Do you really think it's possible to accurately and consistently pattern a buck well enough to know when that whitetail is going to be where?

Well, it's probably possible, and certainly some savvy woods-wise deer hunters have done it. However, I am more inclined to think that deer tend to pattern hunters better than we pattern them. It may be way past time to change your deer stand game plan.


The look-up syndrome

"Man, I just hate it when I get all settled into my tree stand, then out pops a deer and the first thing it does is stare right up at me," said Brad Carr, a dentist from South Jackson. "I play the wind right, I coat myself with scent-killer spray, I wear rubber boots and sneak in quietly from the right direction. I ease quietly into the stand that I fixed for squeaks well ahead of the season. I put on camo cover gloves and sometimes I even wear a face mask.

"What do I get for all that preparation? Busted, that's what."

When Brad asked me about my opinion on the situation, my first question was how many deer-hunting seasons had that ladder stand been propped up against the same tree?

In some cases, the property he hunts in Holmes County along the Big Black River has deer stands that have not been moved or shifted around to new spots for more than a decade.

It's little wonder the local deer population had the hunters so well patterned. They knew exactly where every stand was located, and many of the deer just automatically visually inspected them every time they passed.

It just so happened that one time somebody was actually sitting in the stand.

When that deer high-tailed it out of there at the sight of Brad sitting in the stand, the noise and movement in the surrounding brush only confirmed to every other deer in the immediate area that something was wrong. Deer tend to remember alerts like that causing them to maintain their guard.

Furthermore, those bucks hiding back in the shadows are even better at patterning popular hunting stands and steering clear of them.


Turn the tide

It would seem just too simple a solution to start moving some stands around from places they have been sitting for years, but in fact that is the place to start.

The question is, though: Move them to where?

"When those suggestions got back to camp, we met and decided it was time to shift some stands to new locations," said Andy Dulaney, Carr's dental as well as hunting partner. "In some of those spots, our annual records of deer observations had really dropped off.

"Our plan was to move about a third of our 16 stand locations in rotation over three years. There was no magic to that course of action, but we wanted more time to assess new spots to locate the stands.

"This is when we started an open discussion around the campfire seeking suggestions for new stand locations. We needed to know from the hunting membership where they had been seeing new trails, new funnels, rub lines and areas with consistent scraping activity every season. Actually it proved pretty easy to find enough new spots to move the stands.

"We scheduled a work day and got some stands moved last season.

"Then the last thing we decided to do was block out a few other stands to allow them a whole season period to cool down. Basically we just tried to stay clear of those stands for a season to see if down the road it would make a difference in busting up the deer patterning us.

"Using our records from nearly a decade really helped to pick out stands that seemed to have been seeing a diminishing number of deer observations over the years. Our hope is by starting this deer-stand rotation plan in the next few years that the deer on our property will have less of a clue where hunters might be sitting on any particular day."

Of course only time will tell if this works, but the plan is a viable approach to breaking up the cycle of deer patterning this club's hunting stands.

The bottom line is this: If you have been hunting the same section of land for years and basically out of the same stands and locations, it is extremely likely that the deer on your place have you patterned and not the reverse. If your stand utilization is generally high throughout the season, it is even more probable that the deer have pegged every deer stand.

If your hunters are reporting seeing fewer deer from those stands virtually every season, it is high time for a change-up plan. It does not have to be a drastic realignment of every stand on the property. Pick out a few, move them around to some fresh areas and track the results. I'm betting deer will be seen that have never been seen before.