Welcome to the Pursuit Hunting website. The purpose of this site is to educate whitetail hunters about pursuit style hunting, which simply means using your knowledge of deer and deer sign to take the hunt to the deer rather than hoping the deer will bring the hunt to you. The rewards of pursuit style hunting are two-fold. First, you will see more deer. Second, as your knowledge and your woodsmanship skills grow, you will get the sense that you are an active participant in the natural order of things, rather than a mere observer.
You know, as humans, it's our nature to want to control things. Whether its our work, our kids, or our spouses (good luck!) we are much more comfortable when we feel like we are doing something to make things go the way we want. When I started deer hunting, I approached it with that same mentality - I'm going to DO something to make the deer come to ME. I had it all figured out. With the help of all the latest gadgets, gizmos, sprays, powders, and assorted other stuff, I was on my way to becoming the greatest deer hunter in the world.
The only problem is that the deer didn't get the memo about how they were supposed to cooperate. I spent more hours than I care to remember sitting up in a tree fantasizing about squirrels (easy now, this is a family site) magically transforming into huge ten pointers. Every once in a while a deer would blunder by, but I was basically counting on luck to see (much less shoot) a deer. Needless to say, I wasn't loadin' up the truck very often.
My hunting "luck" changed about fifteen years ago when I met my hunting partner Ted Craddock, a.k.a. Rambuck. That's him wavin' at you. Ted has taken over 400 whitetails personally and has put friends and clients on hundreds more. The dude knows his stuff! Ted taught me that the key to consistently killing deer is to figure out where they are. Pretty simple huh? Unfortunately "somewhere out there in the woods" wasn't going to cut it. Okay, how about "walking down this trail?" Nope! "Freshening this scrape?" Nope! "Checking this rub line?" Wrong again! Boy did I have a lot to learn.
Ted taught me that I could dramatically increase my odds of getting close enough to make a bow shot if I could figure out what they were eating. You see, deer are creatures of habit when it comes to their feeding behavior. He introduced me to the concept of the dominant tree.
So what is a dominant tree? Well, simply put, a dominant tree is one that is producing fruit or nuts on which the deer are actively feeding at that particular time. Figure out which specific tree that is out of the thousands in the woods, and your chances of getting a shot at a deer will go way up. "Wait a minute," you say, "you're telling me I have to find one tree out of thousands? Isn't that like finding a needle in a haystack?" Yup and nope!
Yes, you do need to find that one tree out of thousands, but it really is easier than it sounds. All you need is a little knowledge and the willingness to put some serious time and effort into scouting. Does it work? Absolutely! On average, only about 10% of bowhunters, nationwide, successfully harvest a deer during the entire hunting season. In contrast, last year, we kept detailed statistics on how often we had opportunities to kill a deer. When we were hunting a dominant tree, we saw deer within bow range 85% of the time.
One of the biggest benefits of learning to find and hunt dominant trees is that the technique works anywhere there are mast-producing trees. With huntable private land becoming increasingly scarce, it's nice to know that you can go to a public hunting area and still connect with deer. Sure, your odds of taking a record book class deer are lower on public land where there is more hunting pressure, but with some practice, you will come to enjoy the challenge of finding that hotspot that may be under everyone's nose.
Here is a video clip of an 8 pointer that I shot on public land in Illinois last season. He and about six does were coming to feed on a dominant tree. He stood forty yards away for about thirteen minutes before he finally walked over to the white oak tree and offered a good shot, which is what you see here. Note: to get the video to play, you have to click the triangle in the center of the frame then click the small triangle at the bottom left.
We had two things in our favor that day. 1. We knew exactly where the deer was eventually going to go (notice the direction my stand was pointed). 2. We also knew that he wasn't going to smell us before he got there (notice the wind direction indicated by the wind sensor on the end of my stabilizer). I was confident in passing up several iffy shots and waiting for a good angle and a clear shot.
Tomorrow we'll continue talking about dominant trees and how to find 'em.