A deer stands — A procrastinator’s guide to bowhunting

Have you let the hunting season slip up on you again? Well, these two expert deer killers say you can still up your odds of success when the bow season kicks off.

I’m the world’s worst procrastinator.

Don’t fool yourself: You might be a bad procrastinator, but my procrastination would run circles around your procrastination.

Take for example the time 20 years ago when I was in a college nutrition class with my future sister-in-law.

We were assigned to keep up with everything we ate for one week and make a chart of our caloric intake on poster board.

My future sister-in-law diligently recorded every calorie she consumed and created a nice poster showing her results.

I, on the other hand, ran to an office supply store two hours before class on the assignment’s due date, purchased a piece of poster board and made up the entire assignment.

She earned a B, while I earned an A.

I remind her about it just about every time I see her — even to this day.

From that point on, I learned to own my procrastination. I do my best work, whatever work it might be, at the very last second.

That’s why it always confounded me that I had trouble seeing any deer during the October bow season. I mean, I would always scout for a good spot about the last week of September, hang a stand, and sit back and wait for the backstrap to come walking in.

I might be a great procrastinator, but I’m a horrible deer hunter.

Waiting to the last second to get ready for bow season is no way to score a deer on opening morning. So, in the case of deer hunting, I learned that my procrastination was actually working against me.

But here it is September, and I’ve procrastinated yet again. That’s why I called two of the best deer hunters I know to find out what advice they had for me and all the other procrastinators out there.

Here are their thoughts:

Water wins

For years, Michael Williams was public enemy No. 1 when it came to Washington Parish deer. And every October would find him and his best friend hunting two nearby trails out of two nearby trees.

However, his friend’s passing took a chunk out of him that he hasn’t been able to replace — not even by bowhunting on his own.

Although Williams doesn’t bowhunt nearly as much as he once did, being in the woods every day during the October season in his younger years taught him a lot about how to see more deer.

“Most bowhunters are already going to have their setups out and know exactly what they’re going to do and where they’re going to do it long before September,” Williams said. “No doubt, if you’ve waited this long to get started, you’re already way behind in the ballgame.”

Being behind in the game, though, doesn’t mean you’re out of it completely.

Williams told me the best thing I could do during September to find a good place to hunt in October would be to locate a water source.

“Deer love water,” he said. “They’re going to drink it every day, but that isn’t the only reason I’d look for water: They just plain like it.

“Like kids on a beach, they’ll run around in it, play in it — just have a good time in it. How many mud holes have you seen that had deer tracks all around it?”

Williams said he’s seen it too often to know that deer only come to water to drink. But as much as they might like to play in a mud hole, the best kind of water to locate is the moving kind, like a creek.

“If you’ll go out in September and look for a creek with good shade in a hardwood bottom, that’s where you’ll find a majority of your bucks,” Williams said. “They’ll still be in bachelor groups, and wherever you find a big pile of tracks leading to and from that moving water, that’s where you want to set up.”

In fact, Williams said he’s seen plenty deer lay up in spots like this because of the combination of water and cooler temperatures.

But the key to setting up on a water hole is to not hunt right on top of it. Like a hunter who sets up on a trail leading to a food plot, Williams said he’s seen more deer hunting water holes by setting up on the trail the animals take from the water.

“If you’re sitting right on top of the water hole, you’re going to want to shoot the first buck that walks out,” he explained. “And a lot of these will be yearling bucks you find at water holes, but if you shoot the first one that comes out, you’ll never know if there might have been a bigger buck in that bachelor group that just hadn’t come out yet.”

To find trails leading away from the water, Williams said he obviously looks for tracks pointing away from the location; however, since there are usually tracks going every which way, he pays attention to what he called muddy tracks.

“Since these deer will be standing around in that water and right on the edge of it, they’ll pick up some mud on their hooves,” Williams said. “When they walk away from the water, their tracks will leave mud on the leaves everywhere they step.”

It’s all about the groceries

Chad Wall is host of Wallhanger TV on the Pursuit Channel, and he hangs out in the swamps around Springfield when he isn’t on the road filming with his wife Dana.

Staying so busy with his show, Wall has found himself trying to figure out how the newest deer season snuck up on him before he knew it.

“It’s hard to believe we’re right at the doorstep of another season,” he said. “A lot of us hunters may have the best intentions to get out early and do things the right way, but life gets in the way and we wind up scrambling for a good spot at the last second.”

But, even though it’s September, Wall said it’s not too late to create a spot if you can’t find one.

“You’ve still got time to go out and plant a bowhunting food plot,” he said. “I generally don’t plant until after Sept.15, and I try to time it right after the dark moon.

“When that moon starts growing right after you plant, you’ll have food source in just a week or two that’s ready to hunt.”

While creating your own food source is a great way pull in some deer, Wall has found that one of the best ways to find a good October hunting spot is to head out in the woods during September with a pair of binoculars in hand.

“The oaks aren’t dropping in September, but the acorns on the trees that will drop are full grown,” he explained. “You can slip through the woods on the oak flats and use your binoculars to find the trees that are loaded with acorns.”

Finding these acorn-laden trees is a key to hunting feeding areas because not all oaks will produce acorns every year. What was last year’s most-productive oak tree might be bare this year.

Even though it’s getting late in the game, Wall said a hunter who finds some loaded oak trees can get in, hang a stand, cut some shooting lanes, and still have time to back out and let things settle down a couple weeks so the deer can get used to what’s going on.

“Another thing I like to do in September that has really helped me get on some good deer is looking for signs of browse on the native vegetation,” Wall said. “Let’s say you find two oak flats with loaded trees, but one of those spots has a heavily browsed briar patch while there is hardly a nibble on the briars in the other flat.

“There’s no doubt where I’m going to hunt.”

Therefore, signs of browse help Wall determine which spots have higher deer densities than others. When a bunch of deer pile up in one area, there will be signs that can go unnoticed by other hunters.

“It takes a little discipline to go out and look for browsing sign because it’s so easy to overlook,” Wall said. “But if you’ll take your time and look for areas where they’ve been nipping at the native vegetation, you’ll be able to put yourself in the most-productive area in your entire deer woods.”

Although procrastination might not be the best way to approach the coming deer season, procrastinators don’t have to be relegated to sitting in a stand swatting mosquitoes while not seeing any deer.

With just a little last-minute effort on our parts, we can put ourselves in a Grade A stand.

About Chris Ginn 778 Articles
Chris Ginn has been covering hunting and fishing in Louisiana since 1998. He lives with his wife Jennifer and children Matthew and Rebecca along the Bogue Chitto River in rural Washington Parish. His blog can be found at chrisginn.com.