Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dominant Tree Hunting for 9 to 5'ers

The following question from a new friend I met at this week's QDMA meeting and my answer were posted on this TnDeer thread. I get asked versions of this question often by folks who can't get to their hunting property to scout during the week , so I thought I would post it here for others who don't follow TnDeer.

Originally Posted By: Football Hunter:

We talked some at the meeting,but really interested in trying to learn how to hunt the dominant tree.

Ive done my own thing for years,and I see plenty of deer,but its always just a gut reaction,something like "this looks like where a deer will be" kind of thing.

It has worked ok,but with all those acres of hardwoods behind me on my lease,seems like a perfect oppurtunty to look for dominate trees.

The main problem I see from listening to you is.........what I discover this saturday,wont really be good for next saturday most likely right?

My place is about 1.5 hours from my house,which I actually love. Little get away each trip.

So,my thought is to hunt on Saturday morning in a spot I am confident in,assuming the wind is right,funnel,saddle,leads to oaks and a food plot,kind of the perfect storm type place,and its near some thick stuff.Then when Im done,go check out some ridgetop fingers and look for hot action near some of the white oaks.

Question,does the time of year dictate anything to you as far as ways to narrow down things,north facing,west facing etc?High,low?There are so many w/os ,just wondering a way to narrow it down some.And yeas,Im partial to white oaks,chinkapins,for whatever reason.


Nice meeting you the other night. Glad you could come.

You are correct, the dominant tree they are feeding on this week will likely be old news next week. Not necessarily though, it depends on how much food is available there and what has changed since last week. If the tree is still dropping nuts, there is a good chance the deer will still be feeding there.

Before I got in the land business and was working a corporate job, I didn't have the flexibility to go scout during the week. I would usually just hunt a spot on Saturday morning that was good the week before or someplace else that either had produced before or that I had some reason to think might be good. Basically, hoping to get lucky - which I usually didn't.

If I wasn't seeing activity by 8 or 9 at the latest, I would get down and start scouting for Saturday night and Sunday morning, which is when I killed the majority of the deer.

As far as where to look... That's where you have to rely on your knowledge of the terrain, what trees are dropping nuts, where the deer are at night, where they go during the day, and whatever else dictates their behavior on your land.

Scouting near fields and thick cover, around saddles, on converging ridges, near funnels are all good starting points. Remember, deer will feed on trees that are near where they want to be any way.

If they are in fields during the night look for the tracks of where they leave those fields and backtrack from there into the woods. If they are going to an overgrown area to hide during the day, figure out where they are most likely to enter it and work back toward the direction they are likely coming from.

Like I said the other night, the most important thing is to constantly be asking yourself "why". Why is there a track here, why are those leaves scuffed up, why is there a rub there, why was that deer standing where it was when I jumped it? The answers to all those "why" questions will lead you to recognizing patterns that you can apply toward narrowing down where to scout.

That said, the most fundamental advice I could give you is to use your ears. Stop and listen often. When you hear nuts falling, go check under that tree. If you find a lot of sign, figure out how you want to hunt it and do so ASAP. If you see some sign, but not enough to get you excited, look around and see if nearby trees are getting hit harder, or maybe even the other side of the tree you are checking is getting hit. Also notice what characteristics that particular spot has that other places have then check them. If you don't see any sign, don't get discouraged, just keep moving. Eventually, you will find what you are looking for.

All else being equal, if white oaks or chinkapins are dropping, that is most likely where the deer will be. When they stop dropping, the deer will go to the various species of reds. Learn which one they seem to prefer and look for others.

It may seem like a lot of work, but trust me, when you get the hang of it, you will probably enjoy the scouting more than the shooting. In my mind, hunting takes place before you climb into your stand. Everything after that is just shooting.

Good luck.


Unknown said...


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