Archive for the ‘white tailed deer’ Tag


Treestand 0002

As white-tailed deer move into the late rut and post rut period they change her feeding habits and behavior. Successful deer hunters should change their tactics as well.  This is especially true of treestand placement.

The latter part of deer season for bowhunters and the start of firearms seasons is a time to move back into deep cover of woods, swamps, farmland sloughs, river bottoms and thick stands of cattails.

Big bucks will stay there and not go out to feed with does and yearlings. At this time the rigors of the rut and dodging hunters wears them out.  They seek isolated locations to rest up.  They find the nastiest, thickest cover around and stay there.  Hunters have to go in there too if they want a big buck.

During the rut, a stand over a breeding scrape is a good bet. All scrapes are not breeding scrapes.  They differ in both size and location.

Breeding scrapes are usually 2 to 4-feet in diameter and normally found in heavy cover with an overhanging bush or tree limb. Deer muddy the scrape with deer urine and leave tracks in it.

Territorial scrapes are smaller and made in more open areas. They usually are located at the corners of wooded areas or along grain or alfalfa field edges.

To hunt a breeding scrape, locate the stand downwind of the scrape about 20-yards and high up a tree. As the buck approaches a scrape he usually does so from downwind.  Do not go anywhere near the scrape so as to avoid contaminating it with human scent.

After selecting the area for the stand it is time to pick the exact location. Try to predict what the deer sees and where he will travel as he passes the stand location.

Placement of a stand should be in natural surroundings. Use available materials to camouflage you and the stand.  If there is a chance a rising or setting sun might outline you forget that location.  You could sit there all season and not see a deer.

Bowhunters especially need a clear shot as a single twig can deflect an arrow and ruin the chance at that buck of a lifetime. Tailor the spot to meet the need for clear shooting alleys by tying back branches and brush more open in the areas you thin a shot will present itself.  Remember later to untie the branches and leave the woods the way you found it.  This is better than cutting branches for cover or for stands.

Choose a stand location that you can get into and out of with a minimum of disruption to the surroundings. Plan your path to the stand so that it will not encounter a trail along which a deer might travel.  It is important that deer not know you are in the area.  If possible enter the area with the wind in your face.

A tree in a clump of trees is better than one more open no matter how good the shooting lanes. A pine tree with some limbs cut away works well as long as you are conscious of what the deer will see from ground level.  Even better is just tying back the limbs so that when you are done with the stand, the string can be cut and the go back to the original place without damage to the tree.

Remember that you will be in the stand for a long time. Think about your comfort and ability to remain still.  People have different levels of tolerance for discomfort.  Judge your stand according to yours.

Once the stand is in place, you might have to move it in order to fine tune it. If you do, then do not use it for a few days so that the deer become accustomed to its presence.  You might even place a gunnysack full of leaves in it so that they become use to seeing a shape in it.  Later remove the sack and replace it with you.

Think like a deer when considering treestand placement. It is hard work but pays dividends during hunting season.



coyote in winter

Coyotes have a tough time finding food in winter but wildlife watchers are more apt to see them.


A red fox dives for fleeing mice in field of brown grass.  An eagle soars overhead calling to its mate with a shrill scream.  A white-tailed deer browses on the edge of a thicket.  Canada geese rest in the wetlands.  This is Illinois at its wildest.

The woods and fields are alive with wildlife.  Nature lovers can find all sorts of birds and animals to watch throughout the county.  Especially popular is bird watching and eagle tours.  But, other areas can provide equally interesting viewing.

A variety of vegetation and terrain in this area attracts and holds numerous species of birds and mammals.  Two hundred and thirty-seven species of birds are resident, migrants, or frequent visitors.

Watching wildlife does not take a lot of expensive gear.  Binoculars and some guide books are a good beginning.  Field guides assist in identification and help at home when reviewing ones notes from a day afield.

