Pre-Season Deer Hunting: Prep, Safety & Beyond

Treestand Safety While Deer Hunting

It’s mid-August and that means “go time” for pre-season white-tailed deer hunters. There are no doubt countless game cameras scattered throughout the whitetail’s range right now documenting groups of bachelor bucks in all their glory. I can’t wait for the next download myself! The pre-season however is not just about feeder and food plot preparation and eyeing the latest deer hunting gear.

It’s time to get into hunting shape, both mentally and physically. This gets more and more important with each passing year. You know who you are. Join the club. There is no better time than now to start preparing for the physical demands of your next hunting trip. Climbing, lifting, lugging, drawing back a 70-pound bow and the sort can take a toll on a body but physical preparation can go a long way towards keeping you healthy and safe.

Deer Hunting: Be Safe!

Staying in good physical condition should be a way of life. Unfortunately, many of us fail to maintain our desired level of physical condition. For me, like a lot of other hunters, it’s about priorities. We often put other things before ourselves, whether it be our families, our work or both. It’s important we take care of ourselves for those very reasons. Nothing is more important than making it back home safely.

The month of August is officially Tree Stand Safety Awareness month. Each hunting season, unfortunately, a number of hunters do not make it back home. Most hunting accidents are self-inflicted and can be avoided. As you prepare for the upcoming deer hunting season keep safety on the top of your mind. Many hunters have careers that stress safety on the job. Enjoy the pre-season prep as well as the hunting season itself, but take that safety-first attitude with you into the field.

Source: Tree Stand Safety Awareness (TSSA), a newly formed not-for-profit 501(3)c organization with the mission of educating hunters about treestand safety, has announced that August is officially Tree Stand Safety Awareness month. August, the month that most hunters start heading back to the woods to cut trails and hang stands in preparation for upcoming hunting season, is the most opportune time for treestand awareness. TSSA is looking to get hunters to start the season by putting safety first.

Treestand accidents are annually the #1 cause of death and serious injury to deer hunters and virtually 100 percent of these incidents are preventable by implementing three simple measures: First, wear a full-body harness when hunting from a treestand. Second, stay connected from the time your feet leave the ground. Third, make sure your hunting buddies do the same. It really is that simple.

TSSA encourages all hunters to take treestand safety seriously, every time you hunt from or hang a treestand.

Late Season Deer Hunting

Deer Hunting Tips and Tactics

The white-tailed deer hunting season will be ending shortly, so there’s no better time than right now to employ a few late season deer hunting tips and tactics to bag that last-second buck. In Texas, many hunters take time off between Christmas and New Year’s in anticipation of putting deer on the ground, but whitetail bucks that have made it this far into the deer hunting season are well educated.

Still, there’s no need to panic. Careful planning combined with the wise use of time in the field can still result in a successful deer hunt later in the season, but let’s discuss some of the things you need to know to up your chances. Hopefully, these tips will tip the odds in your favor.

Deer Hunting Tips and Tactics

The Late Season: Deer Know

The hunting season has been on for a while and the deer are most definitely in the know. Patterns are extremely important to them. Not so much their patterns, but the patterns of hunters. A deer knows that the sound of a four wheeler running or a truck door closing means a hunter is in the area. Deer will stick with moving very early, before sunrise, and then after mid-morning, when most hunters have long left the field. It’s time to change things up. First, be quiet.

Next, be flexible. By late season, even young deer realize that bad things can happen to good deer that hang out too close to deer stands and deer feeders. Older deer will be on full alert and will avoid all of them. Instead of jumping into your stand out of habit, find a travel corridor and catch whitetail moving around your setup. Deer move even when you are not seeing them from your stand, they just know how to avoid the average hunter by late season. Deer will not expect you to be somewhere else, out of your stand. Put the wind in your favor and you will see deer.

Use Late Season Feeding to Pattern Deer

Another great late season deer hunting tip is to watch the moon. Deer naturally become more nocturnal, feeding during the night, as temperatures drop into the fall and winter, but their nightly movements are greatly reduced during the dark of the moon. Avoid full moon periods and stick with hunting the days around a new moon. This hunting tactic will also work in between nights that are hampered with heavy cloud cover. Whitetail will hold tight overnight, so be in the woods when daylight comes, especially when these conditions coincide with really cold temperatures.

This next hunting tip is a no-brainer, but it works. Look for deer foods. As mentioned previously, deer do not stop traveling altogether, but their movements will be modified late into the deer hunting season. Hunt food sources such as cool season forbs, winter food plots, or even deer feeders at non-traditional times. Whitetail deer have to move and eat more as the mercury drops, so find a food source and camp out on between late morning and early afternoon.

Weather for Late Season Hunting Success

A last, but often overlooked, deer hunting tip is to pay attention to the wind speed. Many deer hunters pay attention to wind direction, and rightfully so, but wind speed alone can dictate deer movement. High wind speeds (more than 15 mph) make for difficult hunting conditions and deer do not like to move during these times either. Whitetail deer are nervous creatures already, so high winds and lots of moving limbs do not help. High wind inhibits their ability to detect danger, so deer movement will be greatly suppressed.

Use a weather web site such as to get hour-by-hour temperature and wind direction and speed information for your hunting area. It may be the late season, but there is still plenty of deer hunting to be had. Find time to use these deer hunting tips and tactics in combination before the end of the season and the odds will be in your favor. Happy holiday hunting!

Habitat Conditions Bad, Deer Hunting Good?

