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How To/Pro-Tips

Tree Stand Safety

Tree stands and automobiles have two things in common. The first thing is buckling up for safety. Cars have seat belts and tree stands have safety belts for exactly the same reason: they save lives and prevent injuries.

The other thing they have in common is that you should never drive or climb when you have been drinking alcohol, taking drugs (prescription or over the counter) that make you drowsy, or for any other reason (like a late-night card game or bull session at camp) when you are sleepy or drowsy. If while either driving or on stand, if you get sleepy, pull over in your car or climb down from the stand.

One hardly ever finds an old car (in drivable condition) out in the woods. However, one frequently finds an old tree stand. Never climb up in an old stand of unknown age and condition. If you think it is in a great spot, tear it down and put up your own.

Rainy Day Deer Hunting

Rain can be good or bad for deer hunting. It depends on the amount. Cloudy, drizzly days are excellent for hunting. The clouds prolong the period of low light that deer prefer. They are then apt to move more during the day. The moist air is excellent for scenting so the deer feel more secure. Such periods are seldom windy, so deer are also comfortable with their ability to hear well.

For the hunter, damp days offer quiet movement on wet leaves and the lack of wind makes it less likely his scent will be carried to the deer. However, any scent trail the hunter leaves will remain strong for a longer period. Be careful where you walk and what you touch.

Heavy rain depresses deer movement. They seek whatever shelter they can find, hole up and wait it out. Right after the heavy rain, deer are usually very active and hunters should be ready to hit the woods when the rain lets up.

Crossing Points

One thing you should note during pre-season scouting is where deer cross fences, gullies, streams and other obstacles. Deer are athletic and graceful but even they occasionally misjudge and leave a tuft of hair on a fence or fence post. This gives away a preferred crossing.
Large gullies and streams with steep banks will have preferred crossing points that are very obvious all year round. Often deer, particularly bucks, will use a gully or stream as part of the trail if the banks are tall enough to provide good cover.
Steep slopes also often show well-defined deer trails and these trails are chosen not just for ease of travel but for cover considerations, using the steepness of the slope itself as cover. Usually, they prefer the cover to be on the uphill side and they keep watchful eyes on the downslope.
Deer movement areas and patterns are chosen on the basis of both comfort and cover but as the hunting season progresses, cover becomes the more crucial consideration.

Duck Calling Fundamentals

There are a lot of theories about duck calling and I'm not sure that any one of them works 100 percent of the time. Sometimes ducks seem to want a lot of calling with long and nearly continuous highballs. "Put them on a string and don't give them time to think," as the old Reelfoot-style callers used to say.
At other times and places, too much calling seems to put ducks off. Maybe not flaring them but keeping them endlessly circling when they should be landing. Heavy hunting (and calling) pressure often results in call-shy birds but sometimes I think it's a matter of their mood or some other factor that we don't understand.
I favor the style of calling that puts ducks in the bag. I don't hesitate to change my style - more or less, loud or soft - when whatever I am presently doing isn't doing the job. Sometimes a simple change-up from the locally popular calling style tells the birds something that they haven't already heard.

The BIG Call

The regular and well-known deer calls, such as the fawn bleat, doe bleat, buck grunt, etc., work well most of the time. This is because deer are curious about other deer in their area. In particular, the buck grunt works well in the pre-rut when the local bucks are setting up their dominance hierarchy and territories. A strange "buck's" grunt puts them all on edge and wanting to literally put him in his place.

However, every once in awhile you've got to come up with something special. The ultimate challenge to a dominant buck is the "snort-grunt-wheeze." This is serious business and so profoundly challenging to a top-line buck that I've seen it pull a dominant buck off a doe's trail and sometimes present a shot.

However, the snort-grunt-wheeze has a downside. It can cause a less dominant buck to back off. Hearing what he thinks is local "big boss," he will avoid confrontation. That's exactly how and why the local dominant buck uses this call.

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