When heading out, be sure to take a notebook.  Field notes should include the date, location, weather conditions and animal behavior, along with any unique observations.

Beginners must learn to identify animals and birds by sight and sound.  Noting the color, shape and other outstanding observations make it easier to identify species.

Familiarize yourself with animal behavior and favored habitats.  For example, deer tend to prefer thick cover until late in the day when they move out into fields to feed.

Learn to recognize animal habitats.  This knowledge assists in identification and helps to eliminate species not associated with a specific habitat.

Advanced wildlife watchers learn the calls and songs of mammals or birds.  This helps to identify those species hidden in dense cover.  By familiarizing oneself with bird songs and mammal calls, one can chase down each sound until he discovers the source.

The direct approach is not the best way to seek out wildlife.  Wild animals must always be wary of possible danger and when an intruder comes straight at them it usually signals a threat.  By acting disinterested while sneaking a glance now and then, you may be able to observe the unfolding drama of their activities.

It is important to be patient and avoid direct attention to the animal encountered.  Appear disinterested.  Fiddle with vegetation, look away from the animal while moving slowly closer and you will be able to approach much closer than you would think.  Staring at an animal causes them fear and uneasiness.  Quick looks are much less obvious and less likely to make the animal nervous.

Some animals such as ducks and geese can become very approachable due to constant association with human activity.  Other animals are so skittish that the first hint of the presence of humans sends them fleeing.

Generally, however, the use of patience in observing wildlife works well.  It will result in closer views for you and less intimidation for the animal.  Watching wildlife can be challenging and educational.



Whitetail Doe 0001

Early season bowhunters often encounter deer secluded in cornfields.  Hunting them requires an adaptation in hunting techniques.

Farmers are sometimes far behind schedule in planting their corn.  As a result, they do not get the field harvested until later than usual.  Many deer are going to stay in the heavy corn cover where they are less vulnerable.

Taking a white-tailed deer in a cornfield can be a simple matter of planning the attack and then staying with that pattern.

To begin, look for fields that are 80 percent harvested.  In areas with sparse timber for the deer to use as cover, they must move to the cornfields.  The deer seem secure in the cover of the unharvested corn and let down their guard.  Some deer will nervously approach a field and then completely relax once in the corn.  Good hunting days are those after fresh snow or rain has fallen and with a gentle wind blowing.

Begin the stalk on the downwind side of the field and perpendicular to the cornrows.  That is, if the cornrows are north and south, stalk will be east and west.  Start out about 30 yards in from the end of the field and move slowly across the field looking down the rows for deer.  Be aware of just how far up the rows you can see and divide that by half.

At the other side of the field, moves windward the distance that you determined as half of your visibility in the field.  Then return across the field parallel to the first path.  Again, look down each row in search of deer.  Repeat this pattern until a buck appears.

If a buck is sighted, back up three or four cornrows and move parallel to the row occupied by the buck.  At this point carefully look for other deer bedded near the buck sighted.  If they are spooked, the deer will in turn alert the bedded buck.  All of the time, remain down wind of the target buck.  If the quarry should be spooked and run away, remain in place and waiting.  Deer will circle to a location downwind of the place from which he started and then approach it to bed down again.  The bowhunter then has another chance for a shot.

If the deer is not alert, shoot his deer through the openings between corn plants.  A long shot is 15 feet in this kind of hunting.  Most shots are 8 to 10 feet.

Bowhunters shooting a heavy bow with the most stiffly spined arrows that accurately shoot from it do better.  Lighter spined arrows have too much parallax coming out of the bow.  Parallax is the bending of the arrow in response to the force of a bowstring upon release.  Because the arrow is flopping side to side, it hits on the corn plants and the arrow deflects from its course.  A heavy spined arrow travels a straighter course early on and then will penetrate heavy cover.

Hunting the cornstalk deer is a very challenging endeavor at best.  However, with this approach, the hunter to his advantage can use the heavy cover.


