Where to hunt? It’s a daily dilemma for deer hunters. Experienced ones likely have a long list to choose from, and some criteria on which to base their choices. Let’s take a look.

We can eliminate a few simply by looking at the forecast, specifically wind direction. It may be tempting, and frustrating, but you should never hunt a stand when the wind is wrong. Presumably you’ve picked the spot expecting deer to come from a certain direction, and if the wind is blowing that way, you run the risk of being detected and educating the deer to potential danger.

Intuitively, the best scenario is to have the wind in your face. Strategically, it’s sometimes a better option to hunt where and when the wind is almost wrong. Deer use their sense of smell to detect danger, especially where visibility is limited. They may not travel directly downwind, but will quarter into it, and if you set up accordingly, you may gain an edge.

Time is another consideration. You might catch them feeding in the morning, but there’s a good possibility they’ll already be there when you arrive and you’ll only send them fleeing. A better option may be to intercept them traveling from feeding areas to bedding areas.

Somewhat the opposite applies to an afternoon hunt. You could set up in a feeding area, like a stand of oaks or a food plot, and wait them out. Or, you could take the morning approach and sit on a travel corridor. The former is often a better option as you know, or think you know where they’re going, but it’s harder to predict the path they’ll take to get there.

Timing also applies to the month or the week. Early in the fall, deer move less but tend to be more predictable, spending most of their time in and around core areas. As temperatures grow colder and mating season draws nearer, both bucks and does move more, to find food and a potential partner.

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Your objective also influences where you might hunt. If you’re after any deer, you might go where you’ve observed the most activity, and thus have the highest likelihood of seeing a deer. If it’s a buck you seek, you may focus on buck signs like rubs and scrapes.

This is where the lines blur a bit. Bucks generally open and tend scrapes leading up to the rut, then largely abandon them once does start coming into estrus, so mid-October and early November might be the best time to target them rather than mid-November. One rub is good, but a line of rubs is better, as it indicates a regular route, and as the trees are often rubbed on one side, also a direction of travel. If that direction is toward bedding cover, morning might be a better option. If it’s toward a concentrated food source, afternoon might be better.

Sometimes your selection might be influenced by mood. You might not feel ambitious enough to make the long hike into that secluded area, and opt for something closer to the road instead. Rather than sitting on constant alert watching for deer slipping through the thick cover, you might prefer an open oak ridge where you can see and hear them coming from a long way off.

Intuition is an intangible but sometimes important factor in deciding where to hunt. Sometimes you just get a gut feeling, but struggle to rationalize why. While you can’t quite explain it, your subconscious mind may be at work analyzing and collating wind, time, season, sign and past experience. Or, there may be some unseen force pulling you toward that spot. Either way, go with it. While it’s practical to process the possibilities, you just never know where old mossy horns might show up.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and Registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at: [email protected]


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