Firearms Deer Hunting Tips-Tom Lounsbury
Sun, 05 Jan 2014 15:39:43 EST
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Firearms Deer Hunting Tips
By Tom Lounsbury
Personally I canít wait for Friday to get here. There is little doubt that the whitetail deer is the most popular big game animal in North America with a large following of hunters. In Michigan alone, more than 700,000 avid deer hunters will be venturing afield when the annual firearms deer season opens on November 15th, a day I have dearly cherished for 50 years.
During that time I have taken my share of local Thumb whitetails using recurve bows, longbows, compound bows, and crossbows during the archery seasons, and with handguns, muzzleloaders and shotguns during the firearms seasons. Although I love every avenue of deer hunting, my favorite time of all is the regular (local - close to home) firearms deer season, and Iíll use a variety of firearms during that timeframe because I have several pet ďdeer gunsĒ. Admittedly however, I have learned the most about whitetails when I became an avid bowhunter. Getting into effective bow range of wary deer requires special woodsmanship skills and in my opinion the most successful firearms deer hunters are often successful bowhunters as well. So if you want to learn more about deer, I highly recommend bowhunting during the archery deer seasons.
While I certainly donít have all the answers and probably never will have, Iím willing to share a few deer hunting tips on what have worked for me during the firearms season. Some of what works for me has been acquired through making mistakes and figuring out how to correct them. They can be hard learned lessons, especially when a really big one gets away.
Know how to shoot:
First and foremost, get to intimately know your selected firearm well. Fit and feel of it should act like a natural extension of you and knowing the selected firearmís strengths and weaknesses as well as your own under typical field conditions. The key to all of this is practice, and more practice, which to me, is a whole lot of fun because I thoroughly enjoy shooting. Shooting-bench rests are great for sighting a firearm in and letting the shooter know what the deer gun is capable of. This is where tight groups are usually preferable. Next is actually shooting from the various positions without a rest and in this instance anything that will stay in a 10 inch paper plate will be a kill shot on a deer. Some folks get all wound up on minute of angle groupings, when the reality in the field it is simply keeping things into the kill zone. Shotgun sabot slugs designed for rifled barrels run at about three dollars or more a shot making proper practice a bit pricey. Smoothbore shotguns, muzzleloaders and handguns usually have the edge here in being a tad more economical to shoot.
A couple of items I never go hunting without are deer calls and binocular. I prefer the medium sized binoculars because they are compact enough for all day carry and offer ample light gathering capabilities. The small mini-binoculars are great at a theater play, but are next to useless in low light. Scopes by the way are for shooting and not using for glassing and checking things out. Iíve been ďglassedĒ by hunters looking through the scope on their deer gun and I immediately get paranoid and more than a bit testy when I realize Iím looking at the business end of a gun.
Mid-November is peak rut time and I always carry an easy to use ďdoe in heatĒ bleat can, a grunt tube and rattling bag. The can call can be marvelous on its own, or followed by a (about 4 to six short grunts in about 5 seconds) series of tending buck grunts that can close the deal on a buck not ready to commit. The key here is to use the higher pitched grunts of a young buck (I rarely ever use mature buck grunts during any calling sequence because they can have and adverse effect) because it can entice even big bucks to venture in and supposedly rough the little guy up and steal his date. Iíve actually had bucks come in fully riled up with ears flattened against their skulls, back hair standing up, and fully prepared to slap the annoying ďpunkĒ around (Iíve had some sudden and real up close and personal encounters doing this). When it works, itís a real thrill and half, trust me.
A call Iíve used (very sparingly) when I have an actual visual of a buck that is hanging up on or ignoring my typical doe bleats and tending buck grunts is the ďsnort-wheezeĒ call, which in my opinion is real aggressive buck talk. Iíve noticed the bucks usually donít ignore this call and they have two responses which will be either to skedaddle out of there or come in to settle matters. It all depends on that individual buckís attitude at that exact moment and they are not always looking for a scrap despite the ongoing rut.
Rattling in my opinion gets a bad rap in our area because it doesnít seem to work for many hunters trying it, most likely due to misunderstanding why and when bucks tangle and to what intensity. During the pre-rut in October, bucks joust to establish the pecking order, and it is more of a light sparring match. I go light on the rattling during this timeframe and have even had does and fawns respond to watch the tussle and root for whomever. The mashing and aggressive rattling takes place during the actual rut and it can be the ticket to luring in a buck that is otherwise paying no heed to your calling. Rattling during the rut is also something I like to perform at midday working with a ďtail-gunnerĒ positioned (according to topography and cover) about 50 yards to my downwind side. The tail-gunner will probably get the shot because the buck responding will often circle to smell out who is fighting with whom and to locate the doe, which he wants to steal away without getting any lumps from the riled up pair trying to beat each otherís brains out. Big bucks and little bucks both often respond in this manner.
Iíve heard that it takes a set of big antlers to rattle in big bucks and I disagree because I have found rattling bags, boxes, synthetic antlers, and even sheds of all sizes will work equally well. It is just a matter of what you want to carry around in the woods.
Be adaptable and diversify:
Deer hunters today seem to be more static and sit tight in blinds or tree-stands. Using a blind or tree-stand too many times in a row can make it become stale in regards to deer picking up the scent of the hunter on a regular basis, and therefore will begin to avoid the location. I make sure that I limit how often I use a blind or tree-stand and am very careful on my approach according to wind direction. There are times Iíve spotted a nice buck from the blind or tree-stand that have a set course and arenít coming anywhere close. This is when I go on the move to intercept or stalk them before they become just a fond memory. Nothing ventured, nothing gained in this instance.
Still-hunting is a time honored skill that can put venison on the buck-pole when nothing else works. Iíve heard it said that still-hunting can only be performed in the big woods, and this isnít true. Iíve been still-hunting in small woodlots for 50 years and it is a method that works for me. In fact small woodlots are easy to learn where the most likely hidey-holes are and locate the deer. The key is to use the wind in your favor, and use your eyes (and binocular) more than your feet. Proper clothing that is quiet in the brush (wool is best) and footwear that allows you to feel each step before committing your weight are a necessary part to this atmosphere. Moving slowly across the rows of standing corn and using the noise created by wind rattling the stalks to cover your movement while you search for deer is actually still-hunting as well.
Donít ever sell the old fashioned deer-drive short. When all else fails, a well-organized drive by participants that understand the topography and deer escape routes can put venison on the table when all else fails. This is a technique I usually employ at midday during the latter part of the season when hard hunted deer go very nocturnal in usually heavy cover.
Needless to say Iím in the countdown mode right now for opening day, and Iím as anxious as a kid waiting for Christmas. I highly doubt Iíll ever change in this regard.
Have a very safe and happy deer season folks!
Tom Lounsbury with an opening morning Thumb 10-pointer he called in close
using doe bleats and tending buck grunts.
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