So, is it possible to hunt too much? Well, if we’re talking about hunting in general, the answer is definitely “NO!!!!”. But if we’re talking hunting one particular spot or stand too much, then that answer changes to “YES!!!”. Yet, I can readily admit it is something that I have been very guilty of in the past! However, my goal this year is to be more cognizant of how often I hunt one stand. I am very fortunate to have multiple stand locations, so it should be an easy goal to meet. But, not everyone has options. Maybe you only have one stand to hunt, so you hunt it every day. And, maybe you even see bucks there every time you go out. But are you seeing the right bucks? Probably not, or you wouldn’t have to sit every single day. As always, I have done the homework for you; I’ve read what the experts have to say. And, now I am going to share that information with you.
I want to start off with the most compelling evidence I was able to find. And, let me say, this is more than just another article or expert opinion. This is a fact-based study, and you just can’t deny the results. So, here it is. Clint McCoy (deer biologist) conducted a study on the movements and home ranges of 37 bucks by way of GPS collars. McCoy’s main area of interest was to determine how hunting pressure and breeding would affect buck movement. For the purpose of this discussion, I will focus on the effects of hunting pressure.
The study was conducted at Brosnan Forest, which consists of 6,400 acres and is located in South Carolina. GPS collars were even distributed among four age groups of bucks, including yearlings, 2 ½ years old, 3 ½, and 4 ½ years or older. McCoy then collected information on each buck every 30 minutes from August through November. Over 116,000 GPS locations were identified during the study. McCoy had information relating to where hunters were, when they were out, and how long they were out. With this information, McCoy was able to determine how the bucks moved when feeling pressured by hunters.
So, what did McCoy learn about whitetail buck movement under pressure? Well, to put it simply, pressure has a huge impact on buck movement! McCoy noticed for every 12 hours spent in one stand the chances of a mature buck returning to the location decreased by ½. With that information in mind, McCoy then set out to see how long it would take for a buck to return to the location once the pressure was off. What he found was that it generally took 3 days of not hunting the spot for the bucks to return.
McCoy’s study is very interesting and definitely worth reading. The results on home ranges of the bucks is also worth looking at. You just might be surprised by the results. For more information on McCoy’s studies, click on the following links: How Fast Can a Stand “Recover” From Hunting Pressure?. New Data On Buck Home-Range Size by Age
Other Expert Opinions
Okay, so that is just one study, and a fairly small group of bucks, right? Well, yes. But, the results are definitely compelling! And, McCoy is not the only expert saying this. Josh Honeycutt, Bowhunting.com, agrees that overhunting one spot decreases the chances that the deer will return. Honeycutt points out that we leave our scent behind every time we enter a location, and it can linger for days.
Another article by Steve Bartylla, North American Whitetail, also agrees that hunting pressure can really hurt your chances of success. However, he also believes there are some exceptions to the rule. Bartylla says under these conditions, it is okay to hunt one location multiple days in a row:
1. During the rut – bucks don’t follow their usual travel patterns; they become careless and roam outside of their usual territories
2. Areas of undetected entry and exit
3. Urban areas, or areas where deer have adapted to humans (farms, logging areas, etc.)
Bartylla sums it up well by saying that different deer have different tolerance levels. Only you know how the deer react in your area. However, if you are hunting in an unfamiliar area, you may need to do your homework. Bartylla, himself, states that he typically follows a 5-day rule. In other words, he prefers to leave a stand alone for 5 days before hunting it again.
So, overall, the experts are strong believers that hunting pressure does matter. Overhunting a stand can truly hurt your chances of success. I know it may be hard to do, but you need to give your stands a rest between hunts. Consider using multiple stand locations, or pop up a blind somewhere. Even if you hunt on a small property, this can work to your advantage. You are not constantly leaving your scent in one spot by doing this; no matter how hard you try to hunt scent-free, you are going to leave some human odor behind. And, remember, deer have very sensitive noses; they will know you have been there.
Well, there it is. It is possible to hunt too much! But, remember, that’s just hunting one spot too much. As far as hunting in general, there just may be no such thing. However, that’s just my opinion. So, as always, hunt smart, hunt safe, just get out there and hunt!
Any thoughts or comments on this topic? I would love to hear them! Leave comments below, or you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.