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The Back 40

Whitetail Intrusion

Thu, October 31, 2013

For the Whitetail deer, intrusion is everything.  In most areas of the Midwest, food, water, and cover can be found everywhere.  Remember, a Whitetail doesn’t require a big block of timber, they’ll settle for a waterway in the middle of a cut corn field if that’s where they feel safest…or if that’s all that’s available to them. 

Wherever a Whitetail, particularly a mature Whitetail, decides to bed down, you can be assured they feel relatively safe.  That feeling of safety comes from a lack of intrusion into that area.  That’s an important thing to remember for us small property hunters.  Very important.  Leave your scent or get busted walking through a bedding area and you’ve eliminated the deer’s feeling of safety.  Do it one too many times, and they’ll find a new safe zone.  That doesn’t mean you can’t hunt a bedding area, but you must be aware of how you enter and exit that area…and when you enter.  Just because you didn’t bust a deer out of the area as you entered doesn’t mean they aren’t aware of your intrusion into their safe zone. 

For years I did the wrong thing.  Worse, I knew I was doing it wrong.  My love of hunting and just being in my woods made me overhunt my area.  Slowly I began to see fewer and fewer deer.  I was addicted though.  I couldn’t stay away from my farm.  This year I changed my habits.  Absence not only makes the heart grow fonder, it makes hunts much more enjoyable.  I appreciate my woods much more every time I’m out there.  It almost feels like the first year I hunted my place.  Staying away added a newness to my farm.  I’ve also had more close encounters with Whitetails this year.

Opening morning found me hunting from the ground.  This year’s plan was to take my high-brow 8 (previous blog) from the ground.  Not because I couldn’t take him from a tree, but because I tried to add something new to my hunting experiences.  All I saw was a small doe that morning.  However, on my way out that morning, I pulled an SD card from a trail camera placed only 15 yards from where I was hunting (under a huge Oak).  When I got home and checked the card, I was absolutely shocked.  Stunned.  I felt stupid actually.  Apparently I had two very nice bucks eating acorns about 16-17 yards away from me in the morning darkness and I had no idea.  I never heard a thing.  They hung out for 9 minutes according to the camera.  Neither deer was my high-brow 8, but two very nice bucks nonetheless.  How they were there for that long at that close distance and I never heard them I will never know.  It did teach me that I was doing something right this year.  These deer were completely comfortable, although I did have a couple pictures that showed them staring right down my shooting lane at me.  To avoid that happening again, I changed plans to hunt their staging area the following afternoon.  If you read my last blog you know how that worked out for me. 

One of the two bucks was a 125” short tined, wide racked, buck that my daughter wanted.  She has yet to shoot a mountable deer, and I promised I’d never shoot him. 

Last weekend, my daughter and I joined for an afternoon hunt.  About 300 yards separated our stands.  As I eased into my stand, I felt good about the hunt.  The wind was right.  SSE.  Perfect.  Shortly after I got comfortable, I heard some noise behind be.  I didn’t want to turn around, but I was fairly sure it was birds on the ground.  The sounds in the leaves were just too soft to be a deer.  Wrong again.  I looked down, straight down.  Under my left knee was my daughter’s buck not 5 feet from the base of my tree.  I immediately retrieved my phone from my pocket and began taking pictures and video.  Lots of pictures and video.  He stayed within 15 yards of me for about a half hour.  How cool is that?  While in the stand, I sent some of the pictures and one video to my daughter.  Her text back to me, “Freaking serious?!”  I wish we would have been in each other’s stand that afternoon, but that’s hunting.  At least we know he’s still around…and alive…and comfortable. 

