First Deer of the Year

Have you ever been walking to your stand and seen a deer feeding between you and where you were headed? What do you do?

This has happened to me on many occasions and left me wondering the best course of action. Should I just go on to my stand anyway, or choose a different stand site? Maybe wait till the deer has moved off before advancing, or make some type of deer call to try to "fool" the deer into thinking that all this noise was just another deer?

Such a situation occurred this week when I drove up to one of my hunting spot and immediately spotted two deer in the kudzu. It was about thirty minutes before daylight, but I could still see them 50 yards from my truck watching me in the open. They're right where I was planning to go, I thought to myself. If I go in that way, I'll just blow them out and ruin my chances. It was a small tract of land, and they were likely the only deer in that patch this morning. I eventually came up with a plan to go around to the other side of the property and sneak in from that direction. It required some careful stepping over a beaver dam, but was worth it to try to avoid busting the deer.

About twenty minutes later I was settled in my climbing stand after moving in as quietly as I could. Moments later I heard walking and spotted deer above me on the hillside. It was still too dark to see my sight pins, but I knew they were deer and in range. Fifteen minutes later, the mature doe walked down toward me so I drew back only to have her hang up behind a tree. I could see the doe's head meaning it could see me if I tried to let down.

I experienced the agony of holding a draw trying to wait out a deer. My arm started to burn but I knew I couldn't move or it would all be over. Finally she looked away and I let down. Her next move to my right gave me a 22 yard broadside. This time I drew and put the pin on her shoulder and touched the release. She only went 50 yards.

First deer of the year for me, only a doe, but it felt good. There was the tense excitement of waiting out the shot. But was particularly satisfying was that my plan seemed to work. I altered my entry because I saw the deer in my original path. The change of plan avoided spooking the deer, and I was later in the position to get the shot.

Be flexible with your plans, if a deer is already in your path or near your stand, you may want to come up with another idea. I don't know what the best strategy is every time and every situation is different, but keep flexibility and the ability to change in your toolbox this fall, and it may result in a shot opportunity that would not have been there otherwise.

Rut Reporter Eric Bruce has been writing about hunting and fishing for newspapers and magazines for 25 years and hunts deer all over the South, including near his Georgia home. States covered: AR, LA, MS, AL, GA, SC, FL.