Big whitetail bucks often hang out in small thickets and cover patches. This is especially true in farm country, where open terrain is dotted with woodlots, copses, and overgrown sinkholes an acre or two in size.
Such small cover spots pose a dilemma for the solo hunter. If he goes in one end, the deer will blow out the other. Thickets and small woodlots are ideal for drives by four to eight hunters, but pushing a dominant buck into the open requires a well-laid plan. Here are tips for conducting successful deer drives of small cover patches:
- Post standers 50 to 100 yards from the thicket or woodlot, where they can cover potential escape routes. They should slip in from downwind and put themselves near the corners of the cover so they can watch both the sides and the end.
- Post another stander at the opposite end of the thicket, where the drivers will enter. This is the most likely spot where a mature buck will exit. Old bucks like to circle behind drivers to take the back door.
- once standers are posted, two or more drivers should enter the cover on the upwind side and begin a slow push. A quiet approach is best. Drivers should zigzag back and forth, focusing on the densest part of the cover. They should stop periodically and stand quietly for a couple of minutes to make the deer nervous.
- Hopscotch from one cover patch to the next. Make enough drives, and sooner or later one will pay off.
- Caution is in order. Always keep up with other standers’ locations, and never fire toward the cover, where drivers are walking. When deer start breaking, it’s easy for excitement to overrule common sense. Be sure you have a safe shooting lane. No buck is worth risking another hunter’s life.