What to Do When Your Deer Disappear

Have you ever been so excited and overly prepared for opening day of deer season only to be disappointed later by the lack of deer you see in a sit?

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Nathan Unger with his 3 1/2 – 4 1/2 year old seven point in 2013 over a food plot in the late season

I know I have – so the question then becomes where did they all go? What happened to all the bucks I had on trail cameras before the season? Or what happened to the quantity of deer that I scouted?

There are several possible reasons for these disappearances  and it would take a while to list them all here, however I want to highlight some of the main reasons for deer disappearing from your stand location.

1.) With Season Change Comes Change in Patterns

If you think about it, this idea makes perfect sense. As leaves begin to fall and vegetation begins to die off in the winter months, deer seek out the best cover possible which, unfortunately, means that the buck you’ve been watching is no longer showing up on your trail cam.

This type of cover can vary from swamp habitat to young pines 5-6 feet tall to tall grass to dips in a hillside. Finding these environments where deer like to bed and setting up within range, yet not bumping them with your scent is sure to increase your chance of killing that big buck.

2.) Pressure

This is tough because not always are you the one supplying the pressure. It could come from other hunters, farmers, gun clubs (I know this from experience), weather conditions or other predators.

While you may not be able to control some of these, you want to control yours variables as much as possible.

a.) Eliminating your scent as best you can, and trying to stay upwind of bedding areas will be a huge step in decreasing hunting pressure. I can’t tell you how many times I took the easier route to my stand because of lack of time or just plain laziness and ended up bumping deer – and not just any deer- big bucks!

b.) Getting in your stand early enough and staying long enough. One of the last things you want to do is try to get 5 or ten extra minutes of sleep which may be all it takes for you to bump a deer while you’re walking to your stand. Then, especially in the late season, you might as well hunt a different location. The same is true for when you get out. If deer are around you after shooting light – wait them out. It’s better that you not bump them and ruin your next hunt in that location. Because it will educate those deer and they will associate that pressure with your stand or that area.

3.) Food Sources

Even though you may have food on your property, guess what? The hunter next door to you probably does as well. So the key here is, provide the better option for deer. I mean think about it, would you rather have a filet mignon or an overcooked sirloin? Yes, I’m being facetious, but you would obviously want the juiciest, best-tasting option out there, and it’s the same for deer. If you live in a state where baiting isn’t allowed take steps to plant food plots before the season. Foods such as sugar beets or brassica are great late season options because after the first frost these taste like candy to deer.

 

 

Chasing My Dream

As a boy, I always wondered what I would do as I grew into adulthood. It wasn’t because I was unsure about my career choice, but it was because I wondered how I would make it a full time career.

I grew up hunting and fishing in middle Georgia and always dreamed of owning my own hunting camp or farm one day to manage and take care of myself. However this isn’t the most popular choice because many people view the outdoors much like they view reading a book or riding a bike. Just a hobby. So over the years I’ve wondered how I can make it my career. I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods and by the lake mulling over how this dream would come true. One of my biggest role models in this particular area is my uncle who for as long as I’ve know him has made a good living and has been able to travel to various places and see some pretty incredible animals and landscapes. However, he still works a full-time job and takes these trips one or twice a year. Yes, such a career as traveling and seeing the outdoors can be expensive, but, it takes starting at the bottom and working your way up. Over my 22 years I’ve boiled it down to three points that are essential for my dream to become a reality.

1. Do not give up or give in

2. Keep chasing despite critics

3. Work hard

Now these are very simple, but maybe a more professional blogger and deer hunter can articulate it better than I.

http://wiredtohunt.com/2013/10/04/today-im-quitting-my-job-for-deer-for-you-and-for-a-dream/

This blog has inspired me to not give up my dream of the outdoors, and to pursue it relentlessly even if it means making some sacrifices. Author of the blog, Wired To Hunt says it best,

“So that I may fully pursue my dream of chasing whitetails and sharing my experiences with the world. And so that I may truly live.” – Mark Kenyon

What will I do, you might ask?

I will continue to pursue my dream relentlessly until I hit a wall and then I will find a way around or through the wall and press on until my dream is reached!

(Written by Mr. Nathan Unger. Nathan is a Senior at the University of Georgia majoring in Public Relations. Nathan is an avid hunter and a passionate outdoorsman from Southwest Virginia)

Four Things I Learned From The 2014 Deer Season

By: Nathan Unger

With each new hunting season comes new obstacles, new challenges and hopefully new trophies. That’s why each hunting season is just as exciting as the last if not more exciting.  Sometimes this means that unexpected scenarios occur that one needs to be aware of in order to be put in a position to put the big buck down. Here are five things I learned or was reminded of this year after nearly a decade of hunting.

1.) Preparation = Success.

This might be a no-brainer, but the little things that are done correctly ahead of time can put you in a position to succeed when you’re on stand during the peak time of the season. Those that hunt out of box stands can make sure to clean out leaves, wasp nests and other clutter that can make noise when you’re hunting. Make sure that stands are tightened and seats are oiled somehow. WD-40 is easy to use in order to eliminate squeaks and unnecessary sounds when hunting. Be sure that rotten wood is replaced and loose wood is properly tightened. These simple tasks can be avoided during the season and can provide great success when the hunting is hot.

