Pressured whitetails can be difficult to hunt. It’s no secret that unpressured deer behave much differently than their heavily hunted brethren. That’s why it’s imperative to do certain things (and not do others) when pursuing these jittery, edgy animals. Here are seven steps to help make it happen.
1. Consult the Aerial Map
Most times, those who hunt pressured deer, are doing so on either public land or heavily hunted private properties. The best place to start is to observe aerial maps. Cross off all areas that are easy to get to. Oftentimes, on large chunks of public land, try to get at least a mile off the nearest road or access route. This will almost guarantee you’re away from other hunters, and you’ll likely be in some of the best deer hunting action, too.
Also, keep an eye out for really small tracts of public land. It’s not uncommon for hunters to overlook these really small spots. Sometimes people may not even know about them, especially if they aren’t publicized well. And definitely look for those new public properties that have only been so for a year or two. If the secret isn’t out yet, there might still be some unpressured deer lurking about.
Drive around the perimeters of properties you want to hunt. Take inventory on what deer and deer sign you see, but more importantly, take note of what hunters are afield. Mark wherever you see people, treestands and parked vehicles. Places you find this human activity will be less likely to produce than areas where there’s less pressure. That said, don’t immediately write it off. Sometimes, while not always the case, mature bucks will bed close to parking lots and access routes and observe hunters entering their domain. Ingenious and unexpected, I know. But it happens.
3. Scout Wisely
Don’t put too much pressure on the little nuggets of less-hunted pockets you do find. They’re unpressured, so don’t make them become like the other 95 percent of the land around them. Use low-impact strategies to gather enough intel to move forward with the hunt. Scout from afar. Place trail cameras on the fringes of the unpressured areas. Do one quick boots-on-the-ground scour for deer sign if needed. But then get out and don’t come back until it’s time to hunt.
Entry routes are key. You don’t want to spook deer before you even hunt them. Choose access that won’t alert deer to your presence. These routes should prevent deer from seeing, smelling or hearing you during your approach. Also, think about the ground scent you leave behind that can potentially spook deer long after you’re gone. That’s a factor as well.
5. Get Close to the Beds
Finding the bed is key. Look for pressured bucks to bed on leeward ridges, islands of cover, ridge points and other locations that give them the advantage. Pressured deer generally move lesser distances from their beds during daylight hours. That’s why it’s even more important to determine where their beds are located. Oftentimes, if you can set up within 100 yards of their daytime lair, and do so without bumping them, the odds of seeing them during daylight increase significantly.
The first time in is almost always the best opportunity to kill a deer. Each time after that likely decreases your odds of success. But if you do hunt multiple times (as we most often times do), as long as you have options, hunt a slightly different position each time. And try to only hunt on high-odds days. This will pressure deer less and increase the likelihood of success.
Furthermore, doing hang-and-hunts (and taking the stand back down each time), will keep other hunters off your radar. It’s extremely common for people to hang stands nearby other stands they find. If they find yours, expect others to magically appear in the vicinity.
7. Choose Good Exit Routes
Your exit route is just as important as the entry. You’re preserving your future hunts by not spooking deer as you leave. So, don’t blare out of there when it’s time to go. You’re doing yourself a huge favor by leaving just as covertly and quietly as you arrived.