Still-hunting may be your best tactic at the moment

Barring severe weather, I have always enjoyed the second week of deer hunting, even over the first week.

Back when it was a bucks-only season for the first two weeks, I always hoped I wouldn’t have to hunt into the second week, but now that I have several licenses, I am pretty sure I will have to.

The atmosphere changes dramatically for the second week: most hunters have exhausted their time off to hunt and have gone back to work. It will seldom work this week, to just stand around in the open woods and hope someone else gets the deer up and moving and that they run by me. Hunters will be in short supply this week and the hunter serious about getting a deer will have to change tactics. Now, if we expect to get a deer we will have to actually hunt.

This week, good still-hunting will pay off. I stillhunt so excruciatingly slow, which I believe is the only genuine way to stillhunt, that most of my buddies find it difficult to stick with me. I take five slow steps, then stop to survey. I use my compact binoculars to pierce the brush and blowdowns. I keep every movement I make vertical, against my body so that movements to the side do not spook any deer that is lying in its bed watching for movement. If I need a handkerchief from my pocket, a look at the compass or whatever, I keep my arm tight to my body and slowly get out what I need. I raise the hanky, the compass, the piece of candy or whatever it is, vertically in front of my body so as to camouflage the movement. I try to walk so there is a large tree directly ahead of me and I stop behind that tree, and peer around the trunk to survey the situation.

My stillhunting pace is so slow the proverbial tortoise would beat me to the finish line. Unless there is a storm brewing that urges deer to feed during the day, deer will be lying down while you are moving. The only name of the game is for you to see the deer before it sees you and any movement they see signals danger.

You know how it goes; we start out slowly enough but soon, without realizing it, we are tramping faster and faster. Then in the distance, a couple deer bounce out of the brush and all you see is white tails waving. You scold yourself for moving too fast and vow to go slower. You do, for a few minutes, then we are back in the “way too fast” pattern.

My favorite places to stillhunt or to post for awhile are just inside thickets. There is always a network of trails inside a thicket and deer are much more likely to be mincing around over one of these trails rather than out in the open woods. You won’t be able to see as far around as you will in the open but you are much more apt to see deer moving during the day inside a thicket. My other favorite deer watch is at the corner of edge habitat, that is, where one kind of habitat joins another. Find where a patch of laurel borders a clear-cut, a stand of thick brush next to a corn field etc. Look for a trail that looks as if it has been used recently and hang out there.

I have a couple favorite second week haunts. One of them is just at the edge of a mountain. The entire ridge below is thick laurel and to the side is another stand of laurel. Any deer stirred up from either stand of laurel usually use a small corridor of woods to cross to the other stand.

A few years ago I was on post at this very spot. It was 2:30 p.m. of Thursday of the second week when a deer topped the hill headed for the laurel to my right. I saw antlers (didn’t have to count points then) so I began to follow him through the trees. When I shot, he was gone in one bound, into that laurel. My investigation showed that I had sheared off a sapling with my shot. I have harvested several deer from this spot.

My most memorable second week buck hunting came quite a few years ago. On Thursday of the second week, I hiked back in into the forest where few go ever. I found a spot where I could watch the edges of several thickets. Then I made a big mistake. I opened my bottle of deer lure and set it out in front of me about 5 yards.

After a couple hours of watching, I spotted a deer standing still, just its head around a tree looking straight at me. It looked like a statue. I raised my binoculars and could see it was a buck and realized it was scenting my lure and was looking exactly where it was coming from. I was pinned down and scolded myself for my foolishness. Any hunter would surely know that you don’t put scent out directly in front of you. Wouldn’t he?

I did get the rifle raised and waited. The buck stood frozen in place, just watching. All I could see was the head at the side of the tree. I waited. Finally he took a couple steps and again froze in place. In order to get a shot, even at the neck, I had to lean over a little and cant my rifle at an angle. I squeezed the trigger even while wondering if this could really work. For once in my life, luck was on my side because the 4 point dropped like a rock. Also unforgettable was the long drag from that spot back to my truck. When it got pitch dark, I secreted the buck for the night and recruited my son to finish the job for me next morning.

Maybe that is why he moved to Missouri. No more midnight calls to come help drag a buck.