How to optimize your hunting setup and tag a trophy whitetail
Ways to fool the eyes, ears and noses of wary whitetails:
1. Always develop a routine for scent control, whether you’re hunting, scouting or setting up stands—even during the off-season. Use scent-eliminating spray on your boots and outerwear, for example, and don’t wear the same hat all season long, as it will collect a ton of scent. The same goes for the felt liners in your boots.
2. A deer’s eyes are positioned such that it can see far more of its surrounding environment than a human ever could. And since deer keep watch for the slightest unusual movement, always do your best to stay still and conceal yourself in either a natural or man-made blind. If it’s gun season, make sure your blaze orange is clearly visible to other hunters.
3. Don’t trim all the branches in front of your treestand. Only cut enough to create two or three shooting lanes, leaving the other branches in place to help conceal your location and break up your outline. Otherwise, if you’re silhouetted against the sky, the slightest twitch will send whitetails bounding out of sight in no time.
4. Once your stands are set up, sit in them to make sure they don’t make noises when you shift your weight or move your feet. Also, trim away any branches that might interfere with your bow or gun when it comes time to shoot. It’s better to resolve such potential problems when you set up—not when there’s a 10-pointer at 15 yards.
5. Do all your pre-hunt preparations—setting up treestands, clearing shooting lanes, placing trail cameras and so on—a month before opening day. And never work on your set-up in the evening or early morning when the deer are active and you’re likely to spook them.
6. Clear footpaths to your treestands so you can quietly come and go. This means raking away dead, crunchy leaves, twigs and branches that might snap when stepped on during your predawn approach.
7. Never ride an ATV to your stand. If the noise doesn’t scare off the deer, the smell of gasoline and exhaust is guaranteed to permeate your clothes, hair and skin—and every deer downwind will know your exact location long before you ever see them.
8. Minimize the use of two-way radios. During the hunt, they should be kept silent unless there’s an emergency, or one hunter has successfully shot a deer. Save your hunting stories for camp—the deer are guaranteed to go on full alert at the sound of voices or crackling radios.
9. Use trail cameras to scout. This reduces the need 10 for you to be in the bush as often, making it less likely you’ll disturb any mature bucks in the area. If possible, set up two or three cameras for every 100 acres. I place mine in early July, as bucks will have formed the bulk of their antlers by then, and check them once a month until October, then weekly.
10. Wash all new hunting attire to remove odours and eliminate UV dyes, if they’re present. Scent-free, non-UV brightening detergents can be found at most hunting stores. To deer, clothing with UV brightener will appear to glow or shine, especially in low light.