Always Have a Backup Hunting Location

By: Quinn Keon

I am always looking for new places to hunt.  I was lucky this year and was granted archery-only access to some new land.  I hunted that piece for the first time 7 days ago.  It was amazing and even better than I had hoped.  In total I saw 32 deer, 4 of which were bucks.  My highest deer count ever!  I haven’t been back.

Why haven’t I been back?  How is it that I can see the most deer ever of any sit and just walk away?  It’s because I have other properties to hunt.  I prepare and maintain several stand locations; last I counted it was 19 locations in 4 different counties.  I won’t hunt all of these locations in a season but they are there if I need them.  The importance of having a backup location on another property should never be overlooked.  A good example is this:  This year before the season started, I was seeing a buck that I wanted to shoot.   The first time I hunted the property I got winded.  A few days later I hunted there and got winded.  I tried again…winded again…and that was it.  No more deer on that property now for nearly 2 weeks.  I had my chance but the wind swirls there and these are pressured deer.  I’m wrapped up in Scent-Lok and sprayed down with Scent Killer but if the wind swirls it just doesn’t matter.

If this was my only place to hunt that would likely be the end of my season.  I’m hoping that this property picks up again for the chase in November but it may not.  There’s plenty of land for these few deer to live on.  They don’t have to come by my stand ever again.  Luckily I can just hunt somewhere else.  I base my stand locations on deer activity and then prepare them using the best tree or best cover.  Which stand I hunt on a given day is based on the wind forecast and the amount of pressure that I have already put on the land.  I check the hourly wind forecast daily during the season.  It is my number one resource.  I do not hunt a stand location if the wind is wrong.  The wind is much too erratic in Michigan to prepare a stand site for the predominate wind.  I fact, there is no such thing as predominate wind on the lands that I hunt.  The past few seasons we have had more east wind than ever before…I’ve got east wind stand sites ready and waiting as well as every other direction.

Many hunters that I know have only one piece of land to hunt.  I used to be committed to one stand on one piece of land too.  I saw lots of deer early in the season and then very few the rest of the year.   Now I love exploring new places and I’m always looking for a better stand location.  When the crops come down, the pre-rut starts, or too much hunting pressure occurs some of my properties may no longer hold deer.  If you have only one place to hunt think about this:  The more times you visit a property the less your chances of shooting a deer.  I try to have all of my preparation done before August each season so the deer that I scare can hopefully be back by October.  I try to minimize my contact with all vegetation and rake trails to my stands to remove small sticks and other noisy debris.  Walking through tall grass and weeds is one of the worst things that you can do.  The deer coming through that area, even days later, will smell every place that you went.  One morning I had a weed brush the back of my hand on my way to the stand.  Later I watched a doe pass by that weed…stop…and bolt when she smelled it.  It touched the back of my hand for a tenth of a second and she was gone.  Another thing that I never do is explore land during hunting season that I am hunting that season.  Many hunters get curious and want to look for new sign like rubs and scrapes.  “Curiosity killed the hunting property.”  If I’m planning to hunt a property next year then I like to poke around looking for rut sign but I know that by walking around exploring I am reducing my chances at a deer for the current season.

Some years certain areas hold more deer than others.  I find this especially true in the larger “big woods” environments that I hunt.  Deer are not always in the same places year after year.  I’ve seen great locations that simply stop getting used by deer and I have no idea why.  Having a backup location is great if your usual deer sign doesn’t show up.

I haven’t been back to the new land yet but I am planning to return.  I have to return on the right day…when the wind is right and I have enough time in the afternoon to quietly pick a different tree.  I saw lots of deer but there is a better area for me to be that should allow closer shots.  I did explore the new property during archery season as I am planning to prepare it for next year.  I walked a tall grass area and I know that I’ll see fewer deer the next time out because of that.   It always takes me 2 – 3 years to figure out a new hunting property and I’ve learned to be patient with the process.  Having a backup location allows me to hunt ‘where I want to hunt’ and then hunt ‘where I think I want to hunt sometime’ if I need to or just want to.  I sat a new state land spot last night.  I did not prepare a tree, I just showed up with my climbing stand.  I didn’t think I would see anything but I wanted to try a new area just for fun.   I saw 8 deer and 4 were bucks!  I might not hunt there again this year.  I can’t get to that tree without walking through tall ferns and I know when those deer came back to bed early this morning they smelled me.  Also it is a noisy approach and a noisy exit.  I bumped a doe on exit and she snorted at me repeatedly.   It’s likely a one-timer hunting spot and I was very satisfied with the results.  I have enough other places to hunt that I can cross that one off the list for this year and move on to the next property.

If you are only hunting one property you may want to challenge yourself to find another as a backup.  It’s always difficult to walk away from your favorite tree but you may be missing out on a good hunting opportunity someplace else.  The only way to know is to commit one or two days and go sit someplace new.  Have fun exploring and good luck in the woods!