Preparation is key, my 4-step “How-To” process:
- Identify Deer Trails, make false scrapes, choose key areas
- Hang tree stands, add safety lifelines
- Control human scent (what works for me and my family)
- Monitor weather, look for a rising barometer and cold front: Prime Time
By Hunter Whiteley
Going into this year’s hunting season, I was facing unfamiliar circumstances on new land I had never hunted before. I had to find a way to figure out boundary lines, the deer population, feeding areas, travel routes, where they were bedding and everything else I would need to know to be able to harvest mature deer.
My preparations for this season started back in the spring when I received permission to hunt a piece of property in Central Kansas that had been barely hunted. I knew virtually nothing about that property. My wildlife studies in college helped a great deal and a summer spent interning under deer biologist, Dr. Grant Woods, was really important.
I started by breaking down the property by using the “onX” mapping system app. It was invaluable in helping me figure out everything I needed to know about the property, as well as other new property my Dad and Papaw were hunting in Missouri. It connects to all my mobile devices and works even if I am in an area where I am not getting service. You really need to go to www.onxmaps.com and check it out for yourself. You can sign-up for a free trial or subscribe. I can’t begin to tell you all it will do to help you, even on land you have been hunting for years.
After using onX to determine high percentage areas, it was time to put out trail cameras so I could see what deer were using this new property. I did a lot of research to determine the best trail cameras and chose Cuddeback® (www.cuddeback.com) because of their originality and what I read about their performance. I placed several of their cameras that utilize the wireless CuddeLink system across the property. Pictures are sent to a home networking camera and then sent directly to my phone. The battery life is exceptional, a huge advantage, providing the capability to stay out of potential prime hunting areas in the off-season. This allowed me to establish an estimate of deer numbers on the property, as well as age classes of the bucks in the area.
After several months of pictures, I was able to gather the information needed to place several treestands across the property. Because we mainly bow hunt, I chose to hang Primal treestands with their climbing sticks and hung two of them together in some places. This was for the times my girlfriend, Molly, would join me on the hunt. Dad and Papaw also use Primal on their new Missouri hunting property. Papaw likes their innovative ladder stands with the Stabilizer Truss System and Grip Jaw System that holds it snuggly to the tree. Go online to www.primaltreestands.com to check out their stands.
While hanging my Kansas stands, I transitioned my Cuddeback® cameras from salt licks to mock scrapes that I made using ScrapeFix® products www.scrapefix.com. I would clear a 2 to 3-foot area down to bare earth in places where there were branches deer would use as licking branches. I then put 2 to 3 puffs of their Velvet, ScrapeFix® or Rut powder, depending on the season, both on the limb and the bare ground. In several places where there was not a suitable licking branch, I used their Vine to make my own licking branch. I can attest with photographs that the ScrapeFix® products really worked. As the season approached, there were several quality bucks using these scrapes and a number of mature doe’s scent checking them, all captured on my cameras.
A few weeks before the season started, I freshened all the scrapes and then put up a piece of gear that every hunter should have attached to every tree they have a stand in. None of our family will climb into stands without first attaching a Hunter Safety System Lifeline™ (reflective) to our Hunter Safety System harnesses for all of our stands, no matter where they are at. Molly and I use their Tandem Lifelines™ when we are hunting together. Lifelines insure our safety while ascending and descending a tree and getting into and out of our stands. For your sake and your family, I urge you to go to www.huntersafetysystem.com and read more about the inexpensive HSS Lifelines. They are simple to use and can save your life!
Knowing that a deer’s sense of smell is its primary defense, all that prepping would have done no good if we did not do everything possible to control our scent. I did lots of research on what scent control clothing was best for us to use and decided ScentLok was the way to go. To really understand all they do to make their clothing scent-free, you need to go to www.scentlok.com/technologies and read about it.
Their scientific research was so convincing everyone in our family that hunts are now wearing ScentLok in early, mid and late season. We also use their Ozone generator bags and closet to keep our clothing scent-free, as well as their scent-free sprays for our hunting equipment.
On a morning in Missouri with a rising barometer and an approaching cold front, Papaw counted 57 deer come from all directions and Dad also saw numerous deer that day. Neither of them chose to shoot, but both these long-time deer hunters are convinced that ScentLok really works.
Molly couldn’t join me on the first morning of archery season so I geared up in my ScentLok clothing and headed to one of my Primal stands, hooked up my Lifeline™ and climbed up to hunt by myself. I saw around 25 deer that morning and, thanks to my ScentLok, none of them had any idea I was there. By 10 am I had harvested two mature does to fill the freezer for my family. By the way, this was the same morning my Dad and Papaw were seeing all those deer in Missouri, so that should also tell you the importance of being out there during a rising barometer and cold front if you want to see deer. There were a lot of text and pictures being sent back and forth that day.
Since that morning, Molly and I have been out hunting numerous times and have passed on a lot of deer. I am still on the hunt for a big buck, but I feel confident with the recent pictures sent from our Cuddeback system, the time will come, whether it’s this year or next.
Follow us on Instagram @greatozarksoutdoors to see what happens. When it does, I will smile and remember all the prepping I did on unfamiliar land to get to that special moment.
Hunter Whiteley is a senior at Kansas State University where he is majoring in Wildlife and Outdoor Enterprise Management.