Through the years of hunting with private landowners and at lodges, one thing I’ve tried to remember is to ask specific questions about the hunt.
That seems like a simple thing. We ask about deer ages and antlers, or what the host has as a minimum requirement. Some don’t have them and others have specifics for age or antler size. To each his own.
But often, I’ve noticed, hunters don’t think about other things to ask before starting their hunt. A couple to remember:
Can you shoot coyotes, bobcats, hogs or other predators? Some landowners want ‘em all whacked and others don’t. If you’re targeting big bucks or turkeys, you have to decide whether to pop a ‘yote and maybe risk a chance at a gobbler or deer. Some states also have license requirements for these animals above your deer or turkey permits, too.
If you shoot a deer, should you get out of the stand to track it? This often is a no-no, especially if the deer doesn’t fall and die within eyesight. You don’t want to risk bumping a deer and having a longer track, or not even finding it, if you get out of the stand and mosey around. Plus, it may be a safety issue if other hunters are nearby. Find out first.
Is a safety harness required? You should be wearing one anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Some landowners and lodges require these as a liability issue. This is a no-brainer, though. If you’re hunting from a climber or ladder stand it’s best to have one.
Can I shoot a doe? This may depend on the landowner’s management plan, as well as the state’s season and permits. Double-check to make sure before popping a doe and then getting the stink-eye.
Ted Jaycox, owner of Tall Tine Outfitter in southwest Kansas, has allowed hunters to shoot does in previous years. During the 2013 season, however, following a two-year drought there, he opted against it.
“Y’know, one thing about that is if you’re hunting for a specific buck or we’ve seen one in the area, you may shoot a doe and blow an opportunity,” he said. “This year we opted against it even though Kansas (wildlife agency) provided either-sex tags.”
Can I use scents or attractants? Definitely ask your host about this before traipsing around your stand site to hang a wick or put out some kind of attractant. If you’re with an outfitter they likely will want you to go straight to the stand, especially if they believe a good buck already is in the area.
“Kansas allows hunting with feeders so they already have a lot of deer around them,” Jaycox said. “Do you realize how many times deer pee around those areas? I don’t think a few more drops of pee from a bottle will make a difference, honestly. You’d also be walking around the area where those deer will be and leaving your scent.
“Now, I had a guy who put out some kind of buck bomb and he killed a nice buck, so he was convinced that was the reason why he did. I don’t see the need for anything extra. I’m kind of the same way about grunting and rattling. What if a big buck is nearby and you don’t know it, but you start grunting or rattling and it spooks that deer? He may not like something about what’s going on and could go the other way. But if you’ve paid for the hunt and want to, it’s your money.”
How about other game animals? Is turkey season open and can you kill one? How about small game hunting one afternoon? Again, some landowners may not mind a bit and others don’t want anyone in the woods for any reason other than for deer hunting.
Can I drive an ATV or UTV, or should I walk? This one should definitely be asked and understood, especially on private land. There’s a camp of “ATVs are for lazybones” and others who want you to park well away from a stand or field, and still more who don’t believe it matters. But you don’t want to be part of the latter in a camp with folks who don’t use ATVs for anything or only to drag out a deer. Make sure before crankin’ up and having someone else get bent out of shape because they heard the putt-putt-putt of an ATV or saw a quiet UTV rolling by across the cutover field.
Other things to ask about include hunter blaze orange requirements, any regulations on CWD and transporting deer, requirements about tagging deer in the field or traveling with meat, and legal shooting hours.
These all sound basic, but in our excitement we sometimes forget. Remember to ask and be sure.
— Alan Clemons, Managing Editor
Hunting Southern Bucks? Check Out This Great Combo
If you’re still chasing bucks and does in the Southeast, that means you’ll have through February in some states to hunt. Super! This cool Southern Buck Hunter’s Collection has awesome information to help with the Southeast rut, which can be varied and strung out unlike in the Midwest or Northeast. You’ll get:
— Smokey’s Preorbital Gland Lure
— Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine, the December issue (download) with information about the peak breeding dates in the Southeast
— Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine, the October issue (download) with information about what triggers the southern rut
— Whitetail Behavior, an action-packed 60-minute DVD with great information and footage showing deer behavior in the field