Burnout is real. And hunting small properties requires an extra dose of consciousness to make them productive—a few reckless outings will almost certainly decrease future deer encounters. When hunting small properties, it’s generally a good idea to utilize low-pressure tactics while minimizing your human presence. Here are a few low-impact concepts for your next small-property hunts.
Hunting mature bucks is no easy endeavor. It gets even harder when he knows he’s being hunted. If you’ve ever watched tracking dogs work or a deer stop in its tracks when coming across your hours-old footprints, you know how much ground scent you leave upon entry. Rubber boots seem to help minimize ground scent, but that’s not a guarantee. Planning an entry route that minimizes your ground scent in high deer traffic areas is important, as is concealing your visual and audible presence.
Wind direction upon entry is a commonly overlooked consideration. We plan our treestand locations based on advantageous wind directions during the sit, but often overlook where our wind is blowing when we’re getting to that stand. It’s also wise to be mindful of where you park your truck. In open country, wise deer like to bed where they can keep an eye out for incoming danger. That booner might watch you boot up at the truck and will probably flee the scene as soon as you start in his direction.
Even if you only have a 10-acre chunk to work with, it’s important to hang multiple stand options within that little parcel. A one-size-fits-all stand location will be ideal for when the conditions are just right, but what about those rut hunts when the prevailing wind direction is far from the norm? Your options are to ride out a bad wind or preserve your spot for the next time you get that perfect northwest wind.
Long ago, I was the guy who sat the same tree hunt after hunt. Those of you who’ve also learned the hard way know how quickly those wise old does learn your pattern. Once they do, they’ll either skirt your tree permanently or give it the two-minute head bob to confirm whether the ladder stand is occupied. If you can’t remain undetected, it’s better to at least keep them guessing.
This is often a rut-cation tactic, but it can be applied throughout the entire season. The idea is to hunt observation or low-impact stand locations at the beginning of a long stretch of hunting days. These spots are commonly on the outskirts and fringes of the property, in which you leave the thick cover and the heart of the property untouched until it becomes time to strike. By saving your best sits for those perfectly timed cold fronts or peak rut dates, each of your hunts on that small property should remain productive. The opposite can be true if you dive right into the bedding area on day one of a seven-day stretch.
If your little property doesn’t satisfy each of the deer’s daily needs of food, bedding, and water, chances are your property isn’t holding deer throughout the day. In that case, deer are probably only passing through to capitalize on whatever attractant your property has to offer. Know what your property has to offer and hunt that tactic with precision. For example, if this property has the only water around, think hot days or peak rutting action when that water source is going to be extra attractive. If your property sets up as a prime rutting funnel, possibly one that restricts and connects movement between two prime bedding areas, maybe it would be best to leave this spot alone and only hunt it during the seeking or chasing phase of the rut. If your property has the only soybean or alfalfa field for miles, you might have an early season gold mine and should plan hunts accordingly. You’ll only get so many productive sits out of these small properties, so it’s only wise to choose hunts that play into your hand.
As we all know, it’s much easier to hunt unpressured deer. If you’re able to accrue multiple properties to hunt, big or small, you can spread your hunting pressure around and preserve stand sites until the time is right. Small properties don’t have the allure of a several hundred-acre deer farm, but shouldn’t be overlooked or taken for granted. These little properties are often overlooked by other hunters, even if it’s public ground. Build an inventory of small properties for next season. Hunt year-round and spread out hunting pressure. The results and productivity of a small deer property might surprise you.
Feature image via Captured Creative.