How Not to Get Skunked This Deer Season

Not seeing any deer in your hotspot? Here’s the smart reaction.

skunk
skunk
Getting skunked on one sit doesn’t mean your spot is bad.Alamy/Moviestore Collection Ltd

Getting skunked stinks. You put precious time, and a whole lot of effort, into setting a stand or blind. Then you sit it—and you get zip. Zero. Nada. It’s tempting to automatically lose faith, but do your best to resist. You chose the spot for a reason, so instead of bailing out immediately, follow this three-point plan.

1. Give It the Triple-Shot

It’s wonderful when whitetails mob your stand the first time you hunt it, but let’s face it: Deer don’t follow hunting scripts, and they have many other places to walk into besides your ambush. I’m convinced the greatest enemy of a hot stand is impatience—we simply don’t give a good spot time to do its work. I never give up on a stand until I’ve hunted it at least three times. Only if I manage a trifecta of sits without seeing a buck will I give credence to those feelings of failure.

2. Rethink Your Approach

Sometimes deer do their darndest to walk by our stands, while we’re doing things just wrong enough to discourage them. If your approach to a stand allows a buck to see, hear, or smell you, he is not going to walk past your setup that day, even if it was on his agenda. If you haven’t seen a deer in a pair of hunts from a stand, take a hard look at your path to the spot. Are deer bedding closer to the stand than you thought? Is there a little hiccup in the wind that’s blowing your scent to bedded deer as you walk in? Can a buck get a glimpse of you as you plod from the truck to the tree? If there’s even a chance the answer is yes to any of those questions, retool your approach.

3. Adjust to the Curve

Hunters like to talk about patterns, but deer are not on train tracks. In fact, whitetails are totally fickle about what they eat, how they walk to dinner, even where they bed. Bucks can be hitting an alfalfa field every night for weeks, and when the first acorn drops, suddenly the spot that looked red-hot only a week ago is as old as yesterday’s tweet.

After I’ve spent three sits in a stand, convinced my approach is bulletproof, but I still haven’t seen deer, that’s when I immediately go into speed-scout mode: taking midday walks to check for fresh feeding or buck sign, and checking trail cams. Usually with a day or two of such effort, I can find just where to hang the next hot stand of the season.