John's Journal...

Preparation Will Help You Get Your Buck Deer

Day 2: The Woods Sitters Watch for Deer Before the Season Begins with Outdoor Writer John E. Phillips

Editor’s Note: You can do plenty to stack the odds in your favor, if you start planning now for a successful deer hunt. The sooner you can get that buck in your sights, the better.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger View“Well, I guess I’m going out and sit in a tree stand the rest of the afternoon,” Jim Brownlee of Birmingham, Alabama, said. “Yeah, I guess we will too,” Kevin Strother and Greg Oliver, also of Birmingham, agreed. Without guns, these three hunters left our hunting club daily about 2 pm and sat in their tree stands until dark the week before deer season opened. Then each morning they were up before daylight and in those stands until about 11:00 am. I assumed that they were either just weird or because of hectic work schedules, needed a solitary retreat into the woods to shuck the frustrations of society by hanging off a tree stand and observing nature most of the day. However, when bow season arrived, all three of the loners either bagged a deer or had two or three shots at deer early in the season. So, I began to investigate these men.

“We go into the woods 2 to 3 weeks before the season to sit in tree stands to learn the deer’s movement patterns,” Strother explains. “Since bowhunters can take either-sex deer, we’re not so interested in where a deer is likely to show-up. What we are looking for are areas of high deer concentrations. We’re searching for regions where the most deer can be seen in the shortest time. We are also looking for the best trees in that region in which to put our tree stands. Now the only way you can be sure that you’re hunting from the right spot during the season, and especially in the first days of the season, is to pattern the deer before the season and actually see them using an area. What the three of us try and do is not only identify one productive place for our tree stands but also to locate two or three spots that we can bet on seeing deer the first week of bow season. We do this through observation, scouting and using trail cameras. Then if hunter pressure builds-up in any one region, we can move to another one of our hunting areas and still have a good chance of taking deer. When we go into the woods that week or two before deer season, we’re probably hunting harder than we will the rest of the season. The big difference is that although we’re finding the deer, we’re not taking them.”

Although a hunter may assume that predicting where the deer will show-up at the beginning of each season is easy after scouting the same woodlot for 2 or 3 consecutive years, Kevin Strother says, “But that just isn’t true. Oftentimes there will be an acorn crop failure. If you’re depending on hunting over acorns to take deer, and the acorns aren’t available, then you don’t know what the deer are eating. One year while scouting before the season, we learned that the acorn crop in our area had failed. There were several fresh clear-cuts in our region, and some new logging roads had opened up during the winter. From our scouting, we determined that the deer apparently were feeding on the poke sallet that had grown up in the clear-cuts and along the logging roads.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger View“I took a stand prior to bow season along one of these poke sallet roads. Sure enough, every afternoon the deer would come out of the swamp area, move into the poke weeds and begin to feed like grazing cattle. I discovered that the deer wanted the poke sallet, and that they were feeding along the roads. Then, I found several areas where poke sallet was growing on roads. Each morning and afternoon, I watched these roads for the deer. And, sure enough, the deer showed-up. So, at the first of the season, I got back into my tree stand. The deer once again appeared, and I took one. No matter how much pre-season scouting you do, if you don’t sit in a tree stand where you think the deer will show-up and actually see the deer, then your pre-season scouting is not nearly as effective.”

To learn more about deer hunting, you can get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks, “How to Hunt and Take Big Buck Deer on Small Properties,” (John’s latest book), "How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” “How to Take Monster Bucks,” and “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” or to prepare venison, get “Deer & Fixings.” Click here on each, or go to, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.

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About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: The Bottleneck Hunter Gets His Deer with Dr. Robert Sheppard

Check back each day this week for more about Preparation Will Help You Get Your Buck Deer"

Day 1: You Can Take a Buck This Deer Season with Outdoor Writer John E. Phillips
Day 2: The Woods Sitters Watch for Deer Before the Season Begins with Outdoor Writer John E. Phillips
Day 3: The Bottleneck Hunter Gets His Deer with Dr. Robert Sheppard
Day 4: The Field Hunter Gets His Buck Too with Ronnie Groom
Day 5: The Nut Hunter and the Also Scouter Bag Their Buck Deer Each Season with Outdoor Writer John E. Phillips

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Entry 793, Day 2