With the passing of Thanksgiving, a lot of guys I know who want to be in the deer woods during the peak of the rut are just getting ready to start their season. They may not have missed much this year, although some areas always seem to do well, because the tremendous amount of acorns hitting the ground and dry conditions making it hard to grow food plots have made for hard hunting in other areas.
When hunting is a bit slow, it is often good to go back and look at the basics of deer behavior, instead of just dozing in a stand. Deer are creatures of the edges. They can be seen both in deep woods and open fields, but are more likely to be found on the boundaries of these two geographical types. Most of us know that feeders work best on the edge of an open area, near cover, rather than out in the open (unless the deer are VERY unsophisticated), and a stand in the middle of a field sort of “stands out”. Deer that have spent the night feeding under a bright moon will take the easy route to their bedding area, slipping along the edge of cover where they can leap into the thick stuff if they feel threatened. Although they might not feed in an open area in daylight, the edge of cover offers protection and browse, and if they need to run at high speed across open territory, that option is also available.
The owner of the field behind my property normally mows it in late summer or early fall, which means I can see across part of it from my stand. Although any deer on his side of the fence are off limits, being able to see them there is a plus, and several bucks have ended up on my side of the fence – and in my sights. This year he let it grow, and has not had cattle in it, so the rains have turned it into a mass of 6 foot plus high vegetation. They did mow a couple of tractor widths along the fence-line, probably for fence repair access, and this has turned into a travel route for deer that either were feeding in the field or on the edge of the cover further down. A stand built along the fence on the cleared side would likely disrupt this travel, and even though I can only see through a small cleared area from my stand 70 yards back from the open field, I can get a quick look at deer coming down it, and some will cross the fence to investigate my rye grass, feeders, and water trough.
Those hunting public land or other areas where permanent stands are not permitted or available can scout for tracks along these travel corridors (when the ground is damp enough to take tracks!) and surmise where the deer have been leaving the path for feeding or to a bedding area and wait near these spots in early morning or late evening. Where I hunt, seeing deer moving in these areas in mid-day is not unusual, so giving up too soon can be a mistake.