It’s the peak of the rut, and weather conditions are ideal to hunt your favorite and most productive treestand location. You reach the base of the tree an hour before the sun crests the horizon, full of anticipation for the all-day sit that awaits and the cruising bucks you know that you’ll see. But dawn turns to morning, midday to dusk, and before you know it, the day has ended. Your long, diligent hours on stand leave you with a sore back, a wind-burned face, and not a single deer sighting. You got skunked, and now you’re thinking of sleeping in tomorrow.
Getting skunked will hurt the confidence of any bowhunter. Motivation plummets, making it difficult to wake up after a long day on stand void of deer sightings. If you find yourself feeling this way, it’s time to hit the reset button. Taking a day off can be a refreshing way to rejuvenate your psyche. Checking off a few tasks from your to-do list around the house will help you feel accomplished, and that will help you focus out in the woods.
Taking advantage of the snooze button to catch up on sleep can be a good thing, too. The daily pre-dawn alarm to reach your treestand before sunrise makes it difficult to get quality sleep. When you’re tired, your focus suffers, but a good night’s sleep will have you feeling more focused and present. When you’re energized, you’ll enjoy all aspects of the hunt, from the crisp fall breeze to migrating birds, and when the crunching leaves of an approaching deer grab your attention, you’ll be ready to capitalize on the opportunity.
Don’t waste time hunting a bad spot when you could be scouting a better one. If you blanked in a spot, it’s time to scope out a new area to find where the deer are spending their time. A few intentional hunts fueled by timely intel are always more effective than many haphazard hunts, scattered around your hunting property. Deer spend the majority of their daylight activity in their core bedding areas, even during the rut. If you’re hunting big woods or thick cover where visibility is limited, burn some boot leather and look for hot sign to set up over. In open country, consider spending the prime hours of dusk and dawn on a glassing knob where you can observe your hunting area. While you’re technically giving up a day of hunting, the time spent scouting can make your next hunt purposeful, dramatically increasing your odds of punching a tag.
Above all, don’t forget the basics. In areas with low deer densities, the most successful hunters are those who are persistent and can endure days on stand without deer sightings. Even in the most proven spots on the best whitetail hunting properties, there will be days when deer activity won’t meet your expectations. In the age of cellular trail cameras, digital maps at our fingertips, and machine learning apps that predict deer movement, deer are still unpredictable wild animals. Don’t overthink things. Time on stand kills deer. When you find areas with beds, rubs, scrapes, droppings or tracks, rest assured that deer are nearby.
Keep deer hunting fun and simple, and seek enjoyment from the little things. A cool northerly breeze that rattles the oak leaves, a bobcat slinking through the timber, and birds landing within arm’s length from your perch are moments not to be taken for granted. And rest assured, if you hunt enough, you’ll eventually get your chance at a deer. Enjoying the process makes those opportunities much sweeter.