We have nothing against them. Gun hunting is a great way for people without the money, time, or desire to learn the skills of bow hunting to get out and enjoy a good deer hunt. In many states, though, gun season does spell a turn in deer behavior, as the number of hunters in the woods increase exponentially and hunting pressure is at an all-time high. It can force deer to become nocturnal, decreasing the number of deer you see on stand and limiting the number of mature bucks that show themselves in daylight. How can archery hunters prepare for the arrival of the ‘orange army’ and increase their odds of catching up with a booner buck before gun season opens?
One thing to keep in mind is that each time you step foot into the woods, you are adding human scent to the area. This is what we refer to as hunting pressure. Even if you only hunt a stand with the right wind directions, you’ve still trod on the ground and left behind human odors. Deer are wise to this and pick up on patterns of human activity and can change their behaviors accordingly.
Save your best spots for the rut, when you know that at any moment, a mature deer can move through the area. At the same time, however, keep an eye on all your hunting locations. If a shooter buck shows himself on trail camera in daylight, odds are he is going to do it again and it is worth your time to be in that spot if the wind is right.
Additionally, time your hunts around weather patterns. Going in when you know there is a high likelihood of deer movement increases your odds of catching up with a mature buck and limits the hunting pressure to that area.
The saying “you can’t kill them on the couch” is very true, but its counterpart is equally true. Your odds of having that mature buck in bow range decreases significantly if your deer stand becomes your couch. The time you spend in the woods should be tracked and monitored so that your best spots aren’t euchred before the orange army comes out in force.
After the gun season in your area concludes, there are still things that you can do to increase your chances of laying eyes on and catching up with those warry older bucks. The weather by this point is colder, harsher, and food is more scarce. Focus your efforts on where the food is. Deer, especially mature bucks, are looking to replenish their resources lost from the exertion of the rut. They will bed close to food and will spend their time eating and resting, conserving as much energy as they can.
Here again, pay attention to the weather patterns. Cold fronts and winter storms often cause the deer to move before and after the harsh weather comes in. If you can get on a food source during those times you’re likely to see a lot of deer and if they are in the area, the mature bucks will be there as well.