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How To/Pro-Tips

Binoculars for Bucks

Binoculars have always been important to western hunters, but eastern deer hunters are now finding them very useful. With much whitetail hunting property under quality deer management programs, hunters have to be very sure what they are shooting.
These quality management programs stress protecting the younger age classes of bucks, setting minimum sizes that can be shot. Many of these programs also encourage the shooting of does to keep the sex ratio in balance. However, small "button" bucks without any emerged bone antlers look very much like does. Shooting a button can draw a hefty fine.
Good binoculars allow you to size up a young antlered buck or identify a button buck before you shoot. You are not scanning the countryside; you want a close look at the deer's head. I prefer the higher powers of 8x to 10x for this. The mini-compacts are very convenient but are dim in low light. Larger glasses, such as 10x50s, are bulky but let in more light.

Decoy Spreads

Many decoy spread patterns are written about, but I'm not sure ducks can read. The particular decoy pattern doesn't matter nearly so much as understanding the overall dynamics of a decoy spread.
First, the decoy spread should contain an opening for incoming birds to land in and that opening should be well within your shooting range. Next, the decoys and the opening should be properly placed in relationship to your blind. Ducks circle with the wind and land into it.
Since the opening is your killing zone, it should be placed on the downwind side of the blind. A useful variation is to place the opening in the decoy spread so that the wind is blowing across the front of the blind. This can help keep the birds from circling directly overhead.
I like to pull all or most of my decoys and rearrange them frequently. If possible I hunt alternate blinds. When ducks get shot at regularly from the same location, they get really wary.

Get Your Hunting Site In Shape

Hunting site maintenance can be noisy work and introduces a lot of your scent into the area. So be sure to take care of this chore well before the season.

If you hunt from a permanent, stationary stand, check it for rotted steps and boards and for any loosening caused by swaying in the wind. Check it for new inhabitants. Finding a wasp nest now is a lot better than finding it, in the dark, on opening morning.
If you are installing a new stand, either a built-from-scratch permanent stand or one of the larger "semi-permanent" stands such as some ladder stands and tripods, do it early enough for the new smells to dissipate and for the deer to get used to it.
Whether cutting new shooting lanes or trimming out existing ones, get that work done early too. Drag the cut brush a reasonable distance away. When you make a change in a deer's habitat, it will be noticed and the deer may avoid that area for awhile.

Early-Season Hunting

In most archery seasons and some early gun seasons, the deer's preferred food sources are changing as summer moves into fall, and many plants start to dry out. If there's one sure bet about deer, it is that they prefer the most succulent foods available. It doesn't matter how many deer you saw feeding in the edge of a pasture back in June. If that grass is starting to dry out, the deer are looking elsewhere.
Many soft mast crops such as persimmons, dogwood berries and other berries and fruits are becoming available at this period. In some areas, maturing agricultural crops such as soybeans and corn are attractive to deer. Many forest plants remain succulent into the early fall.
The bottom line is that, until rutting activity kicks in, food sources are your best link to deer activity. During this rapidly changing period, deer food preferences change and you need to know what's preferred next and where to find it to stay ahead of the game.

Selecting Waders

Modern waders are marvelous. Not only are they more durable these days, they also offer waterfowlers many comfort options.

Neoprene waders fit like a body suit and greatly reduce bulk for easier movement. They are available in various degrees of thickness, which add additional insulation. They are both waterproof and quite warm, allowing many waterfowlers to do away with at least one layer of insulation that they would normally wear.

The old-fashioned, loose-fitting boot-foot waders are still popular. Their looser fit allows more air circulation for hunting in warmer weather. However, these too are now constructed of modern materials that are more resistant to ozone cracking.

The newest styles are based on Gore-Tex

Camo Pattern by Realtree
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