2.) Spooking deer will not always ruin your hunt.

It’s always a hunter’s nightmare when he or she spooks deer walking into a stand. Unfortunately I learned this the hard way this year when I had a late start to my stand and spooked a herd bedding in the woods on a hillside on my way in. These deer either winded me or saw me or both, but either way it was not a good beginning to my hunt. However, a separate occasion I started walking into my stand and spooked a group that was bedding down in a thicket. Later that morning, my brother killed his biggest buck to date near where I had spooked the deer a couple hours earlier. The key to this success is playing the wind. This might be obvious, but it’s the solid truth. This was the first year in my hunting experience that I really paid attention to the wind, and nearly every time we had success was because the wind was in our favor.

3.) Know the food of choice each season

This year was an exceptional year for acorns which in my neck of the woods, pun intended, made it hard to hunt over food plots. Typically we’re fortunate enough to take a deer or two over our food plot each season, but this year we didn’t take a single one. Given, there were a lot of variables involved for not hunting the plots as much such as more deer on a certain portion of the property, hunting more often on or near the woods and hunting a deer we had patterned near a stand on a treeline. However, these variables all had three common factors: ample acorns, a water source and a bedding area. Piles and piles of acorns layered the ground this year which allowed deer not to have to travel as much, especially later in the season.

4.) Never take your property for granted

I think sometimes we forget how blessed we really are. Some hunters may have the means to hunt thousands of acres, and some may have less than one hundred. Either way it could all be gone in the blink of an eye. Whether it gets sold, ravaged by fires, cut for timber or the deer simply just leave it doesn’t matter. The point I’m trying to make is to enjoy the time you have while you have it. Enjoy it with friends or with family but don’t forget to take a moment to sit back and be thankful for the blessings given to you.

(Written by Mr. Nathan Unger. Nathan is a Senior at the University of Georgia majoring in Public Relations. Nathan is an avid hunter and a passionate outdoorsman from Southwest Virginia)

The Quest For Uni-brow

It’s always thrilling when you discover new bucks on your property that you didn’t know existed. Such is the case with the infamous buck Uni-brow we discovered the week before Christmas this year. He was first seen trailing two does followed by a couple of other smaller bucks. This was exciting because up until this point we thought that an eight point that is only 2 1/2 or 3 years old was the dominant buck in the area. This was clearly not true.

Three days later we spotted the buck at dusk crossing a creek bottom so fast that he didn’t present a shot. The odd thing, though, was that he was already with a bachelor group of bucks. The oddity wasn’t that he was with two or three bucks. He was with SEVEN! After the hunt that night we got together and talked about a game plan to get a shot on this buck.

Because this buck was so elusive we were not sure we would see him again since it was late in the season. Low and behold we were wrong.

Christmas Eve day my brother and I decided to get up and brave the rain to see if we could spot this buck. It had started raining early that morning, and was pouring by the time we arrived at our hunting destination. The stands we wanted to hunt were a solid mile into the woods, and the only thing we had to keep us dry was the roof of our Kubota over our head. We decided to park several hundred yards away and walk in for fear that the Kubota would get stuck in the mud. Today was not a day to get stuck while it was pouring rain.

The two of us had discussed the night before that we would be patient for the buck and not shoot any does since both of us had already gotten one a piece. With this goal in mind we began trekking through the woods in the torrential rain. We settled in early before light with cloud cover that provided several more minutes of low light. We got in our box blinds, and I began taking off my wet outer layer of clothing to stay dry. Nothing was moving the first part of the morning around my stand, but little did I know Caleb’s experience was quite the opposite. I could see several turkeys coming out of the woods down the hill about 200 yards off by a creek bottom, but still no deer.

Around 8:40 am, I heard a shot. At that moment I knew he  had a chance of taking down this big deer. In my excitement I immediately radioed him and waited for a response. “I don’t know if I got him. I made a good shot, but he came running out of the woods right at me,” Caleb said. There were still deer in the area so we had to stop using the radios for a little while. Finally, I get a call on the radio saying, “He’s huge!” Caleb tracked the deer’s blood trail down to a ravine where he had seen deer run before. “I knew where he was going,” Caleb said. The deer ended up in a ravine where the two of us had to drag him out and up a hill where our RTV couldn’t get to. Finally we got the deer loaded, and off we went back to the cabin. On the way back we called home to say we had gotten a deer, but didn’t stress how big it was. When we arrived back at the house it was all summed up by the first expressions of family members when they saw the big buck that will forever be remembered as the Uni-brow buck.

Caleb's deer on Christmas Eve morning
Caleb’s deer on Christmas Eve morning

(Written by Mr. Nathan Unger. Nathan is a Senior at the University of Georgia majoring in Public Relations. Nathan is an avid hunter and a passionate outdoorsman from Southwest Virginia)