IL Whitetail 0052a

A kind of wooly appearance to the woods greets the dawn in the ShawneeNational Forest.  The archer views it from his treestand perch as he strains to see deer moving toward their bedding area.  Suddenly a multipoint buck appears and moves away out of range.  There will be another day.


Good habitat and acres of public access draw bowhunters to southern Illinois each October to ply their skills with bow and arrow in an attempt to harvest a white-tailed deer.  The archery deer season begins October 1st and continues into mid-January, except during the firearms season.


Although hunting pressure can be intense during the firearms season, the bow season is quite another story.  The combination of public land forest, old crop fields, private hay and grain fields produces some fine hunting situations.  Hunters often make the mistake of thinking that since these deer live in close proximity to man, they are easy to approach.  They are not.


White-tailed deer are often visible.  More often than not they vanish into the vegetation without being observed by the hunter.  Deer cover a lot of country seeking receptive mates as well as food and shelter.  They do not wander around, but rather they travel trails with a destination and a mission.  The trails usually follow the slope of the land and are located in areas that provide cover for their travels.  Deer make the most of cover available to them.


Early season archers encounter pre-rut deer on summer trails as they pass back and forth between bedding and feeding areas.  During the rut, rub and scrape lines mark a buck’s home territory.  Bucks follow the lines from bedding to feeding areas in the evening and vice versa in the morning.  But, they have love on their minds rather than just eating and sleeping.




Many deer hunters see deer hunting as going to the same area each year and sitting in a tree.  They hope for a deer to walk past and that they shoot straight.  Successful deer hunting requires study of the quarry, its biology, and the effect that man has had on both.

White-tailed deer disappeared from Illinois around the turn of the last century.  Reintroduced to Southern Illinois in the early 1930’s, reintroduction came in three phases:

The first deer came to southern Illinois and allowed to reproduce.  The idea was to get sufficient numbers to allow the program to move to step II.

Step II involved the trapping and translocation of deer to a suitable habitat in other parts of the state.  This was so successful that by 1957 some 33 counties opened to deer hunting.  By 1975, some 98 counties had deer seasons.

Step III became the over population that has caused depredation of crops and homeowner landscaping.  It also involves an increase in auto-deer accidents on area highways.  By the 1980’s over population of deer in many areas of the state was becoming a significant problem.

In the 1990’s wildlife officials decided to stress maintenance of deer density that would be capable of sustaining deer hunting.  It had to take into account the carrying capacity of the land.

Today there is emphasis in some areas to maintain trophy quality in the deer herd.  But, deer hunting is more than just shooting a big deer.  Deer hunters seek size and symmetry.

First is the preparation and anticipation of a hunt.  Some say it is the most fun part of a deer hunt. Then there is the isolation of sitting in a cold treestand waiting for a deer to come past.  Finally, there sometimes is the disappointment of being unsuccessful in getting a deer.  To the deer hunter these are all part of the game.

Deer hunting is about leveraging experience and knowledge.  All knowledge is cumulative.  The more one hunts, the better hunter he becomes.  The more he reads about hunting, he becomes a more informed hunter.  The more videos about hunting he views, the more discriminating he is in selecting his quarry.

As knowledge accumulates, one sorts out valid theories to test in a specific type of habitat.  One tests theories in the field.  Then the hunter begins to develop his own theories and test them.  That is how one becomes a better hunter.  One can always learn if he just keeps an open mind.

This year, study your deer hunting area.  Does it present the habitat that will attract and keep deer?  If deer are present, why are they there and where do they regularly travel.  By knowing why deer do what they do, one improves his chances of being able to be in position for that all important shot.

The huge expanses of public and private land available in southern Illinois attract hunters.  The lack of overcrowding makes the area an excellent place to hunt.  The Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations contains lists of all the public land hunting areas.  It is available free from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources offices though out the state.  It is also available anywhere place selling hunting and fishing licenses.


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