Every time my wife, Nicole, and I set up a stand in a tree or on the ground, we look for ways to make that location the best it can be. We try to enhance each stand location by making sure there are one or more calling cards available to deer.
What is a calling card? It’s some type of object or contrivance that will entice a deer to come close to your stand and offer you a shot. Because we bowhunt so much, we have to get close. A calling card can be natural or man-made, visual or airborne — such as scent. Sometimes, one calling card is all you need. Other times, it might be smart to have several.
There are many examples of calling cards: waterholes, rubs, scrapes, licking branches, small interior food plots, minerals, apple trees and other fruit bearing trees, and decoys. Nicole and I use most of these throughout the season, and we’ve had enough success to know they work.
Acorns as Calling Cards
Acorns are probably the most abundant natural calling card in the autumn forest. During good mast years, deer of- ten bed near feeding spots right in the timber. Then, all they have to do is stand up and start eating acorns only a few feet away. After eating a while, they’ll bed down again with having traveled only a few yards. When hunting over acorns, white oak acorns are definitely preferred.
That period from late September through the first week or two of October is often called the October lull. This is when hunters typically stop seeing much activity. I think this so-called lull is caused by a few factors — mainly warmer weather and food availability. In years of good acorn production, deer spend a lot of time in the timber gorging themselves on acorns. Bucks generally lie around in preparation for the pre-rut and rut. If the acorn crop is good, they don’t have much incentive for leaving the timber, so that’s why hunters don’t see them in food plots.
Oak trees that are producing acorns are great places to hunt, but getting into stand locations in the timber is always tricky. For one thing, on quiet days when the leaves are crunchy, a smart buck will hear you coming a long way off. Nicole and I always strive to fool the deer’s senses any way we can. If a buck hears you approach your stand, he’s won’t get up later and come your way. He’s probably been bedded there all day listening to various sounds, listening for danger. So getting to your stand as quietly as possible is crucial. So many times I’ve watched bucks listen to a neighbor start a truck or four-wheeler. They pay attention to those sounds and listen intently. They stay focused on that noise until the potential threat is over. Trust me, they know when a twig snaps in their woods.
We make sure we get to our stands at least an hour before daylight. Hunting the afternoon can be tricky because the leaves are dry and crunchy. What’s more, the risk of bumping deer is much greater in the afternoon because the deer are al- ready bedded in the woods and they’re going to hear any unusual sounds. Rainy days or windy days are good times to hunt acorns because the rain and the wind help cover up any noise you make.
Nicole and I make every approach and exit as quietly as possible. We often rake out the leaves ahead of time and make a path to our stand. We try to clear away all debris so we never crack a twig, even if it’s a short distance of only five yards.
Given a choice, we’ll have someone drive us to our stand on an ATV or electric cart and drop us off. I’ll ask the person who’s dropping us off to leave the engine running during that time. I know the deer are listening, and if I make any noise setting up, the sound of the motor will hopefully muffle any sound. When we are set up, we wave to the driver of the vehicle and he’ll make his exit.
Having someone drop you off is a very effective way to approach a stand. There is no scent left on the ground from walking in. If we don’t have access to a vehicle, Nicole and I have used the ploy of having a third person walk to the stand with us, stay until we’re set up and then walk back out. This has worked many times.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an excerpt from “Trophy Whitetails with Pat and Nicole Reeve: Tips and Tactics From the Driven Team,” which is available at www.shopdeerhunting.com.
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