Whitetail Deer Hunting in Texas for Habitat Management

With the official start of summer almost upon us and whitetail bucks rapidly putting on new antler growth, it is never to early to speculate about the fall white-tailed deer hunting seasons in Texas. Unfortunately for everyone, dry weather has kept a damper on many deer and habitat management practices to date, but poor habitat conditions may help hunters across the state this fall.

Most folks know that dry weather is not good for wildlife. Deer hunters are also aware that low rainfall equates to below average antler sizes for bucks relying on natural forage to get them through the year. That being said, it comes as no surprise that severe drought across the state has dimmed what usually is a bright outlook for white-tailed deer quantity and quality. Continue reading “Habitat Conditions Bad, Deer Hunting Good?”

Hunt Scrapes After a Rain

Selective Culling for Bucks and Deer Management

White-tailed deer management is about controlling the age, genetics, and nutrition of a deer herd. These components are the nuts and bolts of producing and growing big, healthy deer. Hunters understand that whitetail, like other game animals, are a renewable natural resource that can be used for both recreation and food. This is exactly why we enjoy getting out in the woods and doing a little deer hunting each fall. Although proper doe harvest is essential for maintaining a deer population within the carrying capacity of the habitat, let’s face it, hunters really look forward to hunting for big ole mature bucks.

There are several strategies that can be used to bag a buck, but for the most part hunters are limited to hunting food, water, travel areas, or deer sign. Whitetail bucks often leave visual evidence of where they have been in the form of rubs and scrapes. Of the two, scrapes can predict the location that a buck is likely to return. Despite the fact that many mature bucks check scrapes under the cover of darkness, hunting scrapes after a rain could increase your chances of crossing paths with a big whitetail buck. Continue reading “Hunt Scrapes After a Rain”

Time to Rattle for Whitetail

Rattling at the Right Time for Deer Hunting Success

Fall is here, food plots are in the ground and the deer hunting seasons are underway. Except for conducting a couple of controlled burns in the near future, the only thing left to do deer management wise for me is to harvest and record the deer we need (or would like) to remove. Though most deer hunters hunt whitetail by setting up over a food source, whether it be a feeder or a food plot, there are much more active ways to bag a buck.

When it comes to hunting there really are only two ways to go: Either you can go to the deer, or you can bring the deer to you.

Rattling for Whitetail Bucks

Rattling for Bucks

Though many hunters have read about rattling bucks in, or have at least seen it on TV, many have yet to give this method of hunting a serious shot. Or maybe you tried it once, but didn’t feel confident, it didn’t work so you packed it in. Ratting for bucks can work, especially if you incorporate the technique into your hunting on a regular basis.

I suspect many deer hunters have picked up a set of shed or cut-off antlers and have at attempted to rattle up a buck, but their lack of success caused them to quickly dismiss the effectiveness of antler rattling. Those antlers then went back to collecting dust at camp. So as effective as rattling can be for whitetail, most of time it will not work and you are not going to bring in a buck on a string. It does work, however, and when it’s hot, it’s hot!

Best Time to Rattle?

Rattling can work at any time during the hunting season, but it is typically most effective just prior to the rut, during the pre-rut. At this time, antler rattling can be an effective way to bring whitetail bucks right up into spitting distance. I’ve seen bucks come running out of the brush with as little as two seconds worth of antler rattling!

Of course many, many  times I’ve rattled antlers together only to attract the attention of  area squirrels, or even worse, nothing at all. During the pre-rut, bucks are busy establishing dominance for breeding purposes, setting up territories, and working off an excess in testosterone. It is also during this time in which they are most vulnerable to rattling, so this is the BEST time to rattle.

Rattling Antlers Attracts Attention

When it comes to rattling, let me tell you that you never really know what you are going to attract. I’ve had all sorts of deer respond to rattling. I can only guess they all want to run over and see who is fighting — and who will win? Some bucks want to participate, some are just curious. I’ve had does, spikes, middle-age bucks and mature bucks all come to a set of rattling antlers.

All age classes of bucks will respond to rattling more or less at the proportion in which they occur in the population. Younger bucks probably respond at a higher percentage overall and mature bucks probably a little less overall, but it’s not easy to measure since mature bucks are smarter. Older bucks often respond to the sound of rattling antlers by moving downwind of the action and then creeping in. Younger bucks do not always take such precaution, so there is a chance some of those more experienced bucks are detecting us before we detect them.

If a good percentage of the local buck herd is made up of young bucks, then that is probably what you will bring in. If, on the other hand, there are a good number of older bucks in the area, then you have just as a good of a chance of bringing them to you as younger-aged bucks. In fact, you probably have a much better chance of bringing them to you rather than simply sitting and waiting to see them — because they may have stayed “brushed up.”

A whitetail buck responds to rattling

Rattling, Battling Bucks

A friend of mine spotted a huge whitetail buck last year on public land right as the season started. The buck showed up on a couple of his game camera photos before season, but he got a glimpse of the buck the second day of archery season as the animal walked by at 200 yards. At that point, he then made it his personal mission to hunt that deer for the remainder of the season, even if it meant he ended the year with no buck at all.

To make a long story short, he hunted long and hard with no success, but one cold morning a few weeks later he decided he needed to be more aggressive. He had decided that if he didn’t change then his success rate was not going to change. The best trick in his book: try to get near the buck’s core area and rattle him up for a battle.

The right day came: Temperature perfect, wind great and he was able to rattle that buck to within 25 yards and made a perfect double-lung shot. He said after his first rattling sequence he could see the buck, which scored over 170 Boone and Crockett inches, running at him from over 400 yards! Sometimes it helps to bring them to you.

So rattling can work, but don’t expect it to work every time.