One of the big debates in deer hunting is if deer hunters pattern deer or do deer pattern hunters?
I suspect there are some of both of these behaviors going on at any given time in the world of the white-tailed deer. Really smart hunters can learn to pattern certain deer. Really smart deer can learn to pattern certain hunters.
Even then, one or the other can get their wires crossed, and either the hunter collects a nice buck or the trophy buck busts the hunter.
The assumption behind a buck patterning a hunter is for the deer to be able to track the consistent routing a hunter uses.
The other element involves the primary times of the day when a hunter moves around his domain.
Once a buck figures out these two elements he is much more keenly aware of the comings and goings of a deer hunter in his area. It is almost as if he actually has learned our routines in the woods.
They sure seem to know.
Accordingly, bucks can condition themselves to be other than where hunters anticipate them to be during certain times of the day. This might be why well into the hunting season hunters see fewer and fewer deer — especially big bucks.
They avoid us because they have come to learn when and where we are most likely to be during the day.
At the same time, though, the hunter has to be careful not to be boxed in by bucks by doing the same behaviors the same way every time they hunt or during the same times.
If variety is, indeed, the spice of life, then this could also apply to deer hunting. Change it up or get patterned by a big buck.
Come and go to stands by different routes, and never over-hunt a particular stand too often. Vary your routine and your strategy.
How hunters get patterned
First, let us understand one of the most-basic rules of deer hunting: Even when the best deer hunter does everything right, he will still eventually get made.
Probably most of the time when this happens to seasoned buck hunters who already have a few really nice buck racks on the wall at home, they will not breathe a word of it. Nobody wants to admit they screwed up, but these can be valuable learning experiences.
While they may be embarrassed to admit they got caught, in reality it is an everyday part of deer hunting. Sometimes it can happen several times a day.
If this continues to happen to you, then obviously you need to start trying something else.
Hunters can get patterned by doing the same things they do every time they go hunting. They come out of the camp house and the screen door slams shut. Believe it or not every decent buck within earshot of that sound knows what is coming next.
Then every deer that can see that buck’s ears jump up and his tail go straight out are also alerted that something is going on.
Next, the ATV cranks up and the throttle is gunned several times. It rolls out of camp headed down the same roads and trails that every other hunter has been using every day of the season.
Any deer wearing antlers is headed to thick cover at this point, and the doe population scatters like quail.
These are sure signs of too much hunting pressure that can lead to deer patterning hunters.
Either the hunter pulls his ATV right up to his stand or shooting house, or being a savvy woodsman he parks it a hundred yards away out in full view. Then he slips down the trail to his stand, dropping his cigarette along the way.
Human-oriented scents now permeate the air currents: gasoline, charcoal fire starter, bacon, sausage, deodorant, scented soap, tobacco smells and a dozen other scents collected in the hunter’s clothes and on his boots. Every deer nose in the woods is up in the air.
That is one thing no hunter can fool very well without some help.
The ole buck hunter reaches his stand. He swings his rifle over his shoulder, banging the metal gun barrel against the metal ladder.
When he reaches his seat, he bangs the barrel again.
Finally, he settles into his seat. He coughs several times and clears his throat. He pops in several brass cartridges, clicking each one in place, and then cycles the bolt on his rifle.
This deer hunter is definitely ready to collect his trophy whitetail.
Unfortunately the closest one to his area is a mile away and still running.
It is hard enough to do all the deer-hunting things right without screwing it up. However, there are some very basic mistakes to avoid from being patterned by deer on your property.
If you keep repeating these mistakes, then ever seeing that once-in-a-lifetime buck is going to be tougher than ever.