Hunting public land and private properties by permission oftentimes means sharing the area with other whitetail enthusiasts
It’s happened to you. It’s happened to me. And it just might happen to us both again by the end of the week — patterning a nice buck, only for a fellow hunter to move in and screw it up nice and good.
Such is the norm for those who hunt public land and private ground by permission. If that’s real life for you, don’t just pattern the deer you hunt. Pattern the other hunters chasing them, too. Realtree pro staffers Carl Drake and Cole Barthel agree.
“I hunt our family farm with three other hunters,” Barthel said. “We don’t hunt each other’s stands, but we do hunt the same areas and the same deer.”
Plenty of challenges come with that, especially if everyone isn’t on the same page.
“There are things I key on with the guys who hunt the same pieces of ground I do,” Drake said. “It can definitely affect deer movement.”
Both Barthel and Drake stress several factors.
Plot Their Stand Locations
Some hunters will be mindful of the relationship between bedding, food, water, staging areas and stand locations. Many hunters just throw darts at a map. And some will sit the same oak tree that they’ve hunted the last 30 years. Regardless, plot their known stand locations on a map. This helps you leave a buffer between you and them. Plus, it’s a safety factor. You need to know where other hunters are.
“The guy who hunts the same stand every time no matter the wind and weather conditions,” Drake said. “Usually, that guy hasn’t done his homework, any scouting or prepared for the season.”
The Plan: Write off these areas of the property. Put a big X on them. They’re black holes of hunting pressure.
Pay Attention to Proximity
Barthel stressed the importance of proximity. Two stand locations can negatively affect one another, even when you don’t realize it.
“We have several bow stands that are close enough to each other that wind direction plays a big role,” Barthel said. “Let’s say you’re hunting the same deer. Observe the other hunter's wind and see if it’s going to affect you. If you have a good wind, but he doesn’t, choose another location to sit. Mature bucks tend to get out of an area sneaky-like when they get wind of danger.”
The Plan: If you know deer are bedded downwind of another hunter, set up along known escape routes instead of your intended perch.
Chart Their Entry and Exit Routes
Solid entry and exit routes are just as important as good stand locations. You have to get in and out cleanly. And many hunters around you won't understand that (or don't care).
“Try to access in and out in ways that no one else does — even if it’s a longer walk — to avoid bumping deer,” Barthel said. “Don’t just follow other hunters’ access in and out.”
The Plan: Find unorthodox entry and exit routes. Use creeks, rivers, ditches, drainages and other terrain features that offer multiple layers of concealment. These should help conceal you visually and audibly and could even reduce ground scent.
Know Their Habits
Knowing a hunter’s habits is almost as important as predicting what deer will do.
“One thing I’ve noticed over the years is access and how the other hunters go in and out,” Barthel said. “For example, riding ATVs close to the hunting area before and after the hunt. Walking in and out — no matter the distance — has proven more successful.”
The Plan: Focus on areas other hunters overlook. Deer gravitate to un-hunted areas. If they’re consistently riding four-wheelers and side-by-sides through areas, look at spots on the map where they never go.
Study Their Patience Levels
You’ve heard it for ages — 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s supposedly a great time to see mature bucks. And hordes of big buck mounts support it. But why?
“The impatient guy,” Drake said. “This is the one who's out of his stand early and starts walking around because he can't sit tight. I find this mainly during gun season. This person can definitely push deer toward you. Or, if they come too close, they can move deer out of your area, too.”
The Plan: Do all-day sits. Or, come in around 9 a.m. and hunt for the rest of the day. Other hunters might push those deer right to you. Or, if deer are habituated to hunters moving during the day, they could wait and do their thing during midday hours.
Gauge Their Trustworthiness
Most people are good people. But some take advantage when they see the opportunity.
“When you see a big deer, then tell someone about it, and they move right in on top of you hoping to get a shot at that deer,” Drake said. “That’s the guy you don't share any of your hunting activities with.”
But don’t clam up from the start. Test hunters’ trustworthiness. Don’t be afraid to exchange information if they prove they’re willing to work with and not against you.
“The guy who is willing to share information with you — such as trail camera photos and deer activity — will help you with your deer hunting success,” Drake said. “This guy has the same common interests as you. Working together can make both of you have a successful season.”
The Plan: Spend time around them. Get to know who they are. Trust but verify. Then listen to your gut. It doesn’t lie.
All things considered, we’re humans before hunters. Don’t allow big deer to ruin relationships. (Or to prevent new ones from forming.) Hunting is supposed to be enjoyable … not stressful. Treat your fellow hunters with kindness. Share the lands you hunt. Be fair. Be kind. You can do the things on this list, improve your odds of success, and still show them respect.