Staying out of the woods a lot this season has actually created more hunting memories for me.  I appreciate each sit much more, and I’ve been seeing more deer.  Intrusion is everything.  Comfortable deer stick around, uncomfortable deer leave.  Now I just hope some pretty lady doesn’t drag my daughter’s buck to the neighbor’s where he’s sure to get shot.  We will be hard at it this weekend.  Yes, I know, I just said staying out of the woods creates more deer opportunities and now I’m saying that I’ll be hard at it this week.  It’s the rut though.  All bets are off.  Since I’ve already taken what I believe to be the best buck on my property, I’m hoping to see a cruising buck new to my area.  More than that, I’m hoping my daughter gets her mountable deer before he leaves in search of does. 

Next year’s plans?  Same as this year’s.  Very little hunting and very few intrusions.  My relaxed approach to hunting this year has been much more enjoyable. 

John Soehn


Great perspective as always John. Your comments about being addicted and not being able to stay out of the woods made me look in the mirror. It is so darn hard at times to stay away as at times a sit in a tree is therapeutic and refreshing regardless of seeing any deer. BUT your point is well made in order to see more deer, you may have to spend less time. Good luck to you and your daughter. Nice read.

Posted by Mallardmike on October 31

Thanks, Mike.  You and I agree.  Sitting in a tree is therapy.  It’s killing me to stay away, but I know it’s the right thing to do.  Here’s how nuts I am.  I actually waste time and diesel to drive by my place just to see it.  It’s my pacifier till my next hunt I guess.  Can’t wait for this weekend.

Posted by Treehugger on October 31

I hear ya, John. We hunt a small piece and there are some nights that we stay stuck in our stands for a long time because there are bedded deer near us and we don’t want to disturb them getting out of our stands. Disturbing a few deer can be worse than actually firing a shot. lol

Posted by Walston on October 31

Limited trips to the stand as well as being disciplined to ONLY hunt the right wind are two very important keys to not disturbing deer.  With the wrong wind I can assure you you’re disturbing deer you never knew were there.  I’ve stayed home 3 times already this year only to have my wife ask me why I’m not hunting lol.  I know her and my son like it when I stay home but this time of year it can drive me almost insane!! 
Great article John

Posted by Andy Meador on October 31

What are you guys thoughts on small urban tracts where these mature bucks see, smell, hear and get bumped by humans on a daily basis? Do they become immune to it in a way? Can you hunt these areas harder than other areas without driving out the deer? From my experience that seems to be the case in the area I hunt.

Posted by kschroeder.DVM on October 31

Urban deer are a totally different animal in my opinion.  I used to hunt them as well many years ago in Lake County.  You’re right in thinking that deer become immune to human traffic and scent.  Not totally, but much more so than farm country deer.  At my place, if you see deer 300 yards off the road and stop your truck to take a look, say goodbye to them.  Another aspect of urban deer is their habitat.  Many urban deer are confined to small areas.  They can’t leave that woodlot, unless they want to cut through Walmart’s parking lot, or a car dealership…which they will at times.  They will, however, became more nocturnal when pressured too hard.  In the end though, an urban deer is much easier to hunt.  You should still play the wind and enter/exit your stand wisely though.

Posted by Treehugger on October 31

Hard to stay out when neighbors cross property lines. 40 acres is pretty delicate to pressure even by non hunting activities.

Posted by selfinflicted on October 31

Im trying something new this year, I have not been in the woods where I bow hunt since December.  It was really hard not putting cameras in there.  I miss having pictures but I think it is for the best.  I am gonna wait another week and Im gonna slip in with my climber for some all day sits.

Posted by butterball on October 31

Well put John, I to adopted these same low intrusion techniques last year and the numbers and quality deer that I am seeing/taking has doubled. It took me ten years of hard knocks and poor seasons to figure it out, but it works. I hunt a 40 acre CRP waterway that holds nice bucks every year. It is up to me, and how I go about hunting it that dictates my success or lack of. Less hunting and more long range scouting has been the ticket to my success. Hunt less for more success. I just made that up. Cheers!

Posted by Colt on October 31

All bets are off with the Rut. U got that right. Shot some of my biggest deer because of whitetail intrusion in other words neighbors ran them to me. lol
Good read keep em comin

Posted by cuttnstrut on November 01

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