETITION

Most public land gets hit pretty hard. There are few places open to anyone that doesn’t. Most private land is the same way, unless the hunter has sole control of a lot of land. Most people who have access to the same properties often hunt the same time, too: weekends.

Solution: Most hunters are weekend warriors. If at all possible, hunt weekdays instead. That will cut down on the amount of competition, and most times, leave the place to a handful of hunters.

LACK OF FOOD SOURCES

Many small tracts of private land and public lands don’t have an abundance of food sources. This can pose a problem. But if deer are there, they are eating something.

Solution: Become a woodsman. Deer don’t just eat corn and soybeans. They eat a lot of natural food sources, too. Forbs, browse, mast...the list goes on. Figure out what deer are eating, and use it to target them accordingly.