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How To/Pro-Tips

String Up A Deer

How can you tell which path in a network of deer trails is the "hottest?" Which trails are used by bucks? Sewing thread can help you find out. From basic ground sign, pick out well-used trail segments and intersections near a good stand site. Next, tie lightweight brown or black cotton sewing thread across the trails. The thread must be very lightweight and tied securely and tautly so that a passing deer can snap the string easily (and so no passing human will be injured). Always use biodegradable cotton, never monofilament. Most deer are about 3 1/2 feet tall at the shoulder. To check for general deer traffic, tie the string about three feet high. To check out buck traffic, tie a strand "antler" high at about four feet. Use this strategy on deer trails on private land where you have permission to hunt. Do not "string up" public land open to public outdoor recreation and never tie strings where bikes or ATVs are used.

Luck Favors The Well-Informed

Scouting is nothing more than gathering good information that helps us make good hunting decisions. Making good decisions about the best places to hunt is much easier when you have the facts.

A key component in scouting and hunting whitetails is understanding the lay of the land. You can scout much smarter and save a lot of effort and time if you have a good overview of your hunting area. Topographic maps and aerial photos are a great first step toward smart scouting.

Both maps and photos can help you identify key terrain features that translate into the locations of travel corridors, bottlenecks, funnels, bedding areas, sanctuary areas and even food sources. A buck knows his ground intimately and so should you. Topographic maps and aerial photos may give you that "missing link" of information, often invisible on the ground, that ties key terrain features together for your quarry.

Topographic maps and aerial photos are available from the U.S. Geological Survey. Call 1-800-USA-MAPS.

Respect Your Stand

For most deer hunters, both archers and gun hunters, treestands provide a great tactical advantage. But, they must be treated with respect.

Inspect your stands before the season. Replace lost or corroded parts and make sure that the stand is as functional when it was brand new. (Other than adding manufacturer-approved accessories, never modify a commercial stand.)

With permanent stands, check for rotten wood and natural loosening of the stand caused by the wind. Never climb into an old stand you find in the woods.

Whenever you are in an elevated stand, wear a properly adjusted safety belt. Wear the belt while climbing as well and properly "tie off" before shifting or settling into hunting position.

Climbing stands require agility and practice. Practice climbing with your stand, particularly a new type, before the season opens.

Do not climb when fatigued or on medication that makes you drowsy. Always make your stand positions known to others and leave word when you expect to be back.

How High Is Up?

These days, whitetail deer do look up. Back in the old days, the treestand was the "magic bullet" and it didn't have to be very high to be magic.

It is uncomfortable to the deer to look up. The deer's neck is more rigid than ours and its eyes are situated to detect ground-based predators. Deer have excellent binocular (two-eye) and monocular vision with one eye working. This greatly increases lateral (side to side) visual range.

It takes special effort for the deer to look up; however, in highly pressured hunting situations, they definitely make the effort. When deer get this wary, the deer hunter only has a couple of options. Seek a new, less heavily hunted area or go higher up the tree.

Getting farther up, say 20 feet or more, re-establishes your aerial advantage over the deer. However, it also increases your risk. If you go to great heights while deer hunting use solid climbing gear and stable stands, and always wear a safety belt.

The Perfect Deer Rifle

This is one of the oldest arguments in deer hunting. It remains so because many centerfire calibers are effective under certain circumstances. In terms of raw power, assuming proper expanding bullets and decent shooting skills, a "standard" of 1,000 to 1,200 ft. lbs. of energy delivered at target is considered minimum for deer hunting. Ammo company ballistic tables tell you the .30/30 is great at 100 yards and suspect beyond 200. The .30/30 falls short in trajectory as well. Cartridges need more than 2,500 fps of velocity to reach targets beyond 200 yards without excessive "holdover." Bullet weight helps "carry" velocity, energy and momentum farther. Bullets weighing in on the light end of the deer bullet scale might perform O.K. at short ranges, but may not do the job at long distances. If all your deer shooting is at ranges under 150 yards, there are many "perfect" deer cartridges. If you expect to shoot over 200 yards, the "perfect" deer rifle is probably a high-velocity number.

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