Gunning for whitetails on lockdown isn’t complicated — with the right combination of tools working for you. You’ll be spotting and stalking, so the most important elements of this hunt are comfort, flexibility, stealth and accuracy in the moment of truth. You’re big boys and girls, so you can dress yourselves, but here’s some advice for being sneaky and shooting straight.
Tactical Approach: There’s no stopping the whitetail rut — not even bad weather — but weather conditions still impact deer activity, and therefore influence when and how you hunt. Lean on the ScoutLook Hunting app (www.ScoutLookWeather.com) to get your weather forecasts. Unlike most general weather apps, ScoutLook was designed to give hunters a strategic, stealthy edge.
Use the ScoutLook Hunting app to view an interactive global map, save unlimited hunting locations, get pinpoint weather conditions, and log your observations to pattern deer. View the ScentCone Wind Map for an hourly visual wind forecast, which allows you to plan lockdown stalks to keep your nose to the wind. You can even use the app to measure distance (in yards) with deadly accuracy, so you’ll know precisely how far it is to that buck you just glassed up.
The ScoutLook Hunting app is free to use. Download it now and you can begin hunting before you even lace up your boots.
Shooting System: Choose a well-built bolt-action rifle that cycles rounds smoothly. Consider Mossberg’s Patriot (www.Mossberg.com) with a laminate stock and Marinecote finish. This durable, weather-resistant rifle has earned my trust through several tough hunts, and you can buy one new for less than $500. It features a detachable box magazine, which is especially convenient for loading and unloading if you’re frequently jumping in and out of a vehicle to cover ground.
Ammo options are numerous these days, and most factory ammo is reliable. Focus on bullet selection: I recommend an expanding bullet that’s designed for deer-sized game. Most importantly, choose a bullet that your rifle shoots accurately. My Mossberg is fond of Ballistic Tip ammo from Nosler (www.Nosler.com). I love the BT performance — and short blood trails — it has delivered for me on numerous deer at various ranges. You can get a box of 20 cartridges for approximately $30.
Top your rifle with a scope that offers crisp visibility in low-light conditions, because there’s no telling what time of day you might unlock your lockdown opportunity. This optic should also have a wide magnification range, with the low end being critical. You’ll want to keep it dialed low for a wide field-of-view while you’re on the move, because you might stumble into a rutting couple at close range. Nikon’s Prostaff 5 3.5-14x40mm FFP (www.NikonSportOptics.com) offers this versatility for less than $350.
Speaking of glass, how dense is the country where you’ll be hunting? No matter your locale, keep an 8X or 10X binocular strapped to your neck. If you’re focusing on open terrain where you can see for miles, a spotting scope with a compact tripod will serve two purposes: long-range glassing and a shooting rest. The new Monarch Fieldscopes from Nikon are sweet. Several models are available in the $1,500 range. Pricey? All features considered, not really — and if you’re investing in a spotting scope, don’t bother with crappy glass. Use the spotter to methodically pick apart distant thick cover and you’ll be astonished by what you can find. When you close in on your quarry, rest the fore-end of your rifle crossways on the steady spotter and squeeze.