David Morris, owner of Oregon-based Northwest Big Game, has put clients on mule deer, blacktails, and trophy whitetails in the mountains, in heavy timber, and on the prairie by setting hunters along known escape routes and pushing through cover. “This is one of those tactics that makes a guide look really deer savvy,” he says. “Because we’ve seen bachelor groups run the same trail when bumped 25 times over the course of eight years, we know exactly the right spot to put the hunter in.” Here’s how you can figure out a buck’s getaway plan and cut him off.
Illustrations by Steve Sanford
Push to scout
One way to find escape routes is through trial and error during the hunting season, says Morris. Another is to be more proactive. A month before the opener, organize a summer push (where legal) through promising bedding cover or an early-morning food source, he advises. “Try to have all the likely exit trails mapped out in advance, so you can watch them.”
See how they run
“Designate a spotter and get him up high and as far away as possible, so he won’t alter the deer’s pattern,” Morris says (see illustrations). An opposite ridgeline or slope is perfect. In ag country, use a tall shooting house or stand. For the big woods, let trail cameras do the spotting. Use models with a fast trigger and post them on the likeliest escape routes.
Don’t drive them away
“Once you start hunting, be real sensitive about how hard you push the deer,” Morris warns. “It’s not so big a concern in the West, where you have much bigger parcels, but in the East you have to make sure not to push bucks so hard that they move off your property.” Be sure to set posters on escape trails leading to neighboring land.
Have a seat
“If you jump deer and don’t hear a shot from your posters, sit down,” Morris says. “This was my grandfather’s favorite way to hunt mule deer, and it works on whitetails, too. The deer bolt like they’re going to run 5 miles, only to sneak back into the same spot an hour later. Rounding up cattle on the range, we’d see this all the time. They’d bound off, then work right back.”
“Target mature bucks,” Morris concludes. “Over the years we’ve seen older deer teach the younger bucks the best escape routes. By letting the 2- and 3-year-olds walk, you can push the same trails year after year and see big deer. We use this tactic in the mountains, on the prairies, and in the timber and clear-cuts of western Oregon. Really, it can work anywhere.”