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Since peak breeding and the gun season are on in many areas, I thought I'd post this. It is from my Complete Whitetail Addicts Manual.

Choosing Stand Sites
By T.R. Michels

An understanding of deer behavior and travel patterns can help you choose a hunting site. Because deer feed primarily during low light conditions they have two primary rest periods, late at night and during mid-day. Generally they leave their daytime bedding areas in heavy cover late in the afternoon and move toward nighttime food sources. They intermittently feed, travel and rest during the night before returning to their daytime bedding areas.

Because the amount of light is a Security Factor, deer in forested areas (where there is shade) get up and begin to feed and move a couple of hours before sundown. As the amount of light becomes less they move into more open areas of low brush or sparse forest and feed, moving toward open fields and meadows. Shortly before sundown they may move into the shadows at the edges of tall grass and swamps before going into open meadows or agricultural fields where they feel secure and feed during darkness.

In the early morning this pattern is reversed. As the sky begins to brighten the deer move from the open areas back into brushy or wooded areas just before daylight and into heavy cover or woods again once the sun is up. Bucks are generally more wary than does and move about a half hour later in the evening, and head back to their beds about a half hour earlier in the morning.

Most hunters choose stand sites based on the amount of deer sign in the area; many choose stand sites near heavily traveled trails, because the trails show signs of several deer using the trail. While heavily used trails may be used by several deer, on a semi-regular basis true, most of the deer seen on heavily used trails are does, fawns and yearling bucks. And while it is true that bucks may use heavily used deer trails, especially when they are in funnels, cross streams or rivers, or during the weeks just prior to peak breeding, older bucks often use their own individual trails.

Because bucks carry racks, that make them more noticeable than does, they are more apt to be chased or killed by predators, and humans. Consequently bucks learn to become more secretive than does, especially the older they get, and the more hunting seasons they survive. Once a buck reaches the age of two and half years old it generally travels its own trails, often in heavier cover or more secure areas than the trails the does use. These buck trails are often evident by the fact that they are very lightly used (often because there is only one buck using them, going in one direction, one time a day), and they may have rubs on 1-2 inch saplings and shrubs near the trail.

Buck trails often parallel more heavily used doe trails, but may cross them, intersect them, or be the same as the same the does trails, when those trails lead through funnels, are near inside or outside corners, are along stream or river edges and when they approach feeding areas. A good indication of buck use along or near heavily used deer trails is the presence of scrapes. The frequency of use of scrapes, during particular weeks of the year, is good indicator of when these areas are being used each fall. Although scraping often begins up to two months before peak breeding - peak scraping activity generally begins about three weeks before peak breeding, with scrape use trailing off as breeding begins. Because scrapes are most frequent in areas used by does, bucks often travel near scrapes during peak breeding; and up to a month after peak breeding.

Since security is a factor in not only where bucks move, but also in what time of day they move, they often use trails in low-lying areas, and in semi-open and open areas, primarily within an hour or so of sunset and sunrise, or during darkness. If a hunter wants to see bucks during legal hunting hours, these are the trails where they should concentrate their hunting efforts.

Evening Stands
If you are hunting late in the afternoon, when the deer are just getting out of their beds in secure areas, you should setup along travel lanes leading from the bedding areas to daytime food sources; near small openings in woods, fallen mast sites, swamp or creek edges near heavy cover. Close to sundown hunt the transition zones of tall grass, heavy brush, swamps and gullies. Trails leading to staging areas, downwind of open food sources are excellent at sundown, especially for bucks.

If you are hunting at or after sundown and the deer are feeding in the open your stand should be along trails leading to the fields. Bucks move later than does and often come into the transition zones after sundown, preferring to stay in cover until sundown when they feel secure. If you don't see bucks in open feeding areas move farther into the woods along buck travel routes in heavy cover and forested areas. Because the deer move late in the evening you have plenty of time to get to staging areas and transition zones before they arrive.

Morning Stands
In the early morning, when the deer are still feeding in the open, don't hunt from stands near open night food sources unless you are sure there are no deer near your stand or you can approach it undetected. Because of the darkness you may not know if there are deer in the area until it's too late; and if you spook a deer it will alert all the others in the area. Hunt transition zones, heavy cover where deer feed in search of food, or trails leading to bedding areas in the morning. Be at your stand before the deer get there, and ambush them on their return.

Before the breeding phase bucks usually return to cover well before daylight; hunt rub routes back to the buck bedroom early in the morning, getting there before the buck. Once the rut begins the bucks may return to their core areas later than normal, because they are either chasing or looking for does. Early in the morning you may catch a buck along its rub route near transition zones on the way back to the bedding area. If the buck is not already in its bedding area by the time you get there, you can hunt near it from first light until noon. I have seen bucks drag themselves home at 11:00 in the morning. If you previously observed or patterned a buck you know when and where the best setup is.

God bless,

T.R.
 
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