Deer, Hunting

High Expectations: WNC 2018 Whitetail Early Season Set-up

Even though it’s been incredibly busy summer and we haven’t gotten out in the woods as much as I originally hoped, I made time on Labor Day to head out to the game lands to hang my stand with Tyler. I had originally wanted to hang my stand on an elevator ridge off of a field we hunted during turkey season.

Tyler’s 2017 early season public land doe.

I had been thinking about this area for the past few weeks. Last year Tyler shot his early season doe in this area and I had a mid to late season spot not too far away from it with  lots of deer sign. By the time I hunted my spot with the sign,  movement there has ceased.

When we got to the game lands we noticed that all of the fields had not been cut by the Forest Service. That has not stopped us in the past from walking through the fields but, this year the growth was a lot taller and we didn’t want to take our chances with snakes. We tried to approach the area I wanted to hang a stand from a few different angles. We first tried skirting one of the fields, in lower growth, to try to get to the woods edge where we would walk through the woods around the field to get to the area where I wanted to hang my stand.

This plan worked until we got into the woods, in an area that burned in a forest fire some odd years ago. After spooking a hen, we bushwhacked in only to find lots of thick young growth. At that point we backtracked and tried another point of access just off of another field. We walked about 100 feet into the field and I called it. I was not going to hang a stand where I was not comfortable coming in and out. Tyler agreed and suggested we check out a trail we had hung cameras on within the last couple of months and that he had scouted again recently. I thought it was a great idea and we hiked up the trail.

We came to a point in the trail and decided to head down into the woods. We followed some game trails down to a ridge where we saw old sign of scat and rubs as well as newer scat. I got really excited and ditched the stand on my back to really start looking around. I started by looking at the trees first. I know that one of the smartest ways to hunt early season is to look for acorns. Once acorns start dropping they become a favorite and primary food source for deer.

Fresh scat we found near my stand site.

I saw lots of oak trees including chestnut oaks, which Tyler has theorized are deer’s favorite. I then looked and listened. I was looking for green acorns, to see if there were any trees that were dropping acorns yet, as well as listening to the sound of acorns hitting the forest floor. I had a hard time seeing any acorns in the canopy in the bright mid morning light but was able to identify several different types of oaks as well as noticing old acorns on the forest floor. At first I didn’t see any green acorns and didn’t hear any dropping.

I then started looking at ground level for more scat, rubs, scrapes, and trails. Tyler was helping out by keeping an eye out for sign about twenty yards away. It didn’t take long for him to exclaim that he found fresh scat. Not only was it fresh but it was a good size! Not far from where he found the scat, I found a shed. This is the first shed I’ve ever found and I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to beat this shed.

The shed I found while scouting the stand site area.

By this time I was incredibly excited and started looking for the tree I was going to hang my stand in. I opted for a tree just off a point that had game trails coming from all directions. From this tree I can see several different trails coming around me from multiple directions. I’m also at a great vantage point with some smaller trees covering me should a deer look up while still having great shooting lanes.

While I was hanging my stand Tyler was busy making a few mock rubs and a scrape. If you didn’t know, North Carolina has about 2 million acres of public and privately owned land that is managed by the Wildlife Resources Commission for public use. These areas are designated as game lands,  the use of bait on game lands is prohibited.. You can however make mock rubs or scrapes, and use scents, like deer estrus during the rut, to try and attract deer.

Climbing up to hang my stand.

The rubs were made on small pines with a hand saw. Supposedly, the mock rubs will attract deer because of the smell of the pines and they should want to use it for a rub. The scrape was made with a limb from a red oak tree and some scraping at the ground. Tyler really wanted to use a grape vine instead of the oak limb but was unable to locate one in the area.

Looking up to my stand.

From my stand I can see at least one of the mock rubs as well as the mock scrape. I’m excited to see if his tactics work and to see if deer start coming to either at the beginning of season. To say that I have high expectations about this spot for the beginning of season is an understatement. I’m excited to see what the beginning of season brings for me.

Stay tuned for updates as season progresses. For my second whitetail season hunting on public land I hope to hunt smarter than I did last year, having a better idea of where I need to be and when. I also aim to be better in tune with when I need to move my stand and recognizing when an area’s movement has